Allyn Walker, A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People & Their Pursuit of Dignity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021), 236 pp., $30.
This book aroused a maelstrom of controversy. At the time of its publication, the author Allyn Walker (who uses they / them pronouns and identifies as non-binary) held the position of assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, in the United States. The book was published in June 2021, and attracted little attention outside academia until Allyn gave an interview to an organization named Prostasia, posted as text on the 7th of November and video on the 8th.
“Prostasia” derives its name from the Greek word for “protection,” intended to signify the organization’s status as a “child protection organization.” Prostasia emphasizes what the organization sees as a sex-positive ethos, supporting sex education for young people alongside the prevention of unlawful erotic activity between minors and non-minors.
Jeremy Malcolm, the group’s director, engages regularly in online Twitter discourse and attracts swaths of hostile attention. Prostasia had become controversial before the Walker interview, with the Youtuber “Sh0eonhead” publishing an incendiary video entitled “Exposing the CREEPY ‘Child Protection’ Organization: ‘Prostasia.’” At the time of writing, the video has garnered more than one million views. This led to a sustained period of hostile attention for Prostasia, with influential media figures online suggesting to their large audiences that the organization represents nothing more than a clandestine front working to normalize illegal erotic activity involving minors.
The stage was set for what would become “The Allyn Walker Controversy”: Prostasia had already been under heavy scrutiny, its posts monitored by media pundits and marked out as a target for incendiary twitter discourse and alternative media outlets. It can be confidently asserted that Walker’s decision to video interview with Prostasia, not the contents of the book or scholarship itself, are what aroused controversy. In giving a publicly available video interview, Walker was clipped with short segments posted by politically right-wing social media accounts like Twitter’s “Libsoftiktok,” before media publicity was bolstered by attention in mainstream press. In particular, the self-identified feminist TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) publication 4W, which often attempts to link advocacy for transgender minors with “grooming,” published on Walker multiple times (e.g. here and here). Having the example of a non-binary professor who could be made to appear sympathetic to unlawful sexual activity, scandalizing Walker’s attempt to explore new ways of preventing such activity by treating MAPs as human beings, fits neatly into the agenda of linking transgenderism with grooming. At the time, Walker’s book was only available in print, and through a PDF version now available freely online (see here), Amazon users who had not purchased the book “review bombed” the page with hostile, one-star comments, until Amazon stepped-in to only allow reviews from verified purchasers and review rankings increased.
Behind the scenes, a diverse coalition of scholars mobilized to mitigate the controversy. An open letter (here) signed by experts was sent to the Old Dominion administration and subsequently publicized across media discussions. Some of the most notable signatories included psychologist Michael C. Seto, whose book Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children is the flagship text on the subject, published by the American Psychological Association with a second edition in 2018 (PDF here); Elizabeth Letourneau, the director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University (see her article on Walker here); organization-wide endorsement from ATSA (the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers); and the William Percy Foundation’s own Thomas K. Hubbard (his personal letter to the university president can be downloaded here). In an unprecedented display of solidarity, the academic community banded together to defend academic freedom and the right to engage in sensitive / incendiary research. Walker was further supported by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). However, after protests had littered the Old Dominion campus with graffiti and police judged death threats against Allyn to be credible, the letter’s publication coincided with the news that Walker would be stepping down. Ostensibly a joint decision by Allyn and the university administration, Walker was escorted safely off-campus under the protection of armed guards (read summaries of the controversy here and here).
Walker’s career was rescued, with the now ex-professor joining Elizabeth Letourneau’s CSA prevention center as a postdoctoral fellow on May 25, 2022, where Walker has since remained.
In the fast-paced environment of sensationalist social media, the major focus centered on short, sound-bite clips of Allyn’s Prostasia interview. Following a familiar trend sociologist Yuill (2013) identifies, whereby research addressing some aspect of intergenerational sexuality is responded to in media via a “rent-a-quote” manner (p. 130), online discourse tended to ignore Walker’s most substantial and evidenced content: the very book which Allyn was interviewed to promote. It seems timely, then, to lift the veil and assess what Allyn actually wrote.
