Growing Up Sexually

The Sexual Curriculum

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Addition to

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

18 Technologies of Erotic Propaedeusis ([1]) [previous chapter]


"Illusion is no longer possible" (Baudrillard)





This pos-hoc additional chapter of project GUS explores how, as evidenced in a variety of online, popular scientific and academic writings, emergent technologies (1) provide shifting scenes (‘localities') of containing erotic propaedeuses by 2) articulating with sexual curricula (that is, "disciplining" chronologies). A rough sketch is provided of these emerging playgrounds and surveillance thereof, followed by a brief tour around three selected technological ramifications of erotic propaedeusis. A bibliography is included. [Note: I mention some of the currently (mid-2004) available software and websites; by this I do not in any way intend to advertise these or any products or places].






18.1 Internet and Erotic Inauguration Management

18.2 Coming Playgrounds

18.3 New Surveillance

18.4 Three Technological Ramifications of Erotic Propaedeusis

18.5 Concluding Arguments

18.x Cited & Other Materials




18.1 Internet and Erotic Inauguration Management [top] [contents]


Expanding digital domains are known to generate problems of an anthropological nature - among these, the interface between two all-encompassing constructs: experience and representation. Obviously this is the tale of yet-again redefined intimacies, pleasures, and too-frank portrayal (e.g., Lillie, nd), ever-regurgitated anxieties (e.g., Walkerdine, 1999, 2001; Walkerdine, Dudfield and Studdert, 1999), associated pedagogical frustrations, resuscitated ‘politics of display' and of ‘innocence' (as in Giroux, 1996 and 1998, respectively), a grand history of censorship (Heins, 2001), and waves of medicolegally solidifying discourse. Adding to the pressures of conventional media like films, TV and print (Kelley, Buckingham and Davies, 1999; Buckingham and Bragg, 2004), during the 1990s home internet availability has expanded, redesigned and pioneered spaces of erotic exploration and consumption, cultivating new locales, trajectories and niches for the erotic and its propaedeusis, or inauguration, at least for the child-with-access: new classrooms, bedrooms, playgrounds, in short, places to hang out and make out. Chun (nd) goes so far as to argue that in general, "sex and sexuality have emerged as the master tropes for contact, identity, and communication in cyberspace". At one level of analysis, the process has been stretching moral spatialities, in terms of an internationalization and transnationalization (to some extent also a "transdomestication") of enforcement projects and mobilization; at the domestic level, if still meaningful, it has invoked a curriculum of retaliating technologies that seek to formally compartimentalise the novel, now only spuriously domestic, ambiguous, ‘cross-linked', ‘hyperspatial', in any case dangerous playground for neophytes and mentors alike (Mullin, 1996; Lewine, 1997; Hunter, 1999; Griffiths, 2000; Commission on Online Child Protection, 2000; Kessler, 2002; Shade, 2002; for a general appraisal see also Montgomery, 2000). This reactionary technologising of newly inspired and empowered erotic trajectories is dealing, ineffectively though it is argued, with emerging and elaborating strains on "integrity" and "accountability"[2], "safety" and "risk", and personal curriculum[3]; that is, on the whole of to be ‘protected' tastes, preferences, convictions, and boundaries thereof. Or so the software industry enables one to summarize the cultural status quo.

Indeed, apart from the constitutional and civil discourse they produce in forefront technocracies, what are these emergent technological performances saying about the process that is thereby to be contained and disciplined – erotic inauguration? Anthropologically, in speaking of "the learning of erotics" one might feel inclined to stress the part of curricular interiorities/exteriorities, of "developmental" inclusivities and exclusivities, intimacies and (why not) extimacies, perhaps amplified with biocultural assumptions of "eroticism" inscribed (mapped, and so on) by a progressive appropriation of desiring bodies to the proper, "adult" action radius and thematic preoccupation (note that the exclusivity notion of ‘adult' equating ‘pornographic' is an English particularity: the formula does not emerge as self-evidently when transposed to, say, Dutch). This archaic dual idea of the ‘erotarche' process (‘puberty' and ‘initiation') is increasingly cross-cut by a technologisation of both aspects: on the one hand we have interventionalisms like paediatric endocrinology, on the other we have, indeed, newly emerging scenes of censorship curricularising critical cultural sites of access, surveillance, and informational hierarchy. In answering the general question: how does an apparatus that transmits anything as information, deal with the transportation and distribution of intimacies, intended or implied or denied (Are they reduced to their "informing" properties? Are they reduced to their transportability?), there is one observation to make: internet undeniably intensifies strategic stratifications of intimacies, in processes of compensating and overcompensating securities that fail to be upheld (‘firewall' functions), safe places to return to (‘homepages'), and moral perspectives deemed unquestionable yet being questioned by evermore "obscene" degrees of mobility.


