Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sex Ed

"Stop staring at the mannequins, it's not good for you..." my mother said, I don't know why, but I like looking at those bikinis, I thought. What did I know about sexual attraction, women, or sexuality at all, I probably didn't even know the word bikini. All I knew was we're in Macy's to look for a pair of shoes for my Bar Mitztvah, and my Mother just caught me staring at the mannequins. I was mortified.

That was the first and only time my mother ever came close to discussing sex with me. There was no "Talk", there was no "Birds and the Bees", or anything gloriously cringe worthy like that.

My father on the other hand was a lot more brazen, one night a few weeks before I got married, I was trying to explain to him that I was used to taking showers in the morning, having done so in Yeshivah for so many years. Never one to mince words, my father says to me - very cryptically - "once you get married, you're going to want to take showers before bed - you'll find out why..."

Growing up Chassidish, boys and girls are so well segregated, one almost didn't know the other existed. We went to separate schools, rode separate buses, played separately, and generally avoided each-other. In Yeshiva once, the Rebbe was trying to say something about females, but instead of saying "women", or "girls", he described them as "the other kind". While studying Gemmoroh, whenever we came to a section that was too explicit, we'd skip it.

All this blissful ignorance is supposed to come to a screeching halt right before you get married, and you have to "do the deed". Usually about a week or two before the wedding, the bride and groom each meet with a "teacher", who proceeds to fill them in on the facts of life. The myths and urban legends that surround these classes are just wonderful. Of course there's the ubiquitous "hole-in-the-sheet" one, (not true) but the best ones are about people passing out, or running out of the room screaming, refusing to believe their ears.

One thing I've never been able to live down is the issue of whether to kiss, or not to kiss in the "Yichud Shteible", I was an innocent little boy, and I didn't know about the unwritten rule that apparently every Jewish Bride knows. I failed to kiss my new wife. And to this day every time we get into an argument, she'll say something to the affect of "well, if you would have kissed me in the yichud shteible..."

Ultimately the system must be working though, because the more religious they are, the more kids they have, so they're learning something from these classes...

The problem though with quashing any and all to do with sex, is the abuse scandal that we're witnessing now. Kids aren't taught what's right, what's wrong, and what to watch out for, add to that the sexual repression inherent in keeping teenagers, and young adults so segregated, and you're bound to have problems. Should the Frum community allow their kids to be just as free and open as the rest of society? Not necessarily, but there has to be something between, total ignorance/vulnerability, and a complete sexual free for all.

But again, what the hell do I know..?

Religion as a Conspiracy Theory

The Mafia killed JFK. The moon landing was filmed on a backlot in Hollywood. Bush planned 9/11...

Why are conspiracy theories so much fun, and catchy? The more elaborate the plot, the harder they stick, and cold hard facts rarely serve to dissuade it's believers. Arguing with conspiracy theorists is much like playing Whac-O-Mole, no matter what you say they'll pop up with something else, and still believe what they want.
Sound familiar..?

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, they're fun to think about, and make you feel like you know something that no one else does. But at a certain point you have to come to the realization that the government is not testing chemical weapons on us with Chemtrails...

The problem with conspiracy theories is that, by definition they require too many loose ends to be held together. For any one theory to be true, hundreds - if not thousands - of people would have to be involved in planning, coordinating, carrying out, and then covering up the whole operation. That means that for the rest of their lives, none of these people could ever (even accidentally) utter a word about any of it.
Then there's the issue of outsiders getting wind of what's going on, now we've to start making people "disappear" so they don't blab, and on and on...
The other problem with conspiracy theories is Occam's razor, while it's a lot more exciting to believe that there are Aliens and flying saucers in Area 51, the simpler explanation is that the government tests, and builds experimental aircraft there. But who wants to here that? That's so lame...

Which brings me to religion.
Much like conspiracy theories, religion is full of great stories, complicated plots, twists and turns, and an answer for everything. But when you starting looking closer, things make less and less sense. The difference is that we snicker at people who believe certain whacky things - like conspiracy theories - but respect them for believing other whacky things, like religion. maybe it's time we stop being so accommodating, and tell people how we really feel when they tell us they believe in a talking snake, or that the earth is six thousand years old.

Just a thought...