How did Allyn get here?
Researchers have their own unique journeys leading them to begin writing and publishing on controversial topics, such as the one at hand. In Allyn’s case, the book’s preface informs readers of the author’s previous work as a sexual abuse counselor, and gradual disillusionment with how the U.S. legal system treated those who felt and reported that they had been sexually mistreated.
Contemporary abolitionist thinkers such as Taylor (2019; reviewed on the Foundation website here), for example, have criticized the U.S. government’s withholding of funding from rape crisis centers that refused to comply with mandatory reporting requirements, effectively forcing females who sought assistance to be implicated in potentially distressing, traumatic / harmful legal intervention against their will. In a similar vein, Walker came to sympathize with an abolitionist perspective after witnessing how many women would turn to illegal substances (“drug-use”) to cope with their psychological distress, only to be punished by the legal system, incarcerated, and subjected to further psychological distress. Becoming “less sure that small steps could ever be enough to fix the system,” Allyn was haunted by the question “But what about the pedophiles?”
For years, Walker was caught in a bind, holding abolitionist principles but struggling not to balk on them. “Well, we would say, we’ll always have some need for prisons.” Years later, Walker discovered the existence of people who are attracted to minors but have never engaged in unlawful behavior relating to them, who had no intention to do so in the future, and who were willing to discuss their life history. As Walker explains:
“Suddenly the pattern of ‘truths’ I believed […] – their supposed lack of morality, the inevitability of them becoming offenders – unravelled around me.” (p. xii)
Having learnt of “non-offending” MAPs, Walker attended an event organized by B4U-ACT, a charity aiming to make therapy services available to MAPs and to promote research into community samples of MAPs. In the book’s introduction, Walker describes meeting “Cameron” (all informant names in Walker’s book are pseudonyms) at the author’s first B4U-ACT workshop. The meeting was designed to promote dialogue between MAPs, therapists and researchers, with Walker and Cameron both being nervous students and interested in minor-attraction, and Cameron being a psychology student in his 30s. Next year, at the same conference, Walker recognized Cameron, who was still nervous, but this time he addressed the room to openly express his identity as a MAP. Cameron disclosed that he felt attracted to minors as young as eight, and Walker later discovered that Cameron had only come out to three people in his personal life: his partner and two friends. Even as a non-exclusive MAP, Cameron felt American society so heavily stigmatized minor-attraction regardless of a person’s behavior, that he did not feel safe or comfortable coming out to his parents, nor attendees at that same workshop a year prior. Living “perpetually in the closet,” he felt this non-normative aspect of his attractions “cast a long, dark shadow.” (p. 2) Walker had found the title for the book.
Walker’s book presents findings from semi-structured interviews with a community-based sample of 42 MAPs. For inclusion, subjects had to be over 18 years of age and have no conviction history for sex crimes involving minors. Walker’s sample was very similar: 20 informants lived in America, 90% were white, most identified as male with three identifying as female (and one as agender). Most were aged in their 20s or 30s. From the outset, Walker’s sample choice challenges dominant misconceptions about MAPs as old, male, criminal, devoid of faith or ethical concerns, as well as emphasizing the distinction between attraction and action and MAPs and sex offenders. Walker’s introduction explicitly addresses three misconceptions with a dedicated section for each. These are:
1) All pedophiles are offenders;
2) All people attracted to minors are pedophiles; and
3) Stigmatizing MAPs protects children.
