Atlanta shooter had visited massage parlors he targeted, sought treatment for sex addiction

There has been outraged reaction to the claim by Atlanta police that the massage parlor shooter may have been motivated by sex addiction and not anti-Asian racism. But the NY Times reports that, at a minimum, there is some evidence suspect Robert Aaron Long had been trying to deal with sex addiction in the past and that he’d previously visited at least two of the massage parlors where he carried out the shooting.

Robert Aaron Long, the man charged with killing eight people in a rampage at Atlanta-area massage parlors, spent several months being treated for what he described as a sex addiction and regularly went to massage parlors for sex, one of his former roommates at a halfway house said.

Tyler Bayless, the former roommate, said in an interview that he lived with Mr. Long at the house in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell for about five months beginning in August 2019. Nearly once a month, Mr. Long, who was then 20, would admit to Mr. Bayless and others in the apartment that he had again relapsed by visiting a massage parlor to have sex with an employee, Mr. Bayless said…

“It tore him up inside,” Mr. Bayless said.

Bayless says these confessions were always accompanied by a discussion of Long’s Christian faith and how Long believed he was failing to live up to it. “I’ll never forget him looking at me and saying, ‘I’m falling out of God’s grace,’” Bayless told the Times. Long even asked Bayless to take a knife away from him because he was worried he might use it to hurt himself.

Buried near the bottom of this story is what may be the most significant statement in the piece. Long told his roommates that he’d chosen to go to the Asian massage parlors “not because of the employees’ race, but because he thought the spas were safer than paying for sex elsewhere.”

Of course it’s possible Long was lying. Maybe he had other reasons for focusing on Asian women, but, at a minimum, this isn’t a new defense he’s cooked up for himself after the shooting to avoid hate crime charges. Police have also confirmed that two of the massage parlors he targeted were ones he’d visited in the past.

Charles Hampton, a deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said the suspect had patronized both massage businesses in the city, where the police say he shot and killed four women of Asian descent on Tuesday evening…

“He did frequent those two locations within Atlanta,” Mr. Hampton said at a news conference.

There are a number of columns circulating now, like this one at the Post, which argue that argue that this attack should be seen as being motivated by both race and gender:

“Imagine — a world in which it could be both,” sighs Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “I’m frankly floored by how difficult this is for people to understand.”…

He could have stopped at strip clubs, pornographic video stores or multiple shops lined with wall-to-wall dildoes. But he didn’t. He drove 27 miles to Gold Spa, where he allegedly killed three Asian women, and then crossed the street to Aromatherapy Spa where he allegedly killed one more (the names of the victims at the final two establishments have not been released). He chose businesses where the employees were not just women, but Asian women, not just Asian women, but lower-wage Asian women in a fetishized profession.

“Even the explanation of a sex addition — that is already racially layered,” says Rachel Kuo, co-founder of the Asian American Feminist Collective. “The ‘temptation’ is tied to the assumption of Asian woman being docile and submissive, and at the same time being exoticized.” Kuo says.

I don’t think anyone is arguing that it can’t be both race and gender. It certainly could be that. But so far there is pretty clear evidence the sex addiction claim is legitimate, i.e. not an ex post facto invention by the suspect. As for the shooter driving past a lot of other places that might cater to sex addicts, it appears he went specifically to the massage parlors he’d previously visited for sex.

In case it’s not clear, I’m not saying his behavior is rational. He’s (allegedly) a murderer of multiple women. His defense attorney may be able to make a case he has mental problems but he appears to me to be a monster. Still, it’s possible his actions have more to do with his own personal demons which precede the wave of anti-Asian attacks we’ve been hearing about.

It seems to me a lot of people are suddenly forgetting that an attack, even a deadly one, isn’t automatically considered racially motivated because the attacker and the victim are of different races. Often it depends on what the suspect said before, during or after the attack (such as using racially-loaded language). So, for instance, this attack on an elderly Asian man in Oakland by a black suspect, which garnered a lot of attention last month, has been charged as murder but not as a hate crime even though the family believes race was clearly a factor:

As for Long, police have charged him with 8 counts of murder and say they are still looking carefully at his motive. Hopefully we’ll have a definitive picture as the investigating continues.