Last Tuesday, during a routine medical exam, suddenly, I couldn’t breathe, so the doctor sent me to Emergency where they stuck me with needles and patches, and then left me alone (no loving husbands allowed now) on a hospital bed to await my tests. Wondering if I was in the grip of death, COVID-19 or some odd new ailment, I tried to distract myself by scrolling through the same old news, when there it was, an American atrocity that utterly dwarfed my personal pain: the mass murder of eight people at three different Georgia massage parlors.
By the time I received my test results (no ‘Rona,, thank Goddess, just a touch of “Walking Pneumonia” which should be sung to the tune of “Waltzing Matilda” whilst downing copious fluids and antibiotics), the horror story of the massage parlor massacre or “spa shooting,” as MSM was calling it (which doesn’t quite convey the gruesome magnitude), was taking shape.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old Evangelical Christian youth minister, confessed to the crime, on account of his “sex addiction,” according to Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Jay, acting more like Long’s Uncle Jay, or maybe his PR guy, than an officer of the people (and who happened to have previously posted anti-Asian Covid shirts on Facebook), went on to explain that the *sex addict suspect* was having “a really bad day” so he just decided to “eliminate…the temptation” of three local massage parlors and slaughter eight of his fellow humans.
Thanks to a tip from his parents who recognized a photo of him in one of the spa parking lots, police stopped Long on his way to Florida, bound for a “porn industry” business with the intent of “eliminating” more.
Before I delve deeper into the psyches of this profoundly disturbed young killer and his complicit community, I’d like to honor the people who really did have a “bad day,” the victims. The one I have the most information on, Xiaojie Tan, 49 years old, owned “Youngs Asian Massage” where she was known as “Emily.” A beautiful, elegant woman, loving mother, caring friend and hard-working businessperson, Emily Tan opened her home to her staff and her heart to her customers, several of whom were also her friends.
Included among the deceased spa workers at Gold Spa, Aromatherapy Spa and Youngs Asian Massage: Hyun Jung Grant, 51, who left behind two loving sons; Daoyou Feng 44; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. Interesting to note that in addition to all being Asian, these six women, whom the killer referred to as “temptation,” were all between the ages of 44-74.
Delaina Ashley Yaun González, 33, a vivacious mother of two, also perished in the massacre; she was on a date with her husband (who survived as he was in another room, but was handcuffed and detained for four hours by police as they searched for the gunman). Two men were also shot: Paul Andre Michels, 54, died at the scene, and Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz was hospitalized in critical condition.
There are conflicting reports over just what went on at these spas. Clients, friends and relatives insist it was “legitimate” massage only. Greg Hynson, who saw Emily Tan for his “stiff neck and upper back” for about six years, responded, “You’re coming here to get a massage,” when a reporter insinuated it was a massage with a “happy ending.”
However, all three spas were listed on several escort sites (though these have since been taken down), and their storefronts glowed with bright colored lights and oversized photos of beautiful young women being pampered, beaming that telltale bordello look to passersby.
Sex Addiction: A Modern Term for Sin
Long told various people, from Sheriff Jay to his old Maverick Recovery roommate, Tyler Bayless, that he went to these spas to satisfy his “sex addiction.”
It’s understandable that friends, family and customers might want to obscure the “sex work” practiced by these businesses, considering illegalities and the social stigma. Then again, maybe these masseuses never did touch customers’ “private parts.” But at the end of this very “bad day,” does it really matter whether they were massaging people’s bodies to heal their pain with or without the “happy ending”?
Regardless of what particular body parts they touched or didn’t touch, they were murdered because they were nothing but a “temptation” to be “eliminated” by this self-proclaimed “sex addict.”
I have long loathed the term “sex addiction.” It was rejected from DSM-5, the most recent diagnostic manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. “Sex addiction,” or its sister term “hypersexuality,” doesn’t meet the criteria for an official psychiatric disorder, such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcoholism or various drug addictions. There’s no science behind sex addiction (or “love addiction,” for that matter). It’s been debunked by experts a zillion times, but it’s still a very popular term—used by self-help-fetishizing liberals, the psychobabbling Left, the Religious Right, the sex-phobic Center, probably also QAnon and all sorts of erotophobic, horny and hypocritical ignoramuses.
