Saturday, March 19, 2005

What would I tell my daughter?

If I ever have a daughter, what will I tell her about being Shomer Negiah? What will I try to encourage her to do or not do? I know what I should say. I know that since I actually have kept this very difficult halacha for many years that I can be a role model, I can say “it can be done, it is hard, but be strong because you can do it.” But. But. But. But can I honestly say “it is worth it”? Maybe until you are 23 or 24. Yes, when you are young it is worth it. It saves you from a lot of pain. And of course it is the halacha. Young people in Shomer Negiah relationships often truly feel a lot of holiness for it and that is very important and nice. But to be S.N. until you are 34 is too much. It is too hard. The price is too high.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, S.N.

I don't have answers for you. I was single until I was 27. I was shomeret negiah until I dated my husband, and even then we managed until we hit a very rough time in our relationship. Breaking negiah seemed like the only way through it. Looking back I wish I had had the trust and confidence that we would have gotten through it anyway. But the truth is, that's not the way it happened, so I don't know.

I don't think I would have been over negiah for anyone but him. But I know we are both endlessly grateful that we got married in the end, because for me especially the emotional fallout would have been terrible.

I relate very much to what you say about being more sexual than your friends seem to be. I had most of my sexual appetite unhappily repressed until I met my husband, but once it was awoken there was no putting it back in the box.

For the same reason, setting boundaries is much harder than you might think. You might decide you would only make out fully clothed, for example, but once you start doing that it might be very easy to allow hands under clothes. To take clothes off altogether, after all they're just in the way. To do everything short of having sex. Maybe even to have sex. It's easier to stop when you're younger, I think, than when you're a full grown woman with mature desires. Especially if you're in love.

All in all I have the sense that keeping these halachot protected me from a great deal of damage, before I met the person I was going to spend my life with. And even with him I can see that it might have kept me out of a lot of trouble. But oh, I feel for you.

Like I said, I don't have any answers. But I think it's great that you're writing about it. I think the Jewish community needs to be more aware of what torture it is to live an observant single life. Maybe there will still be no solutions; but they can't possibly emerge if we don't adequately convey the problem.

3/28/2005 02:49:00 AM  
Anonymous yid hakodosh said...

One question: Why arent you married yet?

3/28/2005 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

You are not alone. I completely empathize with your situation and I can tell you that most of my friends do also. You are being so honest and I really appreciate that - it is such a hard line to walk, with so many difficult choices to make along the way. Nothing about it is easy, especially as you get older. I think you are incredibly brave for speaking out about it.

3/28/2005 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Shevy said...

When you will iy'h have a daughter, you'll know if it was worth it or not. Now, in your current situation, you can not know if it is worth it, or not.

You gotta get what you're waiting for first. The best of luck.

3/28/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous shanna said...

I don't think it's worth it, but then again I was never S.N. I think that, ultimately, you will value your daughter's happiness above all else. And if you (when the time comes) believe that this is the path that provide the most happiness (on balance), you will advise her to take it. Just be sure to buy her a vibrator, too.

3/28/2005 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I have always had a hard time understanding how people do this. I think that we all need to be touched, and I do not mean that in a sexual sense.

But there is much to be gained by being hugged, or caressed and it need not always lead to sex.

I think that you can establish boundaries and limitations that still provide a framework for a special and holy marriage/relationship without going SN which in my mind is extreme.

I respect those that choose to do so, but it is not a choice that I could take on.

3/28/2005 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I have always had a hard time understanding how people do this. I think that we all need to be touched, and I do not mean that in a sexual sense.

But there is much to be gained by being hugged, or caressed and it need not always lead to sex.

I think that you can establish boundaries and limitations that still provide a framework for a special and holy marriage/relationship without going SN which in my mind is extreme.

I respect those that choose to do so, but it is not a choice that I could take on.

3/28/2005 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger yaak said...

