Childhood Sex Play
We recently did a survey on childhood sex play. The results are eye-opening and important for a couple of reasons. Let me give you some data, then discuss what it might mean to you.
The survey was not about abuse or coerced sex, it was about mutually consensual sexual activity between children of similar ages. Seventy-five percent of women and 71% of men said they engaged in child sex play at least one time before the age of 15. Much of this occurred among children of school age, with a slim majority of men and women saying they engaged in some form of consensual sex play between the ages of 6 and 14.
The activities ranged from looking at each other’s sex organs (more than 70% of boys and half of girls) to touching sex organs (two-thirds of boys and half of girls), to masturbating together (20% of boys and 15% of girls). Orgasm occurred for 17% of the boys and 14% of the girls. Boys were more likely to engage in sex play with a girl (60%) while girls were slightly more likely to choose another girl (52%). In most cases the children involved were close in age; 68% said the other child within one year of their age, and only 15% were with a child 1 to 3 years older or younger. More than half the time the other child was a friend.
So with those facts out, how might this relate to you?
If you engaged in sex play:
Some of the women expressed shame, guilt, and ongoing sexual problems because of their sex play as children. This is something we don’t talk about in our society, and most of those who did it assume they are the rare exception. They worry there is something wrong with them. The truth is the majority of kids do this. I’m not telling you it’s right or good, but it’s not the rare aberration you may think it is. Most of your friends did something like this, and most of the folks sitting with you on Sunday morning did too.
If you engaged in any kind of willing sex play as a child, please forgive yourself. If you’ve never told your husband, I suggest you do so. Odds are he will respond by telling you his story of something similar. Talking about it will probably make you feel better about it.
If you have children:
Please be aware that the majority of children do this. Also, know that most manage to keep it hidden – 70% of those in our survey said no parent ever had a clue. I’m not suggesting you can prevent this as what it would take to do so would be harmful for all concerned. Instead, talk about privacy, modesty, and sexuality with your children starting at a young age (25% of the children said their first sex play was before age 6).
If you catch a child engaged in sex play or find out it has occurred, please remain calm. Freaking out could cause your child long-term sexual harm. Explain that what they did is inappropriate, but don’t say or do anything that will make them think their sexuality is inherently wrong.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m sorry this needs to be said.