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"I Feel Older"

Investigating the Impact of a Father and Son

William John Jennings

This article reports on the impact of a school based father and son, “rites of passage” program on its participants in two Australian Catholic boys’ schools. The author conducted a mixed methodology study investigating quantitative differences between 15- to 17-year-old adolescent participants and non-participants in how they rated their “father relationships” and the impact that specific program elements (the “rite of passage,” planned conversations, and public acknowledgements) had on both program participants. The research found evidence to support the program’s positive impact on father-son relationships. As a result of planned conversations with their fathers in the program, participants reported feeling “older” and more mature.

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Michael C. Reichert and Richard Hawley

In a large-scale survey of effective teaching practices with boys conducted in 2008 across 18 schools in 6 different English-speaking countries, we collected lessons in a wide variety of subject areas (math, literature, science, art) shaped to fit boys’ particular learning needs and preferences. At a time of widely-published claims about boys’ relative failure to thrive in contemporary school settings, we surveyed schools dedicated to boys in particular—boys’ schools—in hopes of discovering the outlines of a pedagogy that might have broader relevance for boys everywhere. Nearly 1,000 teachers responded with detailed descriptions of teaching approaches that succeeded in engaging boys. Boys themselves—1,500 of them, aged 12-19—corroborated the features of effective instruction reported by their teachers. We suggest that the practices identified were “chafed” into being by sustained interactions between teachers and their male students. In this mutually-attuned, coordinated interaction between boy learner and adult instructor, we found qualities of responsiveness and connection echoing regulatory communication commonly associated with earlier periods in child development. Given current concerns about widespread gaps in many boys’ school performance, these stories affirming educational relationships could point the way to a clearer understanding of how best to engage boys in scholastic endeavor.

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Suzan Hirsch

This paper reports on case studies spanning four consecutive years (2005-2008) focused on addressing and challenging Australian primary school boys’ disengagement with English, particularly reading, using an action research process informed by both quantitative and qualitative data. Primary participants were all male and ranged from 8 to 11 years of age. Boys were identified and selected for each case study based on the questionnaire and interview results from whole grade surveys of both males and females. The data results identified the boys with negative views of literacy and boys who identified reading as being a feminine activity, thereby narrowing their perceptions of masculinity. These boys were involved in a reading/mentoring program with high profile professional Rugby League players. The celebrity rugby league players were involved in ten weekly mentoring and reading sessions with male participants each year. These sessions focused on building positive male identity, shifting negative attitudes to reading and challenging negative stereotypes of both professional sportsmen and boys as readers. After each of the case studies, quantitative and qualitative data indicated a positive change in the participants’ attitudes towards reading as well as their perceived stereotypes of males as readers and increased involvement in voluntary reading.

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Crimen Sollicitationis

Tabooing Incest after the Orgy

Diederik F. Janssen

Late modernity’s binary intrigue of child sexuality/abuse is understood as a backlash phenomenon reactive to a general trans‐Atlantic crisis concerning the interlocking of kinship, religion, gender, and sexuality. Tellingly dissociated from 1980s gay liberation and recent encounters between queer theory and kinship studies, the child abuse theme articulates modernity’s guarded axiom of tabooed incest and its projected contemporary predicament “after the orgy”—after the proclaimed disarticulation of religion‐motivated, kin‐pivoted, reproductivist, and gender‐rigid socialities. “Child sexual abuse” illustrates a general situation of decompensated nostalgia: an increasingly imminent loss of the child’s vital otherness is counterproductively embattled by the late modern overproduction of its banal difference, its status as “minor.” Attempts to humanize, reform, or otherwise moderate incest’s current “survivalist” and commemorative regime of subjectivation, whether by means of ethical, empirical, historical, critical, legal, or therapeutic gestures, typically trigger the latter’s panicked empiricism. Accordingly, most “critical” interventions, from feminist sociology and anthropology to critical legal studies, have largely been collusive with the backlash: rather than appraising the radical precariousness of incest’s ethogram of avoidance in the face of late modernity’s dispossessing analytics and semiotics, they tend to feed its state of ontological vertigo and consequently hyperextended, manneristic forensics.

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"The Individual Can . . ."

