Guest Post: Michelle Ann Abate on Children’s Sexuality

Michelle Ann Abate is Associate Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University. She is the author of three books of literary criticism: Bloody Murder: The Homicide Tradition in Children’s Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism (Rutgers University Press, 2010), and Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History (Temple University Press, 2008). Michelle is also the co-editor of three books of critical essays: C. S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia Casebook, with Lance Weldy (Palgrave, 2012); Global Perspectives on Tarzan: From King of the Jungle to International Icon, with Annette Wannamaker (Routledge, 2011), Over the Rainbow: Queer Children’s and Young Adult Literature, with Kenneth B. Kidd (University of Michigan Press, 2010).

The question of children’s sexuality has long been a controversial one. Elementary-aged young people are commonly seen a being asexual or, perhaps more accurately, pre-sexual. If boys and girls are seen as possessing any erotic inclination at all, it is commonly presumed to be heterosexual. The cultural prevalence and societal power of this belief is evidenced in examples ranging from the sale of onesies for newborn boys with phrases like “Chick Magnet” on them to the abundance of decorative photographs featuring Kindergarten-aged girls in dresses accepting a bouquet of flowers from little boys in oversized suits during what appears to be a mock date.

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