Things I should have seen coming: The man who sang "I love you, you love me," for a decade now runs a Tantric sex therapy business called Tantra Harmony, and has practiced the spiritual art since he was 19 years old.
“Before I got into the [Barney] costume, I would pray and ask God to allow his loving divine spirit to flow through me through the costume and let that draw the kids," he said in an interview with Vice. "That energy would always draw them in."
Truthfully, I don't say this to be disparaging - not at all. Tantra has long been a misunderstood form of spirituality, thanks to the Western proclivity for sexualizing everything plus a few truly terrible (and traumatic) cases of abuse by Tantric teacher. At its core, Tantra is about love, light, and transcendence, and finds its root in both Hindi and Buddhist teachings. The reason sex is such an important pillar of Tantra is that it's about finding a sort of divine energy internally and using that force to surpass ego entirely.
The foundation of all our existence? LOVE!— David Joyner (@djoyner22) January 7, 2018
Live it, Breathe it, Speak it, Stand on it, Share it!
I Love You, You Love Me... We’re A Spiritual Family!!! pic.twitter.com/TIcTa6CQpb
"When you go down on a woman (orally), it should be just like you’re saying grace, like blessing the food you’re about to receive," Joyner said in the interview.
Which, yes, sounds fabulous. His business gets into some ethically ambiguous territory, though - each session includes a guaranteed orgasm, and according to Joyner, involves unprotected sex with 2 percent of clients.
I'll be frank here: Sex as a healing modality is certainly a thing, and it is a part of Tantra's teachings. Most Tantra teachers take an approach more akin to that of a sex therapist, though - they teach their clients healing techniques they can use with a trusted partner who is not their spiritual teacher; one who is not being paid for the sexual ceremony.
STD tests are involved, much like they are on a porn set, and Joyner has found a way to make his practice legally viable. He has many clients who were victims of sexual trauma, and according to his testimonials, he has helped many past the sexual blockages the trauma had created - which is great! The issue, however, comes when a teacher - particularly someone with the spiritual know-how that clients do not have - has sex with students. It's an uneven power exchange, and as we've seen in the era of #MeToo and Larry Nassar, one that can easily be abused.
That certainly does not mean that Joyner is or would ever take advantage of his position, though.
“Not all of my sessions have sex or ‘spiritual intimacy,’" he told Vice. "It’s only in the full sessions, when someone is ready to take the sexual energy to a higher level," says Joyner. "It’s not about sex or trying to coerce someone into having sex. It’s about removing emotionally blocked energy."
Regardless of his intentions, sexually traumatized clients can easily leave a paid exchange feeling even worse, purely because that power dynamic can echo feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness. This is compounded by the fact that he only takes female clients; a personal but slightly... niche decision.
Joyner has had absolutely no complaints made against him, though, and many former clients and co-workers have come forth with defensive comments about his character and spirit.
In response to the media attention, he took to Facebook, leaving this post:
My sincerest hope is that Joyner keeps the innocence of Barney alive at his practice, as odd as that sounds, and that he helps spread the notion that sex can be healing. Should he abuse his position, even through a lack of awareness of the power he holds, Tantra will make another painful step backward, as will his clients.