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Text of Heather Peterson: Origins of "Minor Attracted Adult"
The following was submitted on January 16th, 2022, by Heather Peterson, a former journalist covering interfaith news who was in active dialogue with the Boylove and future MAP community between 1998 and 2002. It is deemed to be a historically accurate, first-hand account of how the term "Minor Attracted Adult" (and by extension "Minor Attracted Person") came into use, and will help supplement our research article on the origins of these often-used terms.
I'm not aware of anyone using the term minor-attracted adult before I did, though it's such an obvious coinage that it's possible someone did at some point. (I did a keyword search at Google, Google Books, and a couple of e-book libraries I belong to, but nothing came up earlier than the 2007 book I mention below.) I described my reasons for coining the term in this September 2000 article:
The reasons were journalistic: I was frustrated that all the other terms being used journalistically had problems attached to them.
I've checked back in my records, and it appears that the first time I used the term "minor-attracted adult" in public was in a post to BoyChat on October 19, 1998. This was at the time that I was putting together the first of my websites at philianews.org: Unconditional Love, which was meant to gather together various resources I'd come across in my research, as well as supplying additional resources.
I was having difficulty finding a term that would be easily understood and would refer to all of the groups I was talking about at that website. But I was sensitive to the fact that it would be impolite to impose a new term on groups I didn't belong to, against their will. So I posted a query at BoyChat, evidently in response to someone else's enquiry about terminology. (I've deleted a couple of passages where I was discussing other people's terminology.)
- An alternative to “pedophile”?
- Posted by Heather on October 19, 1998 at 01:01:12:
- "What a coincidence: I was going to post a request for your advice about this tonight, and I see that everyone's started the conversation already.
- I've been looking for alternatives to the word “pedophile” . . . Whenever I'm talking about boylovers I say “boylover,” but I've been going mad trying to find a word that would apply to boylovers, girllovers, and recovering offenders, when I'm talking about all three groups at once.
- Besides, “pedophile” is so horribly imprecise. Does it mean an adult who has sex with minors? That's how the press defines it. Does it mean an adult who has sex with pre-pubescent children? That's how scientists often define it.
- Recently, I've been using the phrase “adults who are attracted to minors,” which is exactly the group I'm trying to talk about, but that phrase can be too long in some contexts. Then it hit me last night. [A] group I belong to that carries on dialogues about homosexuality was looking for a way to describe all people who were attracted to the opposite sex, whether they were gays or ex-gays; they ended up using the term “same gender attracted.”
- So what do you think of the term “minor-attracted adults”? It sounds a bit silly to my ears, but maybe that's just because I hate neologisms. It certainly says what I'm trying to say. It's more accurate than “child-attracted adult” because there's a lot of dispute over what constitutes a child, and though it does leave teenage boylovers out of the picture, one could always use the term “minor-attracted person” if one wanted to include them.
- Does this strike you as a possible alternative to “pedophile” or am I having too much fun playing with the English language?"
A week later, I reposted this query at another boylove forum, emphasizing:
- "I'm not looking for an alternative to “boylover” – I'm looking for a term to describe boylovers, girllovers, and recovering offenders, when I'm talking about all three groups at once."
I received a very lukewarm reaction at those forums to my query, so I was initially unsure whether I'd just coined a lousy term. There was no giant outcry against my idea, so I went ahead and used the term, but over the months that followed, I kept asking MAAs - boylovers, girllovers, and MAAs in the sexual recovery community - what they thought of the term. I remember that, at one point, I received a lot of good-humored laughter from my respondents. But after everyone had stopped chortling, they conceded that the term might be useful in certain circumstances.
(You'll gather from this that the term didn't make a big splash at the start. I was very much startled when I learned that the term had spread widely.)
I started using the term in correspondence with faith communities, in October 1998. The earliest dated reference I can find to minor-attracted adults at Unconditional Love is from December 1998, which was the month when I first uploaded that site to the web.
That was the same month that the "Not an Oxymoron" article came out at my news e-zine, which also used the term, as you've noted.
You'll see from the above post and the linked web page that the term wasn't intended to refer only to boylovers and girllovers; it was meant as a general term that I could use to refer to any adult who was attracted to minors. And as you can tell from my post, I was conscious from the start that I was leaving out minors who were attracted to younger minors; I suggested "minor-attracted person" as an alternative term for them, though I thought that was too ambiguous a term for general use (since it could also refer to minors of the same age who were attracted to each other). I would very occasionally hear the term minor-attracted person used in the years that followed, usually in reference to (or by) teens, but it didn't catch on while I was a journalist.
"Minor-attracted adult" did catch on, but very, very slowly. It partly spread because I was taking part in various projects for dialogue between MAAs and non-MAAs in 1999 and 2000. However, the term wouldn't have spread beyond me if other people hadn't considered it helpful. It was first used - if I recall correctly - by Christian boylovers; from them, it reached a group of girl-lovers (not just Christian girl-lovers) who found it useful because they wanted a term that referred to both them and boylovers. They began saying "minor-attracted adult" a lot at forums, before the term was used much by boylovers.
Incidentally, I cannot for the life of me remember who first abbreviated the term to MAA. It sounds like something I might have done, but I can't find any record of me using that term in public earlier than November 11, 2001 (when I used "MAAs" in a post).
You mention Richard Kramer in your article. He learned of the term minor-attracted adults through me; he was one of the first people who heard me use the term, back in 1998.
I left journalism in 2002 for health reasons, so that's all I know about the development of the term minor-attracted adult, except that the first time I heard the term used by the news media (other than at my own websites) was when this book came out:
- Understanding and Addressing Adult Sexual Attraction to Children: A Study of Paedophiles in Contemporary Society
The researcher evidently picked up the term from MAAs themselves. My vague recollection is that the book got a fair amount of publicity, which may have helped to spread the term.
What I want to emphasize is that I wasn't trying to be euphemistic when I coined the term "minor-attracted adult" in 1998; nor was I trying to replace terms already in use. I was simply seeking a clear, unambiguous, inoffensive term for my own journalistic use. I'm pleased that other folks have found the term (and its variation, minor-attracted person) to be helpful.