You mean a unisex world is a little confused?
Picture the setting. You are one of perhaps a dozen men standing in a hot room full of two or three hundred hot women in hot yoga outfits contorting themselves in a kind of body poetry that all but the absolutely bloodless would consider at least a bit erotic. An intense, vulgar little man named Bikram Choudhury directs the yoga routines, wearing a Speedo, with the intensity of someone who knows his craft and understands the value of comic imprecation. He handles the women’s bodies with the impunity of a physical therapist and spiritual counselor, and, by all accounts, his students appreciate the transformation this workout inspires. They describe it as “magic.” It is not a stretch, in the least, to say they worship him.
But, clearly, he’s a predator and a rapist. You know that’s where the story is going, right? Watching the Netflix documentary Bikram • Yogi • Guru • Predator is a bit like hearing a long, ecstatic excuse for temporary insanity. One woman admits she has trouble using the term “brain-washed” and another one seems to argue that the magic of his health remedies argues for, if not excuses, his return. (He fled America after a massive civil law suit.)
His myth included being a national “Yoga champion” in India and healing president Nixon, but whatever he may have used to bolster his credibility initially, his phenomenal success inspired, particularly among women, a devotion so intense they were willing to ignore sexual assault, and rape, in order to secure his blessing — and a Bikram Yoga franchise.
So, I’m not really talking about Yoga here, but a truth the story reveals indirectly: really horrible things can happen in a world where we pretend men and women are not profoundly different creatures, with profoundly different approaches to sex, relationships, wealth, children, work, and family.
I’m about to turn 60, which means I grew up in the world of the pill, Playboy magazine, no fault divorce, and Betty Ford announcing that it was okay for even Republican couples to live together before marriage. I had a pretty conservative religious upbringing–at war with most of this–but the broader culture was so powerful I can remember being confused by a college friend with two younger sisters and his hope their “dates” (a term that is now becoming positively Victorian) had “honorable intentions.”
What did it mean, with a girl, to have “honorable intentions?”
In this age?
If we all agreed that two reasonable mature people, having reached the age of consent, could do anything they wanted to each other sexually, without having to be married, (the pill and science now having “cured” sex-related consequences), what really constituted “honorable intentions?”
Did it mean..
- “I will only have sex with your sister if she accepts my offer of marriage?”
- “I will not use your sister as a one night stand?”
- “I will make sure your sister actually sorta likes ‘one night stands’ before having a one night stand?”
- “I will get to know your whole family and pretend to be part of an inter-generational tribe before actually having the one night stand?”
- “I hate one night stands. I really love your sister and agree to having at least 12 one night stands before parting amicably?”
See, in the old, terribly out-of-fashion Christian consensus days, I think “honorable intentions” meant something pretty straightforward. You went to the ball. You fell in love with the girl. You, as a reasonably normal man, felt sexual tension as well. Your families considered the match. The young lady sized you up as well. Could you keep her happy? The nest feathered? Would you work hard for her? Her needs for financial and emotional security and your need for ecstatic sexual gratification were accomplished through marriage for life. You had ecstatic sex together and raised the children together. “Honorable Intentions” defined.
It’s also an honorable compromise, between the drastically different ways men and women look at sex. Men sacrifice their preferred, if irrational and unattainable state, as talent-and-testing scout for Solomon’s harem and women sacrificed painting the children’s bedroom to have Song-of-Solomon sex with their husbands–sometimes on their husband’s timetable.
When you throw this out, when you pretend that men and women can happily fall into “consenting” and “temporary” relationships, you are bound to find out that a horny little Yoga instructor or a horny fat Hollywood producer doesn’t “see” you ladies the way you think you are being seen. He’s buying, and you, apparently, are selling.
When you throw out tradition, and God, and you cry for the camera without knowing how you got yourself into trouble — without “crying out” or refusing to put yourself into such ridiculously dangerous situations — you make it all the more apparent that you don’t know how much God knows you better than you know yourself.