Young children, gender and the heterosexual matrix

Paechter, C. ORCID: 0000-0003-3050-5571, 2017. Young children, gender and the heterosexual matrix. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 38 (2), pp. 277-291. ISSN 0159-6306

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In this paper I consider the adult focus of current mainstream gender theory. I relate this to how the concept of the heterosexual matrix originates in a social contract which excludes children from civil society. I argue that this exclusion is problematic both for theoretical reasons and from the perspective of children themselves. I start by discussing the nature of the heterosexual matrix and its foundations. I consider the implications for participation which arise from being named as a child, how that affects children’s attempts to claim participation in civil society, and how this is related to children’s naming of themselves as gendered. I then briefly consider the possibility that, because of their exclusion, children might also be considered to be exempt from the heterosexual matrix. However, I argue, there is considerable evidence that children are actively sexual beings who also work hard to claim inclusion in local practices of heterosexuality. I end by suggesting that there are three key reasons for this: that the discourses of normative sexuality provide children with a language to express sexual feelings; that self-insertion in the heterosexual matrix is a way for children to claim rights to participation; and that taking up heterosexual formations is a means whereby children can experience the power of naming themselves as part of the social world.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Creators: Paechter, C.
Publisher: Routledge
Date: 2017
Volume: 38
Number: 2
ISSN: 0159-6306
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 01 Aug 2017 07:24
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2017 08:27

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