On the outset it is perhaps best to recall that currently there is no literature legitimizing any absolutist normative response as is concerned before-"adolescence" visual (or textual or any) exposure to anything accusable of being erotogenic –in contrast to anything "violent"– in nature (Thornburgh and Lin, 2002:p144-5, 152-5; Mitchell, Finkelhor et al., 2003:p333-4). Many reviewers, however, call for organised censorship on the basis of some mode of extrapolation using research on college samples. The actual process of erotic browsing in this age grade is not well researched either (e.g., Mitchell, Finkelhor and Wolak, 2000:p1-20 / Mitchell, Finkelhor et al., 2003 [10-year-olds upward]; Cyberspace Research Unit, 2002:p34-5, 46 [9-year-olds upward]; O'Connell, Price and Barrow, 2004 [8 to 11-year-olds]; cf. Livingstone, 2002:p17). The interpretation of data here is often politically not empirically conservative; responses to questions addressing "unwanted exposure" may well be utterly biased in the direction of social desirability, rendering sparse any meaningful observations on activities/passivities involved. Here we encounter the perpetuation of recurrent folk taxonomies of intimacy practices telling the tale of actions and passions (seduction, initiation, infatuation, obsession: poet's stuff), but also new problems of a spatial-ontological kind known in anthropology as "intimacies at a distance".


In the next lines I like to look briefly at some implications of newly emerging forms of erotic inauguration (18.2) and its management (18.3), predominantly of importance for ethnographers of ‘online' (and generally ‘technocratic') childhoods, and some (utterly preliminary) thoughts of a more philosophical nature (18.4).


18.2 Coming Playgrounds [top] [contents]


Eroticism-as-technology connotes two interrelated dimensions of operationalisation: ethic and practical legitimacy (whether-to and how-to). Technologies revolutionizing the transmission of eros ars amatoria style (most obviously via representation, reproduction and dissemination) evidently impact both modes of cultural containment, and historically have been translating these into questions of access and consumption. The list arguably includes: language (and song), writing, automated writing (hard print), photography, electromagnetic analogue en/decoding, digital en/decoding. For instance, late 20th century popular print instrumentalised a visual (and to some extent textual) revolution, because booklets could progressively bypass incest codes by either externalizing or compensating for newly felt parental responsibilities (taken or evaded) for illustration of traditionally oral curriculum. The high-days of this function were observed in the continental 1970s and 1980s, out of a culture with a long history of pathologising so-addressed primal scenes, now frankly portraying en face as well as cross-section-wise genital unions in education books for the young. Among others, an extreme and now widely disputed example is Will McBride's Zeig Mal! (Jugend Dienst Verlag Wuppertal, 1974; Show Me!, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975)[4]. In this book one encounters a primacy of the graphic, pictures only marginally being colligated by a (loosely conversational and allegedly authentic) running commentary. To me, the subversive nature of this work is not that of its too frank portrayal (however violating ethnospecific visualization codes), it is that of image superseding text as a focal mode of representation, rendering conventional understandings of both modes obsolete. During the 1980s and 1990s one observes a now almost complete retreat into cartooning, serving a more circumspect visualization curriculum. As ‘text' and ‘picture', the pedagogy of intimacy appears less intimate, more pedagogical. Technology here contributes to evermore complex schemes of substantiating the intimate, through tensions between the formally stated and casually imagined, between authorship and audience, private and public recognition of literary brilliance, published and unpublished, between text and picture, note and footnote, picture and caption, photogram and cartoon, introduction and epilogue, file and hyperlinked file. In text, we see a range of techniques that offer not the intimate but disciplining analysis of such: in term, chapter, glossary, index, table, hormonal schedule, ‘questions children ask'; graphically, one sees these techniques replayed in the form of anatomical and physiological depictions in an endless variety of ways based on medical drawings, in vivo radiography like Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), x-ray, fluorescence microscopy, photo microscopy, electron microscopy, ultrasonography, thermo-photography, forms of endoscopy, and so on (some of which being used in indispensable works by Lennart Nilsson). Clearly, this is pornography chic: ultra-realisms, so real in fact, that it becomes bearable and preferable.


