The latest hiring decided by the Moore Center for Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, a child abuse research center belonging to one of the world's leading universities, the American Johns Hopkins University, has caused a stir. The Moore Center has in fact decided to hire Allyn Walker. The name will not say much to many readers, and so a parenthesis must be opened to explain why the choice is causing a stir.
Who is Allyn Walker
Allyn Walker is a "transgender" woman, meaning she identifies as a man, but "nonbinary" (and therefore speaks of herself as "they"). With a Ph.D. in criminal justice, she focuses on the link between criminal activity and social stigma. In 2021 she published a book entitled: A Long Dark Shadow. Minor-attracted people and their pursuit of dignity.
The work in question distinguishes between pedophiles who commit child abuse and those who, restraining their impulses, abstain from it. The author's thesis is that the latter do not deserve to be stigmatized as pedophiles, a term that obviously has a very negative meaning, but that they should be narrated and understood. The same arguments were expressed by her in an interview published online, which was followed by a wave of controversy and her resignation from the university where she worked.
After a few months of "purgatory," here is Dr. Walker's return to academia, with an even more prestigious position related precisely to the topic of pedophilia.
Pedophilia and Overton Window
The issue raised by Allyn Walker is not new and is indeed gaining momentum in recent years. Articles devoted to "non-practicing" pedophiles, how one should respect and appreciate them, and why pedophilia should not be criminalized per se, can be found on the BBC website, in the "New York Times," or in "Salon," to name a few. Even in the academic world, Walker is not a rare bird: instead, studies are multiplying that one should avoid "stigmatizing" pedophiles as such.
What is going on? It is happening that we are facing a classic case of the "Overton window." According to the American political scientist Joseph Overton, there is a window within which there are ideas considered "acceptable" by society, tolerated therefore even by those who do not share them. Ideas outside this window are considered "extremist" and not accepted in public debate.
From this Overton window idea, there has been a move to theorize how an idea that is currently radical can succeed in becoming accepted by society, or even become majority. It is a scale of perceptions, whereby one goes from seeing an idea as unthinkable to seeing it as radical, then acceptable, then popular and, at that point, translated into practice by politics.
How pedophilia is being normalized
The assertion that someone wants to normalize pedophilia will be taken by many as mere "conspiracy theory." The label is far less overwhelming than it used to be, if only because it has been years since seemingly conspiratorial predictions ended up coming true within a short time, at such a rate that it has taken us in two years from the "forbidden to forbid" society to government decrees arbitrarily determining who can work or eat in restaurants.
Already in the recent past we have seen minority sexual behavior go from (barely) tolerated to widely publicized status. A little over sixty years ago a bill was being introduced in the Italian Parliament to punish homosexual acts. Until at least the 1980s, the caricature of the gay man, or rather the "frocio," was a hit in Italian cinema, an object of derision at best, of execration at worst. Today an altercation in which the contender's homosexual preferences are derogatorily emphasized becomes an immediate subject of crime news. Homosexual civil unions have been in place since 2006, and there is a growing push to arrive at gay marriage fully equated with traditional marriage. Surrogacy is prohibited on domestic soil but the administrative and judicial apparatuses have already taken steps to legalize it de facto if the child is purchased abroad.
Homosexuality is no longer simply "tolerated," but is "normalized," that is, seen as an option indistinguishable from heterosexual practice, neither less or more natural and no less or more normal. If in the 1960s it was scandalous to assert that homosexuality was a normal thing, it would be scandalous to assert the opposite today. So much so that the flaunted law against "homophobia" that the Left advocates actually serves more to impose gender ideology than to protect a homosexuality already fully accepted by the public.
What we have said -we make this clear in order to avoid misunderstanding and instrumentalization- does not mean that we morally equate homosexuality and pedophilia. The former involves two consenting adults, while the latter is not possible without an act of violence by an adult on a child. Ethically they are not even comparable. But even homosexuality, a century ago, was frowned upon by public opinion almost as much as pedophilia is today: for that reason, its path to normalization may offer us clues as to what pedophiles are trying to do today.
A movement from afar
After all, pedophiles themselves tried in the past to infiltrate and ride the gay movement to legitimize their orientation. In the 1960s and 1970s, discourses on sexual liberalization included, in some cases, the proposal to admit pedophilia. Mario Mieli, one of the most representative and influential figures of gay activism in Italy (an influential "circle of homosexual culture" is still named after him), put in writing that "we revolutionary queers [...] can make love [with children]" to save them from "sexual repression." In Germany there was a wide-ranging internal debate within the Sixty-Eight Left about the legitimacy of pedophilia, and a pro-pedophilia current was active and influential within the Green Party (the same one in government today) in the 1980s. In 1977, France's most influential "postmodern" intellectuals -from Michel Foucault to Gilles Deleuze, from Jacques Derrida to Jean-Paul Sartre- addressed a petition to the French Parliament calling for the cancellation of the Age of Consent law. The stated goal was not to legitimize pedophilia, but to allow homosexual relations with teenagers (then the age of consent for this type of relationship was set at 18). The fact is that over the next two years a couple of letters signed by progressive intellectuals came out, the first in support of indicted who had engaged in homosexual intercourse with a 13-year-old, the second of a pedophile who practiced with children between the ages of 6 and 12.
Still more examples could be given, but what is certain is that that push to legitimize pedophilia in the wake of Sixty-Eight failed. Since the 1990s at least, pedophilia has been seen by the vast majority of people as an abomination, and few have dared to challenge that judgment.
Destigmatizing pedophiles to legitimize pedophilia
Today it seems that some are making a comeback, but with more refined tactics. Gone is the open appeal to the "revolutionary" and "anti-bourgeois" valence that is allegedly inherent, according to these dastardly doctrines, in pedophilia. Today they consistently proceed with the method of the Overton window. An attempt is underway to present pedophilia as "harmless." At a superficial glance, the argument makes sense: no one chooses to be sexually aroused by children, it is a condition that does not depend on the will of the individual, and therefore if such an individual voluntarily refrains from any pedophilic practices, why blame him?
Right, but think about that for a moment. We cannot read minds: we cannot know a person's sexual urges unless he or she puts them into practice or communicates them to us. Pedophilia is already recognized as a mental disorder: a pedophile can go to a psychiatrist and get medical help, with the secrecy guaranteed by professional doctor-patient confidentiality.
No pedophile who refrains from displaying his or her urges should therefore be afraid of being stigmatized. Who needs to destigmatize pedophilia -if not those who want, at the very least, to communicate it to the outside world?
Founder and President of Centro Studi Machiavelli. Graduated in Historical Sciences (University of Milan) and PhD in Political Studies (Sapienza University), he is professor of "History and doctrine of jihadism" and "Geopolitics of the Middle East" at Cusano University. From 2018 to 2019 he was Special Advisor on Immigration and Terrorism to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Guglielmo Picchi. His latest book (as editor) is Topicality of sovereignism. Between pandemic and war.