Work in Progress: How Adults Make Children Vulnerable

I’ve recently returned to an piece of writing that started out as a critique of sex education in Canada in the first five decades of the twentieth century and ended as something slightly different. I’ve entitled it “Constructing Vulnerability and Producing Vulnerable Children: Sexuality, Children, and Childhood in Mid-Twentieth Century Canada.”
In it, I attempt to “rethink the intertwined history of children, childhood, and sexuality in the first five decades of the twentieth century in Canada not primarily as legal transgression (although this has been an important focus in the historiography),  but rather as part of a broader adult-driven process of constructing childhood as a vulnerable life stage and children as vulnerable people.” Here’s my main argument in the piece:

I explore two significant effects that the social construction of vulnerability regarding sexuality produced in the lives of children: the shame effect and the abuse effect. That children were constructed as vulnerable meant that adequate and accurate information about their own bodies was often compromised or entirely absent. As my analysis will demonstrate, this produced debilitating shame in the lives of many young people. Second, the construction of vulnerability in childhood did not always protect children, which was often the stated goal of adults; it instead rendered them at times more, not less, vulnerable to abuse at the hands of other children and adults alike.

I’ve submitted this piece for publication – so fingers crossed that it will soon see the light of day!



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