Thus, the erotic has been rendered transmittable through a range of cultural practices other than those directly associated with sensual-motoric modalities, active and passive, of the courtship routine itself in its mammalian configuration (touch/sight/smell), practices that serve to verbalize, textualise, and illustrate (‘explain', ‘clarify', ‘teach'), in various combinations and modes of subordination, such routines proper. "Instruction" is only one function redefined by these forms of indirection, spuriously relieving as it does systems of intergenerational notions concerning age-, intimacy- and allosex-avoidancy (Money, 1980), structures tailored to uphold some "positive gradient of appropriate age" (Murdock, 1949:p318-9), or perhaps to neutralise more esoteric "complexes" that would render problematic (from a mentor's perspective) Occidental erotic mentorship (see chapter 14). Note that the (far from elaborated) anthropological case in question here, variably identified as a phylogenetic or ethnopsychiatric one, has been transmuted into a normative agenda: keeping children out of "adult" affairs.

To state the obvious, technologies introduce novel forms of interactivity. As is the case with all kinds of informational hierarchy, the work of the introducee here is obviously that of "browsing": wandering through and looking at leisure. The erotic situs studiorum once was the parental shelf (typically including hidden paternal "stacks"), and public and school libraries (often compartimentalised in child, youth and adult sections). This site has been superseded by a more aggressively inclusive forum: internet. This hypothetically meets the demands of the young erotic browser even more specifically that of the browser in general: navigatability (think theme, genre, modality, formality), availability, storage and archiving, cost, access, exchange, privacy, anonymity, and so on. The sheer increase in possibilities and probabilities, of course, also puts an emphasis on the import of technological maximisation and control, as well as surveillance.


Internet has greatly contributed to consumptivity and representability notions of erotics. This contribution obviously affects ontogenetic underpinnings of erotics, as well as the process and concept of erotic ontogenesis itself. A range of Eros-sensitive possibilities is opened by computers: video games (Kline, 1999; Walkerdine, Thomas and Studdert, 2000), including fantasy role-playing with scarcely dressed opposite sex characters (an account of censorship was offered by Larme, 2000), assuming another life phase or age (Maczewski, 1999:p121-4; Valentine and Holloway, 2002:p310), chatting in rooms (Willett, 2003; Sefton-Green and Willett, 2003), being digitally groomed (Taylor, 2001 Lynch, 2002; O'Connell, 2003; Berson, 2003), new Selves to be constructed (Stern, 2000, 2002), and so forth. Cyberreality creates new subjects, new developmental bodies (e.g., Smyres, 1999), new risk discourses (Burn and Willett, forthcoming), and so on. Thus, the differences qua growing up sexually may not be that big after all: "Preadolescents in North America have long explored their emerging sexuality without the supervision of adults. The Internet may be the high-tech modern method of learning what had formerly been learned from forbidden pictures, literary texts and whispered conversations to which adults have never been privy" (Elliott et al., 2002). Indeed, as observed by Rebekah Willett and associates, tweens' [10–13y] behaviour in chatrooms closely relates to that documented for offline playgrounds:


"One of the most noticeable types of interaction was the performance of heterosexual desire. […] The interactions observed in chatrooms seem to firmly grounded in such games as ‘kiss-chase' or ‘catch-and-kiss'. When ‘chasing' a ‘boy Habbo', the girls would squeal with delight (‘I'm with him, I am, I am I'm with him'), they would talk about the boys' looks and they would tell the boy that they loved him and wanted to kiss him'. […] The girls also engaged in chat with boys which reflected the girls' desires to take risks and play with taboo topics, namely around sexual relations" (Sefton-Green and Willett, 2003).




