Prize for Best article on the history of Sexuality
Mona Gleason, “‘Knowing Something I Was Not Meant to Know’: Exploring Vulnerability, Sexuality, and Childhood, 1900-1950”. Canadian Historical Review 98, 1 (March 2017).
Gleason makes an argument for “social age” as a useful category in the historical analysis of sexuality and, in doing so, stages an historiographical conversation between two different subfields: the history of children / youth and the history of sexuality. Using a wide range of sources, Gleason also furnishes a complex analysis of the historical meanings and dynamics of vulnerability in the first half of the twentieth century. On the one hand, we see the often-devastating real-life impact of “expert” control over medical and social discourses aimed at children, which often rendered them more, not less, susceptible to harm and abuse. On the other hand, from the perspective of the young, we learn that shielding children from sexual knowledge generated ignorance rather than protection, which, in turn, fostered misinformation and feelings of shame and confusion about sex and bodies among young people. Gleason’s article asks us to think hard about the always-fraught nexus of childhood and sexuality, both in the past and in the many ramifications of that history in our present.