Minor Attracted Person – A Troubling Phrase Causing Controversy

Allyn Walker coins term minor attracted person Horowitz Law

Minor attracted person, a disturbing phrase used by Dr. Allyn Walker to describe a pedophile or sex abuser to minors. What if we called murderers “life takers?” Or embezzlers “money shifters?” What if we used the term “others’ property preferrers” for purse-snatchers? Obviously, these phrases are awkward and confusing. Worse, they are a disservice to crime victims and contrary to the truth.

Why do we feel this way? In large part, because they mask or minimize the pain caused by these crimes. What on earth prompted us to even conjure up these odd terms? It was an Associated Press article headlined “Professor Gets New Job After Pedophilia Research Caused Stir.”

The no-doubt-harried headline writer missed the mark a tad here. Apparently, the ‘stir’ was less about the ‘research’ and more about the terminology used by the professor.  The researcher, Dr. Allyn Walker,  used the phrase “Minor Attracted Persons (MAPs)” to describe adults who are sexually attracted to kids. A book Walker wrote called “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity” led to “a controversial interview” that provoked “an outcry on campus and social media as well as the threat of violence.  It has also cost them several jobs at universities. In their work, Walker stresses that not every adult who is attracted to kids violates kids, so it would be unfair to label people who never offend with the same terms as sex offenders and predators.

In fairness, we at Horowitz Law believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, even those who have perpetrated horrible crimes against the most vulnerable.  We also accept the notion that some grown-ups who are sexually drawn to kids manage to not act on these dangerous impulses. Those individuals should not be called “child molesters” unless they actually molest children.

But there’s got to be a more accurate word or phrase than “minor-attracted persons” in this scenario – one that does not minimize the risks posed by such persons nor the devastation caused by such persons who ACT on those attractions.

Euphemisms Minimizing the Seriousness of Child Sexual Abuse Aren’t New

Some years ago, US Catholic bishops started calling various types of child abuse and child sexual abuse “boundary violations.” Some of us here at Horowitz Law laughed out loud when we heard this phrase. One staffer said, “I thought a ‘boundary violation’ was when a stranger stood too close to me in an elevator.”

But of course, that was the goal of the new term minor attracted person is to use the term in media and public relations campaigns to suggest that someone was made to feel slightly annoyed or uncomfortable by a pervert priest’s actions, rather than suggesting an innocent child was (or was made to feel) severely violated and deeply harmed.

The same bishops often make a distinction between ‘pedophilia’ and ‘ephebophilia’ for the exact same reasons – as if the sexual abuse of older children is not as serious as it is for younger children. Wikipedia tells us that ephebophilia is “the primary sexual interest in mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19.” So it’s an actual word. In clinical settings, it’s probably helpful, because it’s precise. But in regular settings, with the general public, bishops, their lawyers, and their public relations staffers clearly believe that ‘rape’ rightly generates anger and disgust, while ‘boundary violations’ provokes less anger and disgust.

Back to Professor Walker for a moment. We understand a desire to make sure no one demonizes those with enough control not to offend – at least not yet. But to call murderers “life takers” or calling purse-snatchers “others’ property preferrers” is bad. And calling adults who are sexually attracted to kids “minor-attracted persons” seems to be on the edge of a slippery slope that leads to downplaying the horrors of child sex crimes, particularly since there is no guarantee that a “MAP” won’t eventually offend.

For Horowitz Law, it’s always better safe than sorry when it comes to kids.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped, or sexually molested by a person in a position of trust or authority, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer, Adam Horowitz, at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.