29 August 2006

On Sexuality

After reading MCAryeh's incendiary post on homosexuality and orthodoxy, I felt the need to throw in my opinion. I agree with his support of the individuals involved as people. I admire his listening and his care.

However, just looking at the issue in itself...

Where do we find that a person has a god-given right to have sex with who they are attracted to?

For the past nine years, while I have been halachically observant, attracted to women, and unmarried - I haven't had any sexual relationships. This is not for any lack of desire, trust me. That's the way the law goes.

And there's reason to the law. Sexual contact has an enormous power to damage individuals, corrupt societies, and twist the world to fit its animalistic image.

I saw the world it created as I grew up a sexually active teenager in a sexually driven society.

The law aims to contain a volatile force - allow its positive expression, but keep it from finding its full, and damaging, expression.

Is the attraction to people of the same sex natural? Sure. Is a strong sexual attraction normal? I don't think it's terribly rare. Is the expression of that sexual attraction helpful in any way to the individuals involved or society? I strongly doubt it.

I think that for a Torah Jew, the homosexual act is like any other act of conscious breaking with halacha. Generally, it serves immediate desires and does long term damage.

Am I dooming the person who can't bear to think of heterosexual sex to live a sexless life? Uhh, yeah. I've been there. It's liberating.

It's part of the damage that rampant sexuality has done that we think this is a fate worse than death.

23 comments:

MC Aryeh said...

Talk about a jolt of emes! Very impressive out-of-the-box, not- following-the-herd thinking. I especially love the second to last paragraph. Classic. I can't disagree with anything you have said, though I still feel tremendous sympathy for those who struggle with homosexuality. The difference is, iy"h, you will one day soon get to fulfill your desires, while they will not ever be able to if they are to adhere to halacha.

'laizer said...

Thank you, MCA. I appreciate it.

I hear the difference you are making, and there is some truth in it.

But it's also true that there are worlds and worlds of desires that I will never be able to fulfill.

And that's the way it should be - for my own good, and the good of the world.

yitz said...

MCAryeh wrote: The difference is, iy"h, you will one day soon get to fulfill your desires, while they will not ever be able to if they are to adhere to halacha.
I'm afraid that you have swallowed the Gay Lib Movement's or other "pc" way of thinking. An Orthodox Jew has to be believe in Teshuva and the possibility for CHANGE. To quote Rebbe Nachman, Ein shum yi'ush b'Olam klal!!! Never give up!!!

yitz said...

A wonderful example of the ability to change:
It is told that in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu, a gentile king, having heard of his leading the Jewish nation out of Egypt, splitting the sea, receiving the Torah, etc. greatly desired to see how Moshe looked (there were no tabloids back then). It was beneath his dignity to journey into the desert to meet him, so he hired a skilled artist to study Moshe and ultimately paint his portrait. The artist spent many months until he was satisfied with his work and presented it to its commissioner. The king took one look at the picture, and gave the artist a slap across his face. "How dare you try to fool me! I am well versed in the reading of faces, and the picture you've painted is of a man who is of very poor character. Am I to believe this the great Moshe, whose name is uttered with such reverence in all the world?" The artist, however, stuck by his story that this was indeed Moshe.
The king, intrigued, journeyed into the desert to behold Moshe's countenance with his own eyes. To his shock, Moshe looked exactly as the artist had depicted him. He approached the great leader and expressed his surprise, based on his understanding of face-reading. "Why are you surprised?" asked Moshe simply. "Is this not the true test of man - to overcome his poor character and strive for greatness - not to be born into it?"

This story is quoted by Tiferes Yisrael [Kiddushin Chapter 4] and others.

MC Aryeh said...

Once again, Yitz, I would appreciate if you would refrain from telling me what I believe. I have swallowed none of the PC/gay lib agenda. Of course there is teshuva, and yes there is always hope. What gays desire, however, is gay sex. If they adhere to halacha, they will never fulfill their desire to have gay sex. If they are somehow able to change orientation, they will still never have fulfilled their desire for gay sex. If there desires change, they will still never have fulfilled their original desire to have gay sex. Period. And no, I am not advocating that they not follow halacha. Nothing PC about that...

Photochick said...

I think I have been hanging out with the wrong blogs...great post. It is important to remember that we deny ourselves what we want to improve ourselves and further our relationship with Hashem. Hmm, so I should put the chocolate back then right?

yitz said...

