Thursday, March 24, 2005

Let's talk about (premarital) sex

A few months ago I commented that the increasing number of Orthodox singles in their late 20s and 30s grappling with issues of negiah, and suffering real stress, guilt and difficulty as a result
is yet another issue which sooner or later the community will have to talk about more openly and more creatively. It's in the community's own interest to grapple with this, both because it has a duty not to neglect its singles who are in a truly impossible situation, and because facts are being created on the ground which soon will be impossible to reverse.
In just a few short months, the issue seems to have become the 'hot' topic. This week, both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz are reporting on a symposium which took place in Jerusalem on sex in the Orthdox singles scene (although apparently the word 'sex' was never mentioned...). In addition, Sahrah Blau, one of the Orthodox community's most prominent single women in the Israeli media, held a discussion following the symposium on tv.
The best article to appear on the subject, however, appeared in Hebrew in De'ot, and in fact formed the basis for the discussion at the Jerusalem event. Apparently fully one third of Orthodox women are still single at 30; like it or not, there are thousands of Orthodox singles out there who are having premarital sex. What this article brings out clearly is that this is having a sociological impact, the full extent of which we probably don't even appreciate yet. At the very least, it is threatening the centrality of family in Jewish life, associating sexuality with guilt and stress for a large chunk of the Orthodox population even for many years after marriage, and driving a wedge between the rabbinical establishment and a large part of the community.
As I've said before, I have no idea what the answer is, but I am glad it is being discussed more openly, both for the sake of the community as a whole, which has a stake in this, and for the singles, who are in genuine distress.
Finally, I find it rather ironic that Ohel Nechama Synagogue, where the symposium took place, broke links with Ne'emanei Torah Va'avodah, which organized the event, because they found this particular topic too controversial. Ohel Nechama is one of Jerusalem's main 'meat markets' and probably the place where half the Orthodox singles having sex meet in the first place.

7 comments:

Esther said...

There was a substantial discussion on this issue (launched from the JPost article) on Jewlicious over the last two days, and some of the comments were very interesting...

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