ATL Shooting

On March 16th around 5 p.m., Robert Adam Long started hitting up massage parlors in Atlanta; shooting all those in sight. He stopped first at Young’s Asian Massage where he shot five people and killing two. Long then went to Gold Massage Spa killing three people and then to Aromatherapy Spa killing one final person. Six of the dead were of Asian descent, women working at these massage parlors.

These massage parlors are only miles away from HopeQuest, a Christian treatment center that Long was enrolled in for his ‘sex addiction’ problem. This is the reason Long claims to have gone on his shooting rampage. Long told authorities that he was trying to eliminate temptation, meaning that these women in Long’s eyes — and in the ‘purity culture’ driving Christianity’s eyes — are objects and outlets of sexuality.

This idea of Christian ‘purity culture’ is only part of the reason why this shooting happened. Another is the perception that all massage parlors are inherently sexual. These killings reinforce the idea that massage parlors are just sexual, an idea that has been around for ages, and then translates a certain sexual perception down to Asian women.

It begs the question, “Why are massage parlors seen in this light?”.  Exodus Cry, a Christian organization that fights sex trafficking, does it outreach as many places, including massage parlors. In a Facebook post, Exodus Cry briefly touches on the Atlanta shooting then quickly after says, “Sadly, in large part, the media seems to be ignoring the fact that the trafficking and exploitation of Asian women is happening at thousands of massage parlors across the US”.  The rest of post discusses how vulnerable Asian women in massage parlors are being trafficked and sold into the sex industry.

Organizations like Exodus Cry and other believers in ‘purity culture’ are “sadly ignoring the fact” that Robert Adam Long went of his own will, not linked to a sex trading business, to three separate massage parlors, shot eight people and killed six of those eight. Like the Atlanta cop who got the impression that it was just a bad day for Long, many are taking the blame off of him. When the blame comes off one person it normally has to be put on something or someone else. In this case, its sex addiction or Asian women who are deemed nothing more than temptations or a combination of the two. 

The sex addiction problem is not a stranger to the media. Ted Bundy, infamous serial killer, and Ariel Castro, the man who locked three girls in his basement for years, are among the many who claim to have a sex addiction and use this addiction as an excuse to get out of punishment. In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) have decided not to list sex addiction in the manual. In an earlier manual, sex addiction was classified as a hypersexual disorder: “‘recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior’ that had lasted at least six months,” and “cause the patient distress, or interfere with some aspect of the patient’s life, such as the patient’s job or social life”. Now, this disorder is not even mentioned in the DSM-5. But why do so many people seem to struggle with it?

The answer is it’s mostly Christian men. Churches are flooded when men who believe they have a problem with sex and porn. Whether or not the APA deems sex addiction as real, Christianity does. There are plenty of places like HopeQuest that are on a mission to get rid of the nasty sin of sex in Christian lives. This push of ‘purity culture’ in the Christian community is so vastly different than the sexual culture pushed by the secular world, which is why it is presented as such a big problem by the church, to combat the evil of the secular world.

The church takes the topic of sex extremely seriously, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, the amount of negativity and shame and guilt associated with it creates a dangerous stigma around anyone or anything that promotes even the slightest sexual act, for example massage parlor workers.

In 2018, this stigma was enhanced for massage workers when former President Donald Trump signed a bill that put more efforts to catch those in the sex trafficking industry. This bill in theory sounds amazing and most would back it up and do anything to stop the horrible disgusting sex trading industry. However, this so-called helpful bill did the opposite to massage workers. In 2019, 11 Seattle massage parlors were raided by police who got a tip that there was sex trafficking taking place in the building. It was later found out that no one actually got arrested for trafficking. Instead, the 26 women who were said to be rescued lost their jobs and their living space since it was connected to the spas. Not all masseuses need to be saved from sex trafficking. These women who were just recently murdered in Atlanta needed to be saved from a murderer who has been taught that all massage workers are linked to sexual actions.