For people who call others “sex addicts,” it’s usually a bitter accusation of the foulest, most humiliating magnitude; it’s what you call your son or your husband when you find porn on his phone. Like, “What are you, a sex addict?”
It could also be your daughter or wife, of course, but most so-called “sex addicts” are male.
For those who call themselves “sex addicts,” it’s often an excuse for bad behavior, for why you cheated, got that secret massage, sexually harassed your assistant, or for why there’s porn on your phone. Celebrity “sex addicts” include Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Sheen, David Duchovny, Russell Brand, Kanye West, Tiger Woods and the list goes on.
For the sex addictionologists, those psychobabbling gurus who preach against the ravages of this nonsensical *disease,* it’s a racket, a way to make easy money from people’s normal but painful sexual insecurities, weaknesses, deceptions, transgressions and other problems. For non-sex-addiction-oriented sex therapists (like me), it’s a pain in the ass to unravel new clients’ brains from labeling normal human sexual desire as an “addiction” to sex, if it doesn’t fit into the box of what they, their spouse, parents or religion believe human sexual desire should be.
For the Religious Right, the term “sex addiction” is the perfect (because perfectly meaningless) modern, pseudo-scientific equivalent of old-time “sin.”
Calling someone a “sinner” just doesn’t pack the same emotional punch it used to; now people just think it’s funny or cool. But “sex addict”? Not funny or cool, but a great way to shame a person for enjoying or desiring sex that’s a little different from married, missionary, for procreation only. Call a religious person a “sex addict,” and watch them tumble to their knees in the puddle of shame and blame.
But mass murder? Whoa. Seems a little extreme, but here we go with the “sex addiction made me do it” mass-murder defense.
It certainly worked its magic on Sheriff Jay, who seemed to deeply sympathize with the young killer and understand well the “temptation” that can wreak havoc upon stalwart Christian God-fearing, yet helplessly lustful men, when he attributed Long’s vicious slaughter of eight fellow humans to him being “pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope.”
The Onion was more spot-on than any mainstream media in its immediate coverage of Sheriff Jay’s offensively absurd press conference, saying “sympathetic police know what it’s like to have a bad day and kill 8 people.”
It’s not *just* the police. And though Long is legally and personally responsible for these murders, it’s not just him either. Considering his short, devout, tortured, anti-sex life, it feels like much of the Evangelical Christian community of Acworth in Cherokee County, Georgia—like an extremist religious “cell”—contributed to this massacre, from the Crabapple Baptist Church where Long was an honored youth minister to the bogus rehab facilities where he struggled with his desires to the family who taught him to love God, shun sex and shoot deer.
As I followed the breaking news from my hospital bed, I saw that many social media pundits assumed Long was an incel, an “involuntary celibate.” With that straggly chin beard framing a sullen expression, he may look like a stereotype of “incel,” and the virulent misogyny of his rampage matches past incel murders. But then it came out that Long really did have some sex (or so he said); he just hated himself for having it.
Actually, he didn’t hate himself or maybe he would have killed himself, as he threatened to do, which (I know I’ll get shit for this) would have been better for everyone. No, he loved himself like he loved “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God,” as he posted on Instagram. “This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.”
Long just hated his sexual self, his inconvenient erotic urges, and the women he blamed, shamed and scapegoated for “tempting” him. Call it puritanical patriarchy or “whorephobia”; all he wanted was to be a good, “pure,” Christian soldier for the Lord, a hunter for Christ. He’d hunted deer with his Dad, so why not just hunt down some of those temptresses (and whoever happens to be with them) like prey, to “eliminate” that pesky “temptation”?
