Let's Talk About Not Having Sex

Why Is Jewish Abstinence Site Shutting Down Conversation?

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By Simi Lichtman

Published June 02, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
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I believe in abstinence, at least personally, and I believe in Jewish law. So it makes sense to me that a Jewish organization that promotes both Jewish law and abstinence would create a website dedicated to teenagers and sex.

That organization, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, is the Orthodox Union’s youth movement, and the website is negiah.org. It bills itself as “The First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens.”

It’s an initiative that opens up the door to information and exploration, something often lacking in Orthodox culture. Instead of setting down the law and expecting young adults to willingly follow without question, NCSY decided to create a platform for discussion. The bona fides of the site’s advisors — two PhDs in psychology and a pediatrician — also seem unimpeachable.

But then there’s the actual content. It ranges, I’m sorry to say, from mildly condescending to downright misleading, with some redeeming statements sprinkled in. Those occasional encouraging sentences are not enough to make up for the rest of the site, though, which, in talking down to the very teenagers it means to target, almost entirely negates the positive ramifications of having an abstinence website in the first place.

In a world where women are striving to forge identities independent of the desires of men, telling a teenage girl that she should abstain because “when a man looks for a wife, he prefers a virgin” is insulting and sexist. That’s before we even approach the assumption that every Jewish girl today should be focused on an end goal of marriage.

To both male and female readers, the site paints an entirely black-and-white picture of sex that oversimplifies the matter and loses the reader. It often seems to assume a boy will only want to have sex with a girl to use her, or to “satisfy [his] own desires.”

Sex is just a desire. It will lead to regret. The site neglects to approach the times when the desire for sex is the hardest: when you are actually in a healthy relationship. When you love him and he loves you, and it’s not just about the physical desire for sex but the emotional bond that comes with it.


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