Nov 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

ODU professor on leave amid protests over research on pedophilia

Old Dominion University in Richmond, Virginia on July 18, 2015.
Old Dominion University in Richmond, Virginia on July 18, 2015. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Old Dominion University put a professor on administrative leave following an uproar over their research into people who are sexually attracted to children.

Driving the news: "Reactions to Dr. Walker's research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus," the public university wrote in a statement on Nov. 16, adding that Professor Allyn Walker's leave is "effective immediately."

  • Walker, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, sparked controversy over the use of the term "minor-attracted people" in their academic research.
  • Walker in their book, "A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity," challenges "assumptions that persons who are ... attracted to minors — often referred to as 'pedophiles' — are necessarily also predators and sex offenders," the University of California Press writes of the book.

Students launched an online petition and protested on campus calling for Walker's removal upon learning of their research. The petition as of Friday afternoon has received more than 12,000 signatures.

  • The controversy "disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution's mission of teaching and learning," the university said in a statement.
  • "I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society," said the university’s president, Brian O. Hemphill.

Walker told the Washington Post that their research was misunderstood, saying: "The idea that I’m somehow condoning child sexual abuse is absolutely outrageous. I really think it’s a coordinated effort about attacking the LGBTQ community," said Walker, who is transgender.

  • Walker's research, they told the Post, talks to people "who have unwanted attractions and never want to harm a child, but they’re unable to get the help that they want because they’re scared" of the response.
  • Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Axios.

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