Harris George Mirkin (24 August 1936 – 30 May 2013) was a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia from 1962 to 1964, and earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1967.
Mirkin wrote "The Pattern of Sexual Politics," published in 1999 in the Journal of Homosexuality. The article pointed out how some other cultures, sex between children and adults was permissible or even encouraged, and that the current societal view of pedophiles is comparable to how women and gay men were viewed in the past. It further identified how the present taboo on pedophilia was a social construction, and that pedophiles might be close to achieving progress in their fight for acceptance.
This prompted the Missouri House of Representatives to reduce the university's budget by the amount of Mirkin's salary, as a gesture of non-support for Mirkin's work. Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand criticized the legislature's action as harmful to academic freedom, stating that error is a necessary part of the process. Menand further criticized Mirkin's article, calling it silly, and compared cultures that accepted pedophilia to the many cultures that accepted slavery. He also stated that it is the prohibition of pedophilia that is part of civil and sexual freedom, including the freedom of children from adults who hold authority over them.
In 1998, Mirkin had been flagged up by the Washington Examiner, alongside a number of other academics at a World Pornography Conference:
When one views one's perversions with scholarly detachment, it seems, all things become permissible. The only genre denounced at the conference is child pornography -- except at the child-pornography panel. There, Harris Mirkin, a political scientist from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, asserts there is no real evidence that children are harmed by being photographed naked.
Meanwhile, David Sonenschein, formerly of the Kinsey Institute, illustrates the supposed ludicrousness of child-pornography restrictions by showing us a photograph once forced out of an exhibition. In the picture, a cherubic, naked two-year-old grabs and explores the penis of the photographer, who is reclining naked on a bed.
I ask Vern Bullough, the center's founder, whether he is bothered by such a display, especially since the photographer wasn't the child's father. "I think it's one of those gray areas," Bullough says, adding that it is "very educational. . . . We ought to [let children] explore."
In a 2013 book chapter which documented attacks on researchers of stigmatized / unlawful age-gap sex contact, Foucauldian academic Richard Yuill discussed Mirkin's controversy and quoted his reaction from their correspondence. The chapter appears in Censoring Sex Research (2013), titled Intergenerational Sexualities: A Case Study on the Colonization of Late Modern Sexual Subjects and Researcher Agendas.
- Pattern of Sexual Politics (copy) - Journal of Homosexuality.
- The Social, Political, and Legal Construction of the Concept of Child Pornography
- Sex, Science and Sin - The Rind Report