It is definitely worth it. The price is not too high. I can't imagine the difficulty for someone single in their 30s, but it must be overcome. Try to convince yourself of that.
Think of the punishment for illicit relationships in the Torah, and then think of why our sages prohibited touching. It makes sense - even at an older age.

3/28/2005 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answers from Nice Jewish Girl

Yid . . . what difference does it make?

Jack's Shack . . . we are coming from different perspectives so I cannot really explain it so well. In any case much of what you describe I could not have until I have a relationship anyway, and the older I become the less my chances are of ever having such a relationship.

Yaak . . . . Many people are celibate even if they are not S.N. It is possible. I want to point out also that it is the Torah itself that prohibits touching. It says of a Niddah "Do not come close to uncovering her nakedness." If I were to immerse in a mikvah touching would be permissible, but sex would not be due to other laws regarding prostitution which is defined differently by Judaism than it is on 7th avenue. It is a misconception that Negiah is prohibited because of fears that it will lead to sex. It is a niddah law from the Torah, not a geder for sex.

3/28/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More answers from Nice Jewish Girl

Anonymous, Shoshana, Shevy, and Shanna . . . . Thank you for the encouragement. And yes I will certainly encourage my daughter if I ever have one to use a vibrator.

3/28/2005 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a man I didnt know woman thought about sex all the time. I thought they just like to be held and kissed. Are you for real??

3/28/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a man I didnt know woman thought about sex all the time. I thought they just like to be held and kissed. Are you for real??

3/28/2005 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a man I didnt know woman thought about intercourse all the time. I thought they just like to be held and kissed. Are you for real??

3/28/2005 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Nice Jewish Girl,

I am a Nice Jewish Boy who has lots of Frum Friends so I am more familiar with this than it might seem.

The point for me is that this is one of those areas in which I disagree with the halachic interpretation, but then again I disagree with a lot of minhagim as well.

I think that there are some things that just go too far and this is one of them.

3/28/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Malka said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on being shomer negiah. You and I are approaching it from very different perspectives - I am in a situation where shomer negiah is quasi-imposed; I am seeing a young Orthodox rabbi who himself is at grips with his beliefs and his manly desires. I try to be shomer negiah for his sake but it's very difficult. There are moments of weakness for both of us and it is often hard for me to resist his advances because of my feelings for him. Coming from a non-jewish background, it has proven difficult to adopt this behaviour but I really do feel that my relationships with men have changed for the better because of it. I'm with you on the vibrators! Were it not for BOB (Battery Operated Boyfriend), I'm not sure I could be as strong.. I look forward to reading you again.

3/28/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Malka said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/28/2005 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answers from Nice Jewish Girl

Anonymous . . . You ask a philosophical question. I have an awareness of myself being real. Are YOU real? Perhaps you are a figment of my imagination? But to be more serious, yes I really am a woman who is and always has been Shomer Negiah and I think about sex a lot a lot a lot. Is it the same amount as men think about it? I do not know because I am not a man and am not in the habit of telling men how much I think about it. Perhaps not. Is it as much as other women think about it? I think that on the spectrum of women's sexuality I am more on an extreme end than most other women. Yes I like the idea of hugging and kissing too but I think about sex more than I think about hugging and kissing. I cannot speak for all women - only for myself.

Jack's Shack . . . To the extent that it is practical for me to think so, which is almost not at all, I also think this halacha goes too far. If you look at my post about why I am and continue to be S.N. it will address this. I initially became S.N. because my role models were. Then I stayed S.N. because it is the halacha and I was committed to keeping the halacha whether I like it or not. Now I am S.N. because my sensitivity to touch is so high that it would feel cheap to be not-S.N. with someone I do not know well. I would feel like I wasted my Negiah-nity. On the other hand I also feel I have wasted my youthful years when I could have been having fun. Therein lies the reason I feel trapped.

Malka . . . . Best of luck in your relationship with the rabbi. I admire how hard you are trying to do the right thing even though it is not part of your background. I hope someday I have this same challenge!

