Tuesday Talk*: Are “Minor-Attracted People” A Subject For Discussion?

It’s a funny joke, and not a joke at all.

What do you call someone who knows the difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia? A pedophile.

Assistant prof Allyn Walker doesn’t call them pedophiles, but MAPs, minor-attracted people. It’s not a new approach, just as ex-cons are now “previously-incarcerated persons,” where adding more words to the description is intended to break from derogatory words and humanize the individuals. But these are pedos, and why would anyone want to humanize pedos?

Walker, whose book A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity was published in June, believes adult sexual attraction to children should be destigmatized and viewed as another sexual orientation, not inherently immoral unless the “minor-attracted person” (a stigma-free alternative to “pedophile” proposed by Walker and some others) is an actual child molester.

Confronting taboos has become a badge of courage, even honor, for many. But this taboo, pedophilia? Walker draws a line between people who feel a sexual attraction to children and people who act upon it, the “actual child molester.” But that didn’t save her from the storm.

Reports on Walker’s book and opinions, which surfaced last month, stoked outrage both among [Old Dominion University] students—some of whom demanded the professor’s removal—and within right-wing media. Threats followed. The administrative leave, according to the school, was as much for Walker’s safety as for general safety on campus. The university’s statement also mentioned that “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.”

There are issues here. On the one hand, Walker’s purpose isn’t to gain approval of pedophilia, but to destigmatize the attraction, rather than the action, much like people have sought to destigmatize mental illness and drug addiction. By making it less shameful, if not horrible, people can seek help without fear that they will destroy their lives by revealing their worst flaws.

Walker’s supporters see the professor as an advocate for child abuse prevention (through better understanding of sexual attraction to minors) misrepresented as a defender of child abuse. And some of Walker’s critics do seem to make the mistaken assumption that Walker is defending child molesters. For instance, statements on the controversy from ODU president Brian O. Hemphill stressed that “child sexual abuse is morally wrong” and that “the phrase ‘minor-attracted people’ … should not be utilized as a euphemism for behavior that is illegal, morally unacceptable, and profoundly damaging.”

But then, even if Walker has no purpose to defend child molesters, can the humanization of pedophiles be distinguished from its normalization, if not its slide into action that we abhor but can’t be helped since humans are flawed?

There is, of course, an entirely separate issue here, that Walker’s freedom as an academic engaged in the study of perhaps the most taboo subject possible is being precluded because it’s a subject too cringey, too disgusting, to be studied. There is no question that robust academic freedom should encompass the study of all aspects of human existence, even those like “minor-attracted persons.” They exist, even if we don’t want them to, and pretending otherwise by condemning their study isn’t going to make them go away.

But then, is Walker just another misunderstood academic researcher or an advocate for a cause?

The goal here is not simply to promote compassion for non-offender “MAPs”; it is to legitimize “minor-attraction” as a sexual orientation. The book repeatedly uses the term “coming out” in reference to pedophiles disclosing their sexual attraction to children to family and friends. Walker also defends the use of the term “MAP” as a matter of respect, because “it’s important to use terminology for groups that members of that group want others to use for them.”

Is pedophilia just another sexual orientation, as entitled to respect and empathy as any other? Is it fair game for academic study? Does humanizing MAPs normalize or legitimize conduct that society still finds too reprehensible to discuss? Is the limiting factor of attraction versus action enough to prevent the slide down this repugnant slippery slope?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

48 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Are “Minor-Attracted People” A Subject For Discussion?

  1. Jeff

    Awfully bold of you to apply Tuesday Talk rules to a subject like this. It’s too early for popcorn, but looks like I’ve got my day’s entertainment already locked up.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      Here I am contemplating how I’d go about trying to defend pedophilia, so you might be right. Then again, the ick factor might still be too much for anyone to want to wade in. Fortune favors the Host, hopefully.

  2. MollyG

    The word “pedophila” has two meanings in our language. The first is to ID someone who has the mental illness of being attracted to pubescent children, and the other is the term for people who criminally abuse children. The prof is trying to create a new term for the first group so that there will be less confusion and encourage them to get treatment. He specifically says that his focus is on those who have not harmed children. He wants to study them to prevent them from abusing, a very worthy goal. It is sad that details are getting ignored with the knee jerk reaction.
    This is my perspective.

    1. B. McLeod

      Well, even more might seek treatment if it were just a “dysphoria,” instead of a disorder or something stigmatizing like that. Perhaps this is another instance where the patients don’t need mental treatment at all, because nature has actually made the operative error. Perhaps what is needed is “age-affirming surgery,” so the pedophiles and their minors can be made to objectively appear to be similar in age.