The second misconception is emphasized later by discussion of both exclusive and non-exclusive MAPs’ decision to enter romantic / sexual relationships with other adults, a topic which has received scant attention until recently (see Mundy et al., 2022). Most MAPs in Walker’s sample who dated other adults were non-exclusive. However, some non-exclusive MAPs, but mostly exclusive MAPs, declined to date adults for the same moral principle: the belief that their relationship would be based on a lie, and therefore unfair to their partner. (pp. 95-96)
For the last misconception, Walker cites research that minor-attraction is typically realized in adolescence, resistant to change and endures throughout a person’s life. Therefore, Allyn argues, shaming MAPs for their attractions will not make them go away. In addition, upon realizing the uniqueness of their attractions, Walker’s informants often experienced suicidality, depression, feelings of loneliness and isolation, usually from adolescence into later years. The stress of enforced secrecy around taboo feelings, stigma in everyday life, and fears of being stigmatized / treated as de-facto criminals by therapists, discouraged help-seeking from those who felt they needed it.
The present era, Walker explains, has recently seen an upsurge in abolitionist sentiment around incarceration, with movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) which, in Walker’s view, “ask us to imagine a society in which police and prisons are no longer considered necessary, because people receive the support they need before they commit a crime.” (p. xii) For Walker, “Prevention does not come from stigma, police, or prisons, but from support and understanding.” (p. xiii)
As Walker’s focus is on prevention, the book argues for a potential benefit to maintaining shame around unlawful activity. Unlike minor-attraction which is resistant to change, unlawful activity can be prevented, rather than simply reacted to after-the-fact. At the present time where MAPs are stigmatized regardless of their actions, Allyn maintains that such a situation risks pushing people towards internalizing the social stigma that to be a MAP is to be a sex offender. If the dominant message MAPs receive is “you are destined to offend,” then little space is available for MAPs to not regard themselves as inevitable criminals, as “ticking time-bombs.” (p. 12) For Allyn, it is partly because of this assumed criminality that so few options focusing on prevention exist in the United States. Accordingly, Walker decided to study what they call “resistance strategies” among their sample: how and why do MAPs avoid engaging in erotic activity with minors despite a hostile environment and the risk of being outed and/or treated as “ticking time bomb” for disclosing their attraction?
MAPs coming out of the closet?
Although Walker avoided using phrases such as “coming out” and “closeted” during interviews, Walker’s informants often used these terms. In the interest of being faithful to their own language, Walker chose to use the term “coming out” / “come out” to refer to MAPs’ disclosures of their attractions to others. Usually, MAPs came out to family, friends, or both. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of informants found supportive responses from the people they disclosed to. Even so, the risk of stigma is high, potentially affecting not only the individual coming out, but also those receiving the disclosure.
In meeting MAPs for the research project Walker was haunted by their sensitivity and introspection around author’s identification as a transgender LGBT individual. Walker notes, for example, that similar to LGBT individuals who have been shown to find comfort in religion despite homophobic teachings (p. 97), some MAPs in the sample found comfort in religious involvement (particularly Christianity) which provided a sense of meaning and purpose despite hostility. Elsewhere, Walker has argued that MAPs face similar dilemmas to other sexual / erotic minorities, with the author’s first scholarly article titled “Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue.” (2017)
There, Walker wrote that MAPs “resemble other queer communities due to shared perceptions of illegitimacy and stigma by ‘conventional’ others. Emerging research shows that upon disclosing their attractions to friends and family, some MAPs find support, while many encounter negative reactions, including suspicion, threats, being labeled as ‘perverts,’ loss of friendships, increased stress levels, and the fear of being outed (Freimond 2009). One MAP explained,
When you come out, people have power over you. Not only because they can tell people and ruin your life, even if you haven’t done anything illegal. But they have power over you because they can call you names, or they can tell you that you’re sick or wrong. … So it makes you very vulnerable, and it can change the power dynamic of your relationships or friendships quite a lot. And it can be very frustrating and intimidating if people don’t agree with you, because they have the weight of society and social norms behind them. (Freimond 2009: 60)
These experiences parallel those faced by LGBT individuals who disclose their own sexual identities: […] hostile attitudes, shock, confusion, changes in relationships, harassment, discrimination, and compromised safety.” (Walker 2017, p. 41)
Similar to other experts (e.g. Seto, 2012; Mundy, 2020; Cash, 2016), Walker argued that the evidence for pedophilia as a sexual orientation is “overwhelming.” Walker has previously examined how MAPs have a diverse relationship to “queer-spectrum identities” – with MAPs adopting and disavowing queer / LGBT labels for a variety of reasons (see Walker, 2019). In this 2021 book, Walker’s second chapter – “Leading a double-life” – focuses on the decision to come out or stay closeted.
