Growing Up Sexually

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




Historical Background of Project "Growing Up Sexually"

[see also Guidelines to Atlas Volume]

Contents [up]


Historical Background of the Project "Growing Up Sexually". 9


0.1 Scheduling, Expert Participation.. 9

0.2 Research Proposal to Final Drafts: Dimensional Evolutions. 10

0.3 Final Research Purpose. 11

0.4 Legitimisation.. 11

0.5 Definitions. 12

0.6 Methodology. 13

0.7 Perspectives: Problematic, Arbitrary and Unsolved "Dichotomies" and Operational Choices 13

0.8 Selected Limitations. 14

0.8.1 Limitations inherent to the Project 15

0.8.2 Limitations inherent to the Materials. 15

0.9 Final Product 15

0.10 Personal Note. 15


Notes. 16


This short comment on the historical background of the project identifies the gradual broadening of covered topics, together with the gradual narrowing of presentation formats involved in the processing of review data.



0.1 Scheduling, Expert Participation [up] [Contents]


Originally scheduled January to May 2002, the study was extended till September that year, predominantly due to interim reformulations and expansions of the original format of the study (vide infra). Monthly scheduled colloquia were attended by Mr. Humphrey E. Lamur, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, Mr. Cees J. Straver, PhD., LLM. and financial secretary of the Dr. Edward Brongersma Foundation, Mr. Peter Th. M. J. van Eeten, MA, and author Mr. Diederik F. Janssen, MD. At these interim colloquia, the following subjects were discussed:


-- formulation and reformulation of project objectives;

-- discussion of methodological and theoretical perspectives;

-- subject depth, priority and direction (chapter contents, etc.);

-- presentation;

-- lateral activities.



0.2 Research Proposal to Final Drafts: Dimensional Evolutions [up] [Contents]


A first proposal delivered to the Dr. Mr. E. Brongersma Foundation (dated November 2001) entitled "Paradoxia among the Primitives: An Atlas of Play Sexuality" was primarily concerned with extending theoretical and ideological perspectives as addressed in author's previous surveying of historical material ("Paradoxia Sexualis") to the anthropological record. It was to map occurrence and features of childhood sexual behaviour over the ethnographic span. It was this entry that had been the subject of a limited private pilot study presented in preliminary contacts.

As was established later, a previous effort by Gwen Broude (middle 1970s, Harvard University) resulted in a qualitative paper record ("we are talking here about thousands of pages of notes")[1] of ethnographic research including links to quite similar topics, but only the numeric measures of "sexual restraint" were used in subsequent publications.

The definitive research proposal dated December 12th 2001 entitled "A Historio-Ethnographic Atlas of Erotic Socialisation" was to be concerned with


"[…] an extensive literature review of sexual behaviour development and sexual behaviour socialization in childhood within an ethnographic paradigm [aiming] at the identification of vertical and lateral systems associated with the area of human erotic expressions at the descriptive level, [covering] as many cultural and subcultural settings as are available in anthropological writing".


In January 2002 it was agreed to proceed along this line with, among minor issues, the following sensible refinements:


-- extension of the examined life course period to the full length of the preadult life span, "adult" not clearly being defined;

-- presentation, where possible, of a "child's perspective" approach rather than a socialiser's perspective.


A presentation of data collateral to the Atlas commodity was gradually developed within an expanding list of subjects that would clarify socialisation processes; these chapters would have to be united in a "Subject Volume". It was agreed upon that the study would have to uncover historio-/ethno-/geographic patterning of sexual life spans as inspired by cultural tendencies to "curricularise" individual trajectories. It was hypothesised that such processes of shaping hypothetical "trajectories" toward established, culturally sanctioned "curricula" could be identified within either pedagogical or sexological contexts (curricula). Consequently, the study was renamed to "Growing Up Sexually: An Ethnohistorical Atlas on Erotic Curricula and Curricularisation". At this stage, theoretical formats were left undetermined. Further, the integration of accumulated historical Occidental (as opposed to non-Occidental) material was declared of secondary importance.


