Monday, April 26, 2004


Today, at a magazine to which I occasionally contribute with illustrations and articles, I proofread an article about Judaism's halakha laws regarding sexuality.

The author was refreshingly positive in her views of the nidda laws that force a couple to stay physically apart during the woman's menstruation and seven days after it. Not that I don't think the nidda laws are despicable, but it's rare that you hear such eloquent praise for them.

Basically, she argued that "hardly anyone could deny the positive effects these repeated periods of separation have on their sexual life". She wrote that the two weeks of separation (which she toned down to twelve days, assuming that 'the average woman' would have a period for five days - those lucky bastards!) create pleasant sexual tension, that couples learn that sex isn't something they can take for granted, that it is more likely that their desires for sex come at the same time (i.e. right after the ritual bath which makes a woman 'clean' again after she's had her period), that they have a reason to learn how to show love and affection in other ways than physically, etc. Sure, that sounds great, and that might be one reason why the book "Kosher Sex" has become such a bestseller also outside the Jewish community.
But ... "hardly anyone"?
What would the women say who have problems with their menstruation, and who can't seem to get any 'clean' days to fit between the seven 'quarantine' days and the onset of their next period? What about women whose vaginal discharge is naturally slightly tainted (brownish or more to the orange - yes, it happens), so that it counts as 'menstruation' according to the laws? What about the couples who remain forever childless because the woman's ovulation comes very early? What about the Jewish women who started a bloody revolt against the nidda laws back when the people of Israel was in Egypt's slavery? (Yes, what about them? - Well, they were crushed, without mercy.)

The problem here is that it's not a question of 'guidelines' to help people have better relationships and sex, but it's about *laws*. They are imposed from above by certain old men who think they know what's best for *everyone*. It's the same problem as with statistics: there's always plenty of people who don't fit into the average.

A thing like sex is something very personal and intimate. I may be tainted by my own non-religious culture, but I, sure as hell, would never let anyone decide what's best for me in that respect, be it a partner, a mother, a rabbi or a god.