A Virginia college professor has been placed on leave for defending “minor-attracted people” in a recently published book and podcast appearance.
Old Dominion University in Norfolk announced in a statement Tuesday that Dr. Allyn Walker had been placed on administrative leave effective immediately.
Walker, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the school, published a book called A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity. Walker highlighted the use of the term minor-attracted person, or MAP, in the title and throughout the book.
Walker made a recent appearance on a podcast hosted by the Prostasia Foundation, which includes a “peer support chat for minor attracted people who are fundamentally against child sexual abuse and committed to never harm children."
“It’s important to use terminology that members of that group want others to use for them,” he said.
Walker noted that “MAP advocacy groups, like Before You Act, have advocated for use of the term MAP … primarily because it’s less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile.”
“A lot of people, when they hear the term pedophile, they automatically assume that it means a sex offender,” he said. “And that isn’t true, and it leads to a lot of misconceptions about attractions toward minors.”
The professor pushed back on the idea that “the use of the term minor-attracted person suggests that it’s OK to be attracted to children,” maintaining that “using a term that communicates who someone is attracted to doesn’t indicate anything about the morality of that attraction.”
Walker’s comments on the podcast published Nov. 8 led to outrage among ODU students. Students started a Change.org petition calling for Walker’s firing.
“Old Dominion University students who support this petition are in agreement that Dr. Allyn Walker’s, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at ODU, views about minor attraction are unacceptable and we want them removed from ODU staff,” the petition reads. “Dr. Walker uses the term ‘MAP,’ which is an umbrella term for minor attracted persons. We want to be clear that this is pedophilia and should not be considered a sexual preference.”
The petition warned that allowing Walker to continue in his role gives the instructor an opportunity to “effect [sic] the next generation in a negative way.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition gathered over 11,000 supporters. ODU leadership addressed the controversy in a statement.
“I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society,” said ODU President Brian Hemphill. “This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family.”
Walker had previously released a statement insisting that critics have misinterpreted his stance on pedophilia.
“I want to be clear: child sex abuse is morally wrong and inexcusable crime. As an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, the goal of my research is to prevent crime,” the professor assured. “My work is informed by my past experience and advocacy as a social worker counseling victims. I embarked on this research in hopes of gaining understanding of a group that, previously, has not been studied in order to identify ways to protect children.”
During the podcast, Walker argued that the term “pedophile” doesn’t mean “someone who has committed a sexual offense and is instead referring to attraction.” The professor asserted that “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,” he added. “MAP refers to someone who has preferential attractions to minors, and that can include children who have gone through puberty or not. And then child sexual abusers are people who have committed a sexual offense against a child.”
Walker concluded that while “many of these people are indeed MAPs,” “there are many people who commit sexual offenses against a minor who are not attracted to children in general.” The professor argued that a desire for “power, control and access” rather than sexual attraction causes many to abuse children sexually.
“Many child sexual abusers are not MAPs. And then, just as importantly, many MAPs never commit a sexual offense against a minor,” he said.
As Walker explained, his book focuses on “the population of MAPs who do not commit an offense.”
The professor listed strategies for dealing with attractions to minors, including reaching out to a therapist, family or friends and limiting interactions with children overall.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org