A Virginia university has placed an assistant professor on administrative leave after the educator sparked heated backlash for saying it isn’t necessarily immoral for adults to be sexually attracted to children.
Allyn Walker, who teaches sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University, made the controversial comment while discussing “minor-attracted persons” and pedophiles during a Nov. 8 interview with the Prostasia Foundation, a San Francisco-based child protection organization.
Walker, who uses the pronouns they/them, was discussing their book, “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” when they insisted it’s important to use that terminology instead of “pedophile” because it’s less stigmatizing.
In a statement Tuesday, the school said it placed Walker on administrative leave.
“Reactions to Dr. Walker’s research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of 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,” it said.
“I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society,” ODU President Brian Hemphill said in an accompanying statement.
“This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family,” he added.
Walker had acknowledged that the use of the term “minor-attracted persons” — or MAPs — suggests to some that it’s OK to be attracted to children, but said labeling anyone wholly by their sexual desires doesn’t indicate anything about their morality.
“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,” Walker said. “In other words, it’s not who we’re attracted to that’s either OK or not OK. It’s our behaviors in responding to that attraction that are either OK or not OK.”
Walker said child sex abuse is “never, ever OK,” but that having sexual urges toward children isn’t necessarily wrong — as long as those carnal desires aren’t acted upon.
Walker drew condemnation online after being shared on Twitter as someone trying to “normalize” adults who are attracted to juveniles. The assistant professor also put out a joint statement Saturday with Old Dominion University clarifying the remarks.
“I want to be clear: child sexual abuse is an inexcusable crime,” Walker said. “As an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, the goal of my research is to prevent crime.”