I like your name for the vibrator, that is funny.

3/28/2005 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is a niddah law from the Torah, not a geder for sex."

This is actually a machloket rishonim. The rambam is of the opinion that you cite (do not come close = affectionate touch). The ramban is of the opinion that affectionate touch is only forbidden m'drabbonan and not an issur d'oreita.

3/28/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If I were to immerse in a mikvah touching would be permissible, but sex would not be due to other laws regarding prostitution which is defined differently by Judaism than it is on 7th avenue."

Maybe this is a solution for you if, for ex, you in future have a boyfriend you would like not to be SN with but (as you seem to indicate is your preference) don't want to have premarital sex with.
It may not be recommended practice, but it would make not being SN technically acceptable halachically.
I think this is what I'd do in your situation (go to the mikva to make being SN in that period involve no issur).

3/28/2005 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous doug said...

you are not alone! many of us in the frum world wrestle with our sexual natures, and many of us are not as strong as you are. you sound like a truly amazing person.
I think that (to repeat what many have said before) there are no good answers, but maybe I can make some points that will give you some comfort.
1)Even if you hadn,t been shomer negiah all these years I think you would be going through many of these same feelings. Those who move through life with no constraints have to deal with the "ghosts" of these past relationships. I sometimes see friends standing under the chupa and imagine all the past boy/girlfriend standing there with them.In my own experience I amarried young and was essentially S.N. until then, but given the opportunity I wouldn,t have been. I will tell you that till this day I will still have thoughts about previous girlfriends, if not every day then certainly every week, and this is after eighteen years!
If I had engaged in more "serious activity" with them I think these rememberances would have a seriously detrimental effect on my marriage.many of my friends who have not been s.n. have been through multiple marriages, not that being s.n. is any guarantee, but I think it helps.
2)Living and working in the secular world it is my experience that women who have "been around" are less self-assured and secure in their femininity, not more.
3)after seeing his posts on other blogs it is my opinion that "yid hakodesh" is deserving of neither of those names.

stay strong!

3/28/2005 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my perspective, as a married man who got married (relatively) late and was shomer negiah until I was engaged, there are, unfortunately, no easy answers. But you do not deserve the lack of support and the scorn of the community for being single. Maybe the first thing to do is move to another community.

While it does not seem like you really will sleep with someone you hardly know, I very much doubt you'd feel better if you did. In fact it will probably cause a whole new set of problems for you. On the other hand, having a physical relationship with your next boyfriend might be a different story, though of course it can't be justified halachically.

3/28/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was shomer negiah till the guy I was dating said, "I can't wait till we're married." I took that as a kinda proposal, and we started making out the next date. He never officially proposed, we ended up breaking up, I felt used and cheap and dirty and SO UPSET and ruined, and my husband, family and friends still don't know I ever kissed another guy.

3/28/2005 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi NJG, Being S.N. really helped prepare me for nidda times in marriage. BTW physical contact isn't as good as it is in books/movies. Few things in life are. So keep the faith, and choose S.N.-- it can only help you in life. S.N. is better for your soul. And that's what it's ultimately all about. You go, girl!

3/28/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last comment is easy for someone who is now married and presumably is now sexually active. The comparison with niddah is not a perfect one. It is one thing to go 12 days without physical contact, and something else to go 34 years and counting. That doesn't mean negiah is right, but the last thing NJG needs is married people telling her that everything is fine for her.

3/28/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger annabel lee said...

I admire you.
I'm not shomer negiah; coming from a Conservative background (not Orthodox), I never knew anyone who was. But I am waiting to have sex...haven't quite decided if I'm waiting til I'm married, or engaged, or certain that I'm in love, or what exactly.
I wish you strength. And, as others have, I wish you love and happiness with your bashert, and soon.

