Earlier this month, an Old Dominion University (ODU) professor of sociology and criminal justice, Allyn Walker, brought global attention to a newer term, “Minor-Attracted Persons” or “MAPs” for short, within a greater argument that pedophiles shouldn’t be ostracized for their urges. Although ODU seemingly initially defended the comments, they eventually placed Walker on administrative leave. Walker, a transgender male, goes by they/them pronouns.
In the controversial interview with the Prostasia Foundation, an activist group seeking to destigmatize pedophilia, Walker discussed her book, “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” and claimed that the stigma associated with attraction to minors was harmful — not just to the pedophile, but potentially to children.
“[T]he stigma that we have against MAPs throughout society can not only affect well-being, but it can actually lead to harm against children,” said Walker.
Walker also claimed that pedophiles’ attraction to children wasn’t immoral, arguing that actions alone could be moral or immoral.
“I’ve definitely heard the idea that you brought up though that the use of the term minor attracted person suggests that it’s okay to be attracted to children. But using a term that communicates who someone is attracted to doesn’t indicate anything about the morality of that attraction. 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. In other words, it’s not who we’re attracted to that’s either okay or not, okay. It’s our behaviors and responding to that attraction that are either okay or not okay.” (emphasis added)
Prior to being placed on administrative leave from ODU, Walker released a statement through the university condemning the sexual abuse of a child.
“I want to be clear: child sexual 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. 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,” stated Walker.
According to a profile on 500 Queer Scientists, Walker’s career began as a social worker counseling crime victims. After working with sexual assault victims, Walker became more interested in “wanting to help prevent harms created by systems.” Walker later earned a criminal justice PhD and focused on “institutional harm,” an emphasis on the harms created by systems such as criminal processing and mental health care.
Walker was also involved in the American Society of Criminology (ASC) Division on Queer Criminology (DQS). The DQS published a post in support of Walker’s research and conclusions; they claimed that any controversy or opposition to Walker’s perspective was a personal attack on Walker as a transgender person.
“Recently, DQC member Dr. Allyn Walker’s work on minor-attracted persons has been targeted by people who are misrepresenting their research. It is necessary to understand the causes of sexual offenses in order to prevent them, and Dr. Walker’s work aims to do just that.
It is an example of the type of work that can prevent victimization and reduce harm, specifically child sex abuse. Dr. Walker’s research focuses on people who find themselves sexually attracted to children but have not committed any sexual offenses against children.
Some of these individuals were sexually victimized themselves as children, but fear asking for help given they are labeled by society as “pedophiles”.
Much of the bias against Dr. Walker’s research is rooted in their gender and is an attack against transgender people specifically and LGBTQ+ people more generally. We firmly believe a cisgender researcher would not have been targeted in this manner.
The leadership of the Division on Queer Criminology is fully supportive of Dr. Walker and the important contributions their work makes to the field of criminology.” (emphasis added)
Along with the book, Walker released several other research papers on the topic — “Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue” (2017), and “‘I’m Not like That, So Am I Gay?’ The Use of Queer-Spectrum Identity Labels Among Minor-Attracted People” (2019).
The works convey a consistent idea, the same one Walker’s intellectual predecessors have steadily marched to impress upon society: pedophiles aren’t necessarily dangerous or immoral. In fact, they say, society may be to blame if they do act. At the tip of this intellectual iceberg is the term used to destigmatize pedophilia: “MAP.”
In the past 14 years, the acronym “MAP” has gained traction with those seeking to destigmatize pedophilia: pedophiles themselves, with the assistance of those in academia and even in the medical community. Some use the distinction “NMAP” or “NOMAP,” short for “Non-Offending Minor-Attracted Persons,” to signify those that don’t act on their urges through contact or mediums like child porn. However, most simply use “MAP.”
“Pedophile” is the generally accepted term for an individual who is sexually attracted to children, derived from the mental illness “pedophilia.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorizes pedophilia, or pedophilic disorder, among other paraphilia or paraphilic disorders: deviant sexual interests, practices, or behaviors that may cause psychological distress in themselves or others, including those who can’t give legal consent.
