|Pieter Paaw, "Skeleton and Skull of a|
Child." (1633), © University of Toronto
Peterson's article considers the responses on the part of Victorian medical reports to cases of precocious puberty and the way that they were tied to anxieties surrounding conceptions of gender, bodily normalcy, even the state of childhood itself. In so doing, she demonstrates, to quote Mossman and Stoddard-Holmes's introduction to the issue, "the fecundity of visual and structural disruptions of “normal” masculinity and femininity for narratives of pathology and normalcy." The introduction goes on to note that the article
"work[s] on the continuum on which the normal and the extraordinary both reside, noting the various points (and convergences) of discomfort, apprehension, attraction, and wonder these “extraordinary cases” produce"In consciously choosing to place early-onset puberty within the discourse of disability, Peterson acknowledges that her decision may raise some questions, given that,
"precocious puberty would seem more a case of early ability rather than disability. But early puberty can also be understood as deviance, as straying from norms of bodily development. In the phenomena of early puberty doctors found amazement, desire, and dread."In Peterson's study, then, the precocious development of physical markers of puberty, those undeniable indicators of the body's eroticism, its sensuality, become in and of themselves an illustration of disability. This definition of the preciously pubescent body would seem to bind Victorian constructions of disability, of exceptional bodies, to the sensual body in a way which is often overlooked. Sensuality here stands at the very core of disability, in stark contrast to a traditional conception in which the senses, if not deliberately removed, are at the very least forgotten.