MCAryeh, if I quote you, that's not called "telling you what you believe." If you can't stand by your original statements, then at lesat say, sorry, I was wrong, or I didn't mean that...
You also wrote: If they are somehow able to change orientation, they will still never have fulfilled their desire for gay sex. If there desires change, they will still never have fulfilled their original desire to have gay sex.
And if a murderer overcomes his evil inclination to murder, and no longer desires to kill, he also "will still never have fulfilled his original desire." So what? Your statement is meaningless, IMNSHO.

Jack's Shack said...

Am I dooming the person who can't bear to think of heterosexual sex to live a sexless life? Uhh, yeah. I've been there. It's liberating.

Sorry, it doesn't really sound like you have been there. ARe you saying that you gave up sex.Are you saying that you decided that you would refrain from it for your entire life and that you would never experience that sort of love and intimacy with a partner you love deep and passionately.

Are you saying that you cut off a part of yourself and just accepted that it would never change.

MC Aryeh said...

Yitz, it was not the quote that was the problem. It was accusing me of having "swallowed the gay lib movement or other pc way of thinking". I definitely do stand by my original statement. My "meaningless" statement was an explanation of my original statement taken to the extreme to cover all possible scenarios where my original statement would be true. What I am sorry for is in responding to you harshly, and in being baited by your words. A good Elul to you...

yitz said...

MCA, I'm sorry, too, for having "baited" you. Perhaps my modifier of "I'm afraid that" was not enough, and I should have said, "It appears to me, it seems to me," or something like that. In any case, I WAS expressing my opinion, not putting words into your mouth or your head.
But let's look at the substantive issues and not write off our wayward brethren so readily. WE CAN CHANGE, it's in our power. That, too, is part of our belief system called Torah.
A good Elul to you as well...and regards from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh.

Stacey said...

Generally, it serves immediate desires and does long term damage.

And what is the long-term damage you refer to?

I have seen first-hand how damaging it is to a person's soul and emotional well-being to deny what/who they are. What about that damage? Is it irrelevant?

I am glad you found your place in the broad spectrum of our beautiful religion. And I mean no offense or disrespect when I say that place will never be my place. Honestly, that kind of thinking creeps me out.

yitz said...

I have seen first-hand how damaging it is to a person's soul and emotional well-being to deny what/who they are. What about that damage? Is it irrelevant?
Stacey, with all due respect: Do you really know what a person is, who he/she is? If he has an overwhelming desire to kill or rape, would you say the same thing? Aren't there "bottom lines" in this world?

Stacey said...

You are comparing apples to oranges, Yitz. Murdering and raping is completely different than 2 committed adults having a consensual sexual relationship.

I have close friends (lifelong friends) who are gay. I have spent 20+ years watching the hell they live.

I respect where you're coming from, I just completely disagree with it.

'laizer said...

Photochick - thanks for the compliment. Just for the record, I have nothing against chocolate.

Jack - what I'm saying is that I gave up varied and numerous desires becuase the Torah told me to. A minority of them may have some redress in the future, the majority of them will not. I'm a much better person for it. What I'm really taking issue with is the world view that says that an unsatisfied desire is a bad thing. Perhaps we should entertain the idea that a 'satisfied' desire is a bad thing - in that it is really never satisfied, and leads a person into a world of greater and greater lack, and less and less control.

Stacey - Thank you for your honesty. I suspect that we would have to have a longer patient conversation to really come to understand each others view on this. Even so, I'd like to try to clarify a touch.
I think a person needs to be real and honest about the emotions and drives they have, whether or not they are 'acceptable' by anyone. I also believe that a person has to carefully weigh their actions, and that having an impluse, inclination, drive, or desire is not sufficient reason to do something.
You asked about the long-term damage. I have to state that whatever arguement I make, I know that it's damaging because it's prohibited in the Torah, that's the direction I come from. But I can speculate - why do I think it's damaging? I think it's damaging because generally the sexual act tends toward being a very selfish act, and the way it which it's really redeemed form being a very selfish act is that it becomes the ultimate form of giving - giving life. If it is ultimately and completely divorced from that giving, it is left with nothing but empty pleasure, and the spiral I referred to in my response to Jack.
And to your later post - I appreciate the sympathy you show. I hear how it can be very difficult.

yitz said...

