Here is a link to a rebuttal to Dzongsar Khyentse's statement from the NYT.
The excerpt below is from the comments and I felt it worth copying and pasting here:
Startdust on August 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm
I have been working on this post for a while, using exerpts from various articles most of which mentioned here before, relating predominantly to both interpersonal teacher-student relationship dynamics and ethics.
The views expressed involve, as you will see, the concept of fiduciary care, which is of paramount importance in other care professions such as those of therapist, counsellor, doctor, professor and clergy.
Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher Insight Meditation Society, says: ‘’There’s no problem with sex itself. Some people choose to be celibate. Some people choose to enjoy sexual relations. Both can be done as a part of spiritual practice. The problem that we have seen in many communities arises when spiritual leaders misuse their role of authority.’’
Zen teacher Grace Schireson suggests that ‘’A person doesn’t come to a Buddhist community to grow through a sexual relationship with a teacher. They come to a Buddhist community to study Buddhism. So in a teacher-student sexual relationship, the primary purpose of that relationship has been subverted.’’
Both quotes from https://tricycle.org/magazine/sex-sangha-again/
From ‘’Sex and the Spiritual Teacher’’ by Scott Edelstein: “Any relationship potent enough to promote growth and healing is also powerful enough to harm. This is especially so with the relationship between a spiritual teacher and a student hungry for spiritual knowledge and growth.”
“It is entirely possible for a spiritual teacher to be wise, compassionate, empathetic, and inspiring, and at the same time sexually exploitive. This may seem entirely contradictory, but spiritual teachers have proven it true time after time. For better or worse, we humans are often contradictory creatures—especially when it comes to sex, power and vocation.”
Peter Rutter, M.D. psychiatrist, speaks on the subject in terms of man in power and woman under their care:
‘’What I have come to call sex in the forbidden zone sexual behavior between a man and a woman under his care of mentorship in a professional relationship can occur any time a woman entrusts important aspects of her physical, spiritual, psychological, or material welfare to a man who has power over her. (Women in power can exploit men too, but the balance of power is all too often in the other direction and such situations represent a small percentage of cases of sexual abuse.) Because these relationships invite both men and women to put into them their strongest hopes, wishes, fantasies, and passions, they are especially vulnerable to abuse and can be severely damaging to both people.’’
Rutter states that ‘’Although conservative estimates suggest that several million women in this country have been sexually victimized in relationships of trust, no numbers can possibly convey the full human cost of sex in the forbidden zone. (…) the mere presence of sexual innuendo from a man who has power over her can determine whether she experiences her femininity as a force to be valued and respected or as a commodity to be exploited.’’
‘’For the teacher, this unethical and immoral violation of a woman’s trust is often seen by him as a loving act that promises mutual fulfilment, and he is in denial of the suffering he causes. Because the relationship is inherently dishonest and manipulative, even if the woman has initiated it and wants it to continue, the love, intimacy and healing he is seeking usually remains illusively unattainable, often compelling him into a succession of equally empty and unfulfilling liaisons. This compulsive, self-destructive behavior only increases his disconnection from himself and others.’’ https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1992/01/sex-in-the-forbidden-zone
It can and often will take time to realise there is or has been an element of exploitation, or one can even remain unaware of this.
”Adult victims of sexual exploitation by clergy often don’t see themselves as victims. Without wider public awareness of the extent and impacts of this form of sexual violence, adults who have been sexually victimized by a beloved priest, pastor, minister, rabbi or other clergy will remain the “silent majority” of clergy sexual abuse victims, suffering in their shame and self-isolation.”
”Many people, including the victims themselves, often label incidences of clergy sexual misconduct with adults as ‘affairs’. In reality, they are an abuse of spiritual power by the religious leader.” http://www.adultsabusedbyclergy.org/
Lama Rod Owens writes: ”Buddhist communities are not unlike other organized religious communities: where there is hierarchy, patriarchy, and a clergy class with weak accountability structures, abuse will thrive. Lately, many of us have to come to realize how unsafe sanghas can be for the most vulnerable among us. We must work to undo this violence, which is rooted in patriarchy.”
”Sometimes the line between appropriate and inappropriate is blurred. And while I have seen and experienced boundaries being crossed by students, I still understand that the power balance in the situation means that I am the one ultimately responsible for maintaining boundaries.”
”Male-identified teachers, monks, staff, authorities, and lay practitioners in Western, mixed-gendered sanghas must speak out, taking responsibility for our role in a system that perpetuates violence in subtle and insidious ways.” https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhists-ethical-misconduct-we-all-have-patriarchy-work-to-do/
Some communities have been proactive; they did not wait to address these issues until they had a scandal on their hands, like the Spirit Rock Insight Meditation Centre.
Their ‘’Codes of ethics’’ say: ‘’A sexual relationship is never appropriate between teachers and students.’’ ‘’If interest in a genuine and committed relationship develops over time between a single teacher and a student, the student-teacher relationship must clearly and consciously have ended before any further development toward a romantic relationship.’’ https://www.spiritrock.org/teacher-code-of-ethics-2016
How one would clearly and consciously bring the student-teacher relationship to an end is not quite clear, particularly as there are social dynamics regarding each person’s position in a sangha, which unavoidably affect interrelational dynamics.
Lastly, Jack Kornfield on collective responsibility and structures offers practical and positive direction:
‘’It’s not just about educating women or educating men; it’s educating everybody. Educating the communities—that’s really the game. The responsibility has to be held collectively.’’
‘’You’re quite right that our communities are structured from the top down. That’s because the traditions themselves have been patriarchal and top-down. To address this, what we’ve set up in our community at Spirit Rock is an independent ethics council. A small group of teachers who are most respected for their balance and integrity are elected to it—the balance is important, because these issues can stir up a hornet’s nest, and when emotions are triggered, people tend to think unclearly. So the council is made up of the elected teachers, a community member, and a board member who are independent from the board or the head teacher. They have the power to investigate, to look for reconciliation, and, if necessary, to come back to the board or the community and require changes. There has to be a process that’s outside of the hierarchy (…) described.’’ https://tricycle.org/magazine/sex-sangha-again/