Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sex And The Yeshiva Life

Howdy folks,

It is Jack and I am continuing to roll out the posts fast and furiously. In my brief life I have had the opportunity to be exposed to many different facets of Judaism. As I am sure that it is clear on this blog and my own I have a very rudimentary understanding of somethings and my exposure in certain areas is very limited.

At the request of some friends as well as my own curiosity I want to throw out kind of a general question/comment and see what kind of response we get.

Clearly the human sex drive is very strong and clearly there is no doubt that we all need to be touched, loved and to be affectionate. The manner, place and social norms that surround this however are very distinct and different, especially when it comes to areas such as being Shomer Negiah.

There are those of us who wonder how many people are actually able to do this for any length of time. How many secret relationships are there and how extensive are they?

Some of my BT friends have privately expressed to me that they are somewhat relieved to have become observant at an older age because they are familiar with their own sexuality and more comfortable in it. They don't feel the same need to engage in sexual pursuits as they did because they have become very clear with what they want and need.

The point of this post is not to be titillating or appeal to prurient desires, but to just learn a little bit more, that is assuming anyone is willing to share their thoughts or feelings here.

Do you think that being SN is a good thing? Is it helpful in facilitating the matching of besheret or is do you think that it is extreme?


Just Shu said...

Here's my take.. I went through teh Yeshiva system, and wasn't SN, I don't think i could have date d agirl in HS and been SN,(and what would be the point). I'm now married, and basically have to SN for two weeks a mos (which sux) I guess if I had been SN when I was younger, I would be used to it when I'm married

Sarah said...

Shomer Negia really depends on the way one related to Halacha.

One could certainly come up with all the fluffy reasons why we should all be SN (see The Magic Touch, a nauseating book which I'm not actually recommending) - that it blinds you, you don't get to know the real person, you think yu like them but its only physical, etc. etc. And these may have some truth to them.

But in the end I could refute these arguments easily. After all, people have been getting married for years without this SN business. The baby bomer generation didn't even have the concept, really! Plus, I honeslty can't imagine who believes that taking the change from the 55 year old cashier at my local grocery store is going to give me the hots for him.

But, there's a whole other issue. As it is today, unmarried women don't go to mikva. And because of this, umarried women are in a consant state of nidda, of impurity, until they go to mikva before their marriage. And so practically, if one is planning on keeping the laws of taharat ha mishpacha while married, they _have_ to be SN when single.

And of course, its still not that simple. Because we have other people to consider. I firmly firmly believe that ben adam lichaveiro's take precedance over ben adam l'makom's (see pikuach nefesh on shabbat, that God won't forgive the sins that a person commits against others, etc.).

And so I have taken the stanse that while I do find it necessary to adhere to shomer negiah, I WILL NOT embarras others over it. If a classmate reaches out to shake my hand, I will shake back. If my dorm neighbor hugs me, I will not shriek and run. I bring it up to friends who knew me in my pre-shomeret days as delicately as possible, and maybe, if i know it will make them uncomfortable, not at all. And at this point, most Orthodox guys will ask before touching me, so with them its not usually a problem.

When in a relationship, I plan on being shomeret. Will it be hard? Of course. Excruciatingly so. But as an adherant to Halacha, I can't not. It would be hypocritical of me not to.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, some of the older kids pointed out the "mikvah building" to me. Somehow, from their description, I gathered that married women were taken there and drowned. That misconception stayed with me for some time and gave me nightmares. Eventually my mother gave me the real scoop, but by then (age 14) I was already too much the skeptic to believe any of it. I think I read her something from an anthropology book about "ancient blood taboos" and told her it was silly, though I was really still scared of the building where the drowned women's ghosts haunted the hallways.

Lyss said...

Umm...my comments began to get a bit logn for a comment box, so I finished them here:


Jack Steiner said...

Some interesting comments thus far, keep them coming.

PsychoToddler said...

