Dr Allyn Walker says child sexual abuse is inexcusable and the goal of the research is to prevent crime
A university professor who advocated for the destigmatisation of paedophiles as “minor-attracted persons” has been placed on leave after the controversy “disrupted the campus”.
Dr Allyn Walker, an assistant professor in sociology and criminal justice at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, sparked intense criticism online and protests on campus after suggesting it is not immoral to be sexually attracted to minors.
Dr Walker said the phrase “minor-attracted person” – or MAP – carried less stigma than the term paedophile, adding that having an attraction to minors doesn’t mean the person is doing something wrong, “as long as it isn’t acted on”.
“From my perspective, there is no morality or immorality attached to attraction to anyone because no one can control who they’re attracted to at all,” Dr Walker said.
“In other words, it’s not who we’re attracted to that’s either OK or not OK. It’s our behaviours in responding to that attraction that are either OK or not OK.”
Dr Walker was discussing the book A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity, a best-seller on Amazon.com.
The university’s president Brian O Hemphil said in a statement that reactions to Dr Walker’s research and book had led to concerns for the safety of the professor and the campus.
“Furthermore, the controversy over Dr Walker’s research has disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution’s mission of teaching and learning,” the statement said.
“The actions we are taking today are motivated by our obligation to maintain a safe and conducive learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff.”
Before Dr Walker’s leave of absense, protesters marched on the university carrying sighs saying “paedophilia is not a sexuality” and chants of “protect our youth”. They called for an end to the sexualisation of children and demanded, in chalk graffiti, that the university #FIREALLYN.
The suspension came after the university initially defended Dr Walker’s comments as part of the “quest for knowledge” that may involve controversial issues and perspectives.
“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,” Dr Walker said in a statement.