      It’s hard to really blame people who object to child rape for being sensitive about this, as it looks quite like other “change the words” campaigns that have been deployed by other interest groups.

      1. j a higginbotham

        “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

  3. B. McLeod

    De-stigmatization is a precursor to normalization. Notably, elements of the religious right always argued that pedophiles would be next after [Ed. Notes] to be brought into the big tent as a marginalized class entitled to special protections.

    Whether or not this is the professor’s goal here, it is logical that the first step for legitimization of pedophilia would be to change the language and terminology to make pedophiles more socially acceptable. Then pedophiles will need some “scientists” to establish that pedophilia and its practice are both natural and not a matter of choice, such that it is unfair to discriminate against it. Finally, pedophiles will need to construct a range of arguments that it isn’t hurting anybody if the children don’t object. “Scientists” would likely need to weigh in on this too, and social justice warriors can point out that children in some circumstances might even benefit from a pedophile who protects them from harm and provides for their needs.

    1. Kathryn M Kase

      De-stigmatization is a precursor to understanding the behavior and creating harm-reduction strategies. Which is quite different from normalization.

      For decades, battered spouses were stigmatized as having encouraged their abusers to beat them and, therefore, deserved what they got. We now understand that no one deserves to be battered. But that hardly means the criminal justice system doesn’t prosecute intimate partner abuse.

      Similarly, alcoholics previously were stigmatized as dirty drunks who had no self-control whatsoever. We now understand the roots of addiction much, much better, and encourage those with addiction issues to seek treatment. Which doesn’t mean we don’t prosecute those who drive while intoxicated.

      A credible amount of research suggests that repeated sexual abuse of a child (and, for the record, most sexual abusers identify as heterosexual) damages that child’s sexual development and who they consider sexually attractive. How is it helpful to stigmatize those who survive such abuse, but are left with a sexual attraction to minors? Better that we seek to understand from what these attractions are derived so that survivors feel welcome to seek treatment, rather than go on to abuse others.

      1. Rengit

        There’s a number of controversial billboards popping up in the Bay Area now that blur the line between “normalization” and “de-stigmatization with the goal of ‘harm reduction strategies'”. Photos of people smiling and looking like they’re having fun shooting up drugs with their friends, with captions along the lines of “make sure you have a friend with you in case you O.D” and advising to carry Narcan. This isn’t some bright line that you can easily draw between “harm-reduction” and “normalization/glamorization.” Why would I think I need treatment to prevent harm if my problem isn’t stigmatized?

  4. Bruce Coulson

    Being a pedophile (or minor-attracted person, or whatever you care to call it) is a mental illness. But there are two categories. One is the typical child molester; the other, someone who thinks about molesting children, but never does so. I’m not sure treatment for either category will work; at least, not in the foreseeable future. The two categories handle life very differently though. One takes jobs that keeps them far away from children. The other decides to combat their illness, and take jobs that put them in direct contact with minors. That almost never works. Then there’s the natural repugnance that normal people have for someone who even thinks about such acts. The good doctor may mean well, but I’m afraid he’s got a lot of trouble ahead.

    1. B. McLeod

      It is a mental illness until pedophiles are sufficiently organized to fund “scientists” to establish that it isn’t a mental illness. Once a disorder, next a dysphoria, or maybe no condition at all. It can be done, and has been done. Recently.

  5. PseudonymousKid

    Talking to olds, there wasn’t always a pervasive negative attitude surrounding “minor-attraction”, if that’s what we want to call it. Stories of fifteen year old groupies, or younger, having sex with musically-talented men in their mid-twenties, or older, come to mind, but maybe that’s my own prurient interest shining through as I’m sure I’ll be accused. Men find younger women more physically attractive. People don’t mature at the same pace. “Minor-attraction” has always existed and will always exist. Better to just set aside feelings and talk about it than not.

    If that’s too agreeable, I’m happy to damn them all to hell, but that’s too easy. And anything easy ain’t worth a damn.

    1. B. McLeod

      Well, after all, age is just another social construct, and minor-attraction was fine in classical Greece and Rome. This will likely also be part of the basis for the new scientific conclusion that it isn’t harmful. After all, Greece and Rome turned out fine, and many of the affected minors in those times went on to enjoy rewarding, and even distinguished, careers.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        We’re talking about a social question, comrade, unless there’s some property to be measured scientifically that allows sixteen-year-olds the capacity to fuck whomever they want on their birthday but not a day earlier.