Dr. David Ley (whom I interviewed back in 2012 about his then ground-breaking book The Myth of Sex Addiction on “From The Myth of Sex Addiction to a Sex Addicts Orgy”), says people who call themselves “sex addicts” and associate with the sex/porn addiction movement usually suffer from “sexual self-hatred… When somebody says to me that they’re a sex addict or a porn addict, in my mind I translate that to mean, ‘I am deeply afraid of my own sexual desires.'”
Oh, if only the media and the public had heeded our warnings that “sex addiction” was a toxic pseudo diagnosis a dozen years ago!
The rise of “sex addiction” theory began with prison psychologist Dr. Patrick Carnes’ book, Out of the Shadows, around the same time as the HIV breakout and consequent sex scare of the 1980s. In a way, “sex addiction” as explanation for problematic male sexuality is similar to the 1950s pseudo diagnosis of “nymphomania” for active female sexuality. There’s a slight difference: a “nympho” sounds pejorative, but perversely erotic, while a “sex addict” is just pathetic, creepy and decidedly unappealing. This is what the killer called himself.
“Calling sex an addiction has an unmistakable tendency to instigate or escalate fighting with one’s sexuality,” said the late great sexologist Jack Morin. “This I can say for certain: If you go to war with your sexuality, you will lose, and end up in more trouble than before you started. I have never seen a single exception to this principle.”
A Crime Against Asians, Women & SEX WORKERS
For various reasons, most civic leaders are focusing on the fact that six out of eight of the victims were Asian, rather than the sex work angle, though the killer and Sheriff Jay insisted that this was not “racially motivated,” but due to “sex addiction.”
So, was it a Hate Crime? Against Asians? Against women? And what about sex workers?
I don’t particularly like the term “Hate Crime” (recently signed into law in Georgia) in terms of sentencing, because it tends to criminalize people’s thoughts, leading to a slippery slope of thought crime and punishment.
That said, it did seem that Asian women were targeted by the killer, though not all the victims were Asian, nor were all the victims women.
The one thing all the victims had in common was they were all working in, patronizing or standing around the massage parlors that the killer regarded as “temptations” to “eliminate.”
Whether you call them sex workers or not, this appears to have been a religious “hate crime” against masseuses. As sex workers’ rights activist and author Veronica Monet puts it: “it is incredibly painful to witness a narrative that ignores the fact that this particular mass shooting, while possibly motivated by race, was absolutely a hate crime against women and women who, if not actual sex workers, were perceived to be sex workers by the murderer.”
We could say the Massage Parlor Massacre was a deadly combination of “hate” objectifications. Race and sex are often intertwined, especially in the minds of some Caucasian men who fetishize Asian women whom they stereotype as sexually *submissive* and yet also seductively powerful, the ultimate “temptation” of Long’s erotophobic nightmares.
Trump calling Covid the “Kung Flu” and blaming it on China stimulated an increase in awful violence against Asians—and not just Chinese, but Koreans, Japanese, Thai and others. Similarly, anti-sex worker views—such as those espoused by SESTA/FOSTA and SISEA laws that erroneously and harmfully conflate consenting adult sex work with nonconsensual “sex trafficking”—don’t just hurt technical sex workers, but also “legitimate” masseuses, sex therapists, women in short skirts and, in a way, women in general.
Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, wrote eloquently in The LA Times, “Don’t forget – the Atlanta shooting is a hate crime against sex workers… Race is public and sex private, but the Atlanta shootings have upended this arrangement…. Racialized feelings are beginning to look like more of a taboo than sexual obsessions. The killing of an Asian American is described as a hate crime, while killing a sex worker is seen as a mental health issue. The scarlet R demotes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s scarlet letter A to a venial sin, now standing for (masculine) addiction rather than (female) adultery. Racism is stigmatized, while sex is pathologized.”
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (whose mother was born in India) went to Georgia to speak out against these and all attacks on Asian Americans. They should be applauded for that (tRump probably wouldn’t have bothered), but unfortunately, they did not denounce the religious hate speech that makes sex workers—or people involved in erotic healing professions like massage—targets of “whorephobic” violence.
