The saga involving a college professor who made headlines earlier this month after declaring that adult sexual attraction to minors is OK as long as it’s not acted upon has taken another turn.
Dr. Allyn Walker — an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University — is resigning amid “multiple threats … made against me and the campus community generally,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The untenured professor was placed on administrative leave in mid-November in the wake of the controversy over “minor-attracted people.” Walker had stated in an interview that “there is no morality or immorality attached to attraction to anyone because no one can control who they’re attracted to at all.”
Walker will remain on leave before officially stepping down at the conclusion of the academic year in May, the AP reported.
What’s the background?
Walker — whose bio in “Experiences of Trans Scholars in Criminology and Criminal Justice” indicates the professor is “queer” and “nonbinary trans” — also penned a recent book titled, “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.” The book’s abstract says, “Challenging widespread assumptions that persons who are preferentially attracted to minors — often referred to as ‘pedophiles’ — are necessarily also predators and sex offenders, this book takes readers into the lives of non-offending minor-attracted persons (MAPs). There is little research into non-offending MAPs, a group whose experiences offer valuable insights into the prevention of child abuse. Navigating guilt, shame, and fear, this universally maligned group demonstrates remarkable resilience and commitment to living without offending and to supporting and educating others.”
In the Prostasia interview, Walker said that “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.” The prof also went to great lengths to differentiate between pedophiles and minor-attracted people in what seemed to be an attempt to normalize adult attractions to people under the age of 18 as long as those attractions aren’t carried out:
And I want to be extremely clear that child sexual abuse is never ever okay. 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.
… there’s a big difference between MAPs and child sexual abusers. “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.
Here’s the full Prostasia interview with Walker:
What happened next?
After word began to spread about the professor’s research, Walker told the AP it was “mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity.”
Walker — who uses the pronoun “they” — soon after received threats that law enforcement told Old Dominion administrators to take seriously, university officials added to the outlet.
More from the AP:
An online petition calling for Walker’s removal received nearly 15,000 signatures. It referenced Walker’s use of the term, “minor attracted persons,” and said “(w)e want to be clear that this is pedophilia and should not be considered a sexual preference.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also talked about Walker’s work with the headline “The Left’s Depraved New Low.”
A letter sent out last week by university President Brian Hemphill noted the controversy had triggered terrible memories and caused fresh pain to people who suffered abuse.
“Ideally, we would be able to debate even the most challenging issues without disruption or threats of violence, but that is not the world we live in today,” Hemphill wrote.
Walker was briefly provided with an armed escort while on campus in Norfolk before being put on administrative leave, university officials said. Hemphill had said his “foremost responsibility is for the safety of everyone associated with the campus.”
As for Walker’s resignation, Hemphill told the outlet “we have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward.”
Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University, told the AP that Walker “is not the first person to turn their attention to that type of work.”
“Several others in the field have been working with people with sexual attraction to children who are committed to not offending,” Letourneau added to the outlet. “And it’s the way of the future.”