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Mar 19 2012

What Does Judaism Think About Birth Control?

By at 8:13 am

birth control pillsBirth control is all over the news these days, from people suggesting that aspirin between the legs is a good solution, to Republican presidential candidates falling all over themselves to say how much they hate it when ladies get the option to choose whether or not they want to get knocked up. All this despite the fact that according to the CDC, 99% of American women use birth control at some point in their lives.

It’s clear that the Christian right is entering an anti-birth control stage, but what about Judaism? What does Jewish law say about taking some time off from baby-making, and what do Jewish ladies do when it comes to family planning? Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 17 2011

Sex After Baby, Easier Said Than Done

By at 12:07 pm
heidi klum

I'm no Heidi Klum, but I'm trying my best.

I really appreciated Mayim’s most recent piece on Judaic sexy time. Even though I already knew most of what was in her post, it reminded me of how amazing a woman’s body is and how celebrated sexual relations are in Judaism. Trust me, my Jewish husband celebrates any time we have sex.

And herein lies the struggle.  Why does it happen more than I’d like and less than he’d like?  We have a child, we’re busy, and we’re tired. My body is a squishy version of its former self and my boobies still belong to the toddler sleeping in the next room.

Meanwhile, hubs is sexy and never stopped being hot for me even after watching a human being expelled from his happy place. This guy works his ass off, changes diapers, tells me I’m beautiful, and deserves a win now and then.  If he were to reject me even once I’d be slicing my wrists with insecurity, yet he comes back time and again in hopes of a kiss–okay, with tongue.

In my experience, having sex is like going to the gym in that even when I have to drag myself there kicking and screaming, I feel so good and I’m always glad I went. So why do I keep a monthly tally of our encounters in my mind to use as ammunition when I’m tired?

Much like Mayim’s post inferred, I used to think that Orthodox women were oppressed by obligatory sex. I pictured them dreading of the day they were “clean” because they were going to have to put out, like it or not. But I can also see how the mikvah could be an empowering prelude to getting down and dirty.  So much preparation, anticipation, perhaps, even butterflies, all leading up to a familiar connection that you’re contracted to uphold. Plus there’s the added bonus, YOU’RE CLEAN (Moms know, we never have time to shower.) Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 11 2011

Mayim Bialik Talks About Sex

By at 12:05 pm

A recent Kveller article by Cara Paiuk detailed the best things to do if trying to get pregnant. Cara recommended the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and I agree—that book changed my life and allowed me to have access to the intimate workings of the reproductive system easily, simply, and in the most effective way to achieve pregnancy. The book both helps you get pregnant and avoid pregnancy, since by learning your reliable and consistent patterns (which for the vast majority of women are universal), you truly can take charge of your fertility! This is not ‘the rhythm method;’ it’s just understanding biology.

But did you know that the wisdom, simplicity, elegance, and baby-planning contained in that book (and in our biological make up) has been tapped into for thousands of years by Jews? That’s right. Long before tomes of endocrinology literature charted the hypothalamic and pituitary secretions of the hormones that govern menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding’s effects on our cycles, the Torah detailed it for us. Mmm hmmm.

That’s right, ladies. The Torah. The Five Books of Moses, that some-3000-year-old tome. The Torah says to count “for yourself” seven days. Over time, an additional five days (according to most customs) were added to the mix . What happens 7+5 days after you start your cycle? As any OB-Gyn, endocrinologist, or person who has read TCOYF can tell you, for the majority of women, ovulation occurs around the 12th day after you start your cycle. Yup.

Get it? The most efficient way to get pregnant is to have sex on and around Day 12 of your cycle. And that’s literally what Jewish women have done for thousands of years. Traditionally, the night of ovulation (day 12 of your cycle), women immerse in a mikveh which is basically a glorified and very sanitary pretty hot tub with no bubbles involved and only one woman at a time allowed in. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 3 2011

Let’s Talk About Sex

By at 2:43 pm

Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex playing at the Varsity Theater in 1973.

My daughter has a friend who is a single mother by choice. The other day, she braced herself for a conversation she was not yet ready to have when her son asked,

“Does Avi have a father? Does Donna have a husband?”  My daughter matter-of-factly replied, “No.” “Well then,” my grandson continued with a pause,” who does things for her?”

I just heard about several unmarried sisters who bought a house together and adopted children to create a new family. Our gay friends recently had a daughter through an egg donor and a surrogate. All this within the observant Modern Orthodox world of which we are a part.

When I was raising kids, things were simpler, but not better. The “modern families” enrich the community. But the “birds and bees” conversation has gotten a lot longer.

I am of the opinion that kids can accept things pretty easily if explanations are age-appropriate, honest and given clearly in language they understand. Most important is that the explanations be given within the value system of the parents, consistent with other beliefs previously taught. Information needs context.

It seems to me that the easy part is Introduction to Sex for the little kids because procreative sex isn’t so hard to explain although, admittedly, it certainly does sound strange (especially when you really think about it). I remember that the morning after I had explained it to my own 7-year-old daughter and cautioned her not to discuss it with her friends (that was all I needed), she urgently called me into the bathroom for a private conference. “Mommy, if it doesn’t work (the egg and sperm getting together to make a baby), do you have to do it again?”

It’s recreational sex that is the challenge.

My son was in sixth grade when I nominated and elected myself to have a “teen-age” conversation with him about sex. It was taboo in my husband’s home growing up so he couldn’t handle it (the conversation, I mean!) but I came into my son’s room relaxed and confident. I just started talking. The first pink blush started right away, at the base of his throat. By the time I was up to “erection,” the blush was all over his face. When I got up to “masturbation,” he was bright red. I thought I was doing a great job, so I asked with some exasperation, “What’s the matter? Why are you so embarrassed?” “Most moms don’t talk to their kids like this,” he said.

Well that’s a problem. In the same way kids learn about other things from their parents, by what they say and what they do, and by inserting their value system as context, they need to learn about sex, too. And the generation that is now being born and raised, is learning way too much, too early and from the wrong sources. I am stymied by the challenge young parents will have. How do you teach respect for women when the sexualization of female bodies appears all over–on large posters, store windows, books, magazines and movies? How do you teach respect for the sexual act when it is promoted only as feel-good fun without consequences? How do you teach respect for life itself when casual sex is accessible and acceptable but can be a matter of life and death?

My next “sex” conversation with my son was right before college. That time he didn’t blush. We discussed some particulars but the main message I wanted to emphasize was that going away to college involved personal maturity, a high level of personal responsibility, and respect for others and oneself.

So, good luck. Maybe you’ll be lucky and by the time your kids are teenagers,  chastity belts, for girls and boys, will be as cool as iPads are now. Maybe they’ll even be remote controlled.

For more advice from this grandmother, check out what she has to say about discipline and breastfeeding.

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