You never know

July 12, 2006

Parents can rarely know what will tweak a child’s first inkling of the mysterious world that will eventually be called sex and love. I assume that the majority of children have no idea what is involved in procreation or its many non-procreational variations, alone and with others. Are pre-pubescent children capable of erotic thoughts? I am NOT an expert. I only know about my own early erotic, for lack of a better term, feelings. And they had nothing to do with penises or breasts or vaginas or kissing or contact with any other human being. In my case, I was waiting to go home after church, hanging out in the church bookstore. I was thumbing through a small prayerbook for children. I saw an illustration of two boys kneeling side by side, praying. I was one of those kids. My whole body turned hot. My aura exploded. My heart ached. These were illustrations; no lump in the pants, no hot cushiony lips, just two boys praying. And it was not a boy and a girl. This was the first homoerotic feeling that I remember. I was probably 8 or 9.

We never know what that sexual trigger might be, in the way that that prayerbook illustration was to me. I know for many of my straight friends, it was finding their dad’s Playboy magazine, or pouring through old National Geographic magazines, or old Sears catalog in the underwear or bra sections. Uri’s blog has an interesting article about illustrators for children’s books. The picture (below) made my heart thump in an old, old way.


By Ann and Janet, Grahame Johnstone. Illustration for a book published by Purnell & Sons.

My friend Larry looked at this picture and didn’t see it as sexual at all. He prefers the term “heart space” for both the prayerbook image and the one above. He’s right. I’m surprised that if the Eskimos have 130 words for ice that we don’t have more words for things sexual. But I look at it and see it brimming with sexuality. All of Andrew’s (this is from “Andrew [Androcles] and the Lion”) skin; his musculature; his hair; the loin cloth; the chains around his neck and wrist; the color of his hair; his eyes; and the concentration/attention he is giving the the powerful lion. The lion is powerful and dominant, but here, helpless and submissive to one he could easily kill. The pain in his eyes, the powerful muscles, his fur and mane, and then the private underpart of his paw.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being Tipper Gore in insisting that these photos are not appropriate for young children, I’m just saying we can never prevent young children from being turned on for the first time. In the pre-internet generations, we might be turned on reading prayerbooks or children’s stories or the Sears catalogs rather than seeing material adults are interested in. Nowadays, children can see so much of everything on the internet.

Neatorama has three absolutely hilarious pictures of children under the post “The Joys of Parenting.” I’m terrified to imagine whether these pictures foretell future kinkiness or just plain silly kid stuff. I’ll never forget my sister pouring oatmeal all over her hair. (Such a big smile!) or my brother happy as a clam sitting eating sand in a sand box. As Art Linkletter used to say: kids do/say the darnedest things!

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