A preliminary "Subject Volume" covered some 225 pages of data organised within a number of chapters. It was concluded that some of the chapters, unless theoretically positioned and solidified, could not contribute substantially to a cross-cultural discussion of "curricularisation". It was further established that presentation of data should mainly concern itself with a teleological format, thus identifying cultural motivations for socialisation on the basis of ensuring future or contemporary social structure and functioning. Thus, a tentative second, more comprehensive volume was generated using a selection of previously collected data, and augmented with sociological material mainly covering non-ethnographic sources. This final volume was titled "Sexual Behaviour Curricula: An Anthropological Attempt. Capita Selecta from an Ethno-Historical Survey". By this time a cursory survey of academic traditions in describing sexual socialisation processes had established the preference for a contemporary constructionist format (see §1.4 for a legitimisation). This went along a redefinition of the project's main features as providing an anthropological elaboration of sociological models, which could not have been elaborated without such (specifically developmental) anthropologia (cf. Becker), and the establishment of a relativist background for existing models which appear to have been created without much (specifically, developmental) anthropologia (Gagnon).

This interim shift of perspective resulted in earlier elaborations (latency, shame, arranged marriage, biocultural perspectives) not being further pursued for the time being.


Concluding, the project evolved from an ethnographic atlas to a rearrangement of sociological positions, and from a perspective on "controlled", "managed", or "curricularised" sexual behaviour "development" to one on "construed" and "operationalised" sexual identity and orientation performances. Its object evolved from culture to (acculturised) persona. A final main cause was to incorporate ethnographic materials in a tentative, interactionist, and performance-based format.

As a result, a literature review of cross-cultural materials that in earlier phases had been considered central was finally incorporated as an Appendix (Appendix I). This is not to say that the materials reviewed here were considered of less relevance; rather, they were situated as contributing to the macrostructural ramification of microcontextual performances that may or may not show similarities over this structural range.


The study thus offers a bird's eye view of theoretical positioning, centralising constructionist perspectives. The final mode of organising data was informed by the following antiparallel (and to some extent circular) processes:


-- extracting ethnohistorical material for accommodation in sociological frameworks;

-- identifying frameworks for accommodating ethnohistorical material.


As discussed previously, the accent was placed on the former mode in early stages, and on the latter in later stages, a debatable order.



0.2.1 Webpublication and Continuity [up] [Contents]


In a late stages of the project, Prof. Dr. R. T. Francoeur and Prof. Dr. E. J. Haeberle were contacted with regard to the possibilities of web-publication via Humboldt University, Berlin, associated with the Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology ( The benefits are the following:


-- the convenient distribution and retrieval format of accumulated review data, including to individuals not privileged to use academic resources;

-- the opportunity for appeal to academic expertise and participation in periodic online additions. This pertains to reference expansion, revision, and further processing;

-- the stimulation of further research, interpretation, and elaboration efforts.

-- the inclusion of a Contributor's facility, to support a resource-based colloquium.




0.3 Final Research Purpose [up] [Contents]

With both casuistic and theoretical materials, I would like to identify basic entries to preadult sexualities as sensitive to ethnographic variation: as "developing", as "learned", as "natural", and as "problematic" categories. In tune with the chosen theoretical work-up, I have centralised children's narratives, though rare, and native accounts, though fragmentary. A collateral interest was to some extent positioned as providing a baseline for the project's theoretical agenda: the sexological situating of the "child" as developmental, as protosocial (e.g., protofunctional) and as prenormative. Author's preliminary surveying specifically issued the following topics as sexological explananda:


-- pre-institutional performance;

-- the social construction and use of curricula, discontinuity and autobiography;

-- the interplay of biological and developmentalist (pedagogic) concepts of "development";

-- the concepts of behavioural competence, praxis and the mediation of the operative.



0.4 Legitimisation [up] [Contents]


We may argue with Fine (1986)[2] that "[…] it may be best for adults not to know what their offspring are doing". However, it should be clear that an ethnographic inventory approach is required for any design of human erotogenesis that does not wish to limit its scope to any given cultural setting. Literature reviewing by the author has revealed a number of voids in the literature on erotic development, and a number of seemingly idiosyncratic choices in curriculum and narrative that might help explain these voids. One void is the relative neglect of the early indefinite and preinstitutional "precursors" of the mental experience of eroticism, as compared to behavioural phenomena. This is particularly true of ethnographic writings. To argue that mental processes are decidedly and distinctly behavioural, which the current work tends to do, of course does not compensate for this methodologically mediated vacuum.


