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Oh Yay Buddhist Yoga Dudes Can Be Rapey Mens Rights Activists Too!

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Remember the Great Republican Rape Mansplaining Movement of 2012? Despite famously losing several Senate seats as a result, right-wing politicians continue to attempt to win the hearts and minds of American women by carefully explaining to us what sexual assault is, whether it was “forcible,” or “legitimate” or “bad,” whether or not God was into it, et cetera, et cetera.


If only this dumbfounding ignorance regarding rape were confined to right-wing politicians, perhaps we could quarantine it and let it die off slowly along with the Fox News audience. Alas, our team is not immune to sexism and rape apologists -- they are all too often hiding right in plain sight in our very own lefty/progressive/Buddhist/yoga/goji berry culture.

As reported in a front-page story in the New York Times, Bikram Choudhury, millionaire founder of Bikram Yoga and well-documented narcissist dickbag, now faces six civil lawsuits from women in his community that accuse him of rape or assault. Choudhury spoke publicly about the charges, finallly, on CNN last week, assuring the interviewer that he doesn’t need to assault women because he’s a ladies’ man and could get sex anytime he wants. Color us super reassured!

One would hope that the yoga community might transcend mainstream culture’s depressing penchant for victim-blaming, sex shaming, and general misogynistic assholery regarding assault charges, wouldn’t one? Sadly, Bikram’s defenders have trotted out all the old standards, claiming that his accusers are lying, or wanted to get in his pants (because who wouldn’t want to bang this sexy beast?) or were just after money and notoriety (because it’s sooooo easy and fun to get rich quick and enjoy tons of great attention by pressing charges against wealthy powerful men for rape, everyone’s doing it these days).

But the gold medal for mind-boggling ignorance from Team New Age Blue State regarding this controversy goes to Waylon Lewis, founder of the ginormous Buddhism/yoga publication "Elephant Journal." Lewis recently posted for his 1.3 million monthly readers this video offering his unasked for exquisitely nuanced take on the allegations against Bikram, handily titled "In 'Defense' of Bikram vs. Rape Allegations."

Right? We daresay even Todd Akin might give this guy a slow clap.

Here’s what we learned from Waylon’s “defense” of Bikram and the overwhelming and repeated charges of “rape, harassment, assault, discrimination and false imprisonment” against the yoga mogul by numerous parties:

  1. Innocent before proven guilty isn’t just a founding principle of our legal system; it’s part of our moral code. Didn’t you learn that with O.J., Casey Anthony, and Bill Cosby?
  2. Real journalists hear from BOTH sides (all both of them), so Lewis checks in with men’s rights groups on Reddit to get their perspective on rape, because who better to weigh in on allegations of sexual assault than that basement-dwelling gang of PUA ladyhaters? Too bad Lewis wasn’t around during the civil rights struggle, he could have gotten the Ku Klux Klan’s perspective on church bombings and that would’ve been super enlightening for everyone. (Although it might be fascinating to hear Waylon’s take on race relations, considering this video he posted on "Elephant Journal" in 2011 and his insights on racial humor within the yoga community.)
  3. Waylon describes this one time his mom’s spiritual teacher hit on her and she said no. (Proposition, violent assault, what's the difference? Let's not split hairs here!)And that is how he learned "all of us just need to encourage ourselves to just say no." See, rape crisis centers? PROBLEM FUCKING SOLVED ALREADY. Just get all Nancy Reagan with that shit!
  4. Feminism doesn’t mean what you think it means: "I think on some level it’s almost not feminist to say 'Well, these young women were taken advantage of,'" says Waylon. Ladies, stop disempowering yourselves! Pick yourself up by your own yoga pants already!
  5. Make sure you report that you’re being sexually pressured/harassed/assaulted “before going to the hotel room of Bikram or someone like that.” See, everybody? Report that shit, because if you go to a man’s hotel room and get raped, I mean, come on, who are we supposed to blame -- the rapist???
  6. If you’re being sexually abused by someone in your community and your community won’t listen to you, “go to the cops” because everyone knows the police always treat sexual assault survivors with the utmost kindness, understanding, and support, justice is always served to the assailant afterward, and the victim’s reputation and dignity are never dragged through the mud.
  7. Also, because Lewis has friends who have been “date raped,” he totally gets it, and his perspective on this subject is unimpeachable, so don’t even.

