Thursday, April 14, 2005

The B&W Principle In Action

Have you noticed that there's been quite a bit of discussion about sexual issues on the frum blogs lately? Bas Torah, Shomer Negiah Girl, BP Yingerman, the pre-marital sex forum at Ohel Nechama, Mayim Rabim, etc.

I personally have no problem with it, but I can understand that many people would consider such open and frank discussion of sexual issues to be inappropriate. Especially when the discussion explores some particular sexual topics that are not as "educationally redeeming" as others may be. But overall I think it's not a big deal and since people evidently don't have an outlet for discussing it in private, this is at least better than nothing.

One particular blogger, who bills himself as a "chassidisher yingerman from Boro Park", tends to focus quite a bit on these topics. Recently, he started off a post with a fairly sensible question worth exploring and in his answer ended up sharing with us all something that can only be described as incredibly titillating erotic literature. Now, I'm all for the right of any person to say what he wants on his own blog, but I can't help but wonder, what the hell is going on here?!

It just doesn't make any sense to me that a normal person with a healthy relationship with his wife will share intimate details of their life together with the whole world! Especially a frum person! Judging from his past posts, he doesn't consider himself a secretly rebellious frummie that's just dying to get out there and do "kol davur assur". He unambiguously states that he's crazy in love with his wife. So what can account for this incredibly inappropriate gesture of his?

My guess? The Black & White Principle.

I don't know this guy personally, so I can't really be sure if this is what's going on with him, but over the years I've seen similar sort of behavior in many other people. Shtreimel wrote about a related incident some time ago.

You see, in the frum world, people generally don't talk about sex at all. If the topic is ever raised, it's either 1) in the context of a halachic issue, 2) in a counseling or therapy situation, or 3) between husband and wife behind very closed doors.

Such frank topics as preferable positions, toys, masturbation, oral, birth control, sex education, etc. are never talked about with the casualness that one sees in the non-frum world where countless magazines have sex advice, people often ask their close friends for advice in these areas, and TV shows joke about the topics (Seinfeld: "The Contest", "Shrinkage", "Spongeworthy").

So when a person who comes from a world that has no talk of sex whatsoever discovers people who are openly discussing all aspects of the subject, he doesn't understand that just because people are talking about sex does not mean that anything goes. That there is such a thing as appropriate sex talk and inappropriate sex talk. To him, it's simply a matter of everything that was forbidden before is now permitted! So he just lets loose with every bawdy idea and image he has bottled up inside himself. This is why it's not at all uncommon to see a person who, as soon as he discovers an individual who is open about discussing sex, will start making really crude and vulgar jokes. Or asking all sorts of intrusive and insensitive questions. Or as in the example of the above blogger, will freely segue from an informative inquiry about how to prepare oneself on mikvah night to the explicit details of his wife's orgasms.

After all, when you live in a black and white world, it's all or nothing.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This seems to be very specifically a chassidic issue. One finds chassidiche talking this way about their wives - I don't think I've ever met a yeshivische doing the same.

I think the black and white issue is part of it, but there's much going on.
There's an almost complete lack of privacy in much of the chassidic world. People are members of a community, and don't really think about themselves much as individuals. They tell you intimate details about all sorts of things - not just sex - because they are not really used to a zone of privacy.

Also, there is much less personal relationship between spouses. They marry virtual strangers with whom they share common "goals" and hope to start a family, and the men and women are in almost entirely different worlds and don't hope or expect to understand each other much or to share all that much of their daily life and thoughts and feelings. Sex is a *much* bigger bond between the couple than it is elsewhere.
It's also a bigger taboo, as you say, so they are constantly talking and fantasizing about sex - but this is in large part due to how objectified their relationships are. If you read for ex. the blog in question (a chassidisher yungerman etc) you will see that he sounds like he likes his wife, but how much do they really share? They take each other's personality as givens that they have to adjust to. Sex and the kids are really the glue and they just get used to each other otherwise.
So they don't think of sex as an expression of anything private. It's just what couples do. In their minds, every relationship isn't subtly different - it's all the same thing. I sleep with my wife, you sleep with your wife, want some tips? Here's what my wife likes...etc.

The Hedyot said...

Really interesting points. I like your analysis. Thanks

ron asheton said...

Suddenly you are naive? The guy's an exhibitionist, or wants to be. You've heard of exhibitionism, right?

Michael said...

H.L. Mencken described the "all or nothing" phenomenon (albeit while discussing Christians rather than Jews) quite accurately 80 years or so ago:

Sin is a dangerous toy in the hands of the virtuous. It should be left to the congenitally sinful, who know when to play with it and when to let it alone. Run a boy through a Presbyterian Sunday-school and you must police him carefully all the rest of his life, for once he slips he is ready for anything.