Growing Up Sexually

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Note on

Janssen, D. F. (2002-3). Growing Up Sexually. Amsterdam, The Netherlands


PostScript[to volume index]




The “Sexual Curriculum”: Some Post Hoc Notes


Project GUS was intended to be elaborated upon as time rolled by; I also included an invitation page for this purpose. Since exactly no one has to date contributed in any substantial way to the project, I have withdrawn the promise of a near-future update. For the time being my reading of the literature is currently being archived in Topica [1] to which individual subscriptions are possible, as well as readers’ own input and reflection (depending on public animo). This solution provides a more dynamic and (potentially) more interactive forum, not as yet available in another form as far as the author is concerned. At this board links and references are collected to keep GUS and subscribers up-to-date about academic writing in matters of sexual “developments”.


In the section below I would like to make a number of ‘post hoc’ notes pertaining to the discursive localisation of project GUS in its ‘interim’ appearance (version 0.0).


  1. A point I hinted at briefly in GUS, the concept of a sexological “atlas” articulates rather poorly with ‘postmodern’ sentiments against authoritative grids. The interim Atlas material is ‘raw’ to some extent, in the sense of its cross-cutting, often in the rudest sense possible, whatever theoretical and paradigmatic realms the data surfaced in.  Of course, the anthropology student (like myself) will feel challenged to sort this out a bit, and then find that this produces rather interesting preliminaries for further inquiry. Thus, respected ‘holistic’ traditions may prove unreceptive for the mere concept of people “developing” “sexual”, and so forth. I eagerly await such sorting out.
  2. By the phrase ‘sexual curriculum’ I have tried to address the trichotomous (by that I mean culturally trisected) academic discursive space that is ‘sexuality development’. In this space, the historical trichomotisation in question has entailed the separation of three concurrent “developmental” themes which I ethnocentrically address as (1) the gender curriculum; (2) the reproductive curriculum; and (3) the pleasure /erotic curriculum.  With GUS, the project I had only vaguely in mind was, according to Foucault’s understanding of geneology/archaeology of knowledge[2], a comparative ethno-historiography of sexology, more specifically of the ontogenetic question within this ‘sexological’ stage: how does sexuality “develop”?. That is: I am not consenting to any ‘trichotomisation’ (gender/reproduction/pleasure), the trichotomisation is the starting point of a discourse analysis and deconstruction as hinted at infra.

Generally, I guess sexologists would want to study sexual histories according to an Foucaultian axioma: “Let us give the term ‘genealogy’ to the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today” (1980 [1994:p42])[3]. That is, if our reality is to be our “history”, then our history be our sexual trajectories, and sexologists be genealogists. Beausang[4] calls these ‘personal narratives’.