3/28/2005 07:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To NJG:
While I respect your feelings and I can't truly understand what you are going through since I am quite a bit younger than you and a male, you write somethings that I have felt similar too but feel a little different about now. I also classify myself as Shomer Negia because that is what my religion demands and I am not married and not sexually active (unless you consider masterbating as the act itself)but during my years on this earth it has been impossible for me to say I was 100% S.N. Even if was just thinking about the act or subtly touching another woman without her knowing it made me transgress the issur. If I think about the one time I did something I realize it was a mistake and it was not worth it. You write how you hug co-workers or use a vibrator which is the same feeling of sex itself. Holding a man is not going to change those pleasure feelings. I agree you need to get married to a man who loves you but it has nothing to do with not being or being S.N. If you admit to yourself you were not S.N. at least for one second in in your life it might help you understand why it is so pointless. But if you continue to be proud that you were S.N. for 34 years you'll never allow anyone to get close enough to get married to you. IMHO. NJM

3/28/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"BTW physical contact isn't as good as it is in books/movies. Few things in life are."

Don't believe it. As highly sensitized as you say you are, physical contact will be that good! It's not just about pleasure even, it's about being loved and returning love through the ultimate (and Gd sanctioned!) physical relationship.

That said, I know it's hard. I grew up not frum and am frum now... I highly regret each and every action of non-shomer negiah with so-called boyfriends, and at the time I had never even heard of the concept! (Luckily I had heard of and believed in "wait for marriage.") But physical contact in a relationship that sours can often leave you feeling cheap and used. When I met my husband, he was shomer negiah and I was totally unfamiliar with the concept, and it was so hard, for both of us, but it ultimately led to fewer distractions as we tried to determine if we were truly meant for each other.

I hope you find your true bashert soon, since you sound like a woman who both needs and wants to be married. I'll be davening for you.

3/28/2005 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Jack's Shack . . . To the extent that it is practical for me to think so, which is almost not at all, I also think this halacha goes too far. If you look at my post about why I am and continue to be S.N. it will address this. I initially became S.N. because my role models were. Then I stayed S.N. because it is the halacha and I was committed to keeping the halacha whether I like it or not. Now I am S.N. because my sensitivity to touch is so high that it would feel cheap to be not-S.N. with someone I do not know well. I would feel like I wasted my Negiah-nity. On the other hand I also feel I have wasted my youthful years when I could have been having fun. Therein lies the reason I feel trapped.

Life is about balance. I wouldn't look at the past and say that you have wasted your time. You did what you thought was right, but there is always room to change courses. Part of the trick is to find a moderate, middle position to use as a guide.

I do not mean that you should go and sleep with any man just to get it out of the way, but I don't think that you necessarily have to wait until marriage.

You can find a middle ground. I have been in love several times and know from experience that you can have an experience that is holy and respectful. It is not all lust, there is far more to it.

It is when we paint ourselves into corners that we get into trouble.

There is a reason why some follow Minhag Aleph versus Minhag Bet.

3/28/2005 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A vibrator makes you have to high expectations

3/28/2005 11:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NJG makes good points.

According to my recollection, the Talmud tells us that female sexual desire is actually more powerful than male desire. However, it is repressed as part of female nature. Maybe it just takes longer until it gets going.

Male desire is quicker and more open but in a way less intense and deep perhaps.

Not sure if I conveyed the ideas exactly correctly, but they are at least partially correct - haven't studied those teachings in a while.

3/29/2005 12:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NJG makes good points.

According to my recollection, the Talmud tells us that female sexual desire is actually more powerful than male desire. However, it is repressed as part of female nature. Maybe it just takes longer until it gets going.

Male desire is quicker and more open but in a way less intense and deep perhaps.

Not sure if I conveyed the ideas exactly correctly, but they are at least partially correct - haven't studied those teachings in a while.

3/29/2005 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger Girl Seeking said...

NJG-

Wow. I blog on and off in the "j-blogging" world, and this will be linked to my j-blog. Anyway...

