The Sexual Curriculum (Oct., 2002)
[to Volume II Index]
[to Main Index Page]
Janssen, D. F. (Oct., 2002). Growing Up Sexually. Volume II: The Sexual Curriculum: The Manufacture and Performance of Pre-Adult Sexualities. Interim Report. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
17 [previous chapter]
The following statements include a selection of general formulations resulting from the project "Growing Up Sexually". In part, these are confirmations of explicit and implicit hypotheticals associated with the constructionist entry. Further remarks are made on the position of sexologists and sexology in the interpretations and claims reviewed.
As detailed in chapter 16, in Western discourse the process of eroticisation of personhood (and bodies) is an avoided issue. This was explained by addressing the fact that such categories are not positively defined within the socialisation process (but rather by a negative proxy processes) and therefore have no performative contextual or textual autonomy. This cultural perspective, however tentatively, can be challenged by cross-cultural data. In contemporary sexology, as a whole, the issue of the "manufactured" and "consumed" person/body is addressed without a due reference to "developmental" processes. Here too, cross-cultural perspectives are able to address, deconstruct and reformulate these tendencies. Developmental eroticism, clearly, contemporarily is of a cultural "substance" other than that of "gender" ("identity", "orientation") and bodiliness ("image", "attitude", etc.). The review offers, but does not address fully, the hypothesis that "eroticism" is a factor for which the cultural barriers to "operationalisation", both within sexological praxis (to define) and pedagogical discourses (to make practicable), are variable, rendering its curricular performance less contextual, more optional, and more ambiguous in some societies as compared to others.
Cultural and subcultural differences are noted in the specifics of developmental sexologies (§3.4). Specifically, the identification of promoting agents is a salient factor (chapter 7). Cross-culturally, this ranges from the employment of an exclusively appointed Instructor, providing a fully integrated, personal, pragmatic (or practical) sexological curriculum, to a situation where authorities leave (however critical) issues to more or less unchecked (optional) peer dynamics. In the last case, the extent and content of the curriculum may be variable, largely unmonitored, and more likely to evoke contextual ambiguity. Theoretically, the persona of the Educator thus ranges from a single key informant to a mist of influences that renders any organised or purposeful localisation of (control of, participation in) eroticisation and gendering processes a complex and perhaps unfruitful quest. This relates to the antithesis between the use of ritual-derived discontinuity, and the highly indefinite (yet increasingly proscribed) chronology that characterises post-industrial growing up sexually. In technocratic societies, this has created a culturalist free run on the matter for academics as well as moral observers. As some may argue, a traditionalism-versus-modernism curriculum has been replaced by two other curricula: the perpetual redoing of modernism in Western societies (e.g., "post-modernism"), and the struggle between modernism, revival and reinvention in "developing" regions. Thus, any Educator's role is likely to undergo continuous chance, which has only recently been monitored by anthropologists and sociologists.
The "Educator problem" identified above can be traced along the lines of development characterising European scientific discourses, which, very globally speaking, appear to be synchronised with lay developmental sexologies. Genetic agents have successively been located within the biological realm, within the pedagogical and sexagogical situation (pedagogues, parents, extraordinary agogues), and lastly within what would be a dense cultural soup of sexologies that vicariously, and agentlessly, determines power configurations. The presence of these sexological principles in non-European settings (§3.3) is hard to interpret historically given the paucity of information provided by older sources. The preliminary conclusion reads that for most cases, traditional developmental (ontogenetic) sexologies are not available. Future research has to address what appears to be socially and sociologically parallel evolutions, specifically by disentangling pre-contact and post-contact sexology, and by separating native from (implicit) interpretative and comparative sexology. Research is further to address curricular (age graded) sub- and countercultural sexologies and their vicissitudes and interactions over time.
