Commentary: Whorephobia and the Myth of Sex Addiction

Whorephobia is Real. Sex Addiction is Not.

On March 16, Robert Aaron Long went on a deadly rampage at three metro Atlanta erotic Asian massage parlors. The myth of sex addiction and racist hysteria around sex trafficking hysteria have a body count. 

By perpetuating the myth of sex addiction and conflating sex work with sex trafficking the anti porn and sex worker movement has convinced men that they’re not responsible for their behavior and that sex workers, particularly sex workers of color, aren’t deserving of basic human dignity.

Local news is reporting Long said he was targeting Asian sex workers in particular. Authorities are claiming Long targeted massage parlors he had previously patronized because he blames sex workers for providing an outlet for his sex addiction.

“He saw these locations as something that he sees as a temptation he wanted to eliminate," Cherokee County Police Captain Jay Baker reportedly said.

Where did Long get the idea that he was addicted to sex or that sex workers represented a temptation he had to “eliminate?”

“The modern sex addiction dialogue doesn't encourage people to understand, accept and manage their sexual desires,” Dr. David Ley said of the attack. “Instead, it teaches people to hate.”

The “anti sex-trafficking” non-profit complex conflates sex workers, trafficking victims, and Asian women to create a toxic brew of xenophobia, whorephobia, and state violence.

Indeed, NCOSE (formerly Morality in Media) pushes the porn addiction myth, despite there being no empirical evidence that porn addiction is real. 

By pushing the sex addiction myth, anti-sex worker, Evangelical groups like ExodusCry, NCOSE, and Polaris teach men that they aren’t in control of their sexuality. Rather than trying to understand and manage sexual desires, these groups teach people, especially men, to feel ashamed of and hate both their own sexuality and the people and media they find sexually arousing. They teach men to blame sex workers for their own feelings and behavior. 


All of these groups are affiliated with Evangelical churches. The Daily Beast is reporting that Long himself is the son of a youth pastor and heavily involved in the church. Some are reporting Long is associated with the Southern Baptist Church, which claimed there was a “porn epidemic” in their 2020 convention, perhaps to deflect attention from their ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

Trafficking Hub, a project which spun out of the International House of Prayer, is trying to "shut down Big Porn." Their materials accuse Pornhub of promoting sex trafficking despite there being absolutely no evidence this is true. Also, Facebook hosts more objectionable sexual material than Pornhub. Now, more far-right activists are using the shooting to renew their calls to ban porn. 

The modern anti-sex worker movement also pushes racist, anti-sex worker rhetoric. 

Anti-sex worker group Polaris, for example, spends millions pushing racist stereotypes. Their express purpose is to use state violence to deprive Asian massage owners and workers of their businesses and jobs. Sex trafficking hysteria group Exodus Cry promotes false claims that Asian massage parlors are fronts for sex trafficking operations. These groups perpetuate disinformation leading many to believe all Asian sex workers are trafficking victims. 

“It's time to see the sex/porn addiction activist industry for what it is—a group filled with misogyny, racism, hatred and fear, encouraging people to attack and eradicate the objects of their sexual desire, rather than to promote sexual self-understanding and self-control,” Ley said.

Anti-sex worker and trafficking NGO's should no longer receive government grants or work with police departments. Decriminalizing sex work and immigration is a vital component of stopping whorephobia and racism targeted at Asian communities. Lastly, we should support Red Canary Song, a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting the lives and livelihoods of Asian and migrant sex workers and massage parlor workers.