Sunday, June 22, 2008

An interesting conversation

See the comments section. (Long story.)

13 Comments:

Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tue Jul 22, 06:58:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tue Jul 22, 07:02:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tue Jul 22, 07:03:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Please pardon me for placing this discussion in such an obscure location, but I don't dare post this where it would be visible to my co-workers.

Two of my co-workers, both Orthodox--one a married women with adult children, one a single woman of roughly the same age as the married woman's children (never married, but still looking), were discussing homosexuality. The married woman said that she thought that most homosexuals were born that way, and that she admired those who were able to control their urges most of the time and minimize the number of times in their lives that they had sex. I kept wondering whether she would show the same level of tolerance for the single woman with whom she was speaking if the single woman remained unmarried for life but behaved likewise. Seriously, what's a gay person or a hetersexual person who's widowed, divorced, or never married supposed to do? Hesh, of Frum Satire, once posted that he heard of young ladies who'd made pacts with female friends that, if they weren't married by the time they were 30, they'd give up trying to keep their virginity. Nice Jewish Girl blogged about how extremely physically frustrating it felt to be in one's mid-thirties and still a virgin.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect a person to remain virgin for life. That doesn't mean that unmarried people have to sleep with everyone in sight. But it does mean that for a mature unmarried person to have consensual sex with another mature unmarried person who's trustworthy shouldn't be deemed so horrific, in my opinion. I'm sorry that Orthodox Judaism doesn't seem to allow for this.

Tue Jul 22, 07:04:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

It's the single woman involved in this conversation who's never never been married but is still looking. Sorry I didn't make that clear by putting the wording in the proper order.

Since I don't dare reply from the office to any comments, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until I get home. Thank you for your patience.

Tue Jul 22, 07:10:00 PM 2008  
Blogger katrina said...

What about the single observant woman who has sex with one mature consenting partner and goes to the mikvah beforehand? That would fall into a lovely area I call the "no actual rule against it but discouraged by the establishment." On its abstinence website, the OU takes great pains to explain why this is so terrible, but it's obviously not for any halakhic reason. This has been an issue before in Jewish history as well. A professor friend of mind told me that in parts of Russia in the nineteenth century, the rabbis barred unmarried women from using the mikvah. Why else, she asked, would they have been using the mikvah?

Tue Jul 22, 08:59:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Actually, there's a rule called "shmirat n'giah" that prohibits any physical contact between persons of the opposite sex who are neither married to one another nor members of the same family. You can't very well have sex if you're not even allowed to touch. But how old is that rule? Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs) certainly sounds like a poem about physical love to me, despite the rabbinical reinterpretation of it as a poem about the love between G-d and the Jewish People. So I'm guessin' that the law of shmirat n'giah is probably rabbinic (d'rabbanan), not biblical (d'oraita), in origin. Mind you, I'm very far from being a scholar and could be wrong.

I must give credit where credit is due--my married co-worker's attitude toward gay men is more tolerant than I would have expected.

But I was upset by her nonchalant assertion that men have stronger sex drives. It's not tough enough on an unmarried woman over 25 that she has to be totally sexually deprived--she also has to be made to feel that, if she experiences sexual frustration, she's not a normal woman? Nice Jewish Girl complained on her blog that, while she and other single women frequently discussed their loneliness, any discussion of sexual frustration was so taboo that she wondered whether she was the only one who felt that way. Whence comes this myth that women are made of stone and that only men ever suffer from "sex-on-the-brain" syndrome?

This solution works only in warm weather: A woman can take her partner, barely after sunrise (when, one hopes, there'll be no one else there to see her), to any local natural body of water deep enough to cover her body, and, using her partner as her full-immersion witness, take a skinny-dip. The law says that a woman has to immerse herself naked and completely, including her hair, in a body of water that includes at least a minimal amount of rain water. The law doesn't say that the body of water has to be a mikvah.

Tue Jul 22, 10:40:00 PM 2008  
Blogger mother in israel said...

Interesting analogy, but there is a key difference between the two situations, A heterosexual single has hope of finding a marriage partner, while the homosexual knows he is stuck for life.

Fri Jul 25, 05:35:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

In theory, that's true. But life is not always that kind. I've read estimates of the number of never-married Israelis that are as high as 37%. Just how long is it reasonable to expect any human being to ignore a human instinct that's as normal and natural as hunger?

Add to that the sh'mirat n'giah prohibition, and, if you happen to live in the U.S., the strong social taboo against physical contact between members of the *same* sex, as well (because we Americans are absolutely paranoid about being mistaken for, or "outed" as, homosexuals), and we're talking about people who can go almost literally untouched by human hands (except for those of health-care professionals) for years at a time.

Physical deprivation for short periods of time is not the end of the world. But physical deprivation for life is downright unhealthy. Human beings evolved as, and/or, depending on your point of view, were designed by HaShem to be, social animals. We are not designed to be physically isolated.

Research has shown that babies raised with insufficient physical affection in infancy will not develop normally. Why do we assume that being deprived of physical affection is any less devastating for adults?

Fri Jul 25, 02:37:00 PM 2008  
Blogger mother in israel said...

The 37% is irrelevant, because the vast majority of those are single by choice and sexually active.

I'm not really arguing with you. Physical affection is a basic need, although deprivation (or damage) during development can't be compared to deprivation as an adult.

It's easier to tolerate a lack when you believe it to be temporary. And I don't mean to minimize the real pain of singles when I say that there is a choice involved in a decision to remain so. I haven't noticed a taboo among females touching each other in the Orthodox community; not sure about men.

Fri Jul 25, 06:22:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . the vast majority of those are single by choice and sexually active." Sexual active, maybe. Single by choice? Good question. In all my 59 years, I can remember only one person who ever stated, flat out, that he/she didn't wish to marry. Is it just a taboo to say so? I think I'll ask. Check for a new post.

Sun Jul 27, 12:11:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Here’s that post, as promised.

Sun Jul 27, 01:31:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Let me try that again.

Sun Jul 27, 01:32:00 AM 2008  

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