Religion & Beliefs

Talkin’ Bout the Birds and the Bees…and the Prudes

A couple of people have requested that I blog more about my sex life, which, frankly, is not going to happen, what with my parents, Bubbe, grade school teachers, and ex boyfriends all reading my posts every once in a … Read More

By / June 27, 2007

A couple of people have requested that I blog more about my sex life, which, frankly, is not going to happen, what with my parents, Bubbe, grade school teachers, and ex boyfriends all reading my posts every once in a while. Also, none of my romantic ventures of late have been anything even approaching spiritual (I did have an unfortunate revelation involving a man in Queens a few weeks ago, but it was something along the lines of God reminding me that I am incapable of being fully entertained by a Princeton man, so I should stop kidding myself and move on to Yalies already). Anyway, I can’t legitimately blog about dating on the Upper West Side on FaithHacker. What I can blog about is the discussion I have with almost all of my observant friends at one time or another involving our decisions about sex. By the time we’ve graduated college, many of us have been in one or more serious relationships, and we’ve struggled with the conflicts that halacha places on our sex lives. There is, sadly, not a huge amount of wiggle room for those who want to have sex with their significant others. Theoretically, if one is in a monogamous long-term relationship, and if the woman goes to the mikvah and the couple observes the period of nidah, there’s no problem. Only a few of my friends have even considered this, because though it seems simple, it pretty much necessitates lying to the mikvah lady, which makes lots of women uncomfortable. One of my friends said simply, “It seems like cheating.” The vast majority of my friends who have struggled with this issue have decided ultimately to just have sex outside of marriage. The one notable exception is an Australian guy I knew in Israel who, in a discussion of this issue with me one night at a Shabbat dinner table, slammed his hand down on the table and said, “Halacha says a man who sleeps with a woman who’s in nidah is issur koret, [or violating a commandment that requires the death penalty as punishment.] He’s the only one who has ever it stated it that way, but the general concern about the wrath of God has certainly scared the pants back onto a few of my friends who oscillate between observant and less-observant lifestyles. My general policy has never been to look for outs within halacha. I’m sure that if I did enough digging and finagling of texts I could come up with something that would satisfy me ideologically, but it simply does not keep me up at night. As I’ve mentioned before, the Bible is full of Biblical characters struggling with sexuality, fidelity, trust, commitment and honesty, and more often than not, it’s these struggles that lead to real change and improvement in their characters. Ultimately, I look for role models in Tanach and not in the Talmud because the Talmud’s understanding and treatment of women is both problematic, and completely unrealistic/unhelpful in regards to making serious choices about how I conduct relationships. If I won’t go to a mikvah and lie to a mikvah lady about being married, then halachically I can’t justify touching any Jewish man who isn’t related to me. But if I open up my Tanach I see that Rachel and Jacob kiss upon meeting. Which do you think I’m going to find more instructive to my life? The struggle for me, and I think for many of my friends, has been how much we let our spiritual selves govern our love lives. And how sure are we that by focusing on one we largely abandon the other? There’s little discussion outside of the kiruv-y Orthodox world about how to have a spiritual dating experience, or what spiritually conscious intimacy would involve, but more and more often I find myself wondering about how all this could/should work.