Was My Behavior as a Child Normal?

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

When I was a child I engaged in sexual activity with other children my age (I am female), not actual sex but tried to, even before I knew what sex was. I was not sexually abused. I have a feeling it was fairly normal as nobody seems to have been affected by it and many of my classmates at that time I have grown up with and it seems to be a distant memory. I have met people at this age who have said they have done the same. I know there is a difference between sexual curiosity in children and something more worrying. As a child I experienced significant anxiety and fear simply from having a mother and father who physically fought. The reason I am asking is because I remember once harming my hamster (not severely and I remember being somewhat oblivious to what I was doing) by simply sitting on it while it was under a cushion- I cannot remember what I got out of it (I am not connecting this to anything sexual) but I am linking it to feelings of sadness or anger caused by the aforementioned anxiety etc. I would say I was around 5-7 when this happened. As an adult I would just like to mention that I feel sickened by the thought of any sort of harm towards animals and would not consider myself sexually deviant or perverse, rather the opposite, I am unhealthily afraid of sex. I would just like to know what can cause a child to act in a certain way sexually towards other children, or what causes one to harm animals. Thank you. 

A:  You raise a couple good questions here and I hope that I can put your mind at ease.  First of all, some sexual exploration with same aged peers in childhood is considered to be normal activity. What is not normal includes a large age discrepancy, the activity is not mutually agreeable or if physical force or emotional coercion is used.  These issues were not present in what you described. 

Second, you may have read that hurting or torturing animals as a child is a very serious concern, and it is if it is done on purpose and on a regular basis. Again, that doesn’t sound like what you described happened between you and your hamster. Maybe you sat on the hamster by accident and you are second guessing yourself as an adult, or maybe you did hurt your hamster because you were feeling very powerless about your family situation and it gave you a momentary sense of power. I would be more concerned if you related that you enjoyed the activity and went on to harm other animals. It is clear that you are upset by what happened and have not continued that pattern of behavior.  Forgive yourself, offer up a prayer of gratitude to the hamster and the lesson, and let it go. 

Finally, from what you have said here, I would not link your current sexual fears to either of these behaviors, if anything, it might be more likely linked to the parental conflict that you saw regularly growing up. You may have developed trust issues and fears of intimacy. Of all the things you mention, I would encourage you to explore these latter ones with a therapist. You deserve to be happy and to have a healthy relationship, which includes a safe and fulfilling sex life. 

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jun 2014

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2014). Was My Behavior as a Child Normal?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/05/was-my-behavior-as-a-child-normal/