Unwanted ExposureSeptember 01, 2009
Colleagues at work have been touting the benefits of yoga, and I finally got myself out of my desk chair yesterday to attend a beginner’s class at lunch. Crossing that great divide between talking about it versus doing it is huge for me, and I was pleased with myself as I got dressed and entered the class. I let the instructor know that I was a true newbie, and he was very welcoming, as were the others in the class.
I got all the stuff I’d need: mat, blankets (were we going to snooze too?), belt, and blocks. I sat as straight as I could, looked forward, and watched closely as our instructor began the lesson. Within minutes I was averting my eyes as I realized his very short shorts weren’t sufficient to cover his, ummm, private parts while doing leg lifts. Good grief, I sighed, as he continued. I looked around; everyone else’s eyes seemed glazed. No one said anything, and the lesson continued.
Why did he have to wear those shorts and no underwear? Why did I have to see what I saw? If I say something now, it’ll ruin the whole class, I thought. If I say something directly, I’ll never want to attend his class again — I’d be “the narc”. Why isn’t anyone else even pausing in their exercising? Was this an accident that I should simply ignore? Is this a pattern for this guy that he’s gotten away with? Why me! I just came to start some new healthy moves.
So much for the peacefulness of yoga. I decided to do a poll of friends, both female and male to see what their thoughts on my situation were. I got some interesting responses. Almost all women said immediately, “Oh, he knows he’s flashing,” but agreed that if I ever wanted to take his class again, I should be careful on how/if I report it so it wouldn’t be obvious that I was the one who said anything. The guys I polled thought it was an accident, and about 50 percent suggested I also call the gym anonymously to ask the instructor to cover up in the future. The other half (and some women as well) suggested I take no action now under the “once is an accident, twice is exhibitionism” principle.
Now on a sexual harassment scale, this incident barely registers, especially when compared to the stories told by women who have been sexually assaulted, such as those that appeared in AAUW’s blog about rape in the military, “Keep Talking Until Change Happens.” Our study Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus showed that “nearly two-thirds of college students experience some type of sexual harassment. Yet less than 10 percent of these students tell a college or university employee about their experiences and an even smaller fraction officially report them to a Title IX officer.”
Guess the point is that if we are made to feel uncomfortable (or worse) by someone’s thoughtlessness, we need to take action, even if on a small scale. What do you think?