The experience of coming out
Most informants experienced largely positive reactions, with Desmond, for example, being permitted to look after his young cousin by his aunt, to whom he had come out. Understanding and supportive, Desmond found the trust of his aunt validating for his self-perception as a safe individual not to be afraid of. (p. 60)
There were, however, negative consequences, with about one-third of Walker’s sample who had come out feeling rejected. This sometimes led to the end of significant relationships. Brooke, a lesbian, non-exclusive MAP, decided to come out after her girlfriend divulged experiencing an erotic response when holding her young niece. Brooke assumed her partner was divulging some form of minor-attraction, but her partner did not respond in a supportive manner. As Brooke recalls:
[W]e started talking about it, and it turned into her forgetting that she’d ever mentioned anything, and immediately researching, and trying to find ways of how to “fix” me, and panicking, and freaking out. The fact that […] we lived on the same block as a high school and an elementary school was crazy for her, because she couldn’t handle the fact that there is no way I would simply grab a random stranger and force myself on them…. […] saying well here’s this chemical castration. (pp. 67-68).
Brooke’s partner’s unsupportive attitude strained their relationship, and ultimately led to its end when Brooke was outed by her ex-partner to her now former mutual friends. Reading Walker, it becomes clear that the figure of the monstrous pedophile, not law-abiding MAPs living in the community, is what hatred and hostility is generally directed towards. Meeting MAPs in real-life, viewing media which depicts MAPs in a less hostile / stigmatizing way, seems to break down misconceptions and assumptions. Lee, for example, who felt “physically ill” (p. 79) hearing comments from friends at work describing how all MAPs should be killed or brutally tortured, resolved this by coming out to them. His friends apologized about their past remarks and realized how problematic they were. Lee said:
A couple of them, after I told them, they were like, “Oh. Oh my God, I am so sorry. Everything I said, I didn’t really mean it.” And instantly regretted saying these things to my face and it completely changed their opinion of the whole thing. (p. 62)
Walker’s sample suggests that how a MAP comes out appears to have some relationship to how a disclosure is received. Mitchell, for example, on the advice of a MAP friend with whom he attended church, felt his pastor would be accepting and disclosed to him that he was “attracted to teenage boys.” (p. 61) He did not mention the word “pedophile” and specified “teenage,” rather than “children,” a term which could be misleading when referring to post-pubescent, developmentally sexually mature individuals, and perhaps more controversial. Mitchell’s pastor did not see his disclosure as cause for alarm, even commenting that Mitchell’s need to be more careful around minors explains why he is so good at working with them. Similarly, non-exclusive gay MAP Robin, in coming out to his (male) partner, expressed himself by beginning with “I’m attracted to younger guys.” (p. 63). Avoiding the term pedophile, he continued: “Um, but like I’m attracted to teenagers and like pubescent boys and even like sometimes younger guys.” (Ibid.) Robin described his partner’s reaction as extremely supportive: “He’s incredibly supportive, actually. I mean, he seemed to have few, if any, of the hang-ups that I have about it. He was just like, “Well of course like you’re attracted to younger guys, and a lot of people are and like, it’s not unusual and it’s not an issue for me and like, we’ll deal with it.” (Ibid.)
