State University Prof Defends Pedophilia in Videos, Has Long Record of Endorsing 'Adult-Child Sex'


In 2001, three years into his time at the State University of New York at Fredonia, philosophy professor Stephen Kershnar wrote a paper titled “The moral status of harmless adult-child sex.”

Even though the assumption there’s such a thing as “harmless adult-child sex” is necessarily appalling, it didn’t lead to his firing. Four years later, he received a promotion to full professor, according to his CV. In 2013, he became the chair of the department of philosophy at SUNY Fredonia. In 2015, he wrote a book titled “Pedophilia and Adult–Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis.” According to an Amazon description, while pedophilia “intuitively strikes many people as sick, disgusting and wrong,” this poses a philosophical issue because “it is not clear whether these judgments are justified and whether they are aesthetic or moral.”

Despite this, it wasn’t until video circulated of Kershnar on a podcast comparing pedophilia to being a “willing” participant in kickball and saying he wasn’t sure sex with a 1-year-old was morally wrong that the university took action against him — relieving him of on-campus duties, according to Campus Reform.

The controversy comes only three months after a professor at Old Dominion University called for the destigmatization of pedophiles — while insisting that she wanted “to be extremely clear that child sexual abuse is never ever OK.” Kershnar didn’t even go this far. (This is what we’re dealing with in academia — and we’re dedicated to fighting it here at The Western Journal. You can help us in our fight by subscribing.)

Kershnar made the remarks on the “Brain in a Vat” philosophy podcast, originally published on Jan. 30. The episode dealt with sexual taboos, and Kershnar had some … thoughts on “adult-child sex.”

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“Imagine that an adult male wants to have sex with a twelve-year-old girl. Imagine that she’s a willing participant,” he said.

“A very standard, very widely held view that there’s something deeply wrong about this, and it’s wrong independent of it being criminalized,” he continued. “It’s not obvious to me that is in fact wrong. I think this is a mistake, and I think that exploring why it’s a mistake will tell us not only things about adult-child sex and statutory rape, but also about fundamental principles of morality.”

WARNING: The following videos contain graphic subject matter that some viewers will find offensive.

In a second clip, Kershnar had trouble even imagining a threshold he would accept as an age of consent.

“The notion that it’s wrong even with a 1-year-old is not quite obvious to me,” he said.

“There are reports in some cultures of grandmothers fellating the baby boys to calm them down when they’re colicky,” he said, adding he didn’t know which culture this was or if the reports were accurate. However, “if it were to be true, it would be hard to see what would be wrong with it.”

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He later said, “I don’t think it’s blanket wrong at any age” for children to have sex. As for the consent argument, he compared sex to kickball or religious instruction, where kids are able to consent by showing up:

By the way, you may think the difference between these two is that a child is being coerced into going to these things by their parents and sex shouldn’t involve coercion, making it an inapt metaphor — sadly, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Kershnar, either. Here he is with Occidental College philosophy professor Thaddeus Russell in a 2020 podcast in which he says, “We make children do all sorts of things that we want them to do.”

During that interview, he also said young teens are “designed by evolution to begin reproduction at that period. So if they’re designed by evolution to begin reproduction, it’s not clear why it would be physically either harmful or emotionally harmful.”

Of course, the argument being made by Kershnar and his defenders is that these clips are being taken Out Of Context™. These defenders included Thaddeus Russell, who said the discussion was about age of consent laws, which was what he meant by “adult-child sex.”

That didn’t seem to be the argument either was making in terms of a rights-based defense, however. Furthermore, Kershnar seems to make an argument that the ability to reproduce — which begins on average at 12 for women, according to Healthline — makes an individual emotionally and physically ready for sex with an adult. (Then again, he seems to be unwilling to set any age of consent — because you know, there might be those societies out there with grandmothers helping their grandchildren overcome colic by committing unspeakable acts upon them.)

Furthermore, can you imagine any context in which this would be uttered by anyone in any normal context? At least someone in charge at SUNY Fredonia can’t, which is probably why he’s “being assigned to duties that do not include his physical presence on campus and will not have contact with students” while the university conducts an investigation.

“Please allow me to reiterate my earlier statement that I view the content of the video as absolutely abhorrent,” said SUNY Fredonia President Stephen H. Kolison, Jr. in a statement. “I cannot stress strongly enough that the independent viewpoints of this individual professor are in no way representative of the values of the SUNY Fredonia campus.”

Except they were — until the video went viral last week, that is. Kershnar has a record of advocating for “adult-child sex” as being morally defensible within a philosophical construct going back to 2001 — not just on podcasts, but in academic papers and even a book.

In that 2001 paper, he made it clear in the abstract that “I reject accounts of the moral wrongfulness of adult-child sex that rest on the absence of consent, concerns about adult exploitation of children, and the existence of a morally primitive duty against such sex.”

Should this professor be fired?

After publishing it, he was promoted to full professor, then to chair of the department of philosophy.

Did no one at SUNY Fredonia do a cursory search on what he’d been publishing for the last two decades before last week? Or was it OK until the rest of the world had a look at it?

Whichever it is, the whole thing is an “absolutely abhorrent” slice of taxpayer-funded academia we won’t soon forget, try as we might.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture