SCOTLAND (/ Highland Scots)


Index EuropeScotland (/ Highland Scots)




In early-20th-century Scotland, the old belief in the curative powers of sexual congress with a virgin led to a number of attacks on young girls by men suffering from venereal disease (Davidson, 2001)[1]. This “pernicious delusion” entered legal and medical discourses as court proceedings increased against rapists who transmitted syphilis and gonorrhoea to their children. However, despite the prosecutions, resistance remained with the legal and medical professions to recognising child sexual abuse with many of the symptoms of venereal infection dismissed as the result of dirt or worms.

In one contemporary study[2], preschool staff groups in Greece and Scotland differed in the extent to which they thought families and preschool establishments should provide sex education, the age at which it should start and the requirements for staff participation.



Additional refs:


§         Burtney, E. (2000) Teenage Sexuality in Scotland. Health Education Board For Scotland Evidence Into Action 2000 []

§         Buston, K., Wight, D. & Scott, S. (2001) Difficulty and Diversity: the context and practice of sex education, Br J Sociol Educ 22,3:353-68

§         Cardinal's anger at sex lessons, U.K. Guardian, August 30, 2004 [,3604,1293386,00.html]

§         Davidson, R. (2005) Purity and Pedagogy: The Alliance of Honour-Scottish Council and Scottish Sex Education, 1946-1967. Paper to be delivered to International Conference "Sex Education of the Young in the Twentieth Century: A Cultural History", 16th to 17th April, 2005 at CollingwoodCollege, University of Durham, UK

§         Mahood, L. & Littlewood, B. (1993/4) The “vicious” girl and the “street-corner” boy. Sexuality and the gendered delinquent in the Scottish child-saving movement, 1850-1940, J Hist Sex 4:549-78

§         Wight, D. & Scott, S. (June, 1994) Mandates and Constraints on Sex Education in the East of Scotland: Preliminary Study for a Sex Education Initiative. Report to the Health Education Board for Scotland. MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit



Highland Scots


“Although sex education is sometimes provided in the schools today, it is a subject about which people are extremely reticent, except in the sometimes crude but more often lyrical and metaphorical excess of the late-night ceilidh. A woman in her fifties was first given sex education classes when she was in the forces. “I trembled as I listened to the lectures. I didn't want to have anything to do with that”. Another woman recalls that her mother never told her anything about where babies came from; she just told her to stay away from boys, because if they got at her they would leave her and not care for her. “I never looked at them, even when I was eighteen--I hated them sometimes. Even after I got married, I felt my husband wouldn’t like me”. I once got into an awkward discussion with a nine year old about humans being mammals that carried their babies inside instead of laying eggs. She asked with wide, surprised eyes, “Do they get big?” Her mother said her daughter had never asked where babies came from” (Parman, 1990:p112)[3].


Historically speaking, however,


“human facts were not left to be learned only by observation of animals, but were simply and frankly taught. In a parent's verses to a maiden, for instance, marriage is spoken of tenderly but frankly, in words which can hardly be translated literally without over-emphasis to most English ears. There is a place for gentle frankness, as there is for reticence” (Geddes, 1955:p205-6)[4] .







Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Jan 2005


[1] Davidson, R. (2001) This pernicious delusion: law, medicine, and child sexual abuse in early-twentieth-century Scotland, J Hist Sex 10,1:62-77

[2] Menmuir, J. & Kakavoulis, A. (1999) Sexual development and education in early years: A study of attitudes of pre-school staff in Greece and Scotland, Early Child Developm & Care 149:27-45

[3] Parman, S. (1990) Scottish Crofters. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

[4] Geddes, A. (1955) The Isle of Lewis and Harris: A Study in British Community. Edinburgh: At the University Press