AASECT’s Statement on the Mass Shootings and Murders in Atlanta

AASECT condemns the tragic shooting in Atlanta, GA, on March 16th, understanding this act of violence to be at the intersection of issues of sexualization, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and clinical practice.

We offer sympathies and condolences to the families, friends, and communities of

Soon Chung Park
Hyun Jung Grant
Yong Ae Yue
Suncha Kim
Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez
Paul Andre Michels
Xiaojie Tan
Daoyou Feng
Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz

This shooting follows a long history of anti-Asian violence in America, and furthers the horrific and heartbreaking list of examples of racism and the violence against systemically oppressed people in this country.

AASECT opposes all psychological, social, cultural, legislative, and governmental forces that would restrict, curtail, or interfere with the fundamental values of sexual health and sexual freedom that we espouse. AASECT also opposes all abuses of sexuality including, but not limited to, harassment, intimidation, coercion, prejudice, and the infringement of any individual's sexual and civil rights.

The public imagination of "massage parlour" varies from spa to brothel, which can be seen in the commentary surrounding the shootings. Whether or not anyone connected to the shooting is or was involved in any form of sex work, the specific targeting of women working in a touch-based industry highlights the risks of violence that sex workers encounter under a political system in which their labour is criminalized. The stigmatization of some forms of labour increases risk of harm and jeopardizes the lives, freedoms, and sexual rights of people in marginalized professions. AASECT wants to recognize how this crime also links to legacies of anti-sex worker violence, which we condemn and would like to see addressed through policies that destigmatize and decriminalize sex work. We acknowledge that many sex worker communities and their allies are also in mourning and we acknowledge the intersections of oppression present in this attack.

It is important to AASECT to state clearly that violence is not justified under any circumstances, notwithstanding diagnoses related to a person’s self-described unwanted sexuality, desire, arousal, or behavior.

Regarding the reported implication of a sexual addiction motivation (to the exclusion of the necessary acknowledgments that the victims were sexualized by the perpetrator, and were predominantly Asian women working in a marginalized service industry), AASECT:

  1. Does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder. This position has been supported by the most recent task force recommendations for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Version 5, the manual by which most sexual problems are diagnosed for the purpose of treatment, and
  2. Does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by a holistic understanding of human sexuality.

Therefore, it is AASECT’s position that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts, or behaviors to a sexual addiction cannot be advanced by AASECT as an organizational standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling, or therapy.

AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts, or behaviors. Again, distress regarding sexual urges is not equivalent to addiction, nor is it justification for violence or harm.

AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual behaviors, and continue to make clear the distinction between impulses, addictions, consensual sex, and the varying forms of sexual and sexualized violence.

AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus, and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for all people. This includes those who are marginalized, excluded, or otherwise disadvantaged on the basis of race, socioeconomic status, their domain of employment, age, ability, nationality, religion, orientation, and gender.

Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexuality education, counseling, and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying, and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling, and therapy. When there are opportunities to further educate the public in the face of cultural, political, or scientific discourse happening in the media, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.

Read AASECT’s previously released position on sexual addiction here.

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