Stacey said... Murdering and raping is completely different than 2 committed adults having a consensual sexual relationship.
And if A agrees that B can kill him? What about Dr. Death? The trouble with your way of thinking is that it is human, finite. The Torah comes to us from G-d, and as incomprehensible as some of His ways and Laws are, they are Divine and are the right way for a Jew to go.
What you believe in changes every 5-10 years or so. 30 years ago homosexuality was looked upon as a disease or worse. Now it's become an "acceptable, alternative lifestyle." Who knows what the next 30 years will bring?

Stacey said...

'Laizer:

Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I appreciate it.

There are some things you've said I'd like to comment on.

Perhaps we should entertain the idea that a 'satisfied' desire is a bad thing - in that it is really never satisfied, and leads a person into a world of greater and greater lack, and less and less control.

Whoa, I think this is a huge stretch. And I would argue that homosexual sex (or even premarital sex) does not necessarily lead there.

Life is not black and white. It is shades of grey. Not everyone who partakes of premarital sex, homosexual sex (or even other potentially dangerous activities such as alcohol consumption) is going to be taken down a dark road. I think you have made a sweeping overgeneralization b/c most people who partake in such, do so in a responsible manner. There will always be some who become alcoholics, etc. but they are the exception, not the rule.

I think a person needs to be real and honest about the emotions and drives they have, whether or not they are 'acceptable' by anyone. I also believe that a person has to carefully weigh their actions

I agree with you what you have said above.

I think it's damaging because generally the sexual act tends toward being a very selfish act, and the way it which it's really redeemed form being a very selfish act is that it becomes the ultimate form of giving - giving life. If it is ultimately and completely divorced from that giving, it is left with nothing but empty pleasure, and the spiral I referred to in my response to Jack.

This is where I disagree with you. I don't believe that sex is a selfish act. I believe that sex is the deepest, most beautiful expression of love between two people (regardless of whether or not they are trying to procreate). And as such, I could never concur with you that this beautiful intimacy is "empty pleasure." Whether the two people are a man and woman or of the same sex is completely irrelevant to me.

And to your later post - I appreciate the sympathy you show. I hear how it can be very difficult.

Thank you for your compassionate view here.

Yitz:

The trouble with your way of thinking is that it is human, finite.

Actually, I am quite content that I look at life from a view of humanity, for I am human and I care about humanity.

Compassion, tolerance and acceptance of my fellow humans is more important to me that something I believe was G-d inspired, man written. Something that I think is wrong. We will just have to agree to disagree.

I don't look at life in black and white terms. It's the beautiful shades of grey that make us who we are.

Anshel's Wife said...

One of the things I find most comforting in being a BT is that I have definite boundaries now. Everything was fair game before. I'm not saying I didn't have morals. I'm not saying that people who aren't religious don't have morals or boundaries. What I'm saying is that now that the Torah is my law, I know where I stand. I know what is acceptable and what is not. And if I have a question, I have people (mashpia-mentor, rabbis, etc.) who can help clarify the boundaries.

Laizer, I agree with what you had to say 100%. Very sensitive.

ravyehoshua said...

Eliezer (and the others who are discussing the issue), please forgive me for not reading the discussion - no time is no excuse, but it IS my excuse.

Two things: you write as though the channelling of sexual expression within a certain framework is basically a concession. Damage controll, containing a volitile substance. That sounds pretty familiar, but not essentially Jewish. "Better to marry than to burn with desire", Paul is supposed to have said somewhere in Christian scriptures. But a classic of OUR tradition, Iggeret Hakodesh, sees the various guide-lines (hyphen intentional) as bringing sexuality UP to the realization of its true, ultimate potentiality in His service. In general, do we say that halachah CONTAINS our animal instincts, or ELEVATES them?

Mashal l'mah hadavar domeh? In the month of Elul, we do teshuva. There are two conflicting statements i the gemara:

1) Great is teshuva, for it converts intentional transgressions to (merely) inadvertant ones.

2) Great is teshuva, for it converts intentional transgressions into MERITS!

Isn't this a contradiction asks the Gemara?

Not at all, it answers: in the former case, the teshuva is motivated by Yir'ah (meaning primarily FEAR, though it of course resonates with the higher harmonics of Awe and Divine vertigo); in the latter case, the teshuva is motivated by Ahava (love - of Hashem, of course).

