Equality

The Toxic Anti-Sex Culture That Inspired the Atlanta Massage Parlor Shootings

Two branches of misogyny cut from the same cloth

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Yesterday, shots rang out as yet another white male American suspect opened fire in several massage parlors in the Atlanta area, targeting sex workers. Eight women were murdered in cold blood and broad daylight.

And now we’re starting to get a glimpse into the mind of a deranged mass shooter who was acting out his twisted, misogynistic fantasies in real life.

The suspect casually strolled into several massage parlors, one after the other, bringing his guns with him and opening fire on the unsuspecting employees within. Overcome by sex addiction, or so he says, he was out for vengeance on massage parlors, places he imagined were filled with sex workers. It’s a hideous crime that deserves the full force of our criminal justice system.

Acting with quickness, police were able to obtain footage of the suspect entering and exiting each building. They released it to the public and, as it turns out, the suspect’s parents recognized him from the videotapes and immediately began cooperating with police.

The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, is only 21-years-old.

He was caught and taken into custody shortly thereafter and that’s when he began to tell his tale. The suspect claims to have a porn addiction and says his acts were carried out as “revenge” against the sex industry. It’s another example of men targeting women in sexually-based hate crimes.

It reeks of the same sort of disgusting hateful misogyny that filled Elliot Rodger, the California shooter who put the term INCEL on the map. Elliot Rodger killed six people in a spree of stabbing and shooting before he eventually turned the gun on himself.

After his death, Elliot Rodger was subsequently hailed as an INCEL “hero” among the online communities who shared in his hateful ideology.

Much more quietly, on nearly the other side of the United States, Utah lawmakers are campaigning for a bill that would force all electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets, and computers, to ban porn sites from being accessed.

As the Associated Press reports:

Supporters argue the restriction is a critical step to help parents keep explicit content away from kids — especially as more children have their own electronic devices and have been forced to spend more time online during the pandemic.

Combating porn is a perennial issue for Utah lawmakers who have previously mandated warning labels on print and online pornography and declared porn a “public health crisis.”

Of course, no one wants pornography to fall into the hands of small children, but most of us are leaving that responsibility up to the parents of said children and aren’t begging the state to step in and put a stop to it with an iron fist.

And this latter disposition is the “soft” version of the former.

They say that porn is a “gateway drug” to violent sex, well I say ideological misogyny is a “gateway drug” to real-life violent hate crimes.

Both of these messages are suggesting the same thing. That sex must be shunned and that we must use physical force — up to and including violence — to shun it.

Both the Utah government and the mass shooter in Atlanta are vehemently anti-pornography and anti-sex. It’s the toxic anti-sex culture they share.

And Utah isn’t the only state doing this. At least thirteen other states have similar laws drafted, waiting in line to see what happens with Utah, so they can follow in Utah’s lead and similarly try to ban porn without banning it.

It’s just another campaign against women and sexuality more generally, with conservative extremists upset about what they perceive as power imbalances over the role of sex in our lives. And it’s the fact that these seemingly disparate groups so often share the same belief structure that’s telling.

Why the consistent anti-sex and anti-woman dispositions side-by-side? And why the willingness to turn to violence and the use of force to shut down each?

It’s telling that it’s yet another arm fighting in the war against women waged by extremist conservatives in the United States. Let’s not forget the series of highly restrictive anti-woman bills brought forth in 2019, bills that would highly restrict a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about parenthood with her own doctor. All of this is makes plain the narrative lurking beneath the scenes, making its rounds in conservative circles.

There’s a certain mythos in America, a mythos that constantly tells men that it’s “masculine” to hate women and to shun sexuality. And it’s gone so far as to say that even flagrantly racist images are less offensive than sexually-charged lyrics to popular songs.

Piece this all together and it tells the story of what these men are about.

There’s a large swath of conservative men out there who simultaneously believe that sex is bad and equate women with nothing more than sex. They also think that sex needs to be kept in check, with brutal, even lethal force, if necessary.

These two things are inextricably intertwined in the ideology. It’s what it means to have a strain of our culture that’s vehemently anti-woman, even if that means creating a proxy war by becoming vehemently anti-sex.

And even as all of this unfolds, the House of Representatives voted today to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The bill was originally authored by now-President Biden all the way back in 1994 and was subsequently passed. It grants our state and local government funds and support for dealing with violence brought about against women, be it through domestic violence or stalking.

And it’s also telling how each party voted in regards to the Violence Against Women Act:

It’s like a continuation of stories like John Ashcroft’s, in 2002. America had a bare-breasted statue of a woman, the Spirit of Justice, that proudly wore its barren breasts boldly. It was unashamed. It was also just a statue.

But to John Ashcroft, this was akin to pornography.

Thus, when John Ashcroft became the Attorney General of the United States under the Bush administration, he vowed to cover up the exposed breast on Spirit of Justice, as if the general public couldn’t handle seeing a long-standing statue with a bare breast without losing their minds.

What is it about all of these men that causes their brains to register sex as something that must be met with violence?

From Ted Bundy to Richard Speck and other serial murderers, to the Utah conservative government and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and even the new mass shooters who specifically target women, all of these entities have hang-ups when it comes to sex, violence, and women, hang-ups that form a three-headed Chimara of misogyny.

The shootings yesterday didn’t take place in a vacuum. They took place within a subculture that links sexuality with womanhood, and sexuality with violence.

One thing is for sure, we’re nowhere near a place of equality so long as women are targeted so consistently. And our culture needs to reconcile its stance on sexuality before we can proceed to anything remotely resembling equality.

Women exist. Sex exists. They exist for themselves. And they deserve to exist without interference from angry men who have gripes with each of them.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this story, you may enjoy the one below as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter here. Or if you’re feeling really generous, you can buy me a coffee at Ko-Fi here.

From Los Angeles, California. Life isn’t a series of many moments, but one moment that is always changing. Buy me coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/joeduncan

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