For years, claims have spread online about a flag alleged to show pride for minor-attracted persons, often referred to as "MAPs" for short.
In May 2023, we found claims surrounding the term on various social media platforms. Many of the claims related to perceived connections between the LGBTQ+ community and MAPs. We found claims that included:
- Democrats and/or LGBTQ+ people supposedly created a flag that represents MAPs (found on Twitter).
- The colors blue, pink, and white on typical pride flags supposedly represent MAPs (found on Twitter).
- The colors of a MAPs flag supposedly stand for attraction to young boys, young girls, transgender children, and virginity overall (found on Facebook).
We previously wrote about the flag in July 2018. As claims about the so-called "MAPs pride flag" began to pick up steam again, we decided to revisit the topic.
What Does the Term 'Minor-Attracted Persons' (MAPs) Mean in the First Place?
A January 2022 research article published in the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior used the term "minor-attracted persons'' to mean "individuals who have sexual attractions to infants, prepubescent children, and children who are in the early stages of puberty."
Lawyers and victims' rights advocates have objected to the term, saying "minor attracted persons" minimizes the impact and devastation that pedophilia has on sexual abuse survivors. (Merriam-Webster defines pedophilia as a "sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object, specifically a psychiatric disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child.")
Where Does the Term 'Minor-Attracted Persons' Come From?
The similar term "minor-attracted adult" can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. For example, that term was described in a 2000 blog post on the defunct website Philia News, which stated it offered "interfaith and secular material that will be of interest to minor-attracted adults and to other people seeking information about pedophilia and pederasty."
Adults who are attracted to minors are referred to as minor-attracted adults, a term which may smack of political correctness to some, but which describes precisely the indicated group.
By 2007, the phrase "minor-attracted person" had entered the language. For example, it appeared in the comments section of a 2007 article from The Guardian about Jonathan King, who was convicted of sexually assaulting five teenage boys in 2001.
A September 2022 research article published in the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior about the terms people sexually attracted to children used to describe themselves said that the number of articles using the term "minor-attracted persons" had grown quickly since 2017. The article said researchers had adopted the term in their writing, either to replace specific terms like pedophilia or as a catch-all term for people sexually attracted to minors.
Do 'Minor-Attracted Persons' Use a Flag To Represent Themselves?
In 2018, a gradient flag first posted on Tumblr became widely known as "the MAPs flag." Posted by a user who went by the name Stenna, the person claimed to have created the flag in honor of Pride Month because non-offending minor-attracted persons (NOMAPs) didn't have their own flag. (NOMAPs were defined by University of Portsmouth researchers in 2019 as individuals who are attracted to minors but abstained from sexual offending — "non-offending minor-attracted persons.") This is a screenshot of that post:
We found reports that some people who identify as MAPs do use that flag online.
In 2019, for example, the international news agency AFP interviewed a MAP who said he knew several people that used the flag. He told AFP:
It's still not by any means a universally accepted part of the MAP community or anything like that. I have mixed feelings about it. I'm wary of people assuming that it's malicious, trying to get at the LGBT community, but as far as visual symbols go I think it can be useful and it's a good-looking flag.
Many of the posts we found on social media platforms discussing the claim included images of the flag. According to the 2018 Tumblr post, the colors on the flag are blue, pink, white, and yellow, and represent the following:
The top two stripes are blue to represent NOMAPs attracted to young boys. The bottom two stripes are pink to represent NOMAPS attracted to young girls. The inner stripes are yellow to represent childhood and general attraction to minors, regardless of their gender. The middle stripe is white to represent our innocence and unwillingness to offend.
Are the Same Colors on 'MAP Flags' Found on Ordinary Pride Flags?
There is no evidence the colors on widely used Pride flags represent minor-attracted persons. The white, blue, and pink on modern Pride flags represent the transgender community, as reported by reputable sources like Reuters and PolitiFact.
For reference, here is a common Pride flag, with its recognizable rainbow spectrum of colors, known as the "Progress Pride" flag. In addition to the white, blue, and pink colors on one edge, brown and black are also on the flag to represent people of color:
(Mike Kemp/Contributor, Getty Images)
On the original blog post, it stated the person who created the blog used they/she pronouns. However, this doesn't mean the person was part of, or represented, the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, no political affiliations were listed on the original blog. There is no evidence to link the creator of the flag to any U.S. political party, including the Democratic party (which was one of the frequently stated claims we mentioned above).
There's No Link Between MAPs or Pedophilia and the LGBTQ+ Community
As we've reported before, there is no broad link between pedophilia and the LGBTQ+ community. We reported in 2016 that no LGBTQ+ organization has ever come out in favor of pedophilia or child molestation, and that attempts to link homosexuality to pedophilia were themselves often linked to bigotry.
Other publications have found the same. For example, Rich Ferraro, the chief communications officer for GLAAD, told USA Today in 2020:
There is a long-standing, homophobic and transphobic tactic of inaccurately comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles and being LGBTQ to pedophilia. It's debased and vile.
Moreover, the term "minor-attracted persons'' is not considered to be an identity that is accepted in the LGBTQ+ community. Individual MAPs may consider themselves to be LGBTQ+, as Allyn Walker discussed in their 2021 book, "A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity." Walker is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, and was previously a professor at Old Dominion University before resigning in November 2021 after receiving online backlash to their research:
The decisions of MAPs about whether or not to use queer-spectrum labels for themselves are based around a variety of factors. Generally, participants who used these labels were attracted to individuals of the same gender or multiples gender.
In short, a group of people exists who are referred to or refer to themselves as "minor-attracted persons." Some people who identify as MAPs do use that flag online, but its use is not universal, nor is it recognized as an LGBTQ+ symbol.