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{Reposted from Emes Ve-Emunah}

How sexualized is western culture? I think the answer should be obvious to anyone with the slightest bit of awareness about what is going on in the world. It is toxic!


But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of 6 normal American teenage women. Probably from good homes with great values. Lest anyone think this is some sort of archaic view of sex held by Orthodox Jews, none of these women are Orthodox Jews.

Cathryn J. Price describes their observations on the subject. The idea that men should all simply behave – and treat women with dignity and respect is not what is happening. Or at least not happening nearly enough. The objectification of women is alive and well in our culture. And it isn’t just the men that objectify women. Women are objectifying themselves! From the Timesof Israel:

Several young women are calling for an end to a Jewish youth group culture that they claim is rife with hypersexualization, toxic masculinity, misogyny, and sexual pressure.

“It’s an open secret that many of the social interactions and practices normalized, even lauded, within the enclave of youth groups fly despite the broader #MeToo era,” the young women wrote in a piece published in eJewish Philanthropy…

Madeline Canfield, an 18-year-old first-year student at Brown University, said she remembers how hearing the boys’ chants at BBYO events made her recoil.

“They had just the most pressuring, hyper-masculine, toxically masculine chants. They’re awful. The girls had chants that defined themselves in terms of sex and satisfying boys, and the boys celebrated their own escapades,” Canfield said.

I am not going to repeat the description of young women saw themselves in the article. It is a little too graphic for my tastes. But they clearly see themselves in the same way their male counterparts do. As sex objects.

Although this article was specifically about the culture in Jewish youth groups, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that this is basically the culture we all live in.

I have said many times that that one of the reasons we had a #MeToo movement was precisely because of the hypersexualized culture we live in. I think that is as true now as it ever was.

This is of course not to let any sexual predators off the hook. At the end of the day, it’s all about self control. No matter how sexualized we have become, it is our responsibility to behave. There is no excuse for sexual abuse, predation, or harassment. None whatsoever! And those guilty of it should be punished to the maximum extent of the law.

But we should not overlook the 300-pound gorilla in the room. Which is an industry that glorifies sex. The entertainment industry. The plain fact is the life imitates art. What is seen in movies and on TV or is heard in song, or reads in books – is all too often emulated by the viewer. Aggressive pursuit of a sexual relationship is depicted as romantic – and as natural as having a glass of fine wine.

As Orthodox Jews that engage in the culture, an honest evaluation should be made by each of us about its influences. And realize that its impact on us is not much different than it does the rest of society. And that we should therefore to take measures to prevent the kind of behavior described by those 6 young women.

Which brings me to how the Torah teaches us to behave. And how our sages expanded upon it. They recognized the power of the sex drive and taught us how to avoid that kind of behavior. This is for example why we have laws about men and women being secluded together in a locked room – the laws of Yichud. Or laws about modesty in dress.

This does not mean we should have a complete separation of the sexes. Nor should we for example ban publishing images of women. That would be going from one extreme to the other. But common sense tells us that when it comes to the sex drive, we need to be diligent about the right way men and women should interact with each other. And for Orthodox Jews, that begins and ends with Halacha.

Just my 2 cents.


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].