Professor who researched 'minor-attracted persons' steps down

An Old Dominion University professor researching “minor-attracted people” (MAPs) agreed to step down from their position Wednesday after their work sparked threats and protests.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Allyn Walker and the university announced their resignation from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice after the expiration of their contract in 2022.

"We have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward," ODU President Brian Hemphill said. "We hope today's action helps bring closure for our Monarch family. As we move forward, I encourage all members of the Monarch family to continue our efforts toward healing and civil discourse."

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Walker's research into "minor attracted people" received public outcry from students and faculty after they said the language destigmatized sex offenders and pedophiles.

In the statement, Walker, who is transgender, explained that their research was meant to prevent child sex abuse, attributing the backlash to their trans identity and misrepresentation online. 

"My scholarship aims to prevent child sexual abuse," they said in the statement. "That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity. As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally."

The backlash came after Walker gave an interview about their book, "A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity" earlier this month.

"I think we have a tendency to want to categorize people with these attractions as evil or morally corrupt," Walker said in the interview.

"But when we’re talking about non-offending MAPS, these are people who have an attraction that they didn’t ask for. And one that frequently they would do anything to change. But they find that they're unable to change those attractions. And most importantly, the people in my study did not act on them," they added. 

After the interview, Kayla Foster, a senior studying criminal justice, started a change.org petition calling for Walker's removal. It has been signed by nearly 15,000 people. 

"Dr. Walker uses the term “MAP”, which is an umbrella term for minor attracted persons," the petition read. "We want to be clear that this is pedophilia and should not be considered a sexual preference."