THE SEXUAL RESPONSE IN INFANTS
Modern sex researchers have often compared the development of sexual behavior to the learning of a language, and this comparison is indeed very illuminating. For example, we know that people in different cultures display different sexual behaviors, just as they speak different languages. Furthermore, there are differences within one and the same culture. Just as an individual may acquire an exceptional mastery over his native language, some persons may show a greater sexual responsiveness than others; and just as certain people suffer from speech impediments, some men and women are sexually inhibited or completely unresponsive. Finally, it is clear that human beings can learn to respond to a great variety of sexual stimuli, just as they can learn to understand several languages. In short, all healthy children are born with the capacity to learn any possible human language and to adopt any possible human sexual behavior. In both cases, their development is greatly influenced by cultural conditioning.
Very young children who are still unable to speak are called infants (from Latin infans: someone who cannot speak). While they have all the necessary physical equipment for speech (mouth, tongue, vocal cords, etc.), they cannot yet form any words that another person can understand. Instead, they produce a random flow of many different vocal sounds, including vowels and consonants that are not even part of the language they are about to learn. These "extra" vowels and consonants are suppressed and forgotten as children learn to repeat the proper sounds of their mother tongue. In fact, when they later study a foreign language, they may spend a great deal of time and energy relearning the very sounds they were once taught to forget. The early development of sexual behavior proceeds along very similar lines. All babies are born with a certain physical equipment which enables them to respond to sexual stimulation. Infant boys may have frequent erections of the penis, and infant girls may very well experience lubrications of the vagina. They feel pleasure when their sex organs or other erogenous zones are touched, and they may even reach orgasm fairly early in life. Nevertheless, infants are still "sexually inarticulate". They respond rather indiscriminately to all kinds of stimuli, and their responses are not yet fully integrated and coordinated. Only gradually, under the influence of social conditioning, do children begin to structure their sexual behavior in a way that is acceptable to the culture in which they grow up. In other words, they not only learn the "proper" responses, but also suppress and forget the "improper" ones. In fact, when they later try to increase their sexual responsiveness, they may spend a great deal of time and energy relearning the very responses they were once taught to suppress.
For infants, the main source of sensual stimulation is the mother. As they are being touched, caressed, and nursed, they learn to feel loved and accepted and to gain confidence in the world. Physical closeness gives them the sense of security they need for a healthy development. It is therefore very unfortunate that some hospitals still separate newborn children from their mothers, thus depriving both of the first essential communication. Later, this initial mistake may be compounded by the mothers themselves when they avoid any skin contact with their infants and keep them clothed even while playing with them. By the same token, a mother who does not breastfeed her baby misses an important opportunity to build a more intimate relationship. Babies want more than just nourishment. They also hunger for human warmth and reassurance. Some mothers realize their children's needs in this respect, but refuse to meet them after a rather short time. However, just as infants cannot learn to speak unless they are spoken to, they cannot learn to show love and affection unless they are hugged, stroked, tickled, and kissed by their parents or nurses. Parents who deny their children such physical and emotional gratification leave them frustrated and, in fact, teach them to feel uncomfortable with their bodies. There is no doubt that such negative early experiences can deeply affect the child's future attitude toward sex.