Then came MAP: coined by pedophiles with the support of academics and mental health professionals like psychologists purportedly seeking to understand and help them.
The predecessor to MAP came from a similar term, “minor-attracted adults.” One of the earliest uses of that term was in a lengthy 1998 profile piece on Christian support groups for pedophilia: “Not an Oxymoron: Christian Pedophiles Form Online Support Groups.” The blogger, Heather Elizabeth Peterson, ran two now-defunct websites, Philia and Greenbelt, each offering faith-based information and support resources for pedophiles. In the following years, the phrase “minor-attracted adults” picked up use and was abbreviated frequently as “MAA.”
The term gained more traction after 2003 with the creation of the nonprofit B4U-ACT, co-founded by a convicted child molester, Michael Melsheimer, and a counselor, Russell Dick. B4U-ACT markets itself as a collaborative effort between mental health professionals and pedophiles to produce research, support, and communications on pedophilia.
B4U-ACT used the term “MAA” until 2007 when it coined “minor-attracted persons” and “MAP” because it reported that pedophiles were claiming that they experienced their pedophilic urges prior to adulthood.
It took several more years for the term to pick up more significant traction in the academic world. In 2016, a counseling student at City University of Seattle submitted a thesis on destigmatizing pedophilia titled, “‘Come In and Talk for a While’ – Bringing Minor-Attracted Persons in From the Waiting Room.”
MAP isn’t the only euphemism for pedophilia. Other pedophilic jargon includes “AOA,” or “age of attraction.” Some within the MAP community have coined slogans like “Map Pride,” “MAP Positivity,” “MAP Support,” and even “MAP Rights.”
MAP is a widely-used term, unlike the “clovergender” hoax that emerged in 2017, wherein social media accounts purported that pedophiles were attempting to join the LGBTQ+ community as individuals whose attraction to minors was fine because they identified as minors on the inside.
Everywhere the term “MAP” is used, there’s a concerted effort to understand and even destigmatize pedophilia. In 2012, Slate published an article by Jennifer Bleyer — who would later serve as a senior editor at Psychology Today from 2014 to 2018 — describing a man’s admission of his long-standing attraction to boys, titled “How Can We Stop Pedophiles?: Stop treating them like monsters.”
Bleyer proposed that society should bear some of the blame for pedophiles’ crimes. She argued that destigmatizing pedophilia could prevent harm to children.
“He considers himself a ‘minor-attracted person,’ a term that some prefer to ‘pedophile,’ and what he and others like him have been quietly promoting is the idea that society needs to recognize that they exist, that they are capable of controlling their sexual desires and deserve support and respect for doing so,” wrote the reporter, Jennifer Bleyer.
Bleyer even offered something like a follow-up on that story a year later in a Slate opinion piece. After recounting the harrowing, years-long abuse of two nine-year-old girls, Bleyer proposed an alternative to focusing on the victims of childhood sexual abuse: a focus on the perpetrators themselves.
“Nowhere […] is the most dark and disturbing question asked: Why do some grown men want to rape or molest little kids? Or even look at images of such acts? You might answer that it’s because they’re sick perverts, but ‘sick pervert’ is neither a medical diagnosis nor a psychiatric designation. Believing that the world is simply pocked with sick perverts who are destined to rape and molest children is, in a way, to give in to the inevitability of their crimes with our fingers crossed that they’ll be caught. (Most are not.) It does nothing to prevent men like John from doing what he did, nor what happened to Nicole and Amy from happening again.”
A year after Bleyer joined Psychology Today, she advanced the ideas presented in those two Slate pieces with a feature totaling over 4,400 words in its November/December 2015 issue: “SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIANT: THE INTENSE STIGMA SURROUNDING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE CLOUDS AN ALREADY MISUNDERSTOOD SUBJECT AND MAY EVEN PREVENT PEOPLE FROM GETTING HELP BEFORE THEY COMMIT HARM. ONE CONVICTED OFFENDER SHARES HIS STORY.” The feature focused mostly on the feelings and experiences of a perpetrator prior to and following his arrest, combined with psychological analyses of pedophilia that cast a sympathetic light on their mental illness.
