Culture, Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender, Uncategorized

Abstinence, OU Style

So the House has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, a source of free/low cost birth control, HIV, cancer screenings, and sex positive education. And now, we have NCSY Say K(No)w: The First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens. It must be Erode Access to Important Information Week.
If we’re going to talk about sex, we have to make sure it’s more complicated and honest than simply “don’t do it.” What are you waiting, or not waiting for? What information are you basing your decision on? Is it about pressure from your partner, your parents, or your community? Shame, confusion, or fear of your sexuality? “Facts” about sex that are actually wrong?
You can find all this (and more) on the’s website. First of all, condoms are bad. They don’t protect you from everything, so don’t even bother. Neither does the Pill, or Depo, or the patch. Of course, because the goal of the website is abstinence, there’s no suggestion that using two forms of birth control might actually be a great option. In case you’ve sought out this website as a guide to protecting yourself from pregnancy and STI’s…good luck. There’s no practical  information for you here. We hope you don’t get pregnant!
Also noteworthy-suicide! According to the study credited (“Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk Association with Sex and Drug Behaviors.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, vol. 27 no. 3.), “sexually active boys are therefore EIGHT TIMES more likely to attempt suicide!” Girls who are sexually active are three times as likely. I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe it’s because they’ve gotten false/bad information about sex, STI’s, pregnancy prevention and might find themselves in a horrible situation beyond their control? Maybe because they feel ashamed,  alienated from their communities,  like they can’t tell anyone and have no resources?
If this all weren’t disconcerting enough, there’s gender policing going on. In the section on Messing Around,  it’s spelled out for us: Girls are vulnerable. Girls think sex means love, it’s how we get boys to love us.  It’s not about pleasure, or exploring sexuality. Boys want sex. All boys, all the time, and they’ll do anything to get it. At least both girls and boys are vulnerable to the “non-physical effects of sexual activity.Guilt, worry, regret, shame, depression and other emotional consequences remain the same, regardless of any contraceptives that may be used.”
I know I’m asking for something that I’m not going to get, which is for the  OU to behave as if it were an entirely different organization-one which is sex positive and inclusive. So I’ll set the bar even lower and ask that it be a responsible organization, and give young folks accurate  information about sex, as opposed to ignoring reality in exchange for scaring them into abstinence.

16 thoughts on “Abstinence, OU Style

  1. How are you guys only picking up on this now? That site’s been around for years already, since sell into the Bush admin. We all thought they did it just for abstinence only sex-ed federal money, but then they kept it up.

  2. 1/ ‘Boys want sex. All boys, all the time, and they’ll do anything to get it’.
    You doubt this?
    Who’s ‘ignoring reality’ now?
    2/ You say that the Orthodox aren’t ‘sex-positive’? How do you think those 10+ kids families happen?

  3. @Dave Boxthorn:
    1) You want to have sex all of the time? Continuously? You are preoccupied and unable to focus or do anything else? You will do “anything” to get it? Anything is a very strong word. Maybe you have a sex addiction or believe all men do. That statement by the OU was a very strongly worded over-generalization. Not to mention, the blogger was referencing gender policing and the stereotypes we societally project on male youth.
    2) Google the term “sex-positive” – the first few lines on wikipedia should help you to understand the terminology. 10+ children occurs when sex is regulated by a system of laws withholding then providing for sexual activity when a woman is generally fertile, in addition to relatively early marriage, often the need for heters to use any form of birth control, and a lack of reproductive health education.

  4. It’s a pretty terrible site. Are you suggesting though that the OU should not push the accepted norms of behavior in Orthodox Judaism? How would you go about promoting the idea that the proper place for sexual activity is in marriage? Could you do that in a positive way or are you just too offended by that idea?

  5. Isn’t the OU’s approach illustrative of the problems inherent in any “mass-market” policy approach towards sex and sexuality? I agree that abstinence education is a fool’s errand, but I don’t support encouraging sexual experimentation and handing out condoms with a wink and a nod either.
    As for boys wanting sex all the time… I don’t know about sex itself, but craving the attention and interaction of girls is a main driving force in the lives of most boys and young men I’ve known, including myself. I feel very strongly that I could have benefited from a boys-only educational environment, and will try to ensure that my kids get it.

  6. Sexual education should not be a distinct area of instruction, but part of a more comprehensive understanding about the role of sexuality in a holistic value system.
    Maybe that’s too much to ask from a secular public school system, but from a Jewish perspective, there are a number of important, spiritual reasons why having sex outside of marriage is not a positive thing, no matter one’s age.
    Having that value system doesn’t mean extramarital sex won’t happen, or what we Jewish singles won’t struggle with it, but that we can place our behavior and conduct into a context that is fulfilling and meaningful.

  7. I thought there were only Catholic castrati. I stand corrected.
    ‘… the stereotypes we societally project on male youth…’
    Uh yeah. Now learn some real science, especially about C19H28O2 and its pubertal effects.
    Here’s a bit of stereotyping: Adult males have 10 times as much C19H28O2 as adult females have.
    I can’t think of a course of study that has pushed as many people away from science as sociology has.
    However here’s a lecture that even soc majors can understand on the subject (BTW the lecturer was 1/4 Jewish by ancestry):

  8. What’s most striking is that the rhetoric of the site is overwhelmingly secular, republican and American, i.e. there is little discussion of halacha, of sources or of God, even in the part that’s ostensibly on “the soul”.

  9. Read the OU definition of abstinence. It includes handshaking, which is of course, a critical and personal choice our young public school students face.
    I mention public school students because the OU dominates the JSU board, which services public school teens IN OUR SCHOOLS. Feel free to thank the Orthodox Union for their wonderful help guiding them to haredi fundie shithole institutions in Israel. JSU – NCSY – Ohr Somayach/Neve Yerushalayim/etc.

  10. DK, shithole? Come on.
    I’m not a big fan of some of these institutions either, but more because some young adults who go end up getting super-frum super fast, burn out in a year and then want nothing to do with yiddishkeit ever again.

  11. @David Boxthorn: It’s your type of attitude which makes life very, very difficult and isolating for male rape victims. Also, your attitude that it is normal and acceptable for men to do “anything” for sex with women makes me fear for any women in your life.

  12. Brooklynjew, it’s your attitude which makes it very difficult not to find something redeeming in Dave Boxthorn’s remarks. When someone becomes a societal pinata, simultaneously responsible for the difficult lives of male rape victims while undergoing scrutiny for being a danger to women… Are you sure Dave doesn’t drink the blood of christian children? How can any of us be sure, I mean, really sure? Prove your innocence, Dave. Go on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.