I have a lot of admiration for you. It's hard, and amazing, and brave, and scary (I'm sure) to be that committed to something. For now, as thin as I'm sure this sounds, I will add you to my davening.

(I'm recently discovering how to "be" jewish, but I think it's fair to ask that people be brought closer to their basherts (what is the plural of that?!))

Thank you for this window on your world.

-R

3/29/2005 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger BasTorah said...

oy,
and I write about married women who don't want sex.
Good Luck.

3/29/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger BasTorah said...

Oy,
and I write about married women who don't want to have sex or touch their husbands...
GoodLuck!

3/29/2005 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this site is literally breaking my heart.
I really don't think i'll be the same again, I must confess.

re:is it worth it?
I agree with yaak. (and doug's 3rd point, btw.)
obviously, no-one likes to think about the negative aspects of judaism, but they're real.

there's also the flip side of the coin, the reward for doing what's right. that's priceless, even if it hurts now.

and, as shevy was alluding toward (i think), in retrospect, it'll be worth it.

"hazor'im b'dima b'rina yiktzoru."
(i'm not just trying to throw psukim at you, it's a philosophy which i strongly believe to be true.)

however, we must remember: judaism is halacha.

and, as one who's well aware of my own countless aveiros, i still feel that it's better to strive for perfection -- even if it hurts (or means to often fail) -- than to trade emes for anything else.


SN, you're a tzadekes.
stay strong!

3/30/2005 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

"As a man I didnt know woman thought about sex all the time. I thought they just like to be held and kissed. Are you for real??"

This I found profoundly disturbing. Women like all sorts of things, among them ALSO being held and kissed but not ONLY, most certainly. The lucky ones anyway. It is rather natural for her to obsess abt sex, she is 34 and has never even been kissed! What, she's not supposed to listen to her body? She may suffer bcs of it - it's painfully obvious she does - but I find it saner than simply repressing it.

NJG, truthfully, physical contact of all sorts can be a splendid thing. It all depends on feelings, time and yes, a good bit of luck and chemistry. Again, my thoughts are with you, this is truly heartbreaking.

4/01/2005 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Treifalicious said...

First of all - DAYUM, I didn't know about the THREE vibrators! I only have one.

Secondly - peopel on thsi blog speak of women who gave in to boyfriends physically and then they didn't get married and then feeling used and cheap.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can look at it as pleasant memories.

I waited a long time to lose my virginity (didn't really have anything to do with Judaism), but when I did it was a thing of my deciding that I was 25, a man has presented himself to me and I was going to lose my virginity RIGHT NOW. He even asked me, "Are you sure you want to do this?" You're d*mn right I was!

Now, the relationship was over shortly afterwards (I strongly suspect he started sleeping with someone else - neither of us was Orthodox), but I did not feel used or cheap. Granted, the "thrill of the chase" had been gone, and he even said something to that effect - but I did not care. You can say I sort of used HIM to cast off my virginity.

Just as women can think about sex, women can also be sexual subjects and not just sexual objects.

4/21/2005 05:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Ryder B said...

This comment is coming late, but I hope you read it anyway. Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm 23 and recently married, and grew up modern orthodox and shomer negiah.
Would I tell my daughter to be shomer? I don't know. I was shomer all my life, but there camea point where my now-husband and I just weren't strong enough, and broke it. We kissed, we made out, and though I think he does, I don't regret it. Though I wanted it, the idea of physical intimacy scared me; getting physical with him before marriage made the idea a lot less frightening for me.
And, fyi, sex hurts. I'm told it takes a bunch of times before it stops hurting and starts feeling good, but just so you know - it's not like the magic happy pill.

5/02/2005 03:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ryder b is right. sex hurts at first, so u dont want to do it with someone u dont love

5/29/2005 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Me, Uncensored said...

Sex does NOT necessarily hurt at first. Didn't hurt me, anyway.

6/05/2005 02:11:00 AM  
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