Research: Sexual repression

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Child sexual repression refers to the prevention, through either subtle or overt methods, of children from fulfilling their erotic capacities. Other sources are available on PRD.

For cogent criticism of the broader discourse of sexual repression, see Michel Foucault and associated articles.

Academic perspectives

  • Prescott, J.W. (1975). "Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence," in The Futurist and The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists.
    Prescott links deprivation of physical affection in childhood to the eventual development of violent and aggressive behaviors. He examines various cultures, and finds that high levels of violence are strongly correlated with repression of extramarital sexual activity.
  • Sagan, C. (1980). "Who Speaks For Earth".
"Mammals characteristically nuzzle, fondle, hug, caress, pet, groom and love their young, behavior essentially unknown among the reptiles. If it is really true that the R-complex and limbic systems live in an uneasy truce within our skulls and still partake of their ancient predelictions, we might expect affectionate parental indulgence to encourage our mammalian natures, and the absence of physical affection to prod reptilian behavior. There is some evidence that this is the case. In laboratory experiments, Harry and Margaret Harlow found that monkeys raised in cages and physically isolated—even though they could see, hear and smell their simian fellows—developed a range of morose, withdrawn, self-destructive and otherwise abnormal characteristics. In humans the same is observed for children raised without physical affection—usually in institutions—where they are clearly in great pain."
"The neuropsychologist James W. Prescott has performed a startling cross-cultural statistical analysis of 400 preindustrial societies and found that cultures that lavish physical affection on infants tend to be disinclined to violence. Even societies without notable fondling of infants develop nonviolent adults, provided sexual activity of adolescents is not repressed. Prescott believes that cultures with a predisposition for violence are composed of individuals who have been deprived—during at least one of two critical stages in life, infancy and adolescence—of the pleasures of the body. Where physical affection is encouraged, theft, organized religion and invidious displays of wealth are inconspicuous; where infants are physically punished, there tends to be slavery, frequent killing, torturing, and mutilation of enemies."
"...the correlations are significant. Prescott writes: ‘The percent likelihood of a society becoming physically violent if it is physically affectionate toward its infants and tolerant of premarital sexual behavior is 2 percent. The probability of this relationship occurring by chance is 125,000 to one. I am not aware of any other developmental variable that has such a high degree of predictive validity.’ Infants hunger for physical affection; adolescents are strongly driven to sexual activity. If youngsters had their way, societies might develop in which adults have little tolerance for aggression, territoriality, ritual and social hierarchy...” / “...child abuse and severe sexual repression are crimes against humanity. More work on this provocative thesis is clearly needed. Meanwhile, we can each make a personal and noncontroversial contribution to the future of the world by hugging our infants tenderly.”
  • Nelson, J. A. (1989). "Intergenerational sexual contact: A continuum model of participants and experiences," Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 15, 3-12.
    "Cultural desexualization and denial of children's normal sexual thoughts and feelings: Many patients who present with sex problems suffer not because they were exposed to early sexual experience but because they were deprived of the natural sexual imprinting that occurs among animals and primitive humans (Harlow & Harlow, 1962). [...] In fact, they cite Kinsey et al. (1953) and Ford and Beach (1951) in suggesting that early sexual experience is often positively correlated with greater adult sexual and interpersonal satisfaction. They quote Prescott (1975) in linking repression of childhood sexuality with higher levels of adult social violence."
  • Körperkontakt: Die Bedeutung der Haut für die Entwicklung des Menschen ("Physical Contact: The Importance of the Skin in Human Development"), by Ashley Montagu for Klett-Cotta (2004)
    The author reports on her extensive research into the many deleterious effects of insufficient physical affection during childhood.
  • Yates, A. (2004). "Biologic perspective on early erotic development," Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 13(3), pp. 479-496.
    "Societies that permit early sex play are said to have fewer adult sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias [10]. Across various cultures, the custom of punishing children for sexual activity is associated with adult sexual restrictions and abstention from intercourse [11]. Ample skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant is associated with a sexual approach rather than avoidance pattern in adults, whereas restricted skin-to-skin contact is associated with problematic intimacy and warlike or aggressive behavior [12, 13 and 14]."

Cultural perspectives

  • !Kung Bushmen (humanity's genetic heritage)
    "If a girl grows upwithout learning to enjoy sex, she had told me, her mind doesn’t develop normally and she goes around eating grass, like a crazy Herero woman who lived in the area" (Return to Nisa, p.156 -- cited in Growing Up Sexually)