Most of Walker’s sample were in their 20s or 30s, and disclosed their attractions during time-sensitive periods such as university attendance where, eventually, they or their potentially unsympathetic counterpart would return home or move out of the dormitory. It should be noted, however, that coming out to family and friends has been claimed to be the single most important, research-backed way of creating social change (here). If MAPs are concerned about Anglophone discourse rendering MAPs as “monsters,” and wish to inject a human face and real-life stakes into this discourse, then coming out to trusted persons in real-life is likely the most impactful thing an individual can do, as has recently been argued in the Journal of Controversial Ideas (Vaerwaeter, 2022).
In a negative consequence directly resulting from a lack of anti-discrimination protections for MAPs, Issac, a young MAP who had enrolled in a master’s program in mental health counselling, described his experience as follows:
I came out to a small group of students, […] we had an instructor and he told us to share something that we were really dealing with. And I said, “If I share mine everyone will reject me.” One of the female students said, “I’m upset at that, we would not reject you.” So I went ahead and told them, and they took it well at first, then they promptly distanced themselves from me, ignored me. And the teacher, the instructor, broke the confidentiality that we were assured of, and told the administration. And they … told me I had to leave the residency. … So they sent me home. That’s where I was probably most devastated. I was very stressed and anxious. I would shake without any cause for it. (pp. 69-70)
“Isaac,” Walker explains, “took legal action against the school because their handbook stipulated that they did not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In the process, he was outed to the judge, attorneys, and others involved in the case. Despite his efforts, he lost the case.” (p. 70)
Some reactions resulted in even more extreme consequences. One man (Quentin) raised two sons alone after his wife died of cancer, and came out to them when they were 18 and 20, respectively. Quentin misjudged the trust and capacity of his sons to see past labels: they reacted violently, outing their father to the community which led to physical confrontations in the street. Quentin sought a therapist, who only worsened his situation by reporting him to police on the basis of his attraction alone. Fearing for his life, Quentin burned his belongings and chose to live out of a tent until he eventually moved out of the country. His situation, though extreme, was well-known and alluded to by many of Walker’s informants, being given as an example of why MAPs should distrust mental health professionals (see p. 69).
Living ethically despite stigma
Having a lack of legal recourse on the basis of a pedophilic / MAP identity, the underlying question is whether MAPs (or those perceived as MAPs), ought to have hate-crime law apply to an assailant who attacked them or damaged their property based on their perceived identity. Scholars have explored the issue, with McDonald (2014) and Haas (2021) arguing that MAPs or suspected MAPs should be protected under hate crime law, and Purshouse (2020) arguing that MAP “hunter” vigilante groups should not be permitted in liberal democracies without a more robustly enforced regulatory regime to protect the due process rights of the accused. Given Walker’s abolitionist sentiments, it is surprising that Walker does not integrate the topic of stigma and de-stigmatization alongside anti-discrimination / hate-crime legislation. Although we suspect this is because merely entertaining the possibility of minor-attraction becoming a protected characteristic under law could appear as advocacy, this topic could be another possible avenue for increasing the likelihood that MAPs will feel safe coming out to professionals and friends for support.
An unexplored method of addressing internalized stigma could involve MAPs learning about their own history, exploring online archives such as Newgon.net, which inform readers of relevant research around influential MAP figures such as Lewis Carroll, historical alliances and mutual support between MAPs and LGBT groups, and anthropological findings concerning normative intergenerational eroticism (see Bauserman, 1989).
While it is easy to assume that fear over being shunned or physically attacked after coming out looms over MAPs, in the reality of Walker’s sample, reactions from family and friends were largely supportive. As German LGBT rights advocate Rüdiger Lautmann (1994) found in a German community sample of pedophilic MAPs, such individuals often develop what Lautmann called an “ethics of pedophilia.” Quite apart from scholars like Moen (2015) and Walker who see attraction itself as morally neutral, MAPs have to find a way of living in the world despite hostility directed toward them.
