Essay: God Save Us From the "Bad Days" of White Men

I guarded my hymen like a good virgin until I was 29 years old. And yet, not once during my sexually-frustrated 20s did my guilt over masturbation drive me to kill anyone. Not once after watching porn, did I commit mass murder. And once I finally began to have sex with someone other than myself, I did not go on a shooting rampage to “eliminate my temptation” or to quell my guilt. I fucked the guilt out of my system--with other consenting adults, of course.

Flowers and a poster are left outside Gold Spa following the deadly shootings. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

As think pieces seriously unpack the “sexual frustration” and “sex addiction” of the Atlanta massacre shooter and connect them to his evangelical Christian upbringing, yours truly over here is laughing in Muslim. If it weren’t for the fact that he is Christian, the Atlanta shooter would have been right at home with the band of murderous rapists known as “Islamic State”.

In the U.S., where Muslim men are dragged off planes for simply texting in Arabic, the sexual shame and struggles of a 21-year-old white evangelical Christian man who massacred eight people, six of whom were Asian women, are being seriously analysed as motives. If he was a Muslim, as I like to remind you, he would be in Guantanamo being waterboarded.

And as a woman of Muslim descent, it is my duty to interrupt this latest episode of the How Many Excuses Can We Give a Violent Cis White Man Show to call utter bullshit on any attempt to explain away this terrorist’s actions as a result of sexual frustration.

As think pieces seriously unpack the “sexual frustration” and “sex addiction” of the Atlanta massacre shooter and connect them to his evangelical Christian upbringing, yours truly over here is laughing in Muslim.

The world is full of sexually frustrated women who are are taught, and obey, that they must wait until they are married (to a man) to have sex, and yet I’m unaware of any massacres committed by those women.

God save us from the “bad days” of cis white men and the even worse excuses given for the violence they commit by and for their dicks. 

That has been my daily prayer since the shooter - I will not say his name - told detectives he has a "sex addiction" and targeted three Atlanta area spas to "take out that temptation."

"He was fed up, at the end of his rope," Cherokee County sheriff's Capt. Jay Baker said. "He had a bad day, and this is what he did."

The shooter was a customer at two of the spas in the Atlanta area that he attacked this week, and spent time in a rehab clinic for a self-described sexual addiction. When he was arrested, the shooter was on his way to Florida where, he told police, he had planned to continue his rampage on a business connected to porn. 

Who but a cis white Christian man who loved "God and guns" could massacre eight people and be arrested alive? Who but a cis white Christian man who has just massacred six Asian women would be taken seriously when he says it was not racially motivated, with the FBI director ruling out that it was a hate crime? Who but a cis white Christian man could massacre seven women and the words “misogyny” and “femicide” are not uttered by law enforcement? Who but a cis white Christian man could massacre Asian women who worked at two spas where he was a customer and his “sex addiction” be centered and taken seriously, even while so many refuse to acknowledge the dangers of fetishizing Asian women and nomalizing violence against sex workers? 

God save us from the “bad days” of cis white men and the even worse excuses given for the violence they commit by and for their dicks. 

7 Necessary Sins for Women and Girls

Muslim men are discussed and dissected, found to be sex-crazed or sex-starved; a Muslim ban was installed partially to protect (white) American women from Muslim men; they have been profiled, entrapped and surveilled.

But at the end of the day, at least their sex drive was acknowledged.

Countless articles have been written on the sexual frustration of men in the Middle East--from the jihadi supposedly drawn to armed militancy by the promise of virgins in the afterlife to ordinary Arab men unable to afford marriage. Far fewer stories have given voice to the sexual frustration of women in the region or to an honest account of women’s sexual experiences, either within or outside marriage.

We barely acknowledge the sexual straitjacket forced upon women. When it comes to women, especially Muslim women in the Middle East, the story seems to begin and end with the debate about the veil. Always the veil. As if we do not exist unless it is to express a position on the veil. Which is why I called my first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. We are more than what is on our heads and more than what is in between our legs.

