Sex, Cheerios and a Ferret Tattoo
Jews don’t have sex. Goyim may rub their bodies together naked or something, but religious Jews, husbands and wives, they hug in their pajamas, maybe they kiss on the lips, and that’s how babies are made.
This is what I decided as a devoutly religious twelve-year-old. Me and my ten brothers and sisters were made by a peck on the mouth. By the time somebody stuck their penis in me, five years later, I didn’t know much more about the facts of life.
What would I tell myself about sex if I could go back in time, to when I was seventeen and newly independent, fearful and curious about my desires and my body?
Here are three of the things I wish I and some of my fellow formerly-religious friends would have known then:
1. Know Thyself
Imagine, you’re locked in a closet, your entire life, and all you get to eat is a baggie of cheerios pushed through a slot in the door every morning.
One day, you finally burst out of that closet and, starving hungry, you wander down the street, looking for something to eat. Before you can figure out where you can get food, what kind of food would be good for you or what foods you might like to eat now that you have a choice, someone eagerly approaches you. “Let me feed you,” they say, and drag you to their favorite Chinese takeout joint, where they encourage you to camp out with them and eat lo mein noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for a good long while. Crispy watermelon, soft white bread, salty grilled asparagus, fresh salmon – mountains of food await you in groceries and restaurants, but you don’t know how to get out of this place, and you’ve gotten kind of comfortable with the discomfort of your hard orange bench, slurping up these oily noodles which are starting to give you a stomachache and make you miss your cheerios.
By which I mean to say: As good as lo mein noodles may be, don’t sign up to somebody else’s meal plan once you’re finally free to eat as you please. Learn what you like to eat.
To rephrase a little more clearly: masturbate.
Know your own body before you give it to someone else to explore. Spend time touching yourself, feeling good with your fingers and any electrical or other accoutrements that work for you, learning what you like. If it feels good, do it more. Read erotica. Watch erotica. Explore your own orgasm.
That way, once you let another person into that space, you’ll be empowered. You’ll have a sense of what works for you. You’ll be able to say – hey, I don’t like this. Can we try that? Or: this person isn’t doing it for me like I can do it for myself. Maybe there’s someone else I want to be with instead. Come to the “table” with a sense of who you are already. If not, you may find yourself the pawn of other people who are eager to define you according to their own desires.
2. Only Say Yes Because You’re Hungry
You deserve to have delicious, empowering, selfish, fun sex.
If someone wants to have sex with you, here are some reasons NOT to say yes:
- Because they say “you must not love me” and turn away with sad, beautiful eyes
- Because you’re afraid it will make them angry if you say no
- Because they’ve stopped returning your texts after you said no
- Because they tell you they have “blue balls” because of you, and you’re afraid that means your holding out is somehow causing physical damage to them
- Because everyone else is going off into corners of the room and lying down together, and the last man left is gesturing you over to the couch
- Because you just want to get it over with already
Here is a reason to say yes:
- Because you want to have sex with this person, and you can trust them and the experience to be physically and emotionally safe for you
3. Sin and Shame
I’ll never forget being scolded as a child, because my walk was “prust” – obscenely immodest. My walk! I was so naive, I didn’t even know how a walk could be “immodest” at that point!
The world of ultra-orthodox Jewry has done an incredible job of shaming women about their sexuality. Even after leaving that world, it takes a lot of work to wrestle away from the inner voices that continue to judge.
Be aware of this. Shame can be a frightfully self-destructive tool. That’s why the community leaders use it so intensely.
Also be aware, that most other cultures have their own dynamic of shaming women. Use your newfound power as an independent individual to keep your eyes open to the shames other cultures may want to cover you with. Remember that the judgments of women’s sexuality, the “slut-shaming” and sexual mores prevalent in modern American society- these are all just another set of controlling rules made up by other people, that you are free to accept or reject as you like.
You can have sex with twenty-three redheaded men and a wild Gypsy woman with two nipple rings and a tattoo of a ferret stretching from butt crack to shoulder blades. You can spend the rest of your entire life as the devoted, entirely consensual “sex slave” of a retired accountant named Merv. You can choose to have sex after three dates with any man who knows how to cook a perfect omlette and who keeps his eyes open when he kisses you. You can wait to have sex until your wedding night. You can never have sex, ever. These are all good choices you can be proud of, if they are right for you.
Decide for yourself what’s appropriate for you.What, after careful, empowered consideration, you want to be proud of, what you want to be ashamed of.
Be vigilant about protecting your physical and emotional safety. And most of all, have fun.
What odd sexual theories did you develop as a religious child?
What do you wish you could tell yourself if you could go back to when you began your journey?
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