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Why Sex Games We Play As Children Are Important To Growth

We all know the games: Doctor, Truth or Dare, Strip Poker — for many of us playing these games as adolescents were part of our burgeoning sexuality — and ultimately how we understand that sexuality.

Above: Le fameu Strip Poker ! Passage obligatoire dans la vie de chacun !

But in a country that would rather look in the other direction we get mixed signals about sexuality in adolescent and pre-adolescent children that often offsets the empirical data that universally sees it as healthy with emotional caveats about “hidden dangers.”

A 2016 story on the subject in Psychology Today is a perfect example of the unscientific presentation of the data. “Only Six and Knows How to Nasty?” said the headline, “Sexual play in children is normal, but it may not always be healthy.”

Above: “Have some Bunker, Tim, and Bart instead.” Teen Titans playing strip poker by That Odd Owl on Deviant Art.

ItsBen told us, “No games as a kid led to any sorta gay stuff for me…so I just got out there and did my own gay stuff. Maybe I was just too impatient and/or aggressive to beat around the bush.”

“Sex play,” the story continues, ” is quite typical among children, finds a Pennsylvania psychologist who has conducted one of the few studies about childhood sexual play and games. Between ages six and 12–the years Freud dubbed the latency stage-kids are highly curious about sex and play a range of games with members of both the same sex and the opposite sex.”

Above: Strip Poker by AFanGirlsDream.

These games, says Sharon Lamb, assistant professor of human development at Bryn Mawr College, go beyond merely checking things out to actual sexual stimulation. “Kids are doing lots of finding out about their own bodies,” Lamb said. “They also experiment with gender roles.”

She catalogs nine variations of normal childhood sex play:

Playing doctor. One of the most common games, listed by 15 percent of the respondents. The whole point is the removal of clothes to examine each others’ bodies, especially the genitals.

Exposure. Another 15 percent listed this pure “experiment in curiosity” which, unlike “playing doctor,” dispensed with pretend.

Above: Young Avengers’ Wiccan and Hulkling.

Experiments in stimulation. Similarly unstructured and without fantasy, this activity had children exploring the titillation of physical contact, notably of the genitals.

Kissing games. The main event is kissing. Fantasy sexual play. For nearly 31 percent of the respondents, sex play was embedded in some kind of fantasy play, which, as with “doctor,” was merely the framework for experimenting with sexual stimulation. Children playing these kind of games often rehearsed adult roles of parent, lover, boss–even prostitute. Four common themes in this category include:


Love scenes based on TV or book characters

Commercialized sexuality, such as the kind represented in pornographic materials, strip shows, poses from Playboy, and prostitution.

Stories of sexual dominance, where coercion was built into the play, as in rape scenarios and tales of slave girls.

Of course not everyone gets to experience this stuff as a kid, or as the writer and historian Hugh Ryan answered when asked if he’d had experiences along these lines, “oh man. NONE! And I’m still mad about it…

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