On Nov. 7 2021, assistant professor, Dr. Allyn Walker of the Old Dominion University Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, sat down with the Prostasia Foundation to discuss their book “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor Attracted People and their Pursuit of Dignity.” In this interview Walker defended individuals who are attracted to minors, sharing that they have found that “having an attraction to minors, as long as it isn’t acted on, doesn’t mean that the person who has those attractions is doing something wrong.” The interview quickly gained traction, causing public outcry on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, and resulted with ODU releasing a statement on Nov. 13 concerning the situation.
“An academic community plays a valuable role in the quest for knowledge. A vital part of this is being willing to consider scientific and other empirical data that may involve controversial issues and perspectives. Following a recent interview that gained national attention, Dr. Allyn Walker has released the following statement.
“I want to be clear: child sexual abuse is an 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.” -Dr. Walker
Following recent social media activity and direct outreach to the institution, it is important to share that Old Dominion, as a caring and inclusive community, does not endorse or promote crimes against children or any form of criminal activity.”
A quick Google search on the subject will show a barrage of petitions calling for Walker’s removal.
“We do not need to change the ‘terminology’ for pedophiles, read Dr. Walker’s book, or receive lessons about giving ‘pedophiles dignity,’” says Mikiah Everett, who identified as an ODU alumnus in the Change.org petition for Dr. Walker’s removal, “I am disgusted at their response to protect someone that is an advocate for pedophiles and affiliated with the organization Prostasia (a pedophilia advocate group under the guise of a children protection organization.) Dr. Walker has crossed a line and has dressed it up in academic jargon.”
As Everett stated, Walker’s interview was conducted by the non-profit organization known as Prostasia. Prostasia’s initiative statement claims to want to stop child sexual abuse before it happens, but also has a history of questionable methods. These include a petition against sex-doll bans that are defined as “childlike”, raising funds for the exploration of the use of fictional and fantasy sexual outlets (FFSOs) for those who are attracted to minors, and a pedophilia support group that allows members as young as 13 to join.
Prostasia is also made up of a legion of questionable employees. Such as Dr. James Cantor, a clinical psychologist, neuroscientist and Director of the Toronto Sexuality Center and member of Prostasia’s blog team. Cantor’s internet pushback stems from a 2019 interview with 60 Minutes Australia in which he advocated for pedophiles being included in LGBTQA+ spaces, and talked at length about “virtuous pedophiles'' who are non-committing offenders.
Aside from the questionable platform, it is also the language of Walker’s advocacy and the organizations Walker based this insistence on that raise cause for concern.
Kate Henley on Change.org commented, “Using the term ‘MAP’ to try and encourage others to agree with pedophilia is sick … This is not okay and we should not be allowing this person to teach future leaders.”
Walker frequently refers to pedophiles as MAPs, which stands for “minor-attracted people” and is quoted in the interview as saying, “I think it’s important to use terminology for groups that members of that group want others to use for them.” Walker continued, “MAP advocacy groups like B4U-Act have advocated for use of the term, and they’ve advocated for it primarily because it’s less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile.”
The B4U-Act that Walker references is yet another non-profit organization with a checkered past. B4U-Act claims that part of their initiative is to draw upon experiences to prevent future crimes. Experiences such as those of B4U-ACT’s co-founder Michael Melsheimer, who served a three-year prison sentence in New Jersey for sexually assaulting a teenage boy, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Melsheimer was also a known name on BoyWiki, a now defunct wiki run in partnership with NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Where Melsheimer was brazen enough to post under his real name and was known as a boylove activist.
Beyond this there is also the added controversy of pedophilia being lumped in with LGBTQA+ initiatives. And, through no fault of their own, being that Walker themselves identifies as non-binary and a member of the queer community, this recent unfolding has rehashed this dilemma.
“Pedophilia should not be in any way shape or form be normalized as something to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” says Sarah Grant on the Change.org petition, “and it is disgusting that they are trying to make a mockery to child sexual abuse.”
The issue begins with the classification of pedophilia as a sexual preference. In the 2015 study titled, “The Neurobiology and Psychology of Pedophilia: Recent Advances and Challenges” conducted by Gillian Tenbergen et. al. and published in the U.S National Library of Medicine, states that "pedophilia is currently viewed as a phenotype of sexual preference within the realm of human sexuality, including various different phenotypes (e.g., the sexual orientation toward the same gender), only that it concerns a preferred age in addition to gender. This is separate from, but in addition to, behavioral manifestations including the use of child pornography and the commitment of child sexual offenses.” It should be noted that Prostasia’s FFSO campaign is being performed in collaboration with Tenbergen.
Though clinically, individuals such as Tenbergen have argued pedophilia is a sexual orientation, prominent figures in the LGBTQA+ community have consistently pushed back on any inclusion of “MAPs” in queer spaces. This initiative to bar pedophiles from the queer community started back in 1994. It was then that the famous New York group known as Stonewall 25 voted to ban the already controversial NAMBLA from the international pride march on the United Nations according to the AP News.
The sentiment then was defined precisely by co-chair of the march, Pat Norman, “Those who advocate or engage in sexual abuse of young people are not welcome in the family of gay men and lesbians who live upstanding and honorable lives.”
Since that time, it has been a popular diatribe to frequently associate queerness with pedophilia via a multiplicity of false reports such as the supposed “P” to be added to LGBTQA+. As well as the false MAPs Pride Flag which frequently surfaces during pride month and has been debunked by Snopes as a troll experiment originating on Tumblr. Most recently the slander included a rumor of normalizing “age fluidity” as a way of excusing pedophilia in queer spaces. Snopes also debunked this in 2020. Some of those in the queer community feel as though Walker’s position as a queer identifying professor was especially sullied by their usage of this “toe-the-line” ideology.
According to 13NewsNow, Andrew Lambakis, president of the ODU College Republicans, is putting together a plan for a peaceful protest against Walker. While it is not clear how the whole campus community feels about the situation, the general sentiment online is summed up by Kimberly Price on Change.org:
“Pedophiles do not deserve sympathy or a platform of any sort ... The students at ODU do not support pedophilia.”