"The girls in chatrooms carve out a particular way of ‘doing girl', and more specifically doing ‘pre-adolescent girl', not only through flirtatious behaviour but also through a way of talking, expressing their opinions and to some extent establishing a particular power relationship with boys" (ibid.).


This constancy might even hold true for paternalistic mobilization: "Concern about children and the Internet is the latest in a ritual cycle of moral panics surrounding new technologies […] founded on technological determinist accounts of media and an essentialist view of childhood" (Quigley and Blashki, 2003; cf. Wartella and Jennings, 2000). In any case, a cyberethnographic mapping of growing up sexually is itself coming of age, as are preliminary theoretical ramifications ([5]).




18.3 New Surveillance [top] [contents]


Blunt censorship is nowhere new a development ethnohistorically speaking: children's beds, children's bedrooms, bathroom and dressoir locks, book challenges in public, school, or education libraries ([6]), V-chips (Kunkel et al., 2002), media ratings (Bushman & Cantor, 2003), and finally a range of internet related possibilities ([7]).

What appears to be new, however, are the increasingly apert and self-revealing ways in which sexualities are seen to be represented as and through protocols, programs, programming, and control; in digi-speak: filters, cybersitting, and passwords. First, the dramatis personae of emergent intimacies has been marked by a shift in, if only, terminology. Using SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, CyberSitter, Net Nanny, Cyber Snoop, MSN content Filter, and AOL Parental Controls, erotic development has become known as a matter of Admins (conspiring with review "teams", "staffs" and other backstage personnel) versus underage Users. Foucault's disciplined Child and technologised Self are embodied within an industry offering "interception technologies" and "filter technologies" to effectively render improbable any degree of "inappropriate", "unsafe", "unsolicited", "unsuitable", "adult" exposure. This is necessitated where internet is seen to represent an "aberration in the [Occidental] family's normal power structure" (Chun, nd, p29). Transgressive "browsing" is now simultaneously and automatically logged, blocked, and revenged by means of automated reprimands. Efficiency is ensured using "high-efficient algorithm and automatically online update database technology" featuring "intelligent verdict engine with independent intellectual property", conspiring with user feedback, as the advertisement of one program[8] boasts (In the case of exposed false positives, sites have to be manually fault-tolerated. Interestingly, Cyberpatrol by default blocks both "Adult/Sexually Explicit" and "Sex Education").

Software advertisements illustrate how the concept of exploration is entirely vandalised through the concept of "review". With Kidsnet Parental Control 2.0

"your children cannot access a Web site unless Kidsnet has been there first and rated its content and context. Kidsnet is a parental control system exclusively based on human reviews. Kidsnet's content specialists have examined Web sites that represent more than 98% of the World Wide Web traffic (Neilson/Net Ratings). If your child attempts to access a Web site Kidsnet's reviewers have not already visited and reviewed, it is added to the queue for review" (Publisher's Description).

The detail of such reviewing enforces an altogether suffocating containment, in which "Sex and Nudity" figures among no less than

"23 restrictive categories that can be disallowed (from Category 1, Alcohol/Tobacco - Advocacy or Promotion to Category 23, Weapon promotion or sale). You may set up individual accounts for up to 6 of your children. Your children's Internet access is allowed only by means of a password you assign to each child" (ibid.).


The desired locus, the homeostasis, is variably phrased as "security", "safety" and as such "enabling". Interestingly, the unholy name "Child Control 2003"[9] (compare "Control Kids 5.05" by Proxymis, "Bounce Kids Web Browser 2.0" by One Light, and others) is given to a complex piece of software that alleges to be "enabling" children's "responsible handling" of hardware. To give one a sense of the firepower, Anti-Porn[10] offers an 8-point slide to set a "web filter" (using a self-updating library) from high to low, access-restricted uninstalling, chat filtering, ‘predatory word' filtering (incl. custom definition), periodic scheduled screen snapshooting, URL logging, and URL blacklisting. Other features encountered include: search engine logging (Block Porn), keystroke logging, program invisibility, and so on. Some anti-tampering measures are taken to prevent whizzkids to de-install the monitoring device, or to modify registry entries (which control program functionality). Illustratively, in a 2002 report, "73% of 15-16 year old respondents compared to 33% of 9-10 year old respondents reported that they knew how to disable filters or controls on their home-based computers"[11]. (If anything, ratings systems provide interesting material for cultural-sexological domain analysis. They document exactly what phrases are being banned and expected to be typed in or encountered.)


