Not So Outdated Notions About Men, Women, and Intimacy

[for mature audiences only. Really]

Decades ago, no kiruv weekend with teens would go by without the de rigueur sessions on negiah, sex, or whatever. Stock tools were rolled out to convince teens not to do things they really wanted. We’d talk about the difference between lust and love; between men and women; we’d demonstrate the power of something called “the magic touch,” taken from a book by that name. It actually worked more often than we would have thought.

Not having been near NCSY for quite a while, I have no idea whether the arguments we used back then would meet with anything but derision from kids who are growing up in a very different world. My guess is that new strategies have developed, because the old ones could not possibly be heard by kids in Modern Orthodox schools, let alone teens from completely secular backgrounds, whose parents were the ones who didn’t listen to us back in the old days. It would be great to learn that I am wrong.

But good ideas outlast cultural changes. An opinion piece in today’s New York Times should demonstrate that, and might prove valuable for those in the kiruv world.

Warning: They will only want to read it if their taharah has already regrettably been sullied by overexposure. It is not exactly written in what we would call lashon nekiah. For this reason, I am not going to belabor the point and quote from it extensively. Bottom lines: Women do crave intimacy. Hookups don’t provide it. Lots of women have to ply themselves with alcohol to get them to do what is supposed to be fun but isn’t. Women (gasp!) do act differently than men, and try taking into account the disappointment of another.

One money quote might be in order, since it is PG rated:

To attempt to separate emotions from sex is not only illogical, given that emotion intensely augments pleasure, but also impossible for almost all women.

Who would have thought?

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28 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    The topic of women’s sexuality is difficult given the inherent biases of the investigator and the difficulty in obtaining honest responses from those women questioned. Often attitudes dictate the “correct” response, particularly in the literature of those with an agenda whether they be social activists or religious leaders. Their biases are then reflected in popular cultures they impact. There are lessons here for both radical feminists, religious extremists and those with other biases.
    I would worry less about yoatzot in hilkhot niddah and more about uncertified kallah instructors.

    • tzippi says:

      I can’t open the link and if I choose to do so, it will take a day or so for it to be approved.
      Did the article actually talk about yoatzot and uncertified kallah instructors?(!?)
      (FWIW, in our community, our local vaad hachinuch associated with the mikvah will only endorse women who have been through specific training, and those women to date are all quite reputable.)

      • dr. bill says:

        of course, it did not. but if one wants to banish misogynist views, starting with certifying kallah teachers might be a good start. unfortunately, it would be difficult to start the process in those communities where, by urban legend, it appears most needed.

      • tzippi says:

        Got it. This was not a windmill I expect to be tilted here.
        In line with what Steve Brizel writes our community had an evening with a well-regarded (not local) kallah teacher making just his point. She and her message were widely endorsed. It’s great if kallah teachers teach it, greater still if mothers do.

        And as important as it to empower our daughters to not accept misogyny, we need to educate our sons accordingly.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Any Yoetzet and competent kallah teacher as well as any qualified chasan teacher should be able to emphasize where why and how the halacha views marital intimacy and to emphasize why the same needs no apologies for when compared RL with the hook up culture . The key IMO is recognizing that Chazal rejected the monastic viees of early Christianity and the hedonic Greco Roman culture and that we continue to do so today.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        IMO part of any chasans preparation should be an awareness that Chazal and Rishonim.such as either Ramban or Raavad who wrote Baalei HaNefesh had a very positive view of marital intimacy .

    • Yehoshua Friedman says:

      It would be a good “buyer beware” point for chasanim and kallas to only patronize certified instructors. I don’t know how it is in the US, but here in E”Y Machon Puah is excellent. I actually took a course madrichei chatanim though didn’t enter the field and I have known Rav Menachem Burstin shlita for years before he founded the machon with the encouragement of many rabbis including Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l. They cover shitot of all major poskim and deal with the human issues well. There are other good ones as well.

  2. Shades of Gray says:

    Something caught my eye in the linked NYT article, “That’s why Britain just appointed a loneliness minister”, which seems a rather strange concept for a government position !

    The Beatles sang about loneliness(as did Abie Rottenberg and MBD), but there are also researchers, such as the pioneering psychologist John Cacioppo of University of Chicago who died last month, who have been studying the negative health effects of loneliness for a while. The British government apparently saw it as a public health issue, and appointed a commission in honor of the murdered MP Joe Cox to study the topic, which lead to the new government position.

    There’s also a book by a British TV producer, Jenifer Page, which discusses loneliness and the cliché of “feeling lonely in the crowd”, which in the context of the linked NYT article could include the hookup culture with strangers not satisfying emotional intimacy.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      Related to contemporary approaches to romance, there was  a New York Times article this November (“Don’t Know What the Angular Gyrus Is? Your Heart Does”) profiling the work of   Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, wife of  Dr. John Cacioppo, the loneliness researcher I referenced.  Like her late husband, she is  a neuroscientist,  but she  studies romantic love(sounds like a complementary shidduch).  The Times noted:

      “Her research and some of the theories she has developed put her at odds with other scientists who have described romantic love as an emotion, a primitive drive, even a drug… “The empirical tests I’ve done in my lab suggest that, in many ways, when you’re in love, you can be a better person,” she said…”Talk to Dr. Cacioppo for long enough and you will be struck by how optimistic her views on traditional romance seem, especially in a world where divorce is commonplace, marriage rates are down, and polyamory and other forms of unconventional relationships are in the news.”

