Allyn Walker, Ph.D., is a transgender person who uses the pronoun “they.”
“I am queer, and I am a scholar of criminal justice and social work,” Walker said.
“I started my career as a social worker, counseling victims of crime. Upon facilitating a focus group of inmates who had been victims of sexual assault, my interests shifted from working with people who had experienced harm at the hands of an individual, to wanting to help prevent harms created by systems. I went back to school and got my Ph.D. in criminal justice, and now I study institutional harm, including that which is created by the criminal processing system and by mental health care system.”
Walker wants people to reconsider the word “pedophile,” preferring “minor-attracted people” — or MAP — to describe adults sexually attracted to children.
Walker says he is not a MAP.
He was an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.
Then Allyn wrote a book A Long Dark Shadow: Minor Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.
The book disputes the view that those attracted to minors “are necessarily also predators and sex offenders.”
Walker interviewed 42 adults who admit to being sexually attracted to minors, but say they never committed any sexual abuse against them.
After publishing the book, Walker received threats, and people protested his theory online and sought his ouster at the university.
Walker was placed on leave at Old Dominon University in Virginia, and then resigned.
“Multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally,” Walker said.
More than 60 professors in sexual abuse prevention, mental health, human sexuality and criminology signed a letter to the ODU’s administration defending Walker’s “important and ground-breaking” scholarship.
“The public backlash reflects a misunderstanding and mischaracterization of Walker’s research,” the letter said.
By Allyn Walker
I use the term Minor-Attracted Person or 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. And that isn’t true. And it leads to a lot of misconceptions about attractions toward minors…
From my perspective… no one can control who they’re attracted to… It’s our behaviors and responding to that attraction that are either okay or not okay.
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… is doing something wrong….
MAPS… are people who have an attraction they didn’t ask for… But they find they’re unable to change those attractions…
There’s a lot that could be said about whether attractions to minors are in themselves a sexual orientation….
Again, it’s really in that difference between attraction and behavior. And non-offending MAPs, by definition, do not abuse children…
“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…
And then just as importantly, many MAPs never commit a sexual offense against a minor. And that difference is important, because when we don’t understand that distinction, we make incorrect assumptions about the likelihood of offending among MAPs. This leads to people believing that just because someone is attracted to minors, they’re likely to commit an offense. And we start to criminalize
a population just because of their attractions….
I actually worked for many years for an organization that developed alternatives to incarceration, through violence, intervention, restorative justice, initiatives, alternative court programs, and so on. But I never heard about any initiatives that attempted to prevent sexual offending against minors…
My research study included interviews with 42 minor-attracted people. And in those interviews, I asked participants about their experiences with coming to terms with their identity, and coping with the stigma they faced, as well as how they’ve strategized not to commit offenses. My purpose in asking about their strategies for non-offending is probably obvious, as I’m interested in offense prevention.
And I figured MAPs personal strategies would have relevance to other MAPs who might be struggling with some kind of temptation to act on their attractions…
But as I attended workshops and met MAPs in person, and through interviews, I heard about these experiences and how scared MAPs often were when they realized they had this attraction…
But it’s also hugely problematic, because when MAPs get the impression they’re destined to commit an offense against a child, they might not realize it’s a choice they have, and that there’s help out there if they feel some kind of temptation to
commit an offense…
If they end up in therapy with a counselor who mistakenly believes all MAPs have committed an offense or will do so at some point, their therapist might end up making a report against them that they shouldn’t be making.
Unfortunately, some MAPs have had that exact type of experience, which discourages others from help seeking, even when they might really need that help as a non-offending strategy. So, the stigma that we have against MAPs… can not only affect well-being, but it can actually lead to harm against children…
Sometimes I hear from people who think that MAPs need to work on getting rid of their attractions altogether.
And on the one hand, just because someone has attractions to children doesn’t mean they will never experience attraction to adults as well, or even that their attractions to children will persist for their entire lives. Sexuality can be fluid, and there are many MAPs who have a range of attractions to both children and adults. And sometimes those attractions can fluctuate just like any other attractions.
On the other hand, we also know that such methods as conversion therapy are not at all effective…
We also have child abuse prevention strategies that focus on teaching children to say “no” to adults. This is good for children to learn about. But places the burden of prevention on the child, rather than on individuals who might be at risk of offending….
But what I found out from talking to MAPs was that the reason they weren’t offending is because they would never want to harm a child.
Many of them talked to me about… understanding inherently that if they committed an offense against a child, it would be deeply hurtful.
For most of my participants, that was enough to keep them from ever even considering acting out on their attractions…
So, they’ll not be in spaces with minors, especially one-on-one…. If they know that there are going to be kids there, they won’t go….
But the majority said they never experienced urges to commit a sexual offense. It wasn’t like this daily struggle that they were trying to keep away from children.