The relevance of a broad understanding of the erotogenetic process has become more urgent given a number of comparatively recent developments in moral and social change. This is potentially significant in issues regarding the electronic globalisation of sexual information availability and its impact on socialisation; the legislative and "moral outreach" of sexual abuse ideologies on an international scale; and the concurrent centralising of phase defined "psychopathologies" in the realm of sexuality, for a large part of the life course. The "cultural factor" in any of these modern motives can not be regarded as peripheral in any substantial sense. Therefore, a comprehensive review of ethnographic observations on ideas, practices and events in the sphere of the erotic paradigm of life will contribute to an understanding of local sexual organisations to which all such concepts are, in a way, relative. As Irvine (1994:p24)[3] remarked, "social history and cultural analysis are important tools to challenge the biomedical model that privileges individual behavior". Secondly, ethnohistorical comparison of sexual development methods would provide preliminary clues to the evolution of human sexual cultures from the "ontogenetic" point of view. Other (lateral) interests include the issue of sexual education (e.g., Irvine, 1995)[4], especially within biomedical agendas.



0.5 Definitions [up] [Contents]


Generally, theoretical delineation on "erotic" development, even within a narrow cultural setting, seldom entails more than a suggestion for perspective. Further reviewing of this point appears to be in operation[5].

The formation of the narrative and experience of gender and of the erotic aura of existence takes place within a complex set of agenda, reverberating between a variety of multi-stage neuroendocrinological processes, and a multidimensional landscape of sociocultural attitudes. Limiting the formative perspective of human "sexual behaviour" to an economy of environmental claims and a more or less stereotyped curriculum of expressive tendencies has proved to be a commonly utilised technique in classic anthropological approaches to socialisation in general, at least by most of the surveyed literature. The "sexual sphere" included in ethnographic study is limited, by compromise, to the potential set of behavioural phenomena that are natively and / or auctorially (by the ethnographer or ethnologist) included in the field of human eroticism. The environment of this "sphere" is defined by the collective of mechanisms that are natively or auctorially presumed to be of relevance to its actualisation or censorship. At this time, biological factors are best thought of in terms of representation, since the issue of biological agency is not adequately studied.

Since the closely interrelated matters of definition and perspective are to be regarded as crucial in any discourse on human erotic curricula, it is suggested that a survey, including two sets of definitions, might contribute to an informed, "meta-auctorial" insight on the anthropology of "sexual socialisation", within a potentially complex system of "observation" and interpretation. This meta-auctorial (reviewer) level was progressively introduced to address omissions.



0.6 Methodology [up] [Contents]


All literature relevant to the field delineated above is used to provide a survey that aims at both geographic and historic versatility. Literature is tracked through cross-references. Paper HRAF references are tracked via category 864. Several websites were used[6]. The eHRAF is searched and quoted via category 864, and through additional basic, Boolean and proximity searches. Data and references are drawn from various medical, sociological and psychological electronic databases, including Medline, Psychinfo, Sociological Abstracts, Historical Abstracts, Anthropological Index Online (AIO), etc. The 125 page Focused Ethnographic Bibliography for the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample[7], offering pre-coded variables including childhood training (4th digit), was used as a starting bibliography. Another starting source, The Dutch Central Catalogue (NCC), was searched, for instance through GOO code 73.44 (Cultural Anthropology, Sexuality) in combination with additional codes. Anthropological, sociological and other sources were searched fulltext using JSTOR® (which allows basic, Boolean and proximity searches). Beside digital searches, introductory data gathering has been effectuated using a "shelf approach" in selected sections of university-affiliated anthropological libraries[8] and other specialized anthropological libraries[9]. Special credits go to a number of Dutch sexological collections and libraries[10].


A number of references to countries in the fourth volume of Francoeur's International Encyclopaedia are not included due to their unavailability in digital form at the time of writing[11]. Fulltext articles were obtained through many search engines, including JSTOR (, EBSCO Host Research Databases (, the MUSE Project (, PCI Full Text (, Sciencedirect (, including the use of "alert" functions during the project), Findarticles (, Google (, Education-Line ( Selected books were obtained via Blueribbon Books Reborn ( A number of authors provided drafts of papers.