      Ironically, according to the NYT, neither of the Cacioppo’s were in a rush to marry and  thought relationships with other people were not important — despite the  research  both of them did about the physical  health risks in loneliness; because  they were happy in their solitary academic lives, neither actually felt lonely. “One of the secrets to a good relationship is being attracted to someone out of choice rather than out of need,” said John Cacioppo, 66. “We weren’t running from anything aversive. We were moving toward something that was really unique.”

  3. Raymond says:

    I do not know to what extent the overwhelmingly Orthodox Jews who participate in this forum are aware of today’s secular culture, but things have gone way past such admittedly delicate issues as pre-martial erotic intimacy between the sexes. Thanks to the political Far Left, who have appointed themselves our cultural ministers, there really isn’t such a thing as male or female in the first place. Try wrapping your brain around that one! I know I cannot. Its blatant absurdity confuses the daylights out of me.

    I have to wonder, though, what such twisted minds would say regarding the huge differences between men and women in how they feel about the more normative issues that we are talking about on here. If men and women are social constructs rather than biological reality, then why do most of us men dream of having endless sexual partners, while women dream of being married to one very stable, special man?

    In any case, I am going to say something here that the men reading this may not like, but, as always, my priority always has to be on what is both true and moral. And whether we men wish to admit it or not, when it comes to the huge differences between men and women and the issue of our sexuality, it is just so clear to me that it is the women who have the proper handle on things, and it is therefore their ways whose ways us men must follow. Thus we men have to find a way to channel all of our erotic desires into just one special woman, namely our one wife, while women, honestly speaking, really do not have to make any adjustments at all, as far as I can tell. I feel fairly confident having such a view, as it seems to be entirely consistent with the Torah viewpoint on this matter.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Promiscuous women obviously need an attitude adjustment as much as promiscuous men. The fou; culture around us has twisted the minds of many, despite what their “natural” or normal proclivities are.

      • dr. bill says:

        a reading of teshuvot from previous generations does not support a notion that only our generation suffered from issues of promiscuity. the teshuvah about how to write a kesuvah for a pregnant kallah comes to mind. 🙂 our generation does face some unique challenges given the computing and communications revolution.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        All true. Yet the conduct that led to sich a teshuva should be a remindet to all of us that Ain Aputropros LArayos has always been and remains a rather important aspect of living a life fe rooted in Kedoshim Tihiyu and rationalizing departures therefrom.

      • Bob Miller says:

        That conduct goes back millennia, but don’t you concede that we’re in a bad patch now? Not the only one but a major one.

      • mycroft says:

        “Promiscuous women obviously need an attitude adjustment as much as promiscuous men. ”
        “, despite what their “natural” or normal proclivities are”
        It is not a theological question, but reality many women/girls are at least as active in trying to harass / entice the opposite sex as men. Thoughts about opposite sex are common in both sexes.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Is this parity somehow innate or is it an outcome of modern culture?

  4. Leah B says:

    Even if you don’t believe, the community norms for male-female relationships among Orthodox Jews are enough of a reason to be religious.
    Empty physical relationships destroy the soul, STDs etc etc. Not that Orthodox Jews never cheat etc. But it is rare.

    • dr. bill says:

      we have not seen any credible research/survey data. from what medical professionals at hospitals with a strong Orthodox presence report, I would not be so sure.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Confidentiality considerations might render such a survey very difficult to undertake.

      • Yossi says:

        Well, so much for trying to see the positive side of things. With all that I, too, have heard about STD amongst some Orthodox, I’d be shocked if it comes anywhere near the general population.

  5. Allan katz says:

    what about long term intimate relationships – often after divorce many people give up on their yiddishkeit for the sake of an intimate relationship when marriage is not likely. I sometimes wonder if this type of relationship was given a legitmacy – pilegesh without a ketuvah , these people would stay frum.

    • tzippi says:

      I don’t sometimes wonder.
      There was a time when polygamy, when done right, was a bracha to the women. We don’t live in those times anymore. Pilegesh is similarly unappealing. If anyone reputable has written a halachic synopsis of how it would work today I’d read it; I’m curious. But I don’t expect to be sold on it.

    • Yehoshua Friedman says:

      Maybe, but that’s deep water you are swimming in, and there may be sharks there.

    • Bob Miller says:

      The funny thing is that “mature” typically means “immature”.

    • AG says:

      Periodic reader, first-time responder. I read Alexandra’s response and felt it appropriate to comment on the benefits of this type of article. I believe the practical advice and the multiple warnings about the content provide more than enough protection for those readers who have not been exposed to the secular world at large. The alternative to what the Rav posted would be either removing the link (and thus having no source for the material) and simply keep the paraphrase, or not to post the article altogether. I believe you have mistaken good sourcing with being careless to the reader’s sensitivities. The issue you mention about further exposure to the unrelated and unsavory material that becomes available by clicking on the source material link is fallacious; the slippery slope argument.

  6. David z says:

    “No one wants to go back to sock hops and going steady.” That’s the money quote for me… But I don’t think it’s true. I look at something like Sia’s Cheap Thrills with hope.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    True. But when the weather warms up Manhattan looks like a beach and Shemiras Einayim takes on a special importance. It is important to stress that the goal of a Bayis Neeman BYisrael stands in sharp contrast to the hook up culture and that exceptions to the rule in terms of some individuals and their conduct does not render that goal outdated or not attainable.

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