Objectifying Consent

D.H. Mader

The issue of age of consent for sexual activities has been bedevilled by the absence of any objective standards or criteria for what is meant by or involved in "consent." Despite this absence—or because of it—the social and political response has been to reach for blanket prohibitions on sexual activity by persons under particular ages—ages which have settled in the mid‐ to late teens. At the same time, the percentages of persons aged 15 and under who are sexually active in our societies indicate that young people are regularly consenting to sexual activities. Consent to sexual activity has also been a concern in relation to the lives of the cognitively or mentally impaired. In an attempt to clarify issues surrounding consent there, a significant proposal in regard to objectifying standards for consent was reported by Carrie Hill Kennedy, in her article “Assessing Competency to Consent to Sexual Activity in the Cognitively Impaired Population” (Journal of Forensic Neuropsychology 1:3, 1999), where she developed a two‐part scale for ability to consent, including twelve criteria involving knowledge and five criteria involving personal assertiveness and safety. Kennedy herself has maintained that there is no relevance for her research as applied to minors: adults have sexual rights, minors do not. However, it would seem clear that there is a certain relevance—if not in the use of a similar scale for assessing the competence of a particular minor to consent, then in generally comparing the age at which children attain the developmental level comparable with that implied by Kennedy’s five Safety standards, and using that information to critique the present, obviously unrealistic ages of consent. In relation to the Knowledge scale, the importance of sexual education becomes still clearer.

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Interrogating the Essential

Moral Baselines on Adult-Child Sex

Richard Yuill

In this paper I emphasize the multiple ways dominant moral and essentialist understandings feed into the wider regulatory norms and conventional thinking governing adult‐child sexual relations. Clearly, researchers are not immune from the ascendant material and symbolic hegemony enjoyed by child sexual abuse (CSA) paradigms. Indeed the experience of the seven critical writers and researchers cited in the paper, coupled with the author’s own experiences carrying out PhD research in this area, clearly reinforce this point. I contend that sociological and Foucauldian insights on age and sexual categorization can offer a helpful tool‐kit for unpacking the contested claims from CSA survivors, child liberationists, and the specific case of one respondent who resists victimological labelling of his sexual experiences with adults.

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Thomas K. Hubbard

Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.

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Helmut Graupner

The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.

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Thomas K. Hubbard

Classical Athens offers a useful comparative test‐case for essentialist assumptions about the necessary harm that emanates from sexual intimacy between adults and adolescent boys. The Athenian model does not fit victimological expectations, but instead suggests that adolescent boys could be credited with considerable powers of discretion and responsibility in sexual matters without harming their future cultural productivity. Contemporary American legislation premised on children’s incapacity to “consent” to sexual relations stems from outmoded gender constructions and ideological preoccupations of the late Victorian and Progressive Era; that it has been extended to “protection” of boys is a matter of historical accident, rather than sound social policy. Rigorous social science and historical comparanda suggest that we should consider a different “age of consent” for boys and girls.

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Social Response to Age-Gap Sex Involving Minors

Empirical, Historical, Cross-Cultural, and Cross-Species Considerations

Bruce Rind

Social response to age‐gap sex involving minors has become increasingly severe. In the US, non‐coercive acts that might have been punished with probation 30 years ago often lead to decades in prison today. Punishment also increasingly includes civil commitment up to life, as well as scarlet‐letter‐like public registries and onerous residence restrictions for released offenders. Advocates and the general public approve, believing that age‐gap sex with minors is uniquely injurious, pathological, and criminal. Critics argue that public opinion and policy have been shaped by moral panic, consisting of unfounded assumptions and invalid science being uncritically promoted by ideology, media sensationalism, and political pandering. This talk critically examines the basic assumptions and does so using a multi‐perspective approach (empirical, historical, cross‐cultural, cross‐species) to overcome the biases inherent in traditional clinical‐forensic reports. Non‐clinical empirical reviews of age‐gap sex involving minors show claims of intense, pervasive injuriousness to be highly exaggerated. Historical and cross‐cultural reviews show that adult‐adolescent sexual relations have been common and frequently socially integrated in other times and places, indicating that present‐day Western conceptualizations are socially constructed to reflect current social and economic arrangements rather than expressions of a priori truths. Analogous relations in primates are commonplace, non‐pathological, and not infrequently functional, contradicting implicit assumptions of a biologically‐based “trauma response” in humans. It is concluded that, though age‐gap sex involving minors is a significant mismatch for contemporary culture—and this talk therefore does not endorse it—attitudes and social policy concerning it have been driven by an upward‐spiraling moral panic, which itself is immoral in its excessive adverse consequences for individuals and society.