Orville Taylor, Contributor
Why is it that we suffer from adult-onset amnesia when it comes to the things we did in our childhood? Pardon my lack of alarm at the recent pronouncements by Superintendent of Police (SP) Gladys Brown-Campbell, but there is nothing new under the sun about children having sex or other type of intimate contact with their peers.
Now let me make it clear, SP Brown, who recently was assigned head of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), has a right to be concerned about any type of sexual conduct relating to minors because that is the remit of the centre. Especially given the fact that there has been an increase in the reports of the number of children being abused by adults, keen attention needs to be paid to any three- or four-letter word outside, even those in the Dick and Dora books and the horrible nursery rhymes which have sexual undertones.
The predatory behaviour of the 'rusty back' men, and to a lesser extent, women, towards our children is well documented, and the Child Care and Protection Act of 2004 puts major obligations on adults to monitor the treatment of our most precious resource. Thus, it is a criminal offence to see children engaging in 'rudeness', and even kid-on-kid sexual behaviour has to be reported.
As indicated in other columns and other forums, the increase in the number of cases of child sexual abuse might not be an indication that more children are being victimised by these nasty adults. It could simply mean that more people are talking because of the increased activism of organisations such as Hear the Children's Cry and the increased visibility of the Child Development Agency and Office of the Children's Advocate. Furthermore, CISOCA can take credit for the willingness of the hitherto-unconcerned observers to now make the effort to step forward and break the veil of silence.
Therefore, with the same logic, one does not conclude that there is an increased level of illegality in the constabulary simply because more cops are charged and brought to trial for unlawful acts. Rather, one can feel gratified that the Anti-Corruption Branch, Bureau of Special Investigation and other police-policing entities are doing their jobs.
Acting based on myths
Nevertheless, we spend so much time talking and acting based on myths that we totally suppress our knowledge, memories and research. In response to the pronouncements, Christians and Christian-minded persons, some of the SP's own faith as well, have cited the oft-quoted 'biblical' reference that in the 'last days' children will be having children. Unfortunately, there is the minor detail of the Bible not ever saying anything of the sort. Nothing in the scriptures says so, and for good reason, because contrary to popular lore and religious and secular fanaticism, fewer children are having children, and those who do have them later than in 1962.
The average age of first-child birth has significantly declined since the 1960s. Teenage pregnancy is down and the total number of offspring women have is also fewer. One should recall that although the age of adulthood decreased from 21 to 18 during the 1970s, the age of consent was raised from 14 to 16. Now given the fact that women lived, on average, 15 years shorter on Independence Day than they do now, and had completed their child-bearing cycle much earlier than now, the fact is that Grandma, Naana and Gangang were 'court'n' much earlier than the adventurous Generations X, Y and Z. No empirical evidence exists in either the Bible or statistics that these children are doing more 'slackness'.
We attempt to sanitise reality and logic to create ideals of innocence because the religious zealots over the centuries made sex so taboo and dirty that they rewrite history and, more important, biology. In the same way that the Church chopped up and pasted the original scriptures to give us a ludicrous version of Genesis and post-Adam adventure, we eliminate early memories and forget that childhood is not as innocent as we pretend. Let us face it: After Cain killed his brother, he was not 'Abel' to have sex with anyone one else. And unless he had intercourse with his sister Awan, as the Book of Jubilees inscribed, he would have had to mate with a chimpanzee to produce viable offspring, since we and they are closer genetically than horses and donkeys.
Indeed, the Bible is full of nasty details of incest, paedophilia, adultery and other sexual offences by many of the patriarchs and heroes. David and Lot would have been ostracised today and the latter would have faced serious charges from CISOCA. Not to mention that Solomon and others had loads of concubines, more than they could even manage to copulate with if they had lived to be as old as Methuselah.
What we need to understand is that children don't suddenly wake up after GSAT and realise that their teapot is not for just pouring tea; just as Jesus didn't just jump from the manger to the temple where he taught the teachers a lesson or two at 12 years old. In fact, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, excluded by the church, has stories of a normal Jesus who even was accused of killing a child while at play.
Psychologists have long understood that sexual development begins in the first few months of life. Doesn't anyone recall washing the genitals of a toddler or a child of 'a few years old'? Notice how sometimes little Johnny's 'piano', not quite large enough to be called an organ, is able to stand independently and, with a little assistance, long before he can? And what of the humping behaviour where little girls and boys rub their genitalia on furniture, legs of parents and guests and even the pets, if allowed?
Have we suddenly wiped our memory slates to eliminate the countless episodes of 'dolly house' and role play of Mama and Papa? Young children in the 1960s might not have had the Internet, but the ackee tree, open lot, cellar, backyard and other recondite places hosted many a memory.
Sexuality, contrary to the 'born-to-be-gay' advocates and others who make mockery of sociological research, is learned behaviour. However, the learning takes place far earlier than we are willing to admit. This is universal and has nothing to do with colour, class, status or any other demographic characteristic. As children learn to derive pleasure from their genitals, they experiment on themselves, inanimate objects and peers, if left alone. Oftentimes, their peers are their kindergarteners, classmates, cousins and even their own siblings.
Unlike other mammals, which instinctively are pushed away and generally don't inbreed, humans have to be taught very early what is sexually right and wrong. Therefore, as the 'Supe' warned, we must monitor the sexual behaviour of our children just as we measure their temperature but be careful where and how the thermometer is placed.
It might be funny that an infant has an erection, but the mother or father playing with it might have serious implications for later sexual behaviour. It is not amusing when children try to be 'sexy', especially when the behaviour is not explained and shaped by responsible parents.
However, let's get the facts and not be alarmed. Children don't raise themselves; they live what we allow them to learn.
Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.