Anti-sex worker malice is just as much at the root of the Massage Parlor Massacre as anti-Asian hate, if not more.
Georgia is now an American epicenter of political, cultural, racial and sexual tensions. The state just elected Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats, and voted for Biden over tRump (despite the Trumpus’ prodigious and illegal efforts to strongarm Georgia election officials), thanks in large part to the determined Stacey Abrams. However, eight of the Peach State’s fourteen U.S. Congressional Representatives are Republican, including QAnon-crazed, anti-trans, ammosexual darling “Margarine,” aka Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently voted against renewing the Violence Against Women act, along with 172 of her fellow Republicans (only 29 voted yes). Meanwhile, the state’s Republican operatives are currently doing their best to prevent their fellow Georgians of color from voting at all.
Villages like Acworth (population: 22,818), 33 miles northwest of Atlanta in Cobb County, Georgia (carved out of the former Cherokee Nation in 1831 after the natives were expelled), are a mix of almost 80% old-fashioned, barely educated, white Evangelicals, about 12% African-Americans, and a small but growing percentage of hard-working, business-savvy immigrants like Emily Tan, owner of Youngs Asian Massage, the first spa hit in Long’s bloody rampage.
The Crabapple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree
There’s a simple reason it was first: Youngs Asian Massage is located just a few minutes’ drive from HopeQuest, the evangelical treatment center where Long spent time in 2019 and 2020 as a patient for his so-called “sex addiction.” HopeQuest has ties to major evangelical institutions like Focus on the Family, and has promoted the much debunked and dangerous “gay conversion therapy,” the idea that LGBTQ people can be *turned* straight through treatment, as well as “purity culture,” a belief among some evangelicals that any sexual desire (not just sex, but desire) outside of marriage is lustful, and therefore sinful.
All organized religions—Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Mormonism, other Protestant denominations and the rest—have strong, sometimes abusive, anti-sex philosophies, rules and rituals, but the erotophobic message of Evangelical Southern Baptist Christianity is particularly dramatic.
“Although most men struggle with lustful thoughts, acting on those thoughts—whether through fantasy and masturbation, using pornography or actual contact with another person—is always hurtful to God and damaging to the marriage,” states the HopeQuest website.
Leaving aside that “fantasizing” is not “acting” (many normal, law-abiding folks enjoy taboo desires they never act upon), this is a message that demonizes the slightest erotic notion with such intensity, it’s no wonder some pious young adherents like Long might consider harboring “lustful thoughts” about those “temptresses” down the road to be just as bad as killing them.
Blame your shame on “temptation” that can then be “eliminated” with the ammosexual pull of a trigger.
Long stayed at another Evangelical addiction treatment facility, Maverick Recovery in Roswell, Georgia, in the months between his sojourns at HopeQuest, where his roommate, Tyler Bayless, was grappling with alcoholism and drug addiction.
The Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) motto is “From Shame to Grace.” It can be a long bumpy road. Along the way, Maverick residents are encouraged to confess each other’s “sins.” Long called Bayless into his room at least three times to confess he masturbated and/or went to a spa. “He was militant about it,” said Bayless. “This was the kind of guy who would hate himself for masturbating, would consider that a relapse.”
Bayless said Long felt he was “living in sin” and “not walking in the light; he was walking in darkness… He would say, ‘I’m falling out of the grace of God and my pastor,’” and he suggested that, though Long himself was an active church youth minister, this was also the view of Crabapple First Baptist Church leaders.
After all, the crabapple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
In a statement on its website, the Crabapple First Baptist Church acknowledges that Robert Aaron Long and the Long family have been church members for many years, but summarily “disowns” young Long, saying his actions directly “contradict his confession of faith.”
In other words, the rather crabby Crabapple Church elders “wash their hands” of their former youth minister’s crimes which stem, at least in part, from their own crabby anti-sex teachings.
“He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires,” the church’s statement proclaims of Long. “The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders.”
