This professor's comments about pedophilia, statutory rape are causing national controversy

A video clip that shows University of New Hampshire professor David Finkelhor speaking about children initiating sexual activities with adults is currently going viral.

The lecture titled 'Sex Crimes against Juveniles Involving Elements of Voluntary Participation: Implications for Prevention and Response' was hosted by the Haruv Institute.

A video clip that shows University of New Hampshire professor David Finkelhor speaking about children initiating sexual activities with adults is currently going viral.

“If young people are initiating sexual activities with adults, or enthusiastically involved, we can't be effective in working with them if we assume that all such relationships start with a predatory or criminally inclined adult,” Finkelhor said in a March 23 talk.

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The lecture titled “Sex Crimes against Juveniles Involving Elements of Voluntary Participation: Implications for Prevention and Response” was hosted by the Haruv Institute and “addresses the portion of the child sexual abuse problem in which offenders mobilize elements of voluntary participation among victims, particularly among teens” according to its description.

Finkelhor, the Director of the school’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, gave several examples of “voluntary” sexual activities between adults and children.

He described an affair between a 33-year-old divorced school teacher and her best friend’s 15-year-old son that resulted in the woman giving the boy beer and then going to a local park to have sex in her car. He additionally described an incident of a prostitute being arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old boy and gave another example of a girl who was found to be selling nude images of herself online to adults.

He further cited a study that reported that 13% of girls in the US reported their first sexual experience being with an adult male at least three years older, many of which were with men eight or more years older. Finkelhor described these experiences as “voluntary, non-coercive.”

The University of New Hampshire sociology professor explained that “voluntariness” can be a “spectrum” which can include a child being manipulated, or “it can be about actual curiosity, the child has to discover sex, or these do things that adults do,” he said. 

“It can actually represent a very enthusiastic kind of participation on the part of the child who really feels very positively about the adult and sees themselves as wanting to have some kind of relationship and it can actually involve the act of initiatory seduction of an adult by a juvenile,” he continued.

This led Finkelhor to say that one cannot assume that all relationships between adults and children start with a “predatory or criminally inclined adult,” noting that “even the most voluntary of these relationships are considered sex crimes.” 

Finkelhor admits that many sex offenders use this “voluntariness” to “delude themselves” and that “discussions of voluntary relationships, to some people, opens the door for ex-offenders to feel like this is something that they can do.”

He explained that the reasons for having laws on the age of consent “seem to me to be very well rooted and grounded in morality and in child development,” but also noted that it is “bad” to tell kids they can be prosecuted for sending nude pictures to adults. Instead, he proposed explaining the legal implications for the adult receiving the photographs.

When asked by a member of the audience when it is okay to intervene in a female child’s life if she is sending nude pictures to adult men, Finkelhor said “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

He continued, “It does seem to me that you have to, you know, take into account all the things that can happen, but you may need to dissociate yourself from just making moral judgments about what's going on too.”

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After the popular Twitter account LibsofTikTok posted the clip online the post reached over 7,000 likes, 2,600 retweets, and almost 900 replies. Many were quick to defend or admonish the professor.

Co-Founder of Wikipedia Larry Sanger was among the Twitter users who replied to the tweet.

When Campus Reform reached out to Finkelhor for clarification on his comments, he maintained "I am NOT in favor of decriminalizing adults who have sex with juveniles," noting "All the adults in my examples should have been subject to criminal penalties."

Campus Reform reached out to the University of New Hampshire and Haruv Institute for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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