The topic of sex, intimacy, and what people do and don’t do behind closed doors recently blew up on the Instagram. To say it was a hot topic would be an understatement. I was actually having a hard time keeping up with people’s feedback, I overloaded the stories to the point that some got lost before I could archive them, and in the two days that sex and intimacy were discussed, my following increased by over 20%.
I didn’t think I was going to write a blog post on the topic. I actually thought the conversations that took place on the Instagram stories spoke for themselves. But as time goes on, and more and more people join the S&K community, I think it’s important to explain why I feel like the topics that were addressed on the page were so critical to bring up. Even if they made/ make you uncomfortable. I actually think that’s kind of the point.
I think it’s important to note that I did not bring up these conversations because “sex sells.” I brought them up because I thought these conversations were important and clearly many of you did too. It wasn’t about starting controversy or creating scandal. It was about addressing issues that I think are often overlooked or viewed as taboo, but are actually extraordinarily relevant and present in our community. It was about allowing people to communicate with each other, feel less alone, remove stigma, and provide a safe space to discuss topics that although some might feel are taboo, are actually very normal.
One of the questions I posed on Instagram was: Do you think your Day School had adequate sex education.
85% of people who responded said no.
I know why Day Schools are hesitant to talk about sex. But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that 85% of my followers saying they didn’t get proper sex ed means we now have a problem.
85% of people didn’t receive adequate sex education in school. And I would venture to guess they didn’t receive it at home either. So what happens when you raise a group of young, Modern Orthodox adults to abstain from touching the opposite gender until marriage (shomer negiah)? To value sex, value pleasure, but only within the context of marriage and procreation?…And then they leave the day school systems, and some of them don’t hold on to those values anymore for numerous reasons like:
They fundamentally don’t believe in the halacha of shomer negiah (maybe they actually never did). They get into a relationship and it’s just too hard. They’re single for much longer than they anticipated they would be, and as they get older, remaining shomer negiah gets harder and harder. They believe it’s important not to have penetrative sex, but are ok to do other things. They end up in relationships where they don’t know how to properly consent, and they don’t understand how to say yes or no, so they end up in situations they hadn’t anticipated they would be in. The list goes on.
What you have is a population of people who you’ve basically put in danger to some degree.
We have a community of people who are deeply uneducated about sex, consent, and their bodies. Many associate shame and guilt with sexual activity. They’re grossly under-educated about STD’s and about how to properly communicate with a sexual partner. And it would be one thing if that were being counterbalanced by an education right before marriage; if the community wasn’t at all sexually active up until then. If we were correcting ourselves before anyone stepped into an intimate relationship.
But that’s not the case at all. Because not everyone is going from a shomer negiah relationship to a chosson/ kallah class. Whether or not you are comfortable talking about it, you have a population of people who are more sexually active than their parents/ schools may have anticipated they would be, and the fact that they are not properly educated is physically and emotionally unhealthy.
40% of the people who answered my poll, said they are shomer negiah. Of the 40% who said they are shomer negiah, 26% said they weren’t actually shomer negiah (meaning they told people they were shomer negiah, but in private they touched). Of the 60% who said they were not shomer negiah, 65% said they are having oral sex. Do you think all 65% know they can get STD’s from oral sex? I’m actually not so sure they do. I was recently at a Shabbat meal where we were discussing yearly checkups and numerous people at the meal (including people in the medical fields) questioned why they would go to the doctor on a yearly basis. If you are sexually active-you should be going to the doctor for yearly checkups. Period.
The point of this blog is to highlight the struggles, truths, and realities of what it is actually like to be dating in your 20’s and 30’s in the Modern Orthodox community. It is a way for people to connect, to feel less alone, to vent, to learn, to communicate, to debate.
Talking about sex, masturbation, feeling comfortable in your skin, the pros and cons of entering a physical relationship; these are crucial conversations. They’re actually normal conversations. Healthy conversations that everyone is thinking about and having whether you want to acknowledge it or not. You can close your eyes and cover your ears all you want, but you’re actually doing yourself, your peers, your friends, your students, your children a disservice by ignoring them.
So that’s why I brought them up. That’s why I addressed them. And I’m pretty sure that’s why so many people participated. Because a lot of people have a lot to say on these topics.
Our community has a sex problem. Actually we have multiple sex problems. People are sexually active, and no one’s talking about it. People are having sex, and they’re not properly educated about it. People are sexually active and they feel a deep sense of shame around it. And I actually think that avoiding talking about these things feeds into this sense of shame even more. So that’s why we talked about it on the Instagram. And that’s why we’ll continue to talk about it if that’s what people want to talk about.