Well, of course, “the women he solicited” are “not responsible,” and how dare this *church* even suggest that they could be? And why use the horrific occasion of a mass murder to call out your baptized killer member’s “perverse sexual desires”? Sounds like a thinly veiled warning to Crabapple First Baptist Church’s remaining flock of religiously-abused, sexually confused and probably very freaked out youth.
The old threats of “growing hair on your palms” or going blind from self-pleasure no longer hold sway, but the new terror of being marked as a “sex addict” with “perverse” desires, combined with the still-potent menace of eternal damnation, is powerful poison indeed, almost worse than being marked as a murderer.
Then again, it doesn’t take a clinical psychologist to see through the sham of “sex addiction” as an explanation for anything. Randy Park, who’s just a couple years older than Long and whose lovely hardworking mother, Hyun Jung Grant, was among those murdered at Gold Spa, succinctly calls it “bullshit.”
“My question to the family is, what did y’all teach him?” Park adds, addressing Long’s parents. “Did you turn him in because you’re scared that you’ll be affiliated with him? You just gonna scapegoat your son out? And they just get away scot free? Like, no, you guys definitely taught him some shit. Take some fucking responsibility.”
Convergence of 3 Toxins
The Massage Parlor Massacre was a deadly “perfect storm” of three converging poisons: 1) Religious sexual abuse, 2) The Sex Addictionology racket, and 3) Guns, listed on Long’s IG as his second favorite thing in the world, after pizza and before God.
Far better to just “shoot” the “gun” between your legs safely and consensually. Unfortunately, Crabapple, HopeQuest, etc. consider masturbation to be a sin, or sign of sex addiction. So, guns it was!
A pretty good shot, having learned to shoot deer with his Dad, Long didn’t happen to have a weapon on him when he was feeling “at the end of his rope.” That didn’t prove to be any problem at all. He strolled into Big Woods Goods and legally purchased a firearm faster than a woman can get an abortion. A woman has to wait a full day to prevent “impulsivity,” but there’s no wait to get a gun for an itchy trigger finger in Cherokee county. You can buy it as quick and easy as a bottle of beer. I imagine Long used the money he was thinking of spending on a massage (his stimulus check?), to purchase the murder weapon.
Maybe if Long had had a 24-hour waiting period, he’d have had a pizza, played some drums or somehow moved through his “really bad day” into a totally different tomorrow, and then those eight dead people would now be alive.
Sadly, we’ll never know. Here’s one thing we do know: Only 10 states and the District of Columbia now require waiting periods for gun purchases, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
As I was writing this, news was breaking of another mass-murder shooting (who can keep up with these massacres?), this one in the beautiful city of Boulder, Colorado, home state of another kooky, ammosexual U.S. Congresswoman, “Looney Beretta,” aka Lauren Boebert.
God, guns and sex addictionology weave together into a sticky web of *righteous* hate for sex and love for violence. It’s the opposite of what I call the Bonobo Way of sex-positivity, female empowerment, male well-being and peace through pleasure (shameless plug: check out my recent chat with fellow Counterpunch’er Kollibri terre Sonnenblume on Radio Free Sunroot for more about the highly endangered, make-love-not-war bonobos).
Sex addictionologists might call bonobos the “sex addicts of the jungle,” but their inclusive approach to Eros holds the key to peace. If only we human apes could be so smart. In addition to a Bonobo Sutra of other erotic activities, bonobos frequently give each other massages—from a genital-based “rub and tug” to the more generally therapeutic kneading of feet, hands, shoulders and other sore muscles, as well as the caressing of skin hungry for touch.
Whether or not they provided those “happy endings,” these brutally murdered masseuses were touch healers for the aching bodies and tortured souls that came through their brightly lit doors. What a shame these churches and temples denounce and demonize the very touch—the “laying on of hands”—that all human beings need so badly, and that so many cannot get easily.
I’m recovering from that pneumonia (thanks for wondering), but the dead will never recover. May these angels of earthly healing rest in heavenly peace.
Amen and Awomen.