  1. I further distinguished two collateral (still, reciprocal) discursive realms named “curriculum”, which denotes individuals’ normative discourse, and “trajectory” which denotes individuals’ (auto)biographical discourse. By this bipolar understanding of sexological praxis I wished to potentialise the ways these fields have become evaluated, produced, measured and controlled by means of instrumental constructs such as “development”, “normality”, “appropriateness”, “transgression”, “perversion”, and so on. This is an essentially historiographic project, which would embody, at the discursive level, the processes of discourse formation and object formation in the West-European setting (cf. Foucault). That is, it leaves aside whatever realm of determination (‘biological’ or such) is ‘behind’ individuals’ autobiographical processes, or the moral universe that would be ‘beyond’ them. This should be clear: I am not challenging any mode of ‘biological’ representation of processes.
  2. Now the project delineated above, one of Foucault’s major unfinished agenda, has just begun to be actualised as I write. What has to some extent come to the fore in GUS, was the academic performance of sexology, which is interesting in itself but it also competes with an anthropologist’s concern with ‘local’ sexologies of and concerning “real children”. Apparently, what should be on the agenda are emerging global/local/’glocal’ developmental sexologies as they are practised where the ‘sexuality’ is at, or rather where it is ordered, governed, issued, etc. At this point I came to regard ‘sexological’ and ‘sexual’ praxis as collateral if not identical realms (obviously contra the historically rooted dichotomy in which they appear to be ordered). So as I see it, sexological hierarchies function to control and order both ‘sexologies’ (according to traditional meaning) as ‘sexualities’ (according to conventional meaning), archaically and typically within a medical and medicalising concept of social reality. Some say in the 1970s, the Western world briefly experienced relief from this order. Today, without a youth movement (rather than ‘youth culture’), and with distressing liberties and possibilities such as internet communication, we find it harder again. We “Americans” are hyperconsumers of our moral notions, and have these steadily reproduced by our institutions. These institutes (school, the psychiatrist’s office, the home) run our world; we sit back and enjoy the scene, the violence, the scandal, the excitement.
  3. The study of ‘sexual development’ discourses, according to Foucaultian guidelines, could include the following elements:
    1. statements about sexuality “developing”, “being developed”, “having developed”, “not having developed”, and so forth;
    2. rules which prescribe certain ways of talking about these topics while excluding others (rules of inclusion and exclusion);
    3. how knowledge about the topic acquires authority (embodiment of ‘truth’);
    4. ‘subjects’ who in some manner personify the discourse (currently, the a/pre/subsexual or “normative” child, the ‘sexually aggressive child’, the ‘sexually reactive child’, the ‘sexually abused child’, the ‘predator’, the ‘survivor’, …);
    5. practices associated with the institutionalisation of dealing with the subjects (e.g., scholastic “sex education” programmes, cartoonesk “healthy touch” curricula);
    6. discursive (trans)formation (the emergence of a new discourse, and decline of old ones).

I again recall that Foucault himself left some work to be done here.

  1. A recent off-shoot paper of GUS[5] might, inter alia, give rise to the idea that the project was born out of an anti-protectionist, perhaps even ‘neoliberalist’ view of child rearing. Personally, I have to say I am interested in Germanic interpretations of Geschlechtswissenschaft, anti-authoritäre Erziehung, Frei-Körper Kultur, Psychoanalyse, Sexualerziehung, etc., from a historical and epistemological point of view. As for ‘abuse’ according to contemporary Americanist discourse, I guess it is somehow, eventually, an understandable paradigmatic peculiarity of postfeminist societies (which I called “paedocentric”) as well as of self-sustaining ‘bureaucracies’ serving such societies. Possibly not something to be focussing on, with other issues pressing (cf. Kincaid, 1998)[6]. Project GUS itself hardly addressed the issue in other than oblique fashions, for a number of reasons, one prominent of these being the inability of the contemporary globalist psycho/socio/pedagogical constellation to address these matters in an unbiased way; this being my personal reflection. Generally, the anthropological niche has failed to commit itself in establishing a curriculum of ‘thick’ descriptions addressing processes of sexual “development”. By this I think of in-depth semi-structured interviews, discursive analysis, and then something of a relativist synthetetic project ready to incorporate future modifications. I daresay we don’t need any more Child Sexual Behaviour Inventories of the sort that we now judge issues with. However, I gather there’s little room for a radical anthropology of early sexuality either; those Bornemannian days seem to be over.
  2. The project gave rise to a reflection on the legitimacy of developing sexualities to be studied in ‘cultural’ terms, and on such level (cf. point 1 supra). Today, I am rather sceptical of any level of analysis given the hegemony of a number of mainstreamed absolutisms and dichotomies in casu, in an age so obviously and proudly “past it all” on the academic level. This surely makes for a peculiar vacuum. I might agree with project supervisor and former-president of the then Dutch Social Sexological Research Institute [formerly NISSO] Dr. Jur. Cees J. Straver sexuality and associated physical affinity are best described in terms of “emotions” expressed within or without cultural grids; on the other hand, an anthropologist can deal with emotions only when symptomatised by stories, by actions, by such grids. That is, I am perfectly content to study stories, featuring “emotions” as such (words, stories), not as probable ‘root realities’ nor as smallest undividable “sexual” particles.

