Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Need for sex education

In the several years I have been working on the issue of child abuse - one reality has kept reappearing. The ignorance in the chareidi world about sexuality - before marriage (and sometimes after marriage as well). Abuse often happens because either the victim and/or the molester  doesn't have elementary knowledge of sexual issues and didn't understand that what they are doing is wrong.  As I am now working on Daas Torah on Jewish Sexuality - this has become a major concern.

When I mentioned this recently to a chasid, he told me the following:
His teenage daughter came home late one day from school and she said that her whole class had gotten into a heated discussion. The father asked well what was so interesting that you were discussing? She replied, "One of the girls claimed that when a man and woman get married they are allowed to touch each other. Most of the class thought that was ridiculous since it violates the rule that men can't touch women."
A teenage boy found out that not only was there a mikveh for men but that there existed a mikveh for women. He asked his parents why would women need to have a mikveh. His father explained to him with a straight face - "It is a Sefardi chumra."
Many years ago, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky mentioned this problem to my brother and said that boys should start getting some form of education by the time they are 16. I mentioned this to the Novominsker Rebbe 20 years ago. He replied that 16 is too late, "there are boys of 8 that know more than me."  This is also the subject of a pamphet written about 25 years ago by the Skulener Rebbe.

16 comments :

  1. Rav Yudin speaks beautifully about this subject here.

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  2. Is there any problem with the link to the Skulener Rebbe - It works corrcetly on my computer but one person says it doesn't work on his computer?

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  3. How can a teenage boy, who is presumably educated in haredi yeshiva , not know what the Torah says vis a vis Niddah?

    It is absurd!

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    1. Recipients and PublicityApril 25, 2012 at 5:26 AM

      "Eddie says...How can a teenage boy, who is presumably educated in haredi yeshiva , not know what the Torah says vis a vis Niddah? It is absurd!"

      RaP: Not really, because the information of the subjects, be it about niddah or intercourse is "intellectualized" and studied as a theoretical abstraction without the rebbeim and teachers actually taking it down to the level of graphic descriptions and explanations of actual sex. A teacher in a yeshiva or bais yaakov would get fired in a jiffy if they ever discussed anything to do with sex openly with their students! Thus a woman is a niddah and bleeds but that is never connected with the fact that it's a prerequisite condition that must be dealt with prior to actual sex between a man and his wife.

      In addition discussing the sex act is avoided because the Torah itself never discusses sex per se according to the principle of "dibra Torah beloshon nekiah" (i.e. "the Torah speaks in clean language" be it about sex or any bodily functions like urination and defecation) and thus the Torah teachers too talk "beleshon nekiah" about and "around" the topic of sex but never get into the nitty gritty of what it's about. That is left for the time prior to actually getting married when the bride and groom separately attend or are given "choson classes" (by a male for grooms) or "kallah classes" (by a woman for brides) either by their parents or by known teachers of choson and kallah classes and sub-specialty in the Torah world that not anyone can fulfill.

      In yeshivisha and Charedi parlance, intercourse or sex is labeled with the pseudonym "aveirah" ("violation" or "sin") when kids are younger, and when they get older it's called "biah" (a word from the root "come" but also just left as "aveirah") or "zenus" and not analyzed or identified with the acts of either "kosher" sexual intercourse or depraved sexual acts. Thus the students, who are closely guarded, monitored and guided in the yeshivas and chedorim, are never told and usually have no clue about the anatomy involved such as when subjects arise like "biah kedarka" ("normal [vaginal] intercourse") or "biah shelo kedarka" ("abnormal intercourse" meaning either not usual or in the case of homosexual sex between men when it's a "to'eivah" -- "abomination" or "disgusting act".)

      Not even sure if the understand the notion of masturabation when it's called "hotza'as zera levatala" ("emitting seed in vain" -- what seed? they are never told explicitly about it coming from the erect penis and how it's ejaculated and that it is the semen that is the "seed" -- and so it goes on and on. Girls likewise have no clue about their ovaries, ovulation and how it takes a sperm and the egg of a female to create a baby, let alone how the full reproductive cycle works. After they get married and get preganant, their mothers help them cope with pregancy and terach them practical skills for delivery and birth of their child and about nursing. Breasts are just milk factories for babies and there is no knowledge about their role in sexual foreplay.)

      Thus there is a vast "conspiracy of silence" for lack of a better word with an entire (Charedi) society never ever actually talking about the sex act or what sex is and how it's done or not done, only under very modest ("tznius") conditions when the information is divulged on a kind of "need to know" basis to a choson and kallah not very long before they get married and will be (hopefully) be consummating their marriage.

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    2. I've gone to chareidi yeshivos and the word aveirah was never used to refer to sex. Wherever loshon bnei adam was sufficient it was used. We were taught at a young age that on Yom kippur the husband and wife cannot sleep together. Of course as we learned more, this kind of language was not always sufficient (EX: haboh al yevamto). No rebbe ever taught the first mishna in kiddushin as, haisha niknis bkesef bshtar ibaveirah. zenus is a word used only for extramarital sex.

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    3. Recipients and PublicityApril 25, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      "none said...I've gone to chareidi yeshivos and the word aveirah was never used to refer to sex."

      RaP: You are not understanding what I am saying and spinning it the wrong way which is obvious, find another hobby. I am not saying that the word "aveirah" is the automatic translation of "sex" -- but when there is an attempt to convey the FORBIDDEN nature of it (and it's always forbidden" prior to actual marriage, the word "aveirah" creeps in). When teaching children euphemisms and misnomers are used such as plain "chasuna" or "married" instead of using the word "sex" since loshen kodesh/Biblical Hebrew has NO word equivalent to "sex" that derived from Latin.