Oliver, for example, explained that his parents asked him to keep his minor-attraction a secret from “other members of his family for fear of being ostracized.” Oliver felt compelled to secrecy “to protect the other people that I cared about,” or “in other words,” Walker explains, “to protect his parents from the stigma of being associated with a pedophile.” Displaying his own ethics, Oliver inhibited himself to “protect his parents.”
Within these sections, readers get the occasional glimpse into how informants’ responses affected the author. Immediately following the above quote, Walker writes:
“I had trouble placing this in a section about accessing support, because these reactions didn’t feel supportive to me. Upon coming out, […] Oliver’s father used language that implied he thought Oliver had committed a crime. […] Why did my participants identify these reactions as positive? […] perhaps because they were expecting to be rejected, or even physically harmed, so anything other than that felt like support.” (p. 66)
Quotes like these are probably the most controversial part of the book, marking Walker out as a target by showing compassion for the struggles and sufferings of a highly stigmatized minority population which lacks a large base of popular support. As Walker discusses in chapter 6, subtitled “Towards a shift in attitudes,” in 2018 online popular platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter began systematically removing accounts which expressed support for non-offending MAPs, including Allyn’s own researcher account on Tumblr. This significantly reduced the possibilities for MAPs to find online support to live law-abiding lives and to have non-hostile discussion of minor-attraction conducive to good mental health.
In chapter 4, under the heading “Motivations for not offending,” Walker details their surprise that the majority of MAPs avoided illegal eroticism with minors for the same reason: to avoid harming minors. Walker explores what they title “pro-choice” (or “pro-c”) versus “anti-contact” (or “anti-c”) MAPs.
The interesting point for laypeople and researchers who are not familiar with the internal debates and politics of MAP spaces, is that MAPs agreed that not harming children was their primary motivation, but disagreed about what would cause harm. Walker summarizes this as a gap between MAPs who identified as “pro choice” versus “anti contact.” Once again, being faithful to the book’s informants, Walker notes that pro-choice MAPs felt anti-contact MAPs who labelled them “pro-contact,” were smearing and misrepresenting them, attempting to de-legitimize their arguments. Throughout the chapter, Walker therefore uses the term “pro-choice.”
A central debate in MAP communities to be aware of, anti-contact MAPs argue that even in a hypothetical future society where cross-generational eroticism within a MAPs’ age / developmental stage of attraction were legally / socially acceptable, they as MAPs would not engage in such activity and it would be wrong to do so. By contrast, pro-choice MAPs, Walker explains, pointed to various empirical / philosophical scholarship which they believed to demonstrate that not all cases of minor-older eroticism were harmful to the younger party, including historical accounts of past societies where such relations were normative and/or tolerated (see our review of Unspeakable here for a case study about Norman Douglas and Victorian Britain).
All MAPs across both camps were adamant that forcing young people to engage in erotic behavior, or behaviors they were unwilling to do, would not be acceptable. However, pro-choice MAPs argued that when mutually willing cross-generational eroticism occurs, the harm arises from extrinsic social forces such as social stigma, need for secrecy, and, if discovered, the often adversarial interventions of therapists who may be mandated to overwrite a young person’s initial positive self-perception for the police and legal proceedings.
Walker’s response to pro-choice MAPs is to argue that “pro-choice logic fails to account for developmental differences between children and adults that make young people unable to consent to sexual activity.” (p. 109) Walker’s argument rests on assumptions about developmental differences for which no supportive evidence is provided in the book, and pro-choice MAPs of the kind Walker interviewed would likely find the invocation of this standard argument unconvincing. Nonetheless, Walker does see the pro-choice view as potentially beneficial for crime prevention, writing that “the pro-choice view about ‘sociogenic harm’ has been harnessed by both pro-choice and anti-contact MAPs to convince pro-choice MAPs against committing an offense.” (p. 110) “Aiden,” for example, “pointed to his own empathy as preventing him from acting on his attractions – despite believing that sexual relationships could be possible between adults and minors, he said, ‘I feel too much for [boys]’ to commit an offense that would have harmful aftermath.” (Ibid.)