Believe it or not, several people had the temerity to disagree with some of Lewis’s statements (in his video that he shared online in a public forum that has an open comments section). These crazy, vindictive, hysterical females made inflammatory, slanderous, vicious statements like:

“Hey Waylon, I think it is a mistake to combine rape culture education awareness together with the Bikram case....I think you make a mistake to pit a feminist approach against a men's group approach.”

“Placing the responsibility for preventing rape on women, and placing blame on women for not saying no, however gently, has been around for decades. It hasn't prevented rape.”

“I fear that the way you approach these issues and this topic is confirming the reasons why women do not come forward….I hope that you can listen to this feedback, watch this video yourself, and start to have more awareness of yourself and these issues.”

“I just found it to be a regurgitation of society's lack of understanding of the depth and breadth of this issue.”

“The way that you have attacked commenters who have had the courage to speak to the confusing and upsetting tone of this video is disturbing to me.”

“The video is a mass of contradictions and confused thinking about rape/sexual assault. Consensual sex is not sexual assault….Weirdly, despite your entire video lamenting acts of sexual assault, you appear not to know the difference.”

I know, right? IT’S LIKE THEY DIDN’T EVEN HEAR HIS EXACT WORDS THAT HE SAID WITH HIS MOUTH. And Lewis was not having this disrespectful backtalk. When not quoting Aristotle, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his defense, his responses to these comments included no apologies or concessions of his critics’ points. A sampling:

  • "This feels like you're on the hunt--and not for open dialogue."
  • "I feel savaged. That said, I asked for it. I tried. I tried to bring together communities, instead of insisting on my right-ness."
  • "I tried. We all should try."
  • "Dozens of comments putting me in the corner of rape apologists?"
  • "Why do you attack someone who is clearly on your "side"? Instead of open discussion -- particularly on Facebook -- I found myself attacked repeatedly, and defended. Neither is the point. The point is education, as you say--not further polarization. I feel incredibly attacked here, and most in my situation would never speak on this subject again."

(See the comments section for further nuggets of defensive paranoid freakout from the mindfulness thought leader.)

Interestingly, Lewis (famous American Buddhist) never considers the option of shutting the fuck up and listening to these women for five minutes.

Here’s the thing, people: There’s a real victim in this situation. And that victim was Waylon Lewis (87,000 Twitter followers, speaking fee $2,000 day minimum plus travel and expenses). See, when commenters pointed out that he was perpetuating all the most damaging tenets of rape culture, that made him feel attacked and bad! Which is why he titled his follow-up post "How (Not) To Bring Men Into The Conversation About Rape." (Implied but not included subtitle: “Bitches Be Crazy.”)

He does own up to some error:

“A mea culpa: I was clearly not clear enough in my video that it is not the responsibility of those who are raped—men or women—to say ‘no’ or to come forward. It is the responsibility of the would-be rapist not to rape.”

See, he said “through my own fault” in Latin, what more do you people want? Please, let's move on to the REAL injustice that took place here:

Boy, let me tell you—three of the commenters did everything in their power to shout me down on this subject, to silence me evermore.

Evermore!!! A plaintive, haunting cry almost like that of Poe’s fabled raven!

They attacked–me and my words—and they didn’t even listen to what I had said, clearly—twisting my words, going ad hominem, getting what I had said wrong.

But he forgives them, readers, for they know not what they do:

“I get it. They were triggered–and I respect that. But when we’re triggered, we often don’t clearly hear what’s happening in the present moment. We see ‘other’ as enemy, often—even when that ‘other’ is an ally.”

Silly wimmins gettin all worked up and emotional! Wait, what were they triggered by again? Whatever, they probably had their periods.

The rest is all let’s come together, dialogue, community, listening, create bridges not walls, I didn’t do anything wrong blah blah blah. We’re glad he clarified that he believes the people responsible for rape are rapists, but frankly, we wish he’d gone a little further and said something along the lines of: Holy shit. I had no idea how much even I, as a supposed thought leader in the modern liberal Buddhist/yoga sphere, had absorbed so many of the corrosive hallmarks of rape culture. I’ve been a giant, privileged, clueless, mansplaining asshole and I’m deeply sorry. Thank you, everyone, for educating me. I vow to use my massive digital platform to dismantle deeply corrosive myths about rape, rather than perpetuating them. Namaste.

See? How hard would that have been?

[NYT / Elephant Journal]

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