Friday, June 5, 2009

The radical separation of the sexes

Everyone knows the joke about the yeshiva student who goes to his rabbi and asks about various sex positions. They're all OK, said the rabbi, except having sex while standing; it may lead to mixed dancing.

If you take a step back and look at the evolution of Judaism over the past two generations, it becomes strikingly clear that the separation of men and women has taken on a life of its own. Yes, "fences" are a good thing, but not when they create depravity.

We all know that by nature we want that which is forbidden. Does that mean good Jewish boys and girls ought to be allowed to see, hear and experience anything they want? Absolutely not. But, the insane, fundamentalist approach of keeping the sexes separated makes no sense.

These days, every simcha is separate seating. If not at a simcha, where should single Jews mingle? Is there a better environment? I think not.

We've gotten into this mess because of the not-so-gradual shift to the right of mainstream Judaism. It's a result of several factors: wealth, overindulgent parents and insane rabbis. (The great rabbis of yesterday all had academic degrees - some more than one! - and all encouraged their talmidim to get "real" jobs. It was only a select few who sat and learned. These days, everyone is a "top learner at Lakewood." But that's off-topic for here.)

These days, we all look over our shoulders and worry about out-frumming our neighbor. What does that mean? Among other things, it means we say to our girls and boys, "You can't play with one another. You can't talk to one another. You can't even LOOK at one another."

What do our children hear? "Because he's off-limits, I'm going to sneak out to see him."

I read an article once that claimed the Jewish community is no different than society in general. We have adultery, divorce, sexual abuse and incest at pretty much the same levels as everywhere else in America. We're just talking about it more. I'm not sure I buy that. I think - and I've conducted no research to back this up - that it's happening more in the frum community today because people don't know what to do with their feelings. Grown men - rabbis - feel it necessary to fondle their students. Upstanding members of the community seek sexual release with prostitutes . Divorce is gaining popularity because neighbors can't keep their hands off one another.

I think we - the Jewish community - have unrealistic expectations. It's time to change how we think.


  1. it seriously scares me. im part of the frum community in london and its like the Taliban are in charge...

  2. Read China Mieville's "The City and the City". Think of men as Besz and women as Ul Qoma.