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My community had prepared me so well for so many aspects of “real life” and the “real world.” The small and supportive environment of the yeshiva day school system built me into a strong young adult with confidence, and allowed me to avoid the angsty and self-doubting period that many teenagers experience. Further, being enrolled in a dual-curriculum for twelve years made the transition to university academics much smoother as – though my college courses were demanding – my schedule was less rigorous than in high school.
However, I wished that there was something that would have better prepared me for a healthy and mature understanding of my own sexuality. Prior to getting married, I took a series of preparatory lessons from a kallah (bridal) teacher. Though the vast majority of the teaching pertained to the laws of family purity (niddah) and immersion in the ritual bath (mikvah), my kallah teacher did mention that many couples find lube to be helpful, and that it would be worthwhile to invest in some.
This matter-of-fact advice scandalized me. Her comment was so frank, so sexual. So… dirty. I’m lucky that I can look back on that memory and laugh. It isn’t easy to get over the idea that sex is somehow shameful or wrong, and I know plenty of people who still struggle.
My path towards self-acceptance was fairly unorthodox. Two years ago, I “hacked” my life and began a grand adventure. I let up the lease on my NYC apartment, gave away most of my worldly belongings, bought an RV and took my first baby steps out of the cocoon of my beautiful Modern Orthodox community. I have spent the past two years on the road, traveling North America, volunteering, seeing the national parks and guest-teaching in Jewish communities.
My travels have taken me to powerfully interesting places and brought me into contact with new cultures that challenged my ideas. Perhaps the most influential was the sex-positive community, who believe that any sexual activity between able-minded and consenting adults is inherently fine and should not be taboo. This might not sound revolutionary to mainstream secular society, but for many people raised in the observant community, it is in fact a novel idea.
Unlike the secular sex-positive community, observant Jews must reconcile desire with halacha. However, despite certain restrictions, Judaism is all about the sanctification and elevation of everything in life–including sex. We have no concept of Original Sin, and we are commanded to be fruitful.
But our current understandings of tzniut (modesty) and religious stringencies, coupled with living in a sex-negative Christian diaspora, have so permeated our consciousness that we observant Jews are being held in ignorance about our own sexuality. We’re supposed to wait until we get married to even pursue any real knowledge of sexuality and then – once the “no / don’t” is sufficiently ingrained within us after years of upbringing – we are told to flip a switch on our wedding night and largely figure the rest out on our own.
We all draw our lines in different places vis-a-vis privacy and modesty standards, and I respect that. But – beyond entertainment value – my core motivation in dreaming up Jewrotica is to educate and transform the silence into a meaningful dialogue while looping in the larger Jewish community to join the conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my story and motivation. I welcome your thoughts and, in the next post, I’ll speak about the transition from idea to reality and introduce you to the incredible Jewrotica team!
Light and Love,