Unwanted Exposure

September 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?

Christy Jones, CAE By:   |   September 01, 2009


  1. christyjones christyjones says:

    Thanks Liz for that Yoga education, very helpful to understand both the clothing & inward focus (would explain the “glazed” look by other participants).

    And GB, since the blog was posted, many people who have contacted me directly feel as you do. The stories of “exposures” are numerous and range from the “think it was an accident” to being directly accosted. Everyone agrees, it centers on respect and the lack-there-of and overstepping boundaries – some even legal.

  2. Avatar Liz says:

    Most of the yoga shorts I’ve seen are very short, but also designed to offer coverage – elastic at the bottom of the shorts, or spandex built in to keep the shorts tight against the thigh. Yoga clothing can sometimes seem revealing by being very tight, but in fact tighter clothing can provide more coverage for inverted poses where a loosely fitting shirt may hang open, exposing much more than intended. Finding proper yoga clothing can take some trial and error, but a yoga instructor should have already figured out what works. Since he is an instructor, so presumably an experienced yoga practitioner, I would be very surprised if he was unaware of his exposure.

    Definitely complain to the gym or studio, anonymously if need be. Others may have been uncomfortable too. It is possible that not everyone noticed – some people can have incredible inward focus while practicing yoga.

  3. GB GB says:

    I’m with the group that says “he knows”. You’re right, low on the harrassment scale but VERY HIGH on the “Yuck” scale. I feel the same way when I see too much of another man or woman’s private anything on the metro or out in the street (READ: too many butt cracks). Hello! keep that to yourself. It has nothing to do with being a prude–everything to do with respecting other people’s right to be offended. I would call the gym so that he could be given a gentle reminder (or maybe it’s apart of yoga to “free” your private parts, I don’t know.)

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