18.4 Three Technological Ramifications of Erotic Propaedeusis [top] [contents]

Internet is about redistribution and reception of information, a given obviously necessitating a continuous reformulation of cyberethnographic methodology and of cyberpedagogical rationale. Central question for future research is how "(pre-)adolescent" erotic trajectories are contemporarily to be understood as/by technologia: systems of practical knowledge, for instance, defining nascent capacities ‘to do or make something with a correct understanding of the principle involved' (Aristotle). An exploratory collage not eschewing the far-reaching philosophical implications of the matter could draw on reflections on, inter alia, (1) the Eryximachus-Pausanias intermezzo in Plato's Symposion, dealing with the question of Eros contained and containable in law/art; (2) possible (e.g., original Foucaultian) notions of self-technologies; and (3) possible (e.g., original Baudrillardian) notions of the technologically ‘preceded' body, and so forth. Insights can then be test-cased via an application on software-aided parental cybercontrol of children's erotic "browsing", children being embodied within an industry offering "interception technology" and "filter technology" to effectively render improbable any degree of "inappropriate", "unsafe", "unsolicited", "unsuitable", "adult" technologies/sexologies. I will not be providing novel directions here, nor am I elaborating applications, I am simply sight-seeing some of many (to me compelling) entries. I am not advocating any particular form of interdigitation either.



From his medical techne Eryximachus proposed to deal with the effects of love [Eros] through a proper balancing of two parts: "In the human body […] there are two loves; and the art of medicine shows which is the good and which is the bad love, and persuades the body to accept the good and reject the bad, and reconciles conflicting elements and makes them friends"[12]. The task is to balance the effects of love by seeing that the good love creates a temperate harmony while the wanton love is subdued (188a-b). As Robert Cavalier[13] clarifies:

"The image we have is one of Eryximachus the "scientist" trying to bring Eros under his art (or techne). Again, this poses the whole problem of whether Eros (and eo ipso Dionysus) can be subsumed (subdued) -- for while Pausanias attempted to subsume Eros under law, Eryximachus now attempts to subsume Eros under science. Yet the dramatic aspect of the dialogue has had Aristophanes hiccupping and gesturing throughout the entire speech. These comic eruptions of the Dionysian seem to run against this possibility of containment. Indeed, Aristophanes' sneeze seems, in itself, the counter Eryximachus' thesis (189a)".

It seems that the erotic/erotological browser (again, there is little evidence of children's de facto browsing agendas) finds himself in an antitechnological context: rather than being taught the rules differentiating indiscriminate and discriminating (Pausanias: ‘disgraceful' vs ‘honourable') passions, or being shown the techne required for ethical diagnosis, the ‘wanton' is brutally extirpated - with broad margins, we have noted - as a mere possibility. Even when ‘intelligent', currently available software relies on very unsophisticated phrase-based decisions, and the invocation of unacquainted previewing authorities; also, this mostly applies to English-typing users. "Child Control 2003", for instance, includes a user specific "bad word list" (with some 15 presets to set the example). Filtering relies on "machine-executable rules abstracted from human judgments", they necessarily identify a large volume of not-inappropriate material as inappropriate, however defined abstractly[14]. Specific technologies produce specific regimentations, that is, specific modes of abstraction that lure ‘users' into prostituting themselves to a range of ‘services' that offer to ‘enable' and ‘protect' ‘appropriate' forms and schedules of passage. This is in fact recognized by Eryximachus, who identifies his techne as

"[…] the knowledge of the loves and desires of the body, and how to satisfy them or not; and the best physician is he who is able to separate fair love from foul, or to convert one into the other; and he who knows how to eradicate and how to implant love, whichever is required, and can reconcile the most hostile elements in the constitution and make them loving friends, is a skilful practitioner"[15] (emphasis added).