      "Wherever loshon bnei adam was sufficient it was used. We were taught at a young age that on Yom kippur the husband and wife cannot sleep together."

      RaP: Precisely, a nice neutral word like "sleep" is used, rather than getting into a graphic account of what that "sleeping" entails.

      "Of course as we learned more, this kind of language was not always sufficient (EX: haboh al yevamto)."

      RaP: Exactly, and even then the word "haboh" is never graphically described and explained that this "haboh" is sexual intercourse, but rather it's just part of a intellectual discussion where human anatomy and sexual functions that human bodies (male and female) perform are skipped over in favor of proceeding with the cold rational logic or understanding the sevora ("reasoning") of the sugya or mishna being studied. It's an exercise in mental gymnastics, much like lawyers arguing, with no focus on what this means in a sexual encounter between a husband and wife or two lovers or two "forbidden loves" having sex. I think at this point we are in agreement.

      "No rebbe ever taught the first mishna in kiddushin as, haisha niknis bkesef bshtar ibaveirah."

      RaP: It's not what I either said or meant, and obviously no rebbe says that, stop fooling around. And I make it clear that as learning proceeds in the older age group, the word "biah" is NEVER explained as sex or sexual relations because its anatomical and physiological nature is not focused on, but it's just left as a hypothetical "thing" that is somehow part of being koneh an isha.

      "zenus is a word used only for extramarital sex."

      RaP: I am not arguing with you, you are trying to create arguments to score cheap points, stop it please. My point is that even when "wrong sex" is the subject, it will still not be described and explained as physical sexual intercourse (let alone the emotions or lack thereof involved) but just left as a word such as "zenus" that's said in a negative tone and manner to convey the message that the Torah does not approve of it, but what the "it" really is will never be explicitly stated in class or anywhere, and so the students remain in limbo and have to find out about it in from a book or magazine, a "Playboy" or on TV or the movies or from a friend who may know some "dirty secrets" or from...the Internet.

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    4. He is not trying to create arguments to score cheap points. I understood your original post the same way he did. You would avoid unnecessary criticism if you expressed yourself clearly the first time.

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    5. Recipients and PublicityApril 26, 2012 at 1:44 AM

      "Dino Valenti said...He is not trying to create arguments to score cheap points. I understood your original post the same way he did. You would avoid unnecessary criticism if you expressed yourself clearly the first time.

      RaP: Really?! Maybe you just don't read carefully and jump to conclusion before trying to understand what I wrote. Too bad you have trouble with making the effort to read properly. Anyhow, it now seems that both posters "Dono Valenti" and "none" are probably one and the same trolls: "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts...off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.! (Indiana University: University Information Technology Services (2008-05-05). "What is a troll?)

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    6. Refuah sheleimah.

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  4. When I was involved fighting child molesting, I wrote a sefer about family, and spoke to many great rabbonim and quoted them there. One of the topics was how to teach children about sex. The general idea was not to talk about it, unless one had a very skillful rebbe who knew what he was doing. But how does the average teacher gain the skills to do such a thing in the Haredi community?

    I was careful however, to teach my children about "hazir menshen," not with verbiage, but with the tone of voice indicating phooey! One day my son who had been in a neighborhood shull putting away seforim suddenly he burst into the door shouting, "Tatee, a hazir mensh." I shot outside and saw someone racing down the street. He just beat me to the bus which was probably good for me as he had done nothing illegal that would justify violence on my part.

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  5. I assume the teaching of the Skulener Rebbe is the old Skulener Rebbe zy"o. He was a pillar of kedushu and fought gays with the limited physical abilities that he had with his weak heart. Unfortunately, not too many people imitated him and preferred to ignore evil and that to them was holiness.

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  6. In kol sifrei Chofetz Chaim, in the section where his son writes his personal recollections, he discusses how his father taught him about the prohibition of masturbation. The Chofetz Chaim told him to listen carefully since he'll only explain it once and then made sure he understood and didn't have any questions.

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  7. Maybe I missed something, but reading quickly it seems that the essay from the Skullener Rebbe was not advocating sex education. He was advocating evil-of-masturbation education, because bochurim only masturbate because they are not aware of how evil it is. There was nothing there to indicate he was advocating teaching anything practical or explicit.
    I think that such education is worse than no education.

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  8. Dear R' Dovid Eidensohn,

    Are there any halachic guidleines in the sources, Rishonim, acharonim, poskim, that discuss what and hwo to teach children/youngsters the facts of life?

    Thank you and kol tuv.

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  9. Eddie,
    A great and challenging question. The Shelo HaKodosh in Mas Shavuoth in my edition page II:97 advocates teaching about intercourse in shull, in public. What he meant I don't know.

    There is further a law that a father must teach his son and daughter how to pray, how to be a good Jew, and how to do everything connected with good and evil. This, logically, implicates a program to teach sexuality. The problem, as one teacher told me, is that who has the skill to teach children who have vivid imaginations and budding sexual appetites, about such things?

    The key to raising a child with kedusho is to raise a happy child. I heard this in a different form from a Gadol HaDor of the past generation, who said that a Yeshiva is Haschoso, because it produces frustrated people, and frustration leads to haschoso, or moral and sexual turpitude. That is, its goals are too hard for most children. Thus, the great contribution we can make to have our children healthy and happy sexually is to make them happy, and that is the major goal of parenthood and it should be the major goal of schools, but it is not always.

    As I mentioned, we must teach our children about chazir menshen, to warn them about child molesters.

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  10. The odd thing to me about the comment of the Hasid's children is that they must never have seen their parents touch each other even at home. Is this normal?

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