Likewise here, sexual expression channelled through halachah out of fear of the damage it can inflict when allowed to run out of control will at best achieve the containment it seeks, while perhaps confining the Jew who constrains him/herself to a life of limited spiritual horizons. Sexual expression channelled through halachah because this is a vehicle to express love of Hashem in an unparalleled fashion, has the potential of transforming those two souls so astonishingly united that, when the tide of holy presencing ebbs, the precious divine gifts become part of a newly discovered dimension of one's being, more finely orienting one toward Hashem.

Moshcheini - Acharecha Narutza

'laizer said...

I wrote out these three repsonses, then realized that they followed a similar theme - probably the theme that most underlies this topic in my worldview.

Stacey -
Not everyone who partakes of premarital sex, homosexual sex (or even other potentially dangerous activities such as alcohol consumption) is going to be taken down a dark road.
I hear you on this one, and I'm weighing it back and forth. I think I agree with what you say, but not the conclusion. I saw a lot of people who were emotionally battered by cheap sex, who learned how to do all sorts of nasty things to satisfy thier desires, who thought they'd be able to control a situation that went way beyond where they wanted it to go. That experience stays with me. Even if it only happens to a minority of the people who enter that world (and I'm not convined it's a minority, but even if it is), is it worth it? Is the freedom worth the people who are destroyed by it? I think (and again, this is my supposition, based on my experience) that these bounds are here to keep those dynamics from developing. I think it comes from a place of wisdom and deep care and concern.

I don't believe that sex is a selfish act. I believe that sex is the deepest, most beautiful expression of love between two people.

I think we both agree that it can go either way, no? We disagree on where it has the potential to be that expression of love. I'm drawing the boundaries a bit tighter.

Anshel's Wife -
Thanks for coming by. Personally, I'm amazed at the freedom, creativity, and energy that exists in the bounded world of halacha. I never would have suspected it from the outside.

Rav Yehoshua -
Thank you the words. Food for thought.
I'm wondering if the containing and the elevating are part of the same dynamic. The boundaries allow for the elevation, create the space for that flowering...

Stacey said...

Hi 'laizer,

I saw a lot of people who were emotionally battered by cheap sex

I understand what you are saying, but I am not talking about "cheap" sex. I am talking about lovemaking between two committed people.

Is the freedom worth the people who are destroyed by it?

Aha, I think this is the crux of the whole situation. Freedom. And fear.

I believe (through my own observations) that many BTs become such because they need the structure and strict rules mandatory in Orthodoxy.

I am not sure of the circles you socialized in, but speaking for myself (and my friends and family), none of us who had premarital sex were corrupted or went to the "dark side." (gay and straight). All of us went on to lead productive lives and are in committed, loving relationships with families.

I sincerely believe that people are basically good. And responsible. And just because some people are reckless doesn't mean the rest should pay the price for it -- and have their personal freedoms limited.

Photochick said...

I keep debating, should I get involved or not. Sex is a very complicated act whether it is between two committed people or just a one-night stand. The very act can be either destructive or creative. I don't think anyone here is saying that it is 100% corruptive when it is between two unmarried consenting adults, however, there is a certain amount of baggage that is created by it. Forget the actual act for a moment and think about the other aspects of the act. I have seen people battered by sex that is not considered cheep. There is a reason the Torah tells us it is permitted within the realm of marriage and not outside of it. Hashem is far more intelligent than any of us; it would be permitted if it were meant to be permitted.

I am not sure if any of this has come out the way I wanted it to, but I gave it a shot.

Anonymous said...

for those of you who don't see the harm in a gay/lesbian person staying in the closet. i know someone for whom the strain of being in the closet put them in the hospital on suicide watch. multiple times.
since coming out several years ago, they've been significantly better.
Which would you prefer: that a friend of yours be alive and openly gay(and maybe, or maybe not engaging in gay sex), or dead?

Eitan Levy said...

Ya'asher koach Lazer. Found your blog via Stu. Great post. I especially appreciate your final comment on how we believe a sexless life to be 'worse than death' is a result of our social conditioning. We have been brought up (=brainwashed) in a physically oriented society. In an attempt to re-connect ourselves to the source of all life through the Torah we have to try to shed some of the entymemes of the dominant, gashmiyut culture. In other words, well said.