Conclusion: Shades of Rind?
Walker’s book contributes greatly to our knowledge of the self-perception of law-abiding MAPs, and represents a new standard for the baseline of respect that researchers ought to have when conducting any kind of participant research, especially with stigmatized minorities. After all, why would MAPs want to work with researchers who would twist their words or deny and overwrite their self-perceptions?
Walker’s statement to Prostasia that attraction is morally neutral led to the loss of the author’s employment, yet it is surprising how reasonable is Walker’s book when considered in relation to the hostility expressed online and on the Old Dominion campus. Allyn Walker attests, after all, to be against any occurrence of illegal intergenerational activity a priori.
The Allyn Walker controversy demonstrates that it is not only researchers who are bold enough to report on the realities of mutually willing intergenerational erotic encounters who will risk their careers, such as historian Amanda Littauer (2020) in her seminal article on lesbian exemplars. One would think that, if any and all intergenerational erotic encounters involving legal minors are what an individual opposes first and foremost, then efforts to assist those who have not engaged in illegal activity to refrain from doing so should be met with encouragement and positive appreciation. In the climate of the 2020s, prevention researchers like Walker – who dare to speak on how stigmatizing MAPs for their attractions can leave them hopeless and internalizing the idea that they are “ticking time-bombs” – also find their careers at risk.
For some, the emotion they have attached to the subject, or the images they have in their head, may make any evidence-based discussion which does not validate their strongly held beliefs beyond the pale. In a three-hour Youtube interview (link) with influential activist Tom O’Carroll, author of multiple scholarly articles, blog posts at his personal website (link), and the books Paedophilia: The Radical Case (1980, PDF here) and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (2010, review here [Bailey]), respectively, psychology student Danny Whittaker’s reasoned demeanor breaks down by the end of the conversation. Transcribed, Whittaker drops the proverbial “mask” and in a remarkable display of honesty, says the following:
This conversation … it sort of pushes … it’s at the limits of what I thought were my principles. So for instance, like we were just saying about this appeal to emotion and identity politics, […] I’m dead against it. Facts over feelings any day of the week. But then, just then, I’ve quite openly said I’ll throw all those – what I considered principles – out the window. And say that, at an emotional level, I don’t care what the facts are, I’ve got my emotional response.
Whittaker remarks, “It’s good for the academics and the nice little studies that show it’s not harmful […] good for all these radical left-wingers that want sexual emancipation for everyone […] I don’t care […] Even if you could prove to me, sort of Minority Report-style that it wouldn’t be harmful, I’m not going to allow that to happen. That’s never going to happen.” He closes this segment with a powerful statement: “I just think it’s one of those topics that, […] the emotion kicks in at such a high level, I don’t know that anyone’s ever going to get past it.”
While Whittaker’s evidently distressing imagining of that is never described for the interviewee or the viewers, his sentiment echoes Diederik F. Janssen, MD, a cultural anthropologist who has produced the largest cross-cultural anthropological survey of youth and intergenerational sexuality ever conducted (2002). “Society,” he wrote, “will not be checkmated by the facts of life” (2013).
After the Rind et al. controversy some two decades ago, multiple scholarly articles dissected the condemned paper, with one bearing the telling title “Politically Incorrect, Scientifically Correct.” (2000) Influential queer theorist Kathryn Bond Stockton, after discussing the controversy in her 2009 book The Queer Child, neatly captures this disturbing zeal to cast out evidence. “Congress,” Stockton notes, “has acted only once to resolve against science: in order to say that children must be harmed.” (p. 70) In the fallout over Walker’s research into preventing legally defined CSA, the Anglophone masses appear to have voiced their preferred outcome.