Children, Sexuality, and the Law

288 pages

4 figures

May, 2015

ISBN: 9780814723852



Also available in



Part of the Families, Law, and Society series


Sacha M. Coupet is an Associate Professor of Law and Director of Research of the Civitas ChildLaw Center at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. 

All books by Sacha M. Coupet

Ellen Marrus is the George Butler Research Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center. 

All books by Ellen Marrus

American political and legal culture is uncomfortable with children's sexuality. While aware that sexual expression is a necessary part of human development, law rarely contemplates the complex ways in which it interacts with children and sexuality. Just as the law circumscribes children to a narrow range of roles—either as entirely sexless beings or victims or objects of harmful adult sexual conduct—so too does society tend to discount the notion of children as agents in the domain of sex and sexuality. Where a small body of rights related to sex has been carved out, the central question has been the degree to which children resemble adults, not necessarily whether minors themselves possess distinct and recognized rights related to sex, sexual expression, and sexuality.

Children, Sexuality, and the Law reflects on some of the unique challenges that accompany children in the broader context of sex, exploring from diverse perspectives the ways in which children emerge in sexually related dimensions of law and contemporary life. It explores a broad range of issues, from the psychology of children as sexual beings to the legal treatment of adolescent consent. This work also explores whether and when children have a right to expression as understood within the First Amendment.

The first volume of its kind, Children, Sexuality, and the Law goes beyond the traditional discourse of children as victims of adult sexual deviance by highlighting children as agents and rights holders in the realm of sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation.


  • Children, Sexuality, and the Law, edited by Sacha M. Coupet and Ellen Marrus, aims to broaden how sexuality and adolescence is viewed: no longer simply as “protecting children from adult sexuality” but rather in a non-normative manner, taking into account new realities such as engagement and presence in sexual environments, conduct, and media.”

    The Journal of Youth Adolescence

  • “The authors of these chapters do not expect readers to accept their views without question.  They are trying to create a dialogue with readers…[T]hey have achieved their goal to consider the rights of children in matters of sexuality.  Parents and the courts should not be the only ones involved.”


  • "Coupet and Marrus achieve their goal of moving toward not discriminating against any group of adolescents; all contributors are enthusiastic about reforming legal systems and allowing adolescents more appropriate freedom to grow into healthy adulthood."

    J Youth Adolescence

  • "To ask what rights children possess in the realm of sex is to venture into taboo territory, but this book boldly does just that.  Each article provides a thought-provoking examination of the ways in which laws and policies ignore the realities of sexuality development in children and, in doing so, end up doing more harm than good to the very children they purport to protect. Children, Sexuality, and the Law provides an important contribution to the literature on children's rights and calls us to question the many inconsistencies and irrationalities in how we treat children in the United States."

    —Katayoon Majd, Public Welfare Foundation

  • "In the United States the topic of children as sexual beings has always been taboo. Children involved in sex have been forced into a legal system designed to deal with adult sexual behavior. For instance, should a quick peck on the cheek of a peer at school by a four-year-old be processed under sexual harassment laws, or should 'sexting' teenagers be criminally prosecuted and be forever listed on a sexual abuse registry? Children, Sexuality, and the Law is a ground-breaking book that pierces conventions and stereotypes about children and sex and begins the important task of re-imagining and reconfiguring a social and legal system that treats children realistically and fairly as they sexually mature."

    —William Wesley Patton, J. Alan Cook and Mary Schalling Cook Children’s Law Scholar, Whittier Law School

  • "Children, Sexuality and the Law moves beyond a discussion of protection of child victims from sexual predators to comprehensively consider children as agents and as right holders. This cutting edge volume pushes past taboo to provide an interdisciplinary, comprehensive discussion of children and sexuality.  The editors have assembled a stellar list of authors on children and the law, many writing about children and sexuality for the first time.  This volume will open the reader’s mind to a much broader consideration of adolescent sexuality and the law."

    —Susan Vivian Mangold, SUNY Buffalo Law School