by Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D.
December 8, 2021
Americans are awakening to the call to protect children from being sexualized. Following the national news coverage of local school board meetings in Virginia, many U.S. citizens are shocked to learn that today’s elementary school lessons include material that would make most adults blush. Whether or not you are a parent, it is stomach-turning to learn that our taxpayer dollars have been used to make sexually explicit materials available in school libraries and attendance to pornographic sex-ed lessons mandatory.
The alarm rang even louder when we found out that government officials were willing to assign weighty terms like “terrorist” to parents wanting to protect their children from being sexualized. When a government is willing to use labels that pack the capacity to bypass our liberties while giving tremendous latitude to authorities to investigate a supposed threat to the homeland, it begs the question: Why is propagating sexual material to children so valuable to the government? Why do these officials remain recalcitrant to the rebukes from their historically favored voting block? Most importantly, where does this slippery slope end?
Until this past month, most of the public could only speculate where the institutionalized sexualization of our children would lead. In case you missed it, in November, we got a peek into some of the current academic discourse when a professor from Old Dominion University in Virginia, Allyn Walker, suggested that having sexual desire for children isn’t wrong. Rather, Walker suggested we should use a less stigmatizing term such as “Minor-Attracted People” (MAPS) instead of the word “pedophile.”
As someone who worked in a clinical setting with people who were sexually abused and some who went on to act out that same abuse, I know the importance of providing a place to talk without affirming thoughts that could prove detrimental to a child. This is a boundary that should not be moved, not even in theory. It is troubling that any serious academic institution would be willing to diminish, even in terminology, the horror that should be associated with any expression of violation against a child.
Public outrage over the comments resulted in Walker’s resignation. Pressure needs to remain high on any institution willing to relax the stigma of pedophilia and lead us down the slope to its acceptance.
Although Walker’s story might be new to the public at large, it’s important to keep in mind that the road to normalizing pedophilia is, unfortunately, not a new discourse in the institutions of higher education. For years, many have turned a blind eye to the pedophilia of scholars like Michael Foucault, who had exploits with minors in Northern Africa and was also a proponent of lowering the age of consent.
And then there was Dr. John Money, the academic psychiatrist whose work added to the current conceptualization of gender roles and transgender theory, which influenced diagnostic terms in the manual for mental disorders (DSM). Let’s not forget his therapeutic methods, which are best known in the case of David Reimer and his brother. Money’s supposed clinical acumen involved simulating and photographing sex acts with the brothers. At Money’s recommendation, David’s family was counseled to raise him as a girl and “reassign” his sex, but David never felt like a girl and later chose to live with his biological sex. In the end, he committed suicide. By all accounts, this decision was influenced by the early therapeutic endeavors of Money.
If no other moral standard exists within the research community, at minimum, one would hope that academics could hold fast to the edicts contained in the Nuremberg Code or the Research Act of 1974, which outline the conduct for a humane class of researchers engaged in the scientific method for the betterment of society. Both include special protections for children. Instead, what we’ve learned is that unbridled curiosity has mostly remained unchecked in the ivory tower, and some scientists are exploring lines of inquiry about children that should remain unthinkable.
By the way, this is not a uniquely North American trend down the slope to pedophilia. More recently, it was revealed that the German government had doled out funding to the Kentler Project. This study began in the 1970s with a 30-year agenda that placed homeless children with known pedophiles. Helmut Kentler, the chief scientific investigator of the project, held that sexual interactions between children and adults were benign and perhaps even beneficial to the homeless youth.
Thankfully, in this recent debacle with the defamed professor, we have one instance where the slide down the slope was quickly stopped. Let this case serve as a wake-up call and an alarm that keeps us awake. This kind of discourse must not germinate in the darkness of academic silos. It must be called out into the light.