It is clear that software designers and utilisers in turn will identify with this task description: auctorial preventionalism. Utopia seems to be where the browsing party remains healthy by remaining unaware of sickness, while decent medical training is left to post-Utopian protocols.



Technologies of the "S"elf in the light of sexual developments would "permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state" of sexual maturity (after Foucault, 1988:p18). In the context of technological implementation, the Foucaultian agenda theoretically reads: (a) the identification of an individual's ethical component, or substance, which s/he must develop; (b) a mode of subjection which establishes an individual's relationship to the ethical rule or discipline in question; (c) an ethical labour that transforms the individual's substance; and (d) a goal of self-care (Foucault [1990:p26-8]). Looking at technocracies, notoriously the homes of hypertrophied ‘sexual' Selves, the problems begins with the very first step: ethos may well ideally be enforced before it is identified or rationalised, therefore subjection may be implicit hence uncontestable, no transformation may be required, and goals may by essence be aligned. Another issue might be the range of self-reductive operations thought to be inevitable in the construction and maintenance of an online persona (see Marontate, nd), in terms of self-representation (‘personal websites') and communication (‘emoticons'). It is here where we encounter "a contradictory deployment of technologies and their accompanying social intentions and discourses" (Buckingham, 2003 as cited by Burn and Willett, forthcoming): work vs play; education vs entertainment, information retrieval vs communication and gaming. This obviously impacts discursive turns in both cultural history and psychogenetic trajectories that dichotomise ‘sexualities' and ‘sexologies' (however unfortunately restricted these terms are), a problem fully evident in offline reality as well. Here, as at the Symposion, we find ourselves obliged to reflect on the educability of the intimate as foundational and enabling, more precisely, on the possible cultural-historical restraints imposed on the inevitable interbreeding (or should we say navigation) of three constructs: erotic transition, transgression and transmission ([16]).



Technological curricula, par excellence, are increasingly hyperreal, in a Baudrillardian sense: they precede trajectories, nay, render them obsolete. In cyberspace, there seem to be no real sexualities and no real developments, therefore, just simulations, jargon, normative schemas, experts with clinical questionnaires, Oprah on sexual abuse, cartoon sex ed. Childhood: ‘The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it' (Baudrillard [1998]). A normative rejoinder, technologically contained and produced intimacies are Disney intimacies, nobody ought to get hurt, everybody ought to have fun[17]. More precisely, erotic trajectories seem to be featuring in the following unholy postmodern fate:

‘Facts no longer have any trajectory of their own, they arise at the intersection of the models; a single fact may even be engendered by all the models at once. This anticipation, this precession, this short-circuit, this confusion of the fact with its model (no more divergence of meaning, no more dialectical polarity, no more negative electricity or implosion of poles) is what each time allows for all the possible interpretations, even the most contradictory - all are true, in the sense that their truth is exchangeable, in the image of the models from which they proceed, in a generalized cycle' (ibid.).

With increasing technologization of the domestic and classroom experience, the effects of any ‘sexual education', together with its praxis, are being ‘inscribed in advance in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their mode of presentation and possible consequences' (ibid.).

Argument is that sexual developments, maldevelopments, parenthoods, and so on, occur in a Baudrillardian hyperreality, secured by a sexual development industry far too intimately conjoined to, for example, a ‘trauma' industry. For instance, the American child is unabused regardless of anything ever happening: ‘Materials you can order include workbooks, curriculum, coloring books, videos, resource packets, a game, and "Peace on Earth Begins at Home" sweatshirts, t-shirts and picture-frame magnets' (Red Flag Green Flag® Resources). No escape here: ‘No-No The Little Seal: A Story For Very Young Children That Tells About Sexual Abuse (Marion Krupp; Random House, 1986).


