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An open letter to young religious women on the topic of Positive Sexual Thinking

Or: How to feel good about ourselves and about our bodies: Things they didn’t teach us at the Ulpana By Tiferet Shacham Translated from Hebrew by Elana Maryles Sztokman I decided to address this letter to girls, since I myself am a girl who learned in Ulpana (religious girls’ high school in Israel –EMS), along with other girls. However, I believe that boys who are graduates of the yeshiva high schools might also find this interesting. I’ll preface this by saying that I have no intention of minimizing the importance of keeping the commandment of negiya (“touch” – the practice of not touching members of the opposite sex at all – EMS) and the commandment of modesty. I myself kept the commandment of negiya while I was at the Ulpana and I decided to continue that practice. However, from my experience, prohibitions and religious laws have already been discussed with you ad nauseum, along with a zillion reasons to keep negiya. Therefore, I will discuss things that they don’t teach you in homeroom class or in the course on “Family”. One last point of introduction: There is a problem generally with the topic of positive sexuality. There are problems in our society and our culture in every social sector. These problems will obviously surface in the religious sector as well. It’s reasonable to think that in certain sectors, certain phenomena will be influenced by that sector’s particular value system, and it is reasonable to have this kind of discussion using the language and jargon of the sector. I certainly do not mean to imply that these problems belong only to the religious sector, or even that they are more common in the religious sector. Also, Jewish religion and law are not the source of these problems. Please do not read this as an attack on a particular sector or on halakha itself. Moreover, even if you are not an Ulpana graduate yourself, there might be some helpful insights here for you as well. Don’t worry: You’re completely normal Sexuality is an important and healthy part of human life. You don’t have to be sexually active in order to feel comfortable with your sexuality. As in every area of life, everyone is different when it comes to their sexuality. There are those who don’t feel any kind of sexual attraction; there are those who think about it all day; there are those in between; there are those for whom it comes in time, later in life, or in cycles. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is like. Know that it’s normal. There is nothing wrong with what you feel or don’t feel sexually. Moreover, most of adolescence is marked by sexual confusion, and what you felt yesterday will likely be different from what you feel today. That’s okay too. Do not rush to label yourself. Be curious. Again, in order to be curious and to know yourself and your sexuality, there is no need to be sexually active. It’s important first to...

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