By Jonathon Van Maren
Over the past few months, there appears to have been a rise in people attempting to start a conversation about “destigmatizing” pedophilia. A couple of months ago, we covered the story of a transgender-identifying professor seeking to “destigmatize” pedophilia in her book The Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity. Alyn Walker wants people to use the term “minor-attracted people” (MAPs) rather than the term “pedophile” because it has fewer negative connotations and makes the case that sexuality is fluid while avoiding addressing the question of whether she considers pedophilia to be simply another sexual orientation.
In January, USA Today chimed in with an article by reporter Alia Dastagir on pedophilia with a similar perspective, advocating for “destigmatizing the attraction” and making the case that it is “among the most misunderstood,” noting that “[r]esearchers who study pedophilia say the term describes an attraction, not an action, and using it interchangeably with ‘abuse’ fuels misperceptions about pedophiles.” The paper deleted a series of tweets after facing a backlash.
Now, it may be true that the microphone of social media is simply drawing our attention to these individual instances, and rather than a trend we’re just seeing academics who would have usually flown under the radar having their work exposed in public. But with the Netflix film Cuties; the phenomenon of “drag kids” (which has been cited by a pedophilia advocate as beneficial to his cause); and the ongoing sexualization of children in entertainment — not to mention the belief that sexualized performers such as drag queens are appropriate as entertainment for children — it all seems ominously disturbing.
Another viral instance of this has now surfaced. Dr. Stephen Kershnar, a SUNY Fredonia professor, has been suspended after an investigation into video of Kershnar asserting that opposition to pedophilia is “a mistake” and that there are “evolutionary advantages to child/adult sex.” Kershnar teaches libertarian philosophy (no surprise) and applied ethics (you’ve got to be kidding me). His comments provoked a massive backlash from students that contributed to his suspension.
Kerhsnar actually believes that sexual relationships between children an adults can be a good thing. Here are his views, in his own words:
Imagine that an adult male wants to have sex with a 12-year-old girl. Imagine that she’s a willing participant. A very standard, very widely held view is that there’s something deeply wrong about this. It’s wrong independent of it being criminalized.
It’s not obvious to me that it’s in fact wrong. I think this is a mistake. And I think exploring that why it’s a mistake will tell us not only things about adult/sex and statutory rape and also fundamental principles of morality … The notion that it’s wrong even with a one-year-old is not quite obvious to me.