Fully evident in parent- and professional-operated bulletin boards, ‘childhood' sexualities are among the countless What Parents Need to Knows, endless line-ups of utterly self-evident slogans, phrases and self-assuring (apparently) mantras. The idea offered is that it's all quite intelligible, follows ‘stages' (that is, it's a stage, and it goes away), is ‘important', ‘nothing to worry about', ‘normal', not bad as the Victorians would have it, actually ‘healthy' and ‘natural' and ‘positive': please download these free factsheets, one for every stage (‘FPQ can offer a range of services to assist professionals to respond to childhood sexuality development'). Hundreds of chapters, guides, courses, lectures, workshops, etc. to have the word circulate[18], sink in, and erase all imaginable common sense: a large 1:1 scale map covering a lost and forgotten desert of the commonsensical and self-evident (‘At, we want to help you raise all your children to be sexually healthy adults: adults who feel good about their bodies, make responsible decisions about their sexuality, and have satisfying emotional, spiritual, and physical relationships with their partners'). This map provides a vehicle for all kinds of obscure, angulated propaganda (‘This [?] increase in the sexual behavior of children should come as no surprise. We are after all, raising a generation of "super-sexualized" young people. Children around the country [USA] are being exposed to an onslaught of sexual messages that come at them with the speed of lightening, from all directions, and on an on-going and daily basis'[19]). Most apparent thing in the current parent-addressing lore is the perpetual assault of reassurance against Victorian, Freudian, and other obsolete or psychotic notions, the self-congratulatory post-nasal drip. It presupposes a rather peculiar view of the American parent: stupid to the bone, backward some 150 or so years, and bizarrely naïve. Thank God we now have internet-based experts to go to.

To paraphrase Feyerabend, ‘unreasonable, nonsensical, unmethodological foreplay' seems to turn out an ‘unavoidable precondition of clarity and of empirical success' (Against Method, 3rd ed., p18). If so, there must be something to be successful in. There's something obscene in relying on booklets and bulletin board backup in dealing with "dilemma's" such as ‘The boy who's preoccupied with his penis'. If such is at all anthropologically interesting it is so exactly in the ways it indeed can be engineered, professionalized, merchandised, tabularised, staged, schematised, and circulated as such. In fact, whatever could be ‘sexual' (read: intimate, erotic) in ‘children', its occurrence, management, ‘prevention', curricular containment, chronological encapsulation, occurs without it ever occurring, being managed, being prevented, and being captivated in some temporal stratification. It's all a simulation. Sexual development is becoming a trashy, kitsch, mass-market product advertised by (e-)libraries of (e-)books that imagine sexualities without the images (hence the compulsory (e-)cartooning?), a product propagandised by a new "professionalist" niche of clinical moralists, entirely emptied of any referentiality. North-America (infinitely best example, it seems) is perpetually falling onto some central vacuum that once was ‘Eros' developing. Technology lubricates the perpetual simulation of sexual transgression and non-transgression (variably worded as ‘abstinence'); the simulacrum then precedes any ("non-")"transgression".



18.5 Concluding Arguments [top] [contents]


Intimacies of children are contained in the technocratic idea that they are unproblematically localisable in ‘learning', in desires protoerotic at best: ‘natural curiosity'. The function of this idea clearly is that of control: the assignment of human experience to the realm of ‘information' to ensure thus-compartimentalised management thereof. There are obvious ontological implications in this concept of erotic ‘enthusiasms' as curiosities, now rendered "necessary" and "essential". As Fenichel (1946 [1982:p72]) observed, " "[k]nowing sexual facts" may substitute for the observation of sexual facts and becomes a sexual aim of its own". According to this discourse, sexuality doubles sexology, sex play equals curiosity satisfaction, sexual development a progressively successful telling ‘facts' from ‘fiction', image engineers imagination; paradoxically this entails a trajectory toward embedded consensus, not of situational and personal transcendence and non-sense. The contemporary Occidental (techno-logic, techno-morphic, techno-sophic, techno-graphic, techno-logistic) Erotic, then, is myth, its ‘development' mythopoesis: it is a cultural blank surrounded by an ever more awesome and dense network ("web", one is inclined to say) of "facts", a network eventually to become navigatable by children, prenavigated by parents (and censors and raters and indexers), originated and substantiated by academics, and instantiated by enthusiasts of family values. Core problem, however, is that the quintessence (evasion), apparently, can be implicated only by the invaginating structures that are said to be evaded and transcended: the logics of infatuation, the facts of life, the skill of falling in love. What is sold as a culturally syntactical binary (good, bad and confusing makes two) makes for a semantic paradox: the production of a would-be antispatial principle articulating with the erection of contemporaneous, rock-solid barriers. Hence, it figures, endemically implausible technologic notions of eroticism as pedagogizable and scholastisizable and learnable: they function at a level of propaganda and policing the status quo, not at one of being policed and being indoctrinated. To speak with Baudrillard on this one, the curriculum never touches the curricularised, rather it suffocates, circumtextualizes, and ‘explains' something that could otherwise have no curriculum at all. On the one hand the digital environment is no exceptional one in this respect, since it has simply proven to be the next stage in a viscose conservative moral system; on the other, it may more conspicuously fail the operating class/stratum in terms of dictation and monitoring effectivity.