Convincingly suggested by data collected in chapters 5, 12 and 13, the body is socialised and culturalised (a) along a spectrum of meanings, ranging from patriarchal-complementarist interpretations (reproduction), to the individualist-essentialist commercial interpretations of industrial society; and (b) along a gradient of definition and insistence with which meanings are made available, particularly intergenerationally. Cross-culturally, this produces chronological and operational differences within gender (at least hypothetically dyadic), reproductive (economic/medical/social), and erotic (individualist, private) spheres. Specifically, it produces 'sexologically' monovalent, oligovalent or polyvalent cultures, and inherently, curricular subculturing. As feminist perspectives have argued, the body is invaded with meanings within a complex, culturally specific complementation-identification schema based on and inspired by larger socioeconomically informed political agendas. Within a constructionist perspective it was argued that bodies have no meaning until they are given meaning, a perspective not compromised by currently available data. Descending to the level of organs and organ functions, the theory applies as well, or even better. Organs and bodies are instrumentalised (operationalised) to secure and consolidate familial, dyadic and/or individualist agendas, however poorly defined, curricularly consistent or mutually conflicting. This occurs at a gradient of centralising – decentralising factual bodies as the sites of social significance (chapter 13). Expanding on the classical constructionist perspective, the body represents a medium through which the active doing and the active not-doing (IV.4) of sex shape the identities that are ascribed to these performances. "Cultures", thus, determine how bodies contribute to sexuality-as-praxis, and as such inform sexuality-as-identity or sexuality-as-orientation discourses.
Following from the previous observations on operationalisation, the activities that be scheduled and pursued toward as well as with the help of bodies acquire a definition within collateral interest agendas and schedules. Within the so created curriculum of possibilities and probabilities, guiding principles are to direct the child toward gender stereotypes, allosexual orientation, heterosexual orientation, and to coital orientation (chapters 9, 8, 6). Cultures differ in their tenacity to effect this end, but it is hypothesised that these four positively formulated principles are either dealt with within the same compelling efficacy (Puerto Rico for a convincing ideal type), or are collectively underrepresented in factual pedagogical curricula (consider 20th century U.S. white middle class), regardless of an obvious appeal to academic productivism. Chapter 6 on coitocentrism and coitality offers the perspective that a variety of factors (e.g., age) renders it salient only in a carefully organised (age-graded) interactive dimension or discursive curriculum. The child does not grow up to meet one specific discursive truth about sexuality owing to some specific educational effort; rather, (s)he grows up while manufacturing his / her own, perhaps in spite of such efforts (cf. §4.5.3), perhaps not. The gender dimension, for instance, is actively engineered and instrumentalised, curricularly (gradually) and continuously so, and in variable degrees of opposition to established dominant ("adult") discourses.
17.6 Locating "Sexual Behavior Identity": Cultural Self and Spaces between Construct and Performance [up] [contents]
Concluding from §7.2.11, pedagogical practices are capable of defining "sexual identities" on the basis of specific behaviours rather than hypothetical scenarios. This relocates western discourses around such "identities" as absolute (universal) entities. Throughout the project, there have been arguments in classifying self-concepts as operational (practice-based, pragmatic), or as characterised by a compromised "operationalisation" potential. By this is understood the manner in which images of the self are informed by images of the performing self. In other words, cultures differ in the degree of dissociation or approximation of imagined (construed) and actualisable (performed) sexuality/intimacy/erotics. In most cultures for which data were collected, it is reasonable to assume that "developmental sexuality" is less physically performative than it is verbally performative, and less verbally performative than it is "cognitively performative". The "sexual self" as performing self, thus, varies in the ways by which it acquires existence, as well as its "developmental" relocalisation.
As a result of the methodological choices made (see also §I.7 further on), the inevitable conclusion reads that control of sexual behaviour is generated through the execution of communications that narrow possibilities, or rather, direct probabilities. The child is manoeuvred into a position that makes certain sexual agenda plausible, yet, depending on formal or informal communications, optional and variably feasible. This view reserves a high salience for the "operational" element in sexual communications: how is and should the thing be done?
