This article explores the dominant cultural constructions of the child and its sexuality that emerged over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century in the Anglophone west. Examining how the child and its sexuality were constructed within reform and institutional discourse, we illuminate the social and political implications of frameworks of protection. We argue that discourses of protection foreclose the possibility of the sexual agency of children. The regulation, management and protection of childhood sexuality in various cultural contexts are key themes in the articles featured in this special issue on the history of sexuality of childhood and youth.