Monday, June 21, 2004

Sex Change

I had a post about the salt levels in our food prepared for posting. I feel unable however to ignore what has been playing out in the commenting on the last post and I therefore find myself coming back to the issue of sex education.

There was a story a while back in Bne Beraq when some odious young man forced himself into the confidence of some newlywed Chassidic ladies as a Mashpiya (advisor in religious law and customs) and, using that authority, sexually abused them. I believe he got a long prison sentence. Rumour has it that the reason it did get so far is because there was a daughter of a highly illustrious family among his victims.

Any regular reader of the Charedi press will know that the list of subjects that do not appear there includes anything critical of our way of life and anything concerning sex. This story was therefore mainly followed in the secular press and in the hallowed halls of Hydepark’s Bechadrei Chareidim. What was perhaps most disturbing, if not surprising, was the almost total lack of any action taken to correct the situation that allowed this to occur.

In an age long passed it might have been praiseworthy to manage to bring a couple together until the day of their marriage still ignorant as to the existence of sex. In the Chassidic world stories still do the rounds of individuals who had to be brought a glass of water on the morning of their wedding day after the Rabbi clumsily broke the news as to what the climax of the day’s program consisted of. In fact I still look back fondly on the moment when I had to go through the ordeal of pretending to look shocked when I was gravely informed by my Madrich what I was expected to do. Probably mistaking my carefully rehearsed surprise for revulsion or shock, he patted me on my back and solemnly informed me that I need not be worried I would get used to it. He then proceeded to smugly assure me that he himself not only did it but thoroughly enjoyed it, effectively making any further need for false revulsion totally redundant.

I do not think many youngsters today reach the end of their adolescence in ignorant bliss. The youth of today is sexually more aware than many of their parents are. Yet the education of the playground and furtive sessions on the Internet are no substitute for thorough education and training in how to reject and resist unwelcome advances.

There is an even greater problem that I have come across on more that one occasion and that is of young people becoming confused as to their own sexuality because they might have had same sex experiences in Yeshiva or School and become mistakenly convinced that that makes them gay. All in all there is need for a comprehensive overhaul of what information reaches our youngsters and how. If the Rabbis are not interested in doing maybe there is no option but to set up some websites that will give the information out to those that seek it. In any event something has to be done and the sooner the better.

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