Written by Mara Yacobi. Mara, a certified sexuality educator and licensed social worker, is Jewrotica’s resident sex educator. Check out Mara’s Celebrating the Miracle of the Oil for a primer on lubricants and essential oils.
(Note from Mara: This post is dedicated to a population of young adults who grew up without any formal sex education—the Yeshiva boys and Yeshiva girls, day school students, and anyone else who never received the information and skills necessary for caring for their sexual and reproductive health. This post is intended to provide an overview on sexually transmitted infections and practicing safer sex. It could be a lifesaver.)
I was recently waiting in line to use the ladies room following a so-so movie at the theater. I had a bit of time on my hands as the line was out the door and around the corner. I used the time to marvel over the amazing feat women perform when using the restroom: they do their business and manage not to touch a single thing. Really—we wait in line, squat over the toilet seat, use our foot to flush, and then elbow ourselves out of the stall. Thanks to modern technology, the soap automatically dispenses freely into our hands, the water faucets turn on when the sensor detects us, and the paper towel machine spits out paper towels with the wave of a hand. A few extra paper towels make exiting the bathroom another germ-free prospect. Mission accomplished—a successful germ-free visit to the bathroom.
When I finally reached the stall, it occurred to me how shocking it is that although women are so aware of the potential risks of picking up germs, they do not apply these same safe practices when it comes to sex. Men are no different.
Jewrotica’s mission is to spark a positive light on sexuality and provide a forum for us to enjoy the variety of sexual expression. I have read most of the stories published on Jewrotica, and while I enjoy how they highlight the pleasures of sex, I do not recall any mention in them of practicing safer sex. It’s true that a discussion of condoms, testing, or HIV is not the sexiest conversation to insert into a steamy sex scene or confession . . . but it’s important to keep in mind that in real-life scenarios protecting yourself is critical. (If you’re thinking about writing a story for Jewrotica, maybe you’re up for the challenge of adding in some safer sex talk between your characters. If you do, be sure to let us know!)
Whether you are in a committed relationship or not, the best and most pleasurable sex can only happen when you and your partner practice safer sex. When you don’t have to worry about an unintentional pregnancy or being exposed to an infection, you are able to relax and completely give yourself over to the experience. This is why it’s critical to get tested. If you are in a non-committed relationship or have experienced any of the situations described in My Sweet Boy, My Goy Toy or Stoned, it is crucial to use a barrier method (discussed later in this post).
The term “safer sex” implies that nothing is 100-percent guaranteed safe. When you practice safer sex, you are doing everything you can to minimize your risk of infection and/or unintended pregnancy. Safer sex can also involve abstaining from oral, anal, or vaginal sex and exploring other ways of having a stimulating sexual experience without exchanging bodily fluids.
The purpose of practicing safer sex is not just for your benefit but also for your partner’s benefit. Remember the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you would love yourself. When you take steps to care for your own health, consider your partner’s good health as well. In fact, protection is a mitzvah. In the book of Deuteronomy, it says, “When you build a new house, you MUST put a parapet around the roof.” This text becomes the foundation for a mitzvah—it is a Jewish obligation to prevent injury by taking the necessary steps to prevent possible accidents. In other words, if you are building a house, you are obligated to make it as safe as possible to prevent you or your guests from getting hurt. The same analogy holds true with regard to protecting oneself or one’s partner from contracting a sexually transmitted infection by taking the necessary steps to practice safer sex*.
*Protection is a Mitzvah by Torah Aura Productions, 1992