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Girls, boys and junior sexualities

Girls, boys and junior sexualities: exploring children's gender and sexual relations in the primary school By Emma Renold Routledge Falmer Pounds 19.99

For many this will make a depressing read, because by exposing the power of sexuality as a driver of childhood behaviour, it confirms that if we think that school can keep children innocent, we are deluding ourselves. It's a deliberate, deeply embedded delusion, of course, but it retreats, wearily, as we recognise so many of Renold's descriptions. We know perfectly well that girls, in her words, "do girlie" and boys "do masculinity", and we believe, as Renold tells us, that the former is the more disturbing to us.

"Societal anxieties over our girl-children as we enter the first decade of the 21st century centre around the 'proto-sexual' girl."

With boys, it's violence and aggression - and we're a lot less worked up about these.

This is a fascinating study, based on close work in real primary schools, looking at issues including masturbation, boys' homophobia (something that bothers many primary teachers) and the companion phenomenon of, Lord help us all, the "primary school 'stud'". It's a hard read, though, as sociology texts often are.

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