Incidentally, my book is banned in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar. And at one of the few bookshops which would stock it in Egypt, it would be hidden under the counter, like contraband.

The world is full of sexually frustrated women and yet they are not shooting up spas or schools or cinemas. 

I often joke I could write the manual on how to lose your virginity. In fact, I am: FEMINIST GIANT’S Guide to Losing Virginity is coming soon!

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When I was teaching at the University of Oklahoma in 2010, one of my students told the class that she had signed a purity pledge with her father, vowing to wait until she married before she had sex. It was a useful reminder that a cult of virginity is specific neither to my birthplace, Egypt, nor to Islam. 

I follow the news closely and I am certain that she has never committed a mass shooting or killed anyone because of sexual frustration or temptation.

After one of my readings in the UK in 2015 during the tour for Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, a woman who had been in the line at my book signing, knelt down to speak to me when it was her turn, so that we were at eye level, and told me she was from a British Muslim family of Arab origin,

“I, too, am fed up with waiting to have sex,” she said. “I’m 32 and there’s no one I want to marry. How do I get over the fear that God will hate me if I have sex before marriage?”

She too, to my knowledge, has never killed anyone and blamed it on sexual frustration.

I had told the reading at that book shop in England that I was sad for my younger self that I had waited so long to experience and enjoy something that gives me so much pleasure. There were no purity pledges in my past, but I was taught and I had accepted: no sex before marriage (to a man). Then, I could not find anyone I wanted to marry, and I got fed up waiting. 

I have been making up for lost time since and I often joke I could write the manual on how to lose your virginity. In fact, I am: FEMINIST GIANT’S Guide to Losing Virginity is coming soon!

It is patriarchy that is killing us, not sexual frustration.

To follow the “sex addiction” fuckery around the Atlanta shooter is to follow the faultlines of white Christian impunity that undergird so much in the U.S, where white and Christian is considered the default and norm, from storming the Capitol under banners with the name of Jesus to electing a sexual predator to the White House to being the main drivers of QAnon. I call that type of political Christianity the Christian Brotherhood to connect it to the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other Muslim-majority countries. Some call it Christian nationalism. By whatever name, it is impunity writ large. And the Atlanta shooter is its latest iteration.

Excuses and justifications are made to explain a norm for white Christian men and women that is pathologized when it comes to Muslim men and women. And patriarchy, which is universal, does its magic by crossing a divide often considered unbridgeable and telling men, regardless of religions or ethnicity, that they are entitled to women’s bodies, time, and attention. And that it is women’s bodies, time, and attention that play havoc - tempt - men’s sex drives.

But at least it acknowledges those men’s sex drives, even if it takes seriously cis white Christian men’s sex drives while it pathologizes cis Muslim men’s sex drive.

Meanwhile fuck us women—just not literally. Women are a blank page: not allowed a sex drive and not allowed a “bad day” over their sexual frustrations.

Lest any non-Christians among you get too comfortable, understand that patriarchy’s double standards and hypocrisy around sexual shaming are not confined to pulpits or congregations. 

The shame around sex taught by evangelical Christianity is not limited to those who sign its purity pledges. In schools across the U.S., girls are sent home from school because the way they are dressed is said to make cis male teachers and boys “uncomfortable.” Until men and boys are sent home, they are being absolved of responsibility for their own behavior. Until men and boys are sent home instead of girls in tank tops, men and boys are taught that girls are “temptresses” and it is the burden of girls alone to ensure they don’t “tempt” them. 

Boys like that can grow up to go on shooting rampages fueled by their racist and gendered violence. 

Because of patriarchy, shame and the strictures of purity culture more strictly bind evangelical women and girls than men and boys, and yet it is not women who go on shooting rampages because patriarchy and the ways it enables and protects cis male violence drives such violence, not sexual frustration. It is patriarchy that is killing us, not sexual frustration.

God save us from cis white men and their “bad days”

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Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.  

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