0.7 Perspectives: Problematic, Arbitrary and Unsolved "Dichotomies" and Operational Choices [up] [Contents]


The Atlas is primarily concerned with listing and reflecting on sources describing historical and ethnographic sexualities as activities. A range of problems were encountered in the process of using these data to fit within existing models. Looking back on preliminarily utilised presentations and elaborations, the following "dichotomies" were identified (followed by a brief comment):


-- Cultural opposition vs. cultural uniformism.


It was agreed upon on the outset that the project should commit itself to securing cross-"cultural" relativism by means of mapping cultural diversity through cultural contradistinction (juxtaposition). However, it was agreed that this would not have to require a uniform bicultural or tricultural format. It was also argued that the data render the anthropologist and reviewer susceptible for essentialist visions on "cultures" as orientations fixed in time and place rather than as evolving, complex, variable and potential life-ways.


-- Preadult "sexuality" as a behavioural vs. psychological substrate.


The project in its latter stages was more or less redirected from a survey of behavioural phenomena to psychological, psychometric and social constructs. This ultimately was frustrated by the lack of unifying sociological theories as well as quality (ethnographic and cross-cultural) data. Thus, these issues (particularly love/romanticism, eroticism, "eroticisation") were covered in full for the European / U.S. data available, augmented with only a limited, tentative selection of observations from the ethnographic record. The author regrets this limitation, which in part is due to the author's prior being unacquainted with sociological traditions.


-- "Ethnographic" vs. non-ethnographic study of pre-adult sexuality.


It was observed that the extent of sociological study of children's sexuality was surprisingly modest. However, a certain amount of data could be collected for the work on gender/sexuality within "school" environments. While the author was well acquainted with most non-ethnographic material on preadolescent sexualities, integrating these data with newly generated bibliographies was primarily left to future efforts.


-- Historiographic vs. ethnographic data in constructionist theories.


The author personally feels that an interactionist / constructionist perspective on "sexual" behaviour and identity development can and should be informed by a mixture of cross-historical and cross-ethnical comparisons. Both entries have been surveyed in this project, though not in a format that separates one approach from the other; any separation, furthermore, would be a spurious one. I would argue that the current (ongoing) collection of references accounts for a rather complete survey of both entries.


-- "Biological" vs. cultural determination/representation.


The choice of an interactionist/constructionist interpretation of data, together with the stress on the presentation and collection of constructionist data, does not oppose images of biological representation, and also does not reject the image of biological determination. Speaking with Prof. Dr. John Money and referring to the wealth of biosocial entries to the problem, any polarised perspective is an undue simplification; on the other hand, the inability to generate data needed to isolate such polarity necessitates (or perhaps grants) unilateral perspectives. An early preliminary chapter addressing biological agency in the determination of sexarche in cross-cultural studies was not further elaborated. [For a short resulting bibliography, see here]


-- Academic vs lay native sexologies.


Cultures vary in their utilisation of sets of rationales to explain the social interactions involved in sexual behaviour and identity socialisation as necessitated by various grounds (developmental sexologies). The European case (chapter 2) provides an understanding of how these sexologies vary over time as well. As was detailed in a tentative chapter not included in the final draft, it was hypothesised that the dogmata and issues addressed within such sexologies may be explained by specific ethnohistorical contexts. Extracting "developmental sexologies" from ethnographic sources proved a disappointing task, primarily given the general lack interest and methodological rigour.



0.8 Selected Limitations [up] [Contents]



0.8.1 Limitations inherent to the Project [up] [Contents]


The quality and detail of this review is compromised by a number of problems, including:


(1) author's previous inexpertise with the social anthropological discipline;

(2) the often problematic (or even absent) indexing of monographs;

(3) the frequently encountered unavailability of sources within national libraries;

(4) the constructive "forward" approach which includes the gradual expansion of subjects and perspectives, and the consequential "missed references".

(5) the purposeful initial ignoring of operational limitations, whether ideological, pragmatic or theoretical. Inherently, the work does not generate hypothetical formulations, and cannot claim to address, statistically or otherwise, the manifold hypotheses it reviews or refrains from reviewing (in preliminary or final essays).