        Those affected minors you’re talking about were perpetrators too, unless they bucked the trend somehow. And the perpetrators were once affected minors, unless they were spared the “love”. What an interesting cycle they had going. Talk of the ancients is pointless when we have better and closer examples to look at.

        People who are raped do turn out fine in spite of what they went through. Some find their way to the best revenge possible. Not all of them, of course, but it’s something people accomplish. We aren’t made of glass. The rapers are people too. Or is even that too radical to admit? I’m really trying not to be too cavalier about this because I am sensitive underneath all the abstraction, but I’m not ready to condemn even the worst without talking it out first.

    2. jay-w

      Within living memory (i.e., as recently as the mid-nineteen-fifties), in many parts of the USA, girls could legally get married at age 12, and boys at age 14 because many States were still operating under British Common Law. Just to give one example out of gazillions, country music legend Loretta Lynn got married at age 15.

      The idea that teenagers are “children” rather than young adults is extremely recent.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        I still have to read articles about Roman Polanski and all the people who love and support him in spite of what he did. He avoided punishment for having sex with a minor and still released movies to acclaim. Can anyone explain this to me in light of the absolute hatred for pedos? Why does he get a pass in our more enlightened times?

        1. jay-w

          I could be wrong about this , but I vaguely remember some discussion at the time to the effect that whatever Polanski did (or allegedly did) to the 13 y.o. girl was not considered a serious crime in France at that time. It might have been sort of like the French equivalent of a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The French age-of-consent may have been much lower than the USA age-of-consent, or something. Supposedly, that was one of the reasons why France refused to extradite him back to the USA.

          (I suppose I should make it clear that I am not defending Polanski in any way, shape, or form. If I were the girl’s father, I would have tied him to a tree and cut off his **** with a dull knife.)

          1. PseudonymousKid

            What the French think doesn’t matter to something that happened in the U.S. Don’t do this again.

            You didn’t have to make it clear, but that you thought you would need to at all is interesting. And admitting that you would take matters into your hands after the fact to maim and torture a person, at that. Do you have any shame that you could imagine yourself so violent? Should we lobotomize you because you want to be violent even if you wouldn’t ever actually kill anyone?

            1. PseudonymousKid

              My questions were sincere and I don’t care about what the French think about someone prosecuted in the U.S. for a crime committed here.

              I didn’t even call jay-w any names. This is me being nice. I’m playing with the ideas instead of trying to rip into whoever wanders in. What more do you want?

            2. Hunting Guy

              Do you have any kids?

              Frankly I want to do the same or worst to the bastard that molested the girl in my care and unless you’re a Quaker I bet every father, mother, and relative that haunts this hotel would want to do the same under similar circumstances.

              Thinking about it and doing it are two different things.

              Having said that, if I was on the jury and a father was charged with murdering his daughter’s rapist, I’d vote to acquit.

            3. PseudonymousKid

              HG, I already told you it’s ok to want to murder someone. Just don’t actually do it, even if you’re extremely upset and think you have perfectly fine reasons for it. Let the formalistic process take over instead. That’s what it’s there for.

              You’re a regular who I have warm feelings for, so* I’m trying to do this carefully. Murder is a more serious crime than rape because the victim will never come back. Yet, you and others are more than happy to admit you would want to kill accused rapists without prompting. That’s an honor killing, HG, which are usually considered taboo.

              The pain and rage are perfectly understandable. But the same questions the Host posed for pedos go for your vigilantism too. Are you normalizing honor killings and jury nullification by saying what you did? Is that what you want?

              I really don’t mean to be flippant. I understand wanting to crucify someone who harmed me and mine perfectly well. The point I was trying to make was different than what you perceived and I’m sorry I wrote this much about it, but again I am treading carefully.

    3. KP

      I blame the American culture of shaving a woman’ body so a 22yr old looks like a 14yr-old.. I figure hair is the deciding biological marker for when a female is ready for reproduction, so girls w/o hair are too young. Then along comes a whole culture of shaving pubes and gets held up as the norm.

      Maybe that was the first shot in the war for normalising this problem. The Europeans have quite a different view of the whole field.
      Boss, you’ll remember the controversies over Lolita when it was released in the 60s…

      1. PseudonymousKid

        We can shut this down now, we’ve got it figured out. It’s all about the pubes. And not male pubes, female pubes only. Thank you for this, KP, I needed a giggle. I wish more bush was the answer, but I don’t think it is.

