An assistant professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia recently gave an interview that argued in favor of removing stigmas from people who are sexually attracted to minors but do not act on these desires.
The academic and author, Allyn Walker, who works in the university’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, was interviewed by the organization Prostasia, whose professed aim is to reduce child sexual abuse in part by normalizing and destigmatizing “minor-attracted persons” who do not act on their attractions.
Walker, who penned the book “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” argued that “there is no morality or immorality attached to attraction to anyone because no one can control who they’re attracted to at all. In other words, it’s not who we’re attracted to that’s either OK or not OK. It’s our behaviors and responding to that attraction that are either OK or not OK.”
“And I want to be extremely clear that child sexual abuse is never ever okay,” Walker argued, as reported by The Blaze. “But having an attraction to minors as long as it isn’t acted on doesn’t mean the person who has those attractions is doing something wrong. I think we have a tendency to want to categorize people with these attractions as evil or morally corrupt. But when we’re talking about non-offending MAPS, these are people who have an attraction that they didn’t ask for. And one that frequently they would give anything to change. But they find that they’re unable to change those attractions. And most importantly, the people in my study did not act on them.
“’Pedophilia’ is a clinical term that indicates a sexual attraction to people who have not gone through puberty. MAP refers to someone who has preferential attractions to minors, and that can include children who have gone through puberty or not. And child sexual abusers are people who have committed a sexual offense against a child. Many of these people are indeed MAPs. But first of all, there are many people who commit sexual offenses against a minor who are not attracted to children in general. We know that abusers commonly commit sexual offenses for reasons related to power control and access, not because of attraction. So many child sexual abusers are not MAPs.
“I think we believe societally that stigma against MAPs serves to protect children because somehow we don’t fully understand the differences between MAPs and sex offenders. Again, we have this confusion between the attraction and a criminal behavior. Which I stress so much is just a huge problem. Stigma against MAPs is a problem, in part because it makes MAPs think that they’re monsters. That’s really problematic in terms of MAP well being. It’s really hard to cope when you think you’re a terrible person, because you have attractions that you can’t change. But it’s also hugely problematic because when MAPs get the impression that they’re destined to commit an offense against a child, they might not realize that it’s a choice that they have, and that there’s help out there if they feel some kind of temptation to commit an offense.”
The logic here is that somehow, reducing stigmas surrounding an adult’s sexual attraction to children will protect children from being sexually abused.
As author and commentator Rod Dreher wrote in response for The American Conservative, Walker’s logic is “playing with fire” as rather than simply try to help people who are attracted to children, it seeks to normalize and validate the attraction itself.
“Surely there must be some way to get these suffering people the help they need without moving towards considering pedophilia just one more ‘sexual orientation,” Dreher explained. “Because if it ever should become that, we are halfway to legalizing it, following the same path that standard homosexuality took. If sexual desire is the equivalent of identity, and if to sexually desire minors is at the core of one’s identity, then how can we stigmatize or otherwise suppress pedophiles if we recognize that other kinds of sexual minorities have civil rights?”
Indeed, how is Walker’s argument any different from saying there’s nothing wrong with wanting to rape, just in actually acting on the desire? That is, after all, exactly what child sexual abuse is; rape. Yes, it is wrong to have an innate desire to sexually assault another human being, and no one is helped by being told that this is simply another sexual orientation that doesn’t need to be stigmatized.
The organization Prostasia, for its part, professes to be dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse but spends a lot of time and energy apparently seeming to normalize pedophilia for such an aim, including promoting the idea that it’s healthy and normal for children to consume pornography, as we’ve previously reported.
Walker was interviewed by the group’s communications director, Noah Berlatsky, who has faced criticism in the past for arguing in favor of normalizing pedophilia.
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