Decided to share this from a previous entry on Yahoo groups; the conflation of abuse and same gender sex with experimentation and a lack of basic understanding of child development must be addressed.
Sexuality in infants and toddlers—Children are sexual even before birth. Males can have erections while still in the uterus, and some boys are born with an erection. Infants touch and rub their genitals because it provides pleasure. Little boys and girls can experience orgasm from masturbation although boys will not ejaculate until puberty. By about age two, children know their own gender. They are aware of differences in the genitals of males and females and in how males and females urinate.
Sexuality in children ages three to seven—Preschool children are interested in everything about their world, including sexuality. They may practice urinating in different positions. They are highly affectionate and enjoy hugging other children and adults. They begin to be more social and may imitate adult social and sexual behaviors, such as holding hands and kissing. Many young children play "doctor" during this stage, looking at other children's genitals and showing theirs. This is normal curiosity. By age five or six, most children become more modest and private about dressing and bathing.
Children of this age are aware of marriage and understand living together, based on their family experience. They may role-play about being married or having a partner while they "play house." Most young children talk about marrying and/or living with a person they love when they get older. School-age children may play sexual games with friends of their same sex, touching each other's genitals and/or masturbating together. Most sex play at this age happens because of curiosity.
Sexuality in pre-adolescent youth ages eight to 12—Puberty, the time when the body matures, begins between the ages of nine and 12 for most children. Girls begin to grow breast buds and public hair as early as nine or 10. Boys' development of penis and testicles usually begins between 10 and 11. Children become more self-conscious about their bodies at this age and often feel uncomfortable undressing in front of others, even a same-sex parent.
Masturbation increases during these years. Preadolescent boys and girls do not usually have much sexual experience, but they often have many questions. They usually have heard about sexual intercourse, petting, oral sex, and anal sex, homosexuality, rape and incest, and they want to know more about all these things. The idea of actually having sexual intercourse, however, is unpleasant to most preadolescent boys and girls.
Same-gender sexual behavior is common at this age. Boys and girls tend to play with friends of the same gender and are likely to explore sexuality with them. Masturbating together and looking at or caressing each other's genitals is common among preadolescent boys and girls. Such same-gender sexual behavior is unrelated to a child's sexual orientation.
Some group dating occurs at this age. Preadolescents may attend parties that have guests of both genders, and they may dance and play kissing games. By age 12 or 13, some young adolescents may pair off and begin dating and/or "making out." In some urban areas, preadolescent boys seek out situations in which they experience vaginal intercourse. Young women are usually older when they begin voluntary sexual intercourse. However, many very young teens have been known to practice sexual behaviors other than vaginal intercourse, such as petting to orgasm and oral intercourse.
Sexuality in adolescent youth (ages 13 to 19)—Once youth have reached puberty and beyond, they experience increased interest in romantic and sexual relationships and in genital sex behaviors. As youth mature, they experience strong emotional attachments to romantic partners and find it natural to express their feelings within sexual relationships. There is no way to predict how a particular teenager will act sexually. Overall, most adolescents explore relationships with one another, fall in and out of love, and participate in sexual intercourse before the age of 20.
Adult sexuality—Adult sexual behaviors are extremely varied and, in most cases, remain part of an adult's life until death. At around age 50, women experience menopause, which affects their sexuality in that their ovaries no longer release eggs and their bodies no longer produce estrogen. They may experience several physical changes. Vaginal walls become thinner and vaginal intercourse may be painful as there is less vaginal lubrication and the entrance to the vagina becomes smaller. Many women use estrogen replacement therapy to relieve physical and emotional side effects of menopause. Use of vaginal lubricants can also make vaginal intercourse easier. Most women are able to have pleasurable sexual intercourse and to experience orgasm for their entire lives.
Adult men also experience some changes in their sexuality, but not at such a predictable time as with menopause in women. Men's testicles slow testosterone production after age 25 or so. Erections may occur more slowly once testosterone production slows. Men also become less able to have another erection after an orgasm and may take up to 24 hours to achieve and sustain another erection. The amount of semen released during ejaculation also decreases, but men are capable of fathering a baby even when they are in their 80's and 90's. Some older men develop an enlarged or cancerous prostate gland. If the doctors deem it necessary to remove the prostate gland, a man's ability to have an erection or an orgasm is normally unaffected. Recently, Viagra has become available to help older men achieve and maintain erections.
