Boys and girls speak out: a qualitative study of children’s gender and sexual cultures An exploratory research project on children, sexualities, ‘sexualisation’ and equalities

Boys and girls in a playgroundThis report looks at how younger children perceive gender, sexual identity and relationships.

Researchers interviewed 125 children, aged 10-12 years, living in Wales. Discussion focused on five key areas: the sexualisation of culture, body cultures, relationship cultures, equalities and change.

This reseach was conducted by Cardiff University with support and funding from the NSPCC and the Office of the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Author: Emma Renold
Published: 2013

  • Children are actively negotiating and learning about the ways sexuality affects them and their lives.
  • Boys and girls talk about "looking older" in a very different way to "looking sexy".
  • All children, but especially girls, feel pressurised to conform to gender norms.
  • Many schools have a strong boyfriend-girlfriend culture, making boy-girl friendships almost impossible.
  • Children experience verbal sexual harassment, but find it hard to tell parents or teachers and are ill equipped to deal with it.
  • Children are more worried about "scary" rather than sexually explicit images.
  • Many children are angry about sexism amongst their peers and in society as a whole.
  • Policy and practice needs to be informed by children's own experiences. 
Contents 3
Executive summary 7
Researching children's gender and sexual cultures 17 
Children, sexuality and body cultures 38
Children, sexuality and relationship cultures 75
Children, sexuality and media cultures 104
Implications of research for policy and practice 129
References 133
Appendices 149

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