S is for Sex

New weekly musings inspired by the alphabet...

I wrote this originally for my Facebook page because my then 16-year-old niece, who is Asian, lives in Atlanta, so this was – and remains – a topic that is personal to me. Of course, once the incident leaves the news cycle, we forget about it until it happens again. 

In March 2021, eight women were killed – gunned down – in Atlanta. Women who worked at massage parlours, which is a euphemism for what they really do: provide sex to men. 
We have to have our euphemisms because we don’t want to talk about sex. 

In its reporting, the media focused on hate and racism towards Asians, but I read a post that emphasized the fact these women were sex workers. That’s a significant fact, perhaps the most significant fact. 
This is the uncomfortable and brutal place we need to be because 
it has to do with sex,
it has to do with the fact the killer was 21 years old,
it has to do with the fact those sex workers were Asian.

That Facebook post was the first time I wrote about this but it was, and continues to be, important within the context of not only what happened in Atlanta but why. 
Twenty-five years ago, my first marriage began to unravel because of sex. This was the early days of having Internet connections in our homes and it opened up a whole new way for men to access porn. 

At a certain point, I made a promise to myself I would leave if I found porn on the computer again. A couple of years later, a voice inside me said, “Check the computer” and what I found is what I remembered this morning: that barely hidden file in the computer was full of pornographic photos of 
Asian women. 

That was in 2001. Men, and teenagers, have had access to porn on the Internet for over twenty years. I think you are wise and aware people who know what this easy access to porn – soft and hard – means for the objectification of women, the dehumanization of sex workers, and violence against women. 

A few years ago, I read an article about pre-teen boys addicted to porn and how viewing porn at such a young age prevented them from relating properly to real girls in the real world. Last year, a friend was told by a pediatrician with whom she walks that the pandemic – the lockdown and the isolation – increased the incidents of sexual abuse against siblings.
Teenagers at home with their computers, with their phones, watching porn and needing an outlet for – everything they feel but don’t understand.
But we don’t talk about that because it has to do with sex. 

That’s why the fact the women killed in Atlanta were sex workers, and Asian sex workers, is the most important part of the story. 
As is the fact they were killed by a 21-year-old white man who claimed to have a sex addiction, and to be deeply, conservatively religious.

Addicted to Internet porn. 
Told sex is a sin. 
Attacks Asian women because likely they are who he saw online. Because Asian women are fetishized and objectified in ways we can’t begin to know because we are white. But we need to open our eyes and see the truth. 

Because it’s real. One young white male attacking Asian sex workers is not an isolated incident; it’s a symptom of a much larger, enduring problem that has been in our world, in our communities, in our churches for decades, even centuries – and is rooted in racism and colonialism. 

There is a huge WHY those women were killed and there’s a reason that police spokesman spoke of the killer “having a bad day” – because the reason for the killings is SEX and he was uncomfortable with that truth. It’s also the reason the media won’t dig deeper into the real reason those killings happened – because it’s SEX and we don’t talk about it. 
There are standards, you know. We can’t talk about sex and porn on television and radio. 

And that’s the problem.
We need to talk about how a 21-year-old man had a sex addiction, and why Asian women were targeted because of it. 
We also need to talk about the role churches play in how sex is presented to people. We need to face the fact sex scandals and sexual abuse are big stories for churches – too big to hide any longer. 

New note: American pastor and author Nadia Bolz-Weber’s last book was about sex (Shameless: A Sexual Revolution) – and its sales weren’t nearly as good as her three previous books. Sex makes people uncomfortable – I’ve never done a sermon about sex; I can just imagine the body language of a congregation if I did. No one wants to talk about sex. 

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SEX. With our friends, with our partners, with our children. We need to talk about sex as a normal, human activity. We need to talk about what is natural and what is not, what is harmful and what is not. What is relational and what is not. When you bring something into the light, when you reveal the truth about something, you take away its power to hurt, and you empower those who suffer because of it.

The truth is never comfortable. The truth can be brutal. 
But the truth can no longer be avoided. That is how we honour the lives of every woman murdered because of their race, gender and work.  

~ SJ


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