  6. jay-w

    As someone already mentioned in the Twitter thread that you linked to, the word “child” is extremely ambiguous. By one definition, a child is someone who has not reached puberty; by the other definition, a child is anyone under the age of 18.

    And since puberty typically occurs at about 13, there is a huge, 5-year gray area there. It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion on this topic unless everybody agrees on the precise definition of the “child.”

    1. Quinn Martindale

      Walker wasn’t just doing academic research, which is fair game. They were speaking with and advocating for pedophile advocacy groups, that do things like put 13 year olds in ‘support groups’ with adult pedophiles. This is a taboo worth defending. Over the last 60 years, a lot of predators have misused the left’s values of personal freedom and tolerance as a cover for abuse, and I’ve learned this an area where it’s important to draw and defend a clear bright line that pedophilia is totally unacceptable. The definition is as subject to the Sorites paradox as any other, and there’s room for mercy in ambiguous cases, but the ambiguity around where exactly to draw the line doesn’t alter the utter evil of crossing it.

      1. B. McLeod

        Forty years ago, everything in the LGBTQ portfolio was “totally unacceptable.” Now it’s your ticket to sit with the cool kids and be “courageous” and “heroic.” Completely understandable that the pedophiles want to follow the tried and true game plan to tack a “P” onto the end. Once they have changed enough words, you will just be another hateful, old intolerant with outmoded values. If you even try to use the term [Ped. Note], the purveyors of “Latinx” will taunt you mercilessly and fart in your general direction.

  7. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    Is pedophilia just another sexual orientation, as entitled to respect and empathy as any other?

    No. Unlike sexual orientations that were historically stigmatized due to, basically, bigotry, pedophilia involves preying on exceptionally vulnerable people who can’t consent. A virtuous society will try to root it out.

    Is it fair game for academic study?

    Yes. Everything is.

    Does humanizing MAPs normalize or legitimize conduct that society still finds too reprehensible to discuss?

    I suspect it would. See what MollyG said above: “The prof is trying to create a new term for the first group so that there will be less confusion and encourage them to get treatment.” But the use of a euphemism, and “minor-attracted person” is undoubtedly a euphemism, is to cloud people’s perception of the underlying evil. We may (mostly) all agree that pedophiles need to be dealt with, even if we don’t agree how, because “pedophile” carries a richly deserved stigma. But “minor-attracted person”? Sounds downright respectable. What’s the big deal?

    Is the limiting factor of attraction versus action enough to prevent the slide down this repugnant slippery slope?

    Pedophiles, meaning people who want to have sex with children, will be with us for the foreseeable future. Short of executing them as they pop up – which, sorry, alt-right types, isn’t gonna happen – I think the best way to deal with them is to deter them from acting on their urges. This may involve some very distasteful things, like spending tax money to make cartoon or VR child pornography, as is already being done in Germany.

    To the extent a society that better tolerates admitting to pedophilia would also do better at encouraging pedophiles to seek treatment – which, remember, may just involve narcotizing them, as opposed to curing them of their urges – I guess it’d be worth striving for. We’ve advanced in other areas of psychiatry in part because we stopped treating it as a fun day out to go throw rocks at the “patients” in Bedlam.

    But if understanding morphs into permissiveness, might such a society not discourage pedophiles from getting treatment? I could see that too. And would such a society still have the will to act effectively against the scourge of child abuse? Maybe not. We can’t take our very strong modern aversion to pedophilia for granted; cultures from ancient Greece to modern Afghanistan have seen things differently, to the obvious detriment of children there.

    Personally, I think a society that condemns pedophilia but makes anonymous and effective treatment available will do better at battling pedophilia than will one that shrugs its shoulders at the “mere” desire to have sex with children. NB that this is just my opinion, and I’m not a psychiatrist.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      If you’re going to be condemning something you should be careful to make sure you don’t crush anything you didn’t mean to. It’s easy to wish death upon an adult raping a five year old, but not so easy when the numbers are different. Who should be anonymously seeking chemical castration for their desire to do condemnable acts, exactly? If we don’t talk about it, is there any way to tell the difference between pedophilia and normal attraction? We can say it’s easy to not condemn an eighteen year old fucking her seventeen year old partner, but why is that?

      Not to pose the questions to you in particular, but your breakdown has me thinking and that’s when the drool comes out. To cut to the chase, I’m trying to blur the line between what’s “normal” attraction and what’s pedophilic attraction which is gross, but it’s the best I got, so* I’m going with it.