Here's my non-religious take on negiah:

1. It makes people want to get married younger.

2. It makes you have the hots for your wife every month even after you've been married for 30 years. I have patients who complain about peri-menopausal irregularities because they can't have sex with their husbands as often.

So is it good for the spirit or good for your marriage or good for perpetuation of the Jewish people? You decide.

Jack Steiner said...

1. It makes people want to get married younger

That can be seen as being good and bad.

PsychoToddler said...

I know.

Jack Steiner said...

Ok, now that we have established that we agree upon that, here are a couple more thoughts.

Part of what concerns me about getting married at a younger age is the challenge of not having had much in the way of life experience.

I don't think that this is insurmountable, but I think that it is an added stressor on something that is relatively tough to begin with.

Anonymous said...

If being shomer negiah keeps the fire alive, what happens when a woman is post-menopausal? Does the fire go out? Surgically-induced menopause can make a woman of any age menopausal, and that's not so uncommon.

That's a problem I see with the "hots for your wife" reasoning. It implies that you need a break like that, but I wonder if couples continue that rhythm when it is no longer halachically mandated.

I asked my mother about this, because she observed Taharas Mispacha until her hysterectomy (in her mid-thirties). She said that the um, "bedroom" situation improved dramatically after her hysterectomy. She was very happy about that.

I'm not trying to sow discord. I respect anyone's observances, but I really don't think it improves a couple's sex life. You'd be surprised what additional benefits come from increased frequency. (The frum among you will find out about that after the wife has menopause.)

PsychoToddler said...

I don't want to get too personal here about this, but I've followed the program and I don't feel deprived.

With regards to frequency and taking a break and so forth, I'd like to see some real data one way or another. I think most of us are just going on anecdotes here. I can point to the majority of patients I know who haven't had marital relations for years, and women who are happy after menopause that they "don't have to deal with dat anymore (sex)", and then get annoyed when I prescribe viagra for their husbands "I taught I was troo wit dat!"

And then the frum women who do look forward to menopause because they still are interested in more frequent sex.

Like I said, I'd like to see real numbers.

Jack Steiner said...

Like I said, I'd like to see real numbers.

That is fair, now all we need is a study, but I suspect that is going to be hard to come by.

Anonymous said...

For another view of the Orthodox sex life, and quite funny too (if you aren't offended) read . (Scroll down to the section on Nidahs and paper bags.)

Anonymous said...

In that previous comment, the HTML got weird, but the post is at this location - http://unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2005/06/jewish-genius.html

PsychoToddler said...

We actually did a study in medical school (part of an epidemiology class) where we passed around forms asking us about sexual frequency, number of partners etc. Sample size of about a hundred. I was just married then, so I think I skewed the orthodox numbers up a bit.

Jack Steiner said...

Sample size of about a hundred. I was just married then, so I think I skewed the orthodox numbers up a bit.


Anonymous said...

I know, us honeymooners will always ruin the curve. Until one spouse becomes over-involved in volunteer activities and is suddenly too exhausted to unhook her bra, not that I would know anything about that. (Pritzus alert!)

PsychoToddler said...

BTW, not to brag, but I don't think my numbers have dropped that much.

Jack Steiner said...

6 kids, I should say not. ;)

orthomom said...

I think the concept of being Shomer Negiah works fine for those who are raised in an environment where they do not have much exposure to the opposite sex. It also works well as long as the "participants in the program" get married young. After that, all bets are off.

Jaime said...

so there is a choice to be or not to be before you get married? Are the expectations the same for single men and women? Got to say I knew a many modern orthodox girls and guys in College and there was plenty of secret sex going on.

Anonymous said...

I found that yeshiva kids where much more promiscuous than my public school friends and much more involved in drug use. I think the whole notion of what is prohibited greatly contributed to this "acting out". I have no problem with sn if the purpose is to create a better more intimate connection but, when it is used as a cover for fear of intimacy because heaven forbid this relationship doesn't work then yes, I do have issues with it or if it's uesed as another means to make someone feel better than someone else since they are "practicing" closer to the letter then yes it's not right...if anything I think it is downright immoral