Recently, the Integral Options blog turned my attention to a paper planned for the Integral Theory Conference by Marc Gafni called Spiritually Incorrect; Sex, Ethics and Injury. As some people know, Integral Friend Gafni has been accused of sexual misconduct with his students in the past. Gafni denies these allegations and uses the paper in question to discuss and defend his position on the subject.
This isn’t a post about Gafni’s paper, although I hope someone with the right inclination will do a thorough job of critiquing it, as both the content and the style are shockingly bad and does no favors to the integral community leaders who continue to rally around him while expecting to be taken seriously. This is a post about an excellent book that Gafni attempts to critique in his paper which I had not come across before called Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power—Therapists, Doctors, Clergy, Teachers, and Others—Betray Women’s Trust by Peter Rutter.
As the title suggests, Rutter’s book is all about why men in power should not overstep sexual boundaries with women over whom they hold power. It stems from the author’s experience where he was close to overstepping the boundary himself (Rutter is a therapist), which he describes below:
I was overcome by an intoxicating mixture of the timeless freedom, and the timeless danger, that men feel when a forbidden woman’s sexuality becomes available to them. The freedom stems from the illusion of such moments in which a man can convince himself that nothing but sexual merger with the female body and spirit seems real. He shuts himself off from past and future, contemplating neither the motivation nor the consequences of his acts. The feeling of danger balances the one of freedom, for within this danger is the intuition that the act he is so strongly fantasizing may be wrong, that it may bring catastrophe on both himself and the woman. In the moment of deciding whether to cross the line, I felt all at once extremely powerful—and very, very vulnerable.
What I like about this book is that Rutter does a good job of showing how overstepping sexual boundaries is profoundly wrong, but nevertheless a temptation experienced by (and frequently acted upon) even very decent and ethically-centered men. He also does a good job of explaining how the massive cover-up of such wide-spread activities by other very decent and ethically-centered men is due to the secret envy of those men who have transgressed such boundaries, and that by allowing such transgressions to go unchecked the potential for future fantasy transgressions remains open to all. In doing so, Rutter navigates a very difficult middle way between critiquing his subject of enquiry without demonizing it.
While there may be some issues about broadly referring to “men” or “masculinity” in such a singular way, Rutter nevertheless provides one of the better accounts I’ve read about how “men” think. I don’t say this often, but I recommend this book.