In an essay-style post published last week on the blog Rebelle Society, Budokon creator and renowned yoga teacher Cameron Shayne presented a New Yorker-length argument (especially including the comments) on why yoga teachers having sex with students is not unethical.
To kick it off, Miami-based Shayne first lets everyone know he’s slept with several of his students. (Nice, bro!) “These relationships for many people would be perceived as a teacher/student relationship,” he writes. But it’s not a problem, according to Shayne.
While the essay doesn’t explicitly mention recent yoga sex scandals, Shayne obliquely responds to the rhetoric discouraging teacher-student relationships which has emerged in the yoga world as a result of the many recent abuses by influential yogis like Bikram Choudhury and John Friend.
Shayne is a well-respected, accomplished teacher and thoughtful discussions of this issue make sense. Of course people are going to get together and hook up in situations where lithe, flexible people with similar interests are hanging out and learning together. And there are lots of sides to the “is it ethical?” argument.
But the fact that he dismisses power imbalances in a society full of them (for an excellent, intelligent response see commenter Sean Feit) and doesn’t appear to sympathize with students who’ve suffered as a result of those imbalances seems slightly (sitar) tone deaf. Here, we share—and interpret—a few of Shayne’s most provocative points:
On why he doesn’t want the fallen yogi gurus (and people’s ideas about not behaving like one) to get in the way of dating students:
“Should we as Yoga teachers, and others as yoga students be restricted or limited regarding our sexual partnerships in order to accommodate the beliefs of others?”
On why he’s glad he hooked up with students even when it didn’t end well, and you should be, too:
“What is further relevant is that free thinking, and mistake-making are essential to the human experience. Therefore you cannot have sex with the wrong person — only a person that provides you with another intrinsic part of the whole that becomes your story.” [You can definitely have sex with the wrong person. Agree to disagree.]
On why the power and authority yoga teachers have is based on students giving it over to them:
“…there is never a true balance of socialized authority outside of that which each person is responsible for and must create within themselves.”
“Why do people place teachers in positions of absolute authority and thereby surrender their own good judgement and common sense?”
On how there are no victims:
“The guru/students manipulation — like cocaine — is the symptom of a larger problem; the student’s lack of self worth, identify and voice. Clearly the corrupted guru is a problem, but the student, like the user, is the real disease.”
And this one might become a classic, on “Why do people want to have sex with these dudes anyway?!”:
“The majority of all yoga sex scandals involve one or more desperate devotees and a teacher who figures out, maybe for the first time in his or her hopelessly hip-less life, that they can get laid. After all, most of these men and women are conventionally unattractive, socially uncool, religious oriented geeks, and always have been. I would go as far to say that I have never seen one that I would measure worth being taken advantage of by. But tastes vary.”
So Shayne has figured out he can get laid at work, and he wants us to be okay with it. We’ll pass on those “yogic” teachings, thanks. —Lisa Elaine Held