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A Virginia university assistant professor who argued it wasn’t necessarily immoral for adults to be sexually attracted to kids has agreed to resign after facing intense backlash.
Old Dominion University revealed in a statement Wednesday that Allyn Walker, 34, will be stepping down as an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.
Walker was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 16 after a firestorm erupted over the educator’s controversial argument that pedophile’s should be referred to as “minor-attracted persons.”
The assistant professor, who is transgender and uses the pronouns they/them, will remain on leave until their contract expires in May next year.
The university had been facing calls to fire Walker after the educator made the comment earlier this month while discussing their research in an interview with the Prostasia Foundation, a San Francisco-based child protection organization.
Walker insisted it it was important to use the term “minor-attracted persons” instead of “pedophile” because it’s less stigmatizing.
Critics, however, argued that Walker’s terminology destigmatized sex offenders.
An online petition calling for Walker’s removal had gained more than 14,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
In the statement announcing Walker’s resignation, the assistant professor insisted the research was intended to prevent child sexual abuse and better understand would-be sex offenders.
“That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity,” Walker said. “As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally.”
The university’s president, Brian O. Hemphill, described Walker stepping down as the “best way to move forward.”
Walker, who has written a book titled “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity”, had earlier acknowledged that the use of the term “minor-attracted persons” suggests to some that it’s OK to be attracted to children.
But they said that 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.