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'Absolutely abhorrent': Prof reassigned after appearing to say there's nothing wrong with adult-child sex; won't have contact with students amid probe

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Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @MythinformedMKE

The philosophy professor from State University of New York at Fredonia who appeared to say in a video interview that he sees nothing immoral about sex between adults and children has been reassigned and won't have contact with students amid an internal investigation.

The college on Thursday tweeted a message from its president, Stephen H. Kolison Jr., saying the reassignment includes "duties that do not include his physical presence on campus" and that the professor "will not have contact with students while the investigation is ongoing."

Kolison — who in a previous message called the professor's words "reprehensible" — reiterated that sentiment Thursday, saying the video's content is "absolutely abhorrent."

What's the background?

WIVB-TV reported that video clips in question appear to show philosophy professor Stephen Kershnar discussing sex between adults and children. In the clips Kershnar seems to make it clear he finds nothing immoral about adult-child sex.

Here's one clip. There is no obvious origin or context for the clip at present, and there appears to be a single cut in the video of him speaking:

He says, "Imagine that an adult male wants to have sex with a 12-year-old girl. Imagine that she's a willing participant. [cut] A very standard, very widely held view that there's something deeply wrong with this, and it's wrong independent of it being criminalized. It's not obvious to me that it is, in fact, wrong; I think this is a mistake. And I think 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."

The above video also can be viewed here as the first in a string of related interview clips appearing to feature Kershnar.

What else do we know about the professor?

Kershnar also has written about adult-child sex. The abstract for his article titled "The Moral Status of Adult-Child Sex" in the April 2001 issue of Public Affairs Quarterly reads as follows: "Nonforcible adult-child sex is thought to be morally wrong in part because it is nonconsensual. In this paper I argue against this notion. In particular, 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."

SUNY Fredonia's bio on Kershnar indicates he's written about "such diverse topics as abortion, adult-child sex, hell, most valuable player, pornography, punishment, sexual fantasies, slavery, and torture. He is the author of ten books, including Desert Collapses: Why No One Deserves Anything (2021), Total Collapse: The Case Against Morality and Responsibility (2018), and Abortion, Hell, and Shooting Abortion-Doctors: Does the Pro-Life Worldview Make Sense? (2017)."

Kershnar also authored 2015's “Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis,” according to WIVB.

And in a two-hour-plus video interview dated Dec. 5, 2020, Kershnar delved into a variety of topics, including adult-child sex. Kershnar — who can be seen on the left side of the screen — says he got interested in the topic because he was exploring "whether or not an act is wrong because it's harmful."

He goes on to note three basic arguments against adult-child sex — harm, infringement of rights, exploitation — and said that "none of these [arguments] convinced me."

Unregistered 142: Stephen Kershnar (VIDEO) youtu.be

'One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen here on campus'

On Wednesday, WIVB-TV interviewed students on the SUNY Fredonia campus, and the station said they expressed disgust with the professor’s statements.

“I think the video honestly is one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen here on campus, and anyone who says or does the things like that should not be in a position of power,” freshman Robert Kryger told WIVB.

Another freshman, Hayley Mercer, added to the station that "Fredonia has called him a distinguished professor, he’s gotten hundreds of awards and I just don’t understand how they let somebody rise to such a high level of respect when he’s degraded women in situations like this."

A change.org petition calling for Kershnar's firing has attracted more than 13,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

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