      1. Lee J Stonum

        I think the line is pretty clearly puberty. There is a difference between being attracted to a pre-pubescent child and a post-pubescent child. A large one.

  8. Elpey P.

    Framing pedophilia as a sexual orientation raises some thorny questions about conversion therapy (both legitimacy and effectiveness) and civil rights protections. Normalizing the impulse would be counterproductive to addressing it and sounds like a bad bargain for everyone except narcissists. Imagine arguing that condemning racist thoughts is problematic and “dehumanizing” as long as people aren’t acting on them.

    But to answer the post title, the answer is self-evidently “yes” and cancelling a professor for raising the questions is either cancel culture or consequences culture depending on your tribe.

  9. Philip A Pomerantz

    Did anyone ever see the move “The Woodsman” starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile just released from prison? I thought the movie was well done and Bacon gave a stellar performance.

  10. Skink

    Dear SHG:

    Some people from beyond this here Hotel took dumps all over the lobby. The custodian can’t be found and the houskeeping staff is on strike. What should we do?

    Your Pal,

  11. Hunting Guy

    Sexual attraction to children is creepy and just wrong. But at as long as you don’t act on it or tell me about it, I put it in the same category as my fantasy about lowering certain people into a wood chipped feet first, very slowly.

    However, I’m currently fostering a 9 yo girl that was molested when she was 5. We are doing what we can but we are afraid that she is, as the psychiatrist said, “Broken and might not be fixable.”

    A wood chipper would be too easy for that bastard that did this to her.

    Don’t tell me the kids want or enjoy it.

    I didn’t stay focused on the topic but you hit a real hot button issue with me.

    1. PseudonymousKid

      You’re a good guy, HG. It’s ok to hate and want to kill someone, as long as you don’t act on it.

    2. Lee J Stonum

      If a psych really referred to a 9 year old as “broken” and potentially “not fixable,” you should find a new pysch.

  12. Chris Halkides

    “Cantor, J. M. (2014). “Gold-star pedophiles” in general sex therapy practice. In Y. M. Binik & K. S. K. Hall (Eds.), Principles and practice of sex therapy (pp. 219–234). The Guilford Press
    According to Cantor, most pedophiles commit sexual offenses when they have nothing in their lives worth protecting. And so he advises that “although the focus of one’s sex drive cannot be meaningfully addressed by talk therapies, the feelings of hopelessness and isolation often can be.” He notes that as sex therapists we have a unique opportunity to help someone before they commit an offense (“gold-star pedophiles”), both aiding the individual and addressing social safety concerns as well.”

  13. Pedantic Grammar Police

    20 years ago, conservatives were laughed at for saying that the normalization of homosexuality would lead to the normalization of bestiality and pedophilia. I too laughed at those ignorant old bigots.

    I’m not laughing anymore.

  14. KP

    Tomorrow’s argument..

    “I’m just a MAP, a minor-attracting-person and young girls (or boys) can’t help themselves but want to fall in love with me.. We’re 1% of the population who are cursed with being overly-attractive to young people.”

  15. Miles

    It’s easy to spin it toward the easy issues (18yo has sex with 16yo) and away from the hard ones (50yo has sex with 5yo). It’s easy to distinguish treatment needs (all good) from normalization and consequent predatory action (horrible).

    But how do we prevent the slide? An awful lot of wishcasting involved there. And contrary to the wishcasters, once the door is open and empathy is expanded to this new sexual orientation, how do we close it if all our wishes don’t come true?

    Do we really feel the need to take what could be a huge and disastrous risk?

  16. Dan

    It’s darkly interesting how the phrase “minor-attracted person” conflates those who are attracted to 17-year-olds with those who are attracted to 7-year-olds. The former, while illegal to act on in many states, is relatively normal; the latter reflects something deeply wrong. If I were a cynic, I might suspect that it was intentional. If I were a cynic.

  17. Andy

    There is a sense in which being attracted to people of a(ny) particular age could be called a “sexual orientation”, in that it is a direction in which someone’s sexual interest is oriented, but this completely waters down the definition to the point of meaninglessness. If pedophilia is a sexual orientation, then being into 50-year-olds is a sexual orientation, but more importantly, anything you find attractive could be – gentlemen preferring blondes is a sexual orientation, and guys who only date Asians are just oriented that way too. If we’re going to open the doors to “sexual orientations” beyond the question of what equipment you like, what point even is there for the term anymore?

  18. Tom

    Why is it that the government can portray 15 year olds as “innocent children” when they have sex.

    But then charge them as adults when they commit a crime?

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