Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 291–309 | Cite as

Access and Gatekeeping in Researching Children’s Sexuality: Mess in Ethics and Methods

  • Anna Sparrman
Original Paper


There is a general idea that research methods help researchers investigate realities “out there”. Recent arguments, however, suggest that research methods are themselves productive, i.e., we can learn about a research topic by investigating aspects and details of the methods used in a research process. The present text investigates methods for gaining access to a research field in a project examining young children’s own (age 9–12 years) notions of sexuality. The article explores how and by whom the issue of children and sexuality is enacted as sensitive when trying to negotiate access to the research field. A whole variety of actors are involved in enacting children’s sexuality: institutions, groups of people, individuals, images, and architectural arrangements. The analysis reveals relationships in which fears, responsibilities, and the cultural attribution of vulnerability (sensitivity) are negotiated by adults, children, and the researcher.


Child studies Child sexuality Children’s sexuality Sensitivity Qualitative methodology Access negotiations Mess in ethics 



I am beholden to Pål Aarsand and Steve Woolgar for their careful reading and helpful comments on earlier versions of the text. I also want to thank the reviewers for insightful comments and the Swedish Research Council for funding Dnr 2004-2242.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Thematic Studies—Child StudiesLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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