In Yoga Women Must Not Have Sex /// Sexism In The John Friend Scandal /// What Goes Unspoken

Yeah, yeah… Maybe John Friend is creepy. Maybe not. That’s really up to the beholder. However, here’s what no one is talking about:

According to the responses to the John Friend Scandal, women are lifeless pawns incapable of making their own choices in life and are merely at the whim of a CEO’s advances. No agency. No desire. No wanting of their own. If history were to be read through the eyes of such perceptions, none of these women had any of their own desires:

Frida…

Gala…

Emma…

Nefertiti…

Radha…

Vilma…

Hatshepsut…

Angela…

Phoolan…

Your mom…

All of these women had sex with men in powerful positions.

Does the JF Scandal depict yet another form of veiled sexism where adult women have no agency of their own? Where women in consenting sexual relations have nothing to offer of their own and have no power of their own? Was sex only performed ON these women? Were they not a participant with their own desires?

When is it possible for a woman to want to have sex with a another person in a different social position than herself for whatever reason she sees fit (sub/dom/lateral/kink/role play/power play/thrill/love/healing/etc.)?

17 comments

  1. Chas

    Thank you for saying what I as a man have been afraid to say for fear of being ganged up on and shouted down. This is do right on.

  2. StregaElisa

    There’s a lot of truth in this. I get it. Thanks for bringing it up.

    I’ve asked some of these questions myself, and put them forth in discussions about the Anusara situation. At least before rumors about “sex therapy” began to circulate. Now I am waiting until we know more. This is where the discussion took a different turn for me.

    So I am familiar with this line of argument, but I’m still a little wary of blind celebrations of agency in these matters. I mean, child prostitutes have agency. So do “mail-order brides.” So do women who “agree” to sex therapy. Maybe they go on to paint like Frida Kahlo. But at what cost?

    • Those are what we call classic “straw men arguments.” These women were not mail order brides nor were they child prostitutes. To equate the two is silly and more or less sexist in my book.

      I’m genuinely curious what you or anyone else actually think these women were. Put it into words. Put it out there. What were these women? Dupes? Idiots? Misguided ignorant bitches who only wanted a rise to fame? Pitiful hurt females with no outlets for their sexual urges?

      And remember, drawing attention to a woman’s agency need not be a “celebration.” An adult woman can have agency, plain and simple. No fanfare needed. Just good ol’ fashion agency.

      And (while we’re at it), women can agree to sex therapy without quotes. I’ve got two sitting right next to me who would love a lil’ romp with one of their teachers. Fortunately for their teachers, they’re spoken for, or else their teachers would be turned inside out on that bed, But, that’s for another story…

  3. Seeing as I’ve studied socio-political (didn’t think I was gonna have to go there so soon!) power dynamics through an anarchist lens for the better part of ten years now, along with having spent much of that time in and around mariginalized sex communities, I’d say I have a pretty good understanding of what agency means, how it works in a hyper-capitalist/neo-patriarchal society, and how the women involved in this story have been relegated to at the very best, ghosts, and at the very worst mere vehicles for JF’s sexual abandon, all the while their identity and voice having been provided for them by others. Seeing as this is the case, I will err on the side of agency when it comes to their decision-making capabilities, as I have no reason to assume that adult women can not act of their own accord unless they give me explicit reason to believe otherwise.

    Does this mean JF is not to be challenged to whatever degree his community sees fit? Absolutely not. But I will not rest my judgments of him on sexual relations he had with adult women until they speak up and out. Until then, I remain thinking he a capitalist piggie-wiggie who messed with people’s money. That’s enough for me. But, then again, I always thought that, and didn’t need some internalized uncomfortability with power-dynamic-sex-play to get there.

  4. thank goodness for you, Babarazzi!

    Spread THIS truth please. Who are you? Thank you!

  5. Ashleigh Sergeant

    Ditto. Thank you so much for your words and articulation. We will work hard to help get your voice out. I agree strongly!