18.x Cited & Other Materials (links last checked April 25, 2004) [top] [contents]



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[top] [contents]




[1] The author wishes to thank Dr. Rebekah Willett for kindly sending cutting edge research data.

[2] x3watch v1.0 is "a FREE program helping with online integrity. Whenever you browse the internet and accesses [sic] a site which may contain questionable material, the program will save the site name on your computer. Approximately every 30 days, a person of your choice (an accountability partner) will receive an e-mail containing all possible questionable sites you may have visited within the month. This information is meant to encourage an open and honest conversation between friends and help us all be more accountable".

[3] Content Scanner v1.0.0.287 allows transgressors to "scan, audit, filter, and detect […] clean, delete, erase, remove […] cleanup history, address bar, cookies, and temp Internet files, documents, pictures, and movies" to prevent disclosure.

[4] The 1998 work I, Will McBride include the complete set of pages reproduced rather small, possibly to mitigate reception.

[5] Some examples include: 1999 MA thesis by Mechthild Maczewski on youth experiences online; 2003 thesis by Angela Thomas, on cyberliteracies, subjectivities, fantasies and performances of children in cyberspace; current research by Ingrid Smette, covering commercialisation and sexualisation of adolescence; current research by Rebekah Willett and Andrew Burn proposing "a model of discourses related to internet risk based on the axis of discursive structure". Meanwhile, Livingstone and Bober provided the following preliminary contemplation of innovation/reproduction curricula: "Perhaps the truth lies in between, with such activities being innovative at the level of the culture but normative in establishing and imposing conventions which constrain the contributions of individuals". Livingstone, S. & Bober, M. (2003) UK Children Go Online: Listening to Young People's Experiences, p38n17 []

[6] An impressive case would be Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen (Jenkinson, 1986; Heintzelman & McCarthy, 2000), dealing with a little boy's dream-fantasy in which he helps three fat bakers get milk for their cake batter. Objections: Nudity; "could lay the foundation for future use of pornography". See further Pistolis, D. R. (1996) Hit List - Frequently Challenged Books for Children. Chicago: American Library Association; Becker, B. C. & Stan, S. M. (2002) Hit List for Children 2: Frequently Challenged Books. Chicago: American Library Association

[7] Commission on Online Child Protection, Report to Congress, October 20, 2000, p14-38

[10] Anti-Porn v3.1.4.8 (tuEagles),

[11] Cyberspace Research Unit (2002, p12)

[12] Plato, Symposium, Benjamin Jowett (transl.)

[13] I am generously drawing here from Cavalier's "Understanding Plato" site,

[14] National Research Council, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2002), (visited 8/29/02), Executive Summary; chs. 11, 12

[15] Symposium, op.cit.

[16] At this point one might enjoy Raffles (2002) "rethinking local knowledge and its production as a form of intimacy".

[17] Interestingly, Baudrillardian Disneyland ‘[…] is meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness' (ibid.)

[18] Analyse here:, ‘Parenting dilemma: The boy who's preoccupied with his penis'

[19] Fred Kaeser, Ed.D. at