I tend to feel that there are many issues in society caused by promiscuity. This is intentionally vague as it is so difficult to describe what is promiscuous, and equally it is hard to describe problems whose source is lust.
I can only understand lust in one way – from my own experience of lust and the sex-drive. I would not assess my own experience as being typical nor would I say all men are the same. Nor would I say the sex drive of men is the same as the sex drive of women.
In traditional communities a teenage girl’s sexual needs were repressed, some such communities requiring virginity as a prerequisite for marriage. This tends to be associated with chauvinist societies. In the West now I feel that the fashion is for promiscuity on behalf of both girls and boys. As a boy I grew up just feeling the need “to get my end away”. Without going into more detail than that as I don’t know whether anything can be generalised from my personal experience, this “getting the end away” had no love attachment, and was simply an idea that satisfaction could be obtained sexually with any woman. Now it appears that “hooking up” is the feeling that satisfaction can be obtained physically by both men and women. Both “”getting the end away” and “hooking up” are promiscuous, and I consider dangerous because of the issues that arise.
I do however feel that discussions of sexual conduct need to be increased and dealt with in a more serious manner. My own sexual education was predicated on a shameful titillation culture, typified by “Carry On” films. As I went to a boys’ school I had limited contact with girls, and was completely ill-equipped socially especially because I had a huge shyness. My knowledge of where society perceives sexual conduct should be has come from observation when being a teacher, observing gender interactions over the years. It appears that people grow up and it is hoped they don’t get into too much trouble. In my view so many problems arise from sexual relationships, and this lack of appropriate guidance is reprehensible.
The real problem lies with sila, we are not societies guided by moral integrity. Compassion and sila should have been what guided my relationships, not “getting my end away”. Unfortunately I only got to see that later in life, possibly when the lust was waning. It is often accepted that mothers shackle their daughters but fathers tend to encourage boys to “sow their wild oats”, such male irresponsibility is a disgrace. Whilst I would prefer to see an end to promiscuity I do not envisage that as a possibility, however responsible parents and other responsible adults ought to do more than insist on prophylactics – they need to insist on compassion and sila. In sexual matters there is limited discussion, limited compassion and limited sila, it is not surprising that many young people begin life in trouble.
Spiritual leaders need to see the importance of exemplary guidance on sexual matters because of all the problems caused in society by the limitations discussed above. I support the idea that monks should be celibate and not homosexual. This at least demonstrates that monks can control their lust, showing lay people that they do not have to be driven by these urges. Many spiritual teachers are monogamous although before such relationships they were vulnerable and so therefore was their message.
All Buddhisms have a form of precept which refrains from sexual misconduct, so I do not know how Buddhist teachers can accept of themselves sexual liaisons with women attending their talks. There is no doubt they bring disrepute to Buddhism. Here is a comprehensive list of teachers who have allegedly misused their position and brought Buddhism into disrepute (note this list includes more than sexual allegations) :-
By their very position of being a spiritual teacher such people have accepted an authority and responsibility. We do not expect school teachers and lecturers to take advantage of students, whether legal or not, it is even less acceptable amongst spiritual teachers. Equally it is not acceptable for schoolgirls to flirt with teachers, so it is not acceptable for students to flirt with spiritual teachers. But in both cases the responsibility of control lies with the teacher, both in school and in spiritual relations. Unfortunately in both situations there are vulnerable women, vulnerable schoolgirls and vulnerable spiritual students. It can never be acceptable to take advantage of vulnerable people, and all teachers should be aware of this sila imperative.
In the US a group of teachers of Buddhism put out a statement, I would welcome more of such.
On the View on Buddhism page the writer noted that HHDL advised students to confront these teachers. One such teacher was Sogyal Rinpoche, and HHDL has publicly supported that teacher since the allegations have arisen. The writer made a note that they still study Sogyal’s teachings. As soon as I read the allegations I stopped studying him – discussed here (there are pertinent comments). I thought then as I do now, if there is doubt that a teacher cannot conduct themselves properly how can s/he have understood the teachings?