  6. Erin Hansbrough

    Just so we’re clear: are you equating the efforts of women like Angela Davis–who fought for things like racial equality, economic justice, and the end of U.S. imperialism in Africa and Latin America–with a p.r. mess in which some women have had sex with their yoga teacher? This just doesn’t seem fair or logical.

    • Hi, Erin. I should hope not! I am, however, equating AD’s having agency with the fact that women do in fact have it. I am also trying to show (albeit quickly and without much context) that were we to read history (as we no doubt already do) through the lens of what most of the commentors on blogs relating the JF scandal seem to believe (even if subconsciously), women such as AD would be invisible UNLESS they then come out and, say, try to throw over the gov’t. I am also aware that it’s insane that I have to pull from such notable and world-reknowned examples just to prove such a point. The unfortunate part of all this is that the people I mentioned above are most likly not even perceived as women, but as “historical figures.” While the women alluded to in the JF Scandal are barely even human. They are more like disembodied spirits.

      But, make no mistake, I am not saying that the women in the JF Scandal acted with a transparent and self-powered agency all their own, as I do not know and was not in their brains at the time. What I AM saying is that I give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason so believe otherwise. This is a crucial aspect of my argument.

  7. Tim T.

    Thanks so much for this!

    With women being the dominant majority in the yoga world, they too often fail to see how unfairly they treat men within it. Another great unspoken aspect of the John Friend scandal is that its most likely these women were throwing themselves at him – not that he was some kind of predator.

    As a male yoga teacher myself, I see and feel this dynamic every day and must maintain strong boundaries. It seems that John Friend’s real crime was that his boundaries were not strong enough for the onsluaght of women making advances at him. Given the pure adoration so many of his followers had for him, I can only imagine the number and intensity of these women’s advances.

    And so its a bit disingenuous for so many women commenting on this situation to go straight to the women = victim and male = predator mechanisms, which absolve the women of any responsibility for their action and choices – laying them all at the feet of the man – in this case John Friend.

    But these are things a man in the yoga world cannot say in public since there would be hell to pay from the dominant female culture within it. Every injustice that women feel in everyday life, men feel within the American yoga scene.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Tim.

    While I can’t comment on how JF was approached or in what capacity, as I wasn’t there, and wouldn’t feel comfortable making assumptions about who threw themselves at who, I can only ask (shout) for a humanizing and grounding of the discourse in real human interactions and refer to the infinite ways in which people navigate their sexual relations as evidence. That is to say, there is a real human relational quality to JF’s acts that is not being discussed (obviously, because no one knows anything about it) that is disproportionate to the onslaught of opinions and judgments being hurled.

    I am simply asking for a humanizing of the woman involved. And, by that I mean: let’s let women have desires all their own. Call the man out on his shit, but please allow women to be human in the process.

  9. Tim T.

    No disagreement on allowing the women to be human in the process – by all means! But also take a look at the comments on various websites from women and you see them all ready to make John Friend a predator just because he is a man – some even saying it just that way; ‘well, he is a man after all.”. Not to condone his actions but is that fair? If John Friend was a woman who slept with students and employees, would they be saying the same thing?

    I’ve seen John Friend at large events (Wanderlust, Yoga Journal Conferences and have seen women being VERY forward with him. If that much of it happens out where everyone can see it, just imagine how much happens outside of the public eye.

    Humanize the discourse – by all means. But can’t that please include the dominant female presence in yoga trying not to act like so many men do in the rest of our lives?

  10. This is definitely one of the most intelligent and thought provoking things I’ve read on “Friendgate.” But I wonder if there isn’t some middle ground between “JF is a predator and these women are victims” and “the only creepiness here is JF’s money greed.” I mean, as a female yoga teacher I think I would be every bit as much in the wrong to be sleeping with students of any gender, because there is a huge power difference between teacher and student. So I am of the strong opinion that it is best not to sleep with your students!

    Let’s face it, there are A LOT of yoga teachers out there. If a teacher and a student want to be romantically involved, they should end their teacher/student relationship and allow some time to pass before embarking on a sexual relationship.

    I know many traditional translations say Brahmacharya = Celibacy, but I think in a modern, western yoga context it means Sexual Integrity. Still sexy and juicy, if you ask me!

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