As detailed in chapter 8.1, parents utilise various discursive pedagogisms to operationalise preadult sexual behaviour along a gradient from promotion to antagonism. Thus, it was concluded that discourses, rooted in larger, structuring complexities, add up to developmental sexologies producing the various pedagogical spaces that locate and legitimise curricularising interventions. Moving into and out of these sexological spaces, children themselves rework and recombine (fragmentary) discursive material to curricular identities/roles that govern complementation, identification, discomplementation and disidentification activities as such. The localisation of control, authority, agency and power in this interactive system depends on the continuous, subjective, situated repositioning of the localiser.
A cross-cultural perspective on the formation of age based sexual and sexological subcultures has not been offered previously. Various sections of the current project offer the perspective that erotic societies are actively being segmentalised ([vide chapters on coital development, sexologies, verbal subculturing; also genital preparations, and primal scene, i.e. chs. 3, 6, 10, 13), age based segments being governed by their own social principles and discourses, and deserving their own sociology. A hypothetical schema to explain the sexological orientation and agenda of peer subcultures on the basis of the agenda of authority subcultures should receive further attention. These contra-agendas would counteract authorial tendencies to limit the freedom of social choice and social intercourse. Contemporary sociologists, having begun to explore the heterosexual and gendered geography of school environments via ethnographic accounts, might attempt a bicultural or non-Western approach. These matters are important guidelines for school policies on education, awareness and rapport; cross-cultural efforts, furthermore, provide an entry to understanding these subcultures at a more fundamental level. Of course, a "grass-roots" concepts of curricular segmentalism should be a priority issue. The question is: how do children produce, lament or appreciate their segmental world?
During the data collecting, it was tacitly assumed that sexology creates sexuality which then re-creates sexologies. A reformulation of this (sexuality creates sexology re-creating sexualities) was to some extent test-cased in the Mead/Freedman controversy, Freedman suggesting that Mead in part operated from personal agenda to incorrectly interpret Samoa adolescent sexuality, and was "hoaxed" by informants (see Atlas Volume under Samoa). A comparatively similar example is the Money / Colapinto case (see Atlas Volume under Australia/Yolngu), which, I believe is entirely negotiable on this point (ibid.). Another case in which personal interest may have biased ethnographic output is that of Lizot's alleged sexual excursions with young Yanomamö. Outside the ethnological setting, developmental sexologists appear to be likely objects for morality quests in general (Kinsey, Bullough et al. / Reisman, Sandfort / Penthouse, Rind et al. / U.S. Congress), providing an entry for a view on sexological cultures and academic identity.
Please note that the argument here is not in defence of any party. The case is that most of these debates extend to the persona behind the thesis, which of course is beside the current point. Still, how have, in these or other cases, counterhegemonic (?) agenda contributed to coverage of preadult sexualities? In general, how have arbitrary entries (consider §2.7) shaped academic performance on the matter?
The collective of "cultural" paradigms defining "the sexual" has a decisive impact on "developmental sexology". So much so, the construct and the process of "doing developmental sexology" forms an object of study and deconstruction in itself. The current project only fragmentarily addresses this issue within historical and ethnographic academic writing (e.g., chapters 1, 2 and 16; §14.4; appendices 1 and 2).
Contemporary American constructionist-interactionist-performative ideologies of sexuality are definitely inspired by, directed to, and legitimised by certain activist agendas, all closely related to the concept of abuse of (legitimate or fraudulent) hierarchies; these authors typically address "sexist" / gynecomysic, "homophobic", and otherwise victimising, abusive performances. Apparently normalising less "hegemonic", more "adult" sexual discourse, the male adolescent (and increasingly "pre-adolescent") trajectory is characterised by a culpable, unjust, abject and erroneous sexualism, to be corrected by the pedagogical context in which they arise. While one may or may not identify with these of other reformative, protectionist and accusatory agendas, the unilateralism implied tends to compromise an open understanding of processes, as well as non-political hypothesis testing.
The currently available literature sensitises any discussion of sexual behaviour development. Importantly, the application of developmental narratives warrants further study, or perhaps a specific methodological attitude (appendix IV).