Although adult men and women go through some sexual changes as they age, they do not lose their desire or their ability for sexual expression. Even among the very old, the need for touch and intimacy remains, although the desire and ability to have sexual intercourse may lessen.
Adapted from Life Planning Education. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, ©1995
Child sexual development
capacity to have an erection (male)
capacity for vaginal lubrication (female)
all sex organs present in males testes may or may not be descended into scrotum
rebelliousness, uncooperative, fiercely independent
know their own mind differentiates between males and females male or female gender identification is fixed
interest in posture of males and females when urinating
is interested in physical differences between the sexes
learns to name body parts capacity to fantasize
love rituals regarding bedtime, bath, meals, and story time
emotionally stormy don't want anyone to touch their buttocks develops positive and/or negative attitudes toward elimination and urination depending on toilet training
self esteem and trust in others first established
pleasant, initial shyness girls attempt to urinate standing up
plays at adult male/female roles continue to masturbate
bathroom slang and name calling "pooh face", "shit head"
interested in peeking at others eliminating and urinating
may demand bathroom privacy for self plays "nurse/doctor/patient" games with peers, plays hospital and takes rectal temperature enjoys nudity aware of gender and sex roles boys scornfully chauvinistic
continues to masturbate
reinforcement of gender identity continues
identification with same sex parent strengthens
mutual body exploration with same sex is common
sexually oriented daydreams and fantasies begin
feelings toward opposite sex become more ambivalent.
Knowledge of the customary stages of sex play which take place in perfectly normal well brought up children in the first ten years may help you to meet neighborhood sex play situations more calmly and without too much horrified surprise.
Child shows interest in different postures of boys and girls when urinating and is interested in physical differences between the sexes.
Verbally expresses interest in physical difference between sexes and in different postures of urinating.
Girls attempt to urinate standing up.
Extremely conscious of the navel. Under social stress, may grasp genitals and may need to urinate.
May play the game of "show". Also verbal play without eliminating.
Calling of names related to elimination.
Interest in other people's bathrooms.
May demand privacy for self, but extremely interested in bathroom activities of others.
Familiar with, but not too much interested in, differences between sexes in body structure.
Less sex play and games of "show".
More modest and less exposing self.
Less bathroom play and less interest in unfamiliar bathrooms.
Marked awareness of and interest in differences between sexes in body structure.
Mutual investigation by both sexes reveals practical answers to questions about sex differences.
Mild sex play or exhibitionism in play or in school toilets.
Game of "show". May play hospital and take rectal temperatures.
Giggling, calling names or remarks involving words dealing with elimination functions.
Less interest in sex.
Some mutual exploration, experimentation and sex play, but less than earlier.
Interest in sex rather high, though sex exploration and play is less common than at six.
Interest in peeping, sexual jokes, provocative giggling.
Children whisper, write or spell elimination or sex words.
May talk about sex information with friends of same sex.
Interest in details of own organs and functions. Seek out pictures in books.
Sex swearing, sex poems beginning.
best friend or buddy common peer group begins to dominate in identity seeking beginning of separation process from parents early menstruation begins in some girls, secondary sex characteristics develop strong feelings of modesty begin to be expressed
puberty and resultant body changes proceed in boys and girls menstruation occurs in almost all girls by age 16
ovulation established in girls 18-24 months after menarche
usually estrangement from parents as sexual authority figures become more pronounced masturbation and sexual fantasies become integrated and common especially among males sexual attraction of the opposite sex becomes stronger sexual attraction to the same sex becomes stronger mood swings develop in body image from extremely self-critical to overly vain more attention is paid to personal appearance and dress sex role expectations begin to be acted out according to culturally established patterns (dating, petting, etc.)
Correct names of sexual parts
Correct words for elimination
Understand the basic fact of baby's growth with the mother
Know enough anatomy to understand the difference between boys and girls
If child wants to know and asks, she/he should understand that babies are made by fathers and mothers together