Bleyer wasn’t alone in her takes on pedophilia. Other academics proposed that society itself was to blame for the sexual abuse of children. In 2019, two psychologists published an opinion piece claiming that stigmas attached to pedophilia led to harm for both pedophiles and children. The abstract read:
“[N]egative reactions towards child sexual abuse at the individual, interpersonal, and societal levels often block pathways to the prevention of child sexual abuse. Using the case of Mark Salling, the former Glee actor who recently died by suicide following charges of child pornography possession, we argue that societal fears and frustrations about child sexual exploitation and abuse are often counter-productive and should be redirected towards prevention efforts. Accordingly, current and potential initiatives for prevention of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation are discussed.”
Scholarly uses of the term have increased over the past two years — along with the claim of society’s responsibility for pedophilia. In July, a Current Psychiatry article argued that an understanding of MAPs would be crucial to offering proper treatment and thereby preventing harm to children:
“[M]any individuals with pedophilic interests never have sexual contact with a child or the penal system. This non-offending pedophile group reports a greater prevalence of psychiatric symptoms compared with the general population, but given the intense stigmatization of their preferences, they are largely psychiatrically underrecognized and underserved. This article focuses on the unique psychiatric needs of this neglected population. By understanding and addressing the treatment needs of these patients, psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians can serve a pivotal role in decreasing stigma, promoting wellness, and preventing sexual abuse.”
These arguments to destigmatize pedophilia have long been associated with efforts to lower the age of consent, thereby legalizing sexual relationships between adults and minors. Pedophile advocacy coalitions have made that clear, such as the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Defunct groups before them consistently advocated for the same changes, such as the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a British group existing from 1974 to 1984, or the Vereniging Martijn (MARTIJN), Dutch group existing from 1982 until a court ordered their disbandment in 2014.
Some of the earliest documented pedophile advocacy groups and organizations emerged in the 1970s, following the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Scholars have speculated that this timeline of events is part of ongoing efforts by cultural revolutionaries. Boise State University political science professor and Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Scott Yenor — author of “The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies,” a historical analysis of the sexual revolution — claimed that children are the “next frontier” in an ongoing sexual revolution aimed at reforming American society:
“Conservatives often claim that the sexual revolution will meet ‘natural limits.’ Perhaps the principal natural limit is respect for the sexual innocence of children. Our society has long opposed thinking of children as sex objects or sexual beings, and rarely encouraged children themselves to engage in sexual play and exploration. Childhood is a time to cultivate self-control, to encourage sexual modesty, and to turn shame into sexual virtue. We enforce this limit with age of consent laws and with laws against child pornography.
But sexual revolutionaries do not respect this ‘natural’ limit. Indeed, sexual revolutionaries consider children to be sexual beings with sexual desires that crave fulfillment. Leaders of the sexual revolution thought Christian and bourgeois society would collapse if children were raised to a ‘sex affirmative’ environment without ‘repression.’”
An example of activist efforts to sexualize children is evident in philosophies undergirding certain K-12 curriculum that parents and communities have begun to discover over the last two years with pandemic-onset distance learning. These philosophies, which argue that children are sexual from birth and have a right to sexual knowledge and pleasure, have a common origin: Dr. Alfred Kinsey, “Father of the Sexual Revolution” and founder of Indiana University’s Institute for Sex Research now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
According to Kinsey biographer Judith Reisman, part of Kinsey’s research on child sexuality included the sexual violation of hundreds to thousands of infants and children.
Just as it was an academic who initiated efforts to normalize pedophilia, so it was an academic — ODU’s Walker — who marked a new chapter in that march toward normalization earlier this month. Though not the first to introduce the term, Walker brought significant attention to it compared to those past and present who propose similar ideas within the same ideology.
That ideology contests our culture should be more understanding of pedophilia. If not, they argue, harm will befall children — and those who stigmatize pedophilia will be to blame.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for The Daily Wire and AZ Free News. Have something you think the mainstream media won’t cover? Send tips to [email protected].
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.