As for ‘emotions’, I maintain there is a strong case for what I nicked “proto-erotic” currents as a go-between of predominantly adrenergically mediated biopsychological processes, and predominantly gonadally mediated processes. To exclusively reserve the term “erotocism” for the latter would be akin to ruling out a fading out/fading in scheme in the effectuation of attractions in general, and also the probable tight curricular interdigitation of both bioprocessual “generations” as is concerned the “erotic” appeal. There’s work to be done here.

As for ‘cultures’, it seems obvious the “individual” is not of an anthropologist’s prime interest, while the interactive, institutional and eventual counter-institutional is. That is, anthropologists will (and probably should) primarily commit themselves to studies and theories of “curricula” rather than the more hypothetical, more problematic, and more recalcitrant “trajectories” that might prove symptomatic of them. The Curriculum in terms of biopower, then, is hegemonic Discourse in need of exploration; trajectories, on the other hand, should be expressions of the enforcement and formation of Curricular processes. Might they prove subverting any Curricular principle, then they should not. I would say that these subversions are the salt and pepper of developmental sexology.

Taking the “paedophilic” encounter as a too-easy and too-cheap index of contemporary parenting and moral globalism, the sexologist would have to resist being institutionalised[7] into the kind of ethnographies to perform, be it ethnocriminologies/-victimologies (focussing on active of passive deviations from institutionalised regulation of social behaviour) or ethnopsychiatries (focussing on deviations from public conventions on mental process and productivity, as contributing to such social behaviour), rather than biologies (focussing on deviations from neuro-endocrinological homeostasis, such according to contemporary clinical consensus). I am not advocating any type of “integrative approach” either. Let the facts (stories, rather) speak, not the institutions (I am a freshman student, maybe I am too optimistic).

  1. In discussing sexual education of the blind, Patrick White recently expressed the “hope that in the future blind people will wrest control of the story of their own sexuality from the hands of the sighted, for the available material, painfully limited though it is, constitutes the totality of our cultural inheritance of official information on the subject”[8]. I subscribe to such hope, impolitely lumping blindnesses into what may be a universal threat, and corresponding sightednesses somewhere near to such.


  1. Lastly, I want to express my hope that “sexology” even when a peculiar ethnohistorical niche will be able to succeed in subverting and deconstructing today’s multidisciplinary (in the Foucaultian sense) dichotomies, of which there too many. But let’s try and invent constructive alternatives to the boring anti-Americanisms here. Of many ethnographic entries in “sexological” “atlases”, mine for one, there’s a skeleton without the flesh, there’s no interstitium, no connective tissue, no organicity. We simply can not afford dealing with presumed bones while ignoring the organism they may erect. If we cannot touch the child academically, as retired Prof. John Money observed, then we should bear in mind that our Child would paradoxically the product of a protracted case for ‘evidence-based moralities’.



The author, June 2003

Footnotes [up]

[2] Foucault, M. (1970). The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. (trans anonymous) London: Tavistock

[3] Foucault, M. (C. Gordeon, Ed.; 1980) Selected Interviews  and Other Writings 1972-1977. Brighton: Harvester / New York: Pantheon Books. Section reprinted as “Genealogy and Social Criticism” in Seidman, S. (Ed., 1994) The Postmodern Turn: New Perspectives on Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: CambridgeUniversity Press

[4]Beausang, C. C. (2000) Personal Stories of Growing up Sexually, Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing 23,3:175-92

[5]  Janssen, D. F. (2003). Enculturation Curricula, Abuse Categorisation and the Globalist/Culturalist Project: The Genital Reference. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 13. Online at

[6] Kincaid, J. (1998). Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. London: Duke University Press

[7] Taking into account the necessary work of Zijderveld, A. C. (2000) The Institutional Imperative. Amsterdam: AmsterdamUniversity Press

[8]White, P. (2003) Sex Education; Or, How The Blind Became Heterosexual, GLQ 9,1–2:133–47, at p134