Research over the last several decades has clearly demonstrated that a variety of behav­iors and body functions, including sexual eroticism, develop during infancy and child­hood. In some ways sexuality is especially important during this period, because many experiences during these formative years have a great effect on the future expression of adult sexuality.

In this section we briefly outline some typical sexual and sensual behaviors that occur during infancy and childhood.

Infant Sexuality

For most people the capacity for sexual response is present from birth (Newman, 2008; Thanasiu, 2004). In the first 2 years of life, a period generally referred to as infancy, many girls and boys discover the pleasures of genital stimulation (Yang et al., 2005). As reflected in the quotation from our files that opened this chapter, this activity often involves thrusting or rubbing the genital area against an object, such as a doll or a pillow. Pelvic thrusting and other signs of sexual arousal in infants, such as vaginal lubrication and penile erection, are often misinterpreted or unac­knowledged. However, careful observers have noted these indicators of sexuality in the very young (Ryan, 2000; Thanasiu, 2004). In some cases both male and female infants have been observed experiencing what appears to be an orgasm (Newman, 2008). The infant, of course, cannot offer spoken confirmation of the sexual nature of such reactions, but the behavior is so remarkably similar to that exhibited by sexually responding adults that little doubt exists about its nature. Alfred Kinsey and his associates, in their book on female sexuality, detailed the observations of a mother who had frequently seen her 3-year-old daughter engaging in unmistakably masturbatory activity:

Lying face down on the bed, with her knees drawn up, she started rhythmic pelvic thrusts, about one second or less apart. The thrusts were primarily pelvic, with the legs tensed in a fixed position. The forward components of the thrusts were in a smooth and perfect rhythm, which was unbroken except for momentary pauses dur­ing which the genitalia were readjusted against the doll on which they were pressed; the return from each thrust was convulsive, jerky. There were 44 thrusts in unbroken rhythm, a slight momentary pause, 87 thrusts followed by a slight momentary pause, concentration and intense breathing with abrupt jerks as orgasm approached. She was completely oblivious to everything during these later stages of the activity. Her eyes were glassy and fixed in a vacant stare. There was noticeable relief and relax­ation after orgasm. (Kinsey et al., 1953, pp. 104-105)