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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Doing It

Last week, I read articles from the Jerusalem Post and the Ha'Aretz reporting on a landmark symposium held in Jerusalem on Monday, March 21 to discuss religious singles who are having premarital sex (though apparently the word "sex" was too scandalous to actually be spoken during the meeting). I debated writing this post, because it is a topic that many feel, for many reasons, should not be discussed openly. I also debated writing this post because I have extremely mixed feeling about the topic. But as a religious single who has many single friends, I can tell you that even though people are extremely hesitant to discuss this matter in a public forum, it is discussed extensively in private. Because it is something that does affect singles, whether we like to believe it or not. As an individual gets older, it is harder and harder to refrain from physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Sexuality is a perfectly normal instinct for humans, and it is not something that you can turn on when you get married and keep turned off until that time. So singles struggle with doing what is correct halachically and what their normal physical urges are pushing them towards. The problem with not discussing this issue is that many individuals, if they don't have friends with whom to discuss these normal issues, feel like they are evil or wrong for even having these urges, and having difficulty with shomer negiah. But the truth is, it is not normal to NOT struggle with it. But those who struggle alone feel guilty and I honestly believe that can cause damage for their future marriages. I don't want to get into whether I think shomer negiah should be discarded, whether single women should be permitted to use the mikveh, or what we should do about the situation at all. Because I don't have answers for those questions. What I do believe, though, is that the issue needs to begin being addressed in public, not to legitimize premarital relations, but to make singles feel more normal about their struggles. People are having real, painful struggles about whether or not to engage in premarital relations. And I don't believe they should be made to feel like this is an unnatural struggle. I don't think that open dialogue will encourage singles to engage in sex more than they are currently doing. I think is very similar to the debates about making condoms available in schools. Personally, I think they should be available (note that I say available, and not handed out) to teenagers because they are going to have sex whether anyone likes it or not. And if they are going to do so, they should do it in a protected manner, so that they will not have to consequently have to deal with even bigger issues than just having sex, such as pregnancy, STDs, etc. I do think that dealing with problems that are present in the religious community is the way to handle it, rather than covering it up and acting as if it is not happening at all. The meeting last Monday was a good start, and those who condemned its occurrence (see some of the completely inappropriate comments to the Jerusalem Post article) are trying to stick their head in the sand and close their eyes to real issues that need to be addressed. Discussing issues openly does help, and often is the first step in developing solutions.

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