0.8.2 Limitations inherent to the Materials [up] [Contents]


In reference to the observations presented in Appendix II, it can be concluded that few materials address non-western developmental sexologies, and very few do so to a satisfactory degree. More dramatically, non-western materials, especially those older than the 1980s, do not commonly address children's views and narratives. This rendered most non-western material impotent within the (final) theoretical scope of the thematic part of this project.



0.8.3 Statistics [up] [Contents]


The selected, lateral inclusions of quantitative materials are primarily derived from the author's preparatory literature reviewing, and, strictly, did not follow from the current project's objectives. The use of quantitative methods using the presently identified materials is limited, predominantly due to the methodological format in which they were gathered. Work using SCCS data in SPSS format awaits further processing, and shall be initiated outside the contours of the current project.




0.9 Final Product [up] [Contents]


Given the limitations identified above, cited references were not as a rule cross-examined, analyzed within a geo- or chronological setting, or, as a routine, challenged with theoretical data. As a result, the survey takes on a global bibliographic character, primarily occupied with the identification of relevant literature pertaining to (i) qualitative and descriptive materials, and (ii) methodological entries. If presented the opportunity, priorities were given to (a) data covering earlier rather than later life phases; (b) non-Western rather than Western data; (c) qualitative rather than quantitative materials; (d) cross-cultural rather than monocultural materials; (e) historical rather than contemporary data; (f) precolonial rather than colonial or postcolonial data; (g) constructionist / interactionst rather than alternative perspectives.




0.10 Personal Note [up] [Contents]


Personally, the author feels to have gained qualitative insights in the framework of social sciences previously outside his reach. The author, however, regrets his limitations in maximising the potential applicability of a number of the surveyed principles and theoretical positions. Further, it is regrettable that no further academic affiliation could be added to the said colloquia. Therefore, the project remains at a preacademic level as is concerned synthetic elaboration.

Much more data were collected than are presented in the current volumes. For additional references, the reader is referred to interim bibliographies, which will be updated continuously.


The author personally feels that the curricularisation of social pleasure is a by-product of the cultural logic of anticipating separation and bonding transitions. The cross-cultural study of pleasure potential socialisation (e.g., Klein, 1972)[12] therefore would provide a wider scope for the study of the developing erotic experience. As for a personal (medical) agenda, the ethnographic record does not as yet solve elementary problems in approaching the process of erotogenetics. I agree with Prof. John Money that this is evidently a cultural hesitation localisable in post-industrial currents; there is, however, a universal touch to it. Future researchers might want to try disproving the hypothesis that the issue is essentially unresearchable at the discursive level, and that the many compromised methodologies historically offer more outlooks, less insights. A non-affirmative answer does not make the field a less interesting or less central one, of course.



Notes [up] [Contents]


[last updated 011202]


[1] Personal communication, May 2nd, 2002

[2] Fine, G. A. (1986) The dirty play of little boys, Society, Nov/Dec:63-7

[3] Irvine, J. M. (1994) Cultural differences and adolescent sexualities, in Irvine, J. M. (Ed.) Sexual Cultures and the Construction of Adolescent Identities. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p3-28

[4] Irvine, J. M. (1995) Sexuality Education Across Cultures. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass

[5] Current research sponsored by the Dr. Mr. E. Brongersma Foundation, Amsterdam.

[7] Taken from D. R. White, in World Cultures 2,1. Version prepared by William Divale, 2000.

[8] Particularly those in Amsterdam (UBA), Utrecht (UBU), and Nijmegen (UBN).

[9] These include Africa Studies Center (Leiden); Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology (Leiden); Dutch Institute for Near East Studies (NINO, Leiden)

[10] These include the Dr. Mr. E. Brongersma Collection (Brongersma Foundation, Amsterdam), Dr. C. van Emde-Boas Collection (University of Amsterdam), Homodoc Library (Amsterdam) and the NISSO library (Dutch Institute for Socio-Sexological Research, Utrecht). The author regrets denied access to Dr. F. Bernard's collection (Bernard Foundation, Rotterdam).

[11] Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, Iceland, Indonesia, Outer Space, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, Portugal, Turkey, and Vietnam.

[12] Klein, G. S. (1972) The vital pleasures, in Holt, R. R. & Freund, P. et al. (Eds.) Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science. New York: Macmillan, p181-205