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Need a Kiss? Try Bowling, Says the OU

While Hadassah, Jewish Women International, and the National Council for Jewish Women were busy weighing-in on the HPV vaccination debate (see February’s blog entry: “HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?”) the Orthodox Union (OU) has been firing its way into sexual health rhetoric by launching its own take on the “abstinence only” movement; a movement which has been dominated by the Christian Right. The OU now stands proudly behind the First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens. A project of -- a “proud affiliate for The Abstinence Clearinghouse” -- and NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s Youth Group, “First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens” brings abstinence to a whole new level of restriction.

Now, if the website and its sponsors explicitly framed abstinence (including abstaining from physical contact with someone of the opposite sex until marriage) as a religious choice supported by an interpretation of halachah (Jewish law) that would be a legitimate position, worthy of respect. But they don’t do that. Instead, they frame sexual intimacy and sexual contact as a kind of social evil. The website content is disturbing -- chock-full of shady statistics, unsubstantiated “facts,” and preposterous scare-tactics such as: “Sexually active girls are THREE TIMES more likely to attempt suicide; sexually active boys are EIGHT TIMES more likely...” Does the OU provide a source for this? Of course not. And how about this: “Over 25% of sexually active teenage girls report that they are depressed all or most of the time. Less than 8% of girls who are not sexually active are depressed all or most of the time.”

The site also reminds us that “teens -- especially girls -- may need many things, emotionally. They can use approval, validation, commitment and intimacy. But don’t confuse being intimate emotionally with being intense physically!” It goes on to remind us that unlike dogs, lions, or lowland gorillas, we humans can weigh our choices and control our urges, which, according to this website, means that instead of expressing love and affection through a hug or a kiss (only with someone of the opposite sex, of course!) we should just enjoy a walk, go bowling, or watch television together. Aren’t those alternatives (not to intercourse, but to hugging and kissing) just so… enticing? I’d never thought of bowling as such a deeply affectionate activity. Clearly, I haven’t been thinking outside the box.

And then, of course, there’s the section entitled “Condoms are NOT the Answer!” which is full of… wisdom.

With so many Jewish organizations and health professionals speaking out against the dangers of pro-abstinence tactics, and with countless Jewish women who have been pioneers in reproductive rights, sexual freedom, and birth control—Emma Goldman, Laurie Schwab Zabin, and Nancy Miriam Hawley among them—one would think that all segments of the Jewish community -- regardless of religious practice -- would be providing Jewish youth with information to help them make informed choices with regard to sexual health, rather than offering “alternatives” that could potentially tempt Jewish youth into unsafe practices. As the “abstinence only” movement creeps its way back into public schools and other childhood education programs (in my public high school’s “Family Life Education” class—“Sex Ed” was too “risky” a name— the most celebrated form of birth control after abstinence was the Rhythm Method…) it’s quite alarming that the Orthodox Union is joining these forces. Who’s ready to launch the first sexual health website for Jewish teens?

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I think you need to study the book "Talk About Sex" This contains the Battles over Sex Education in the United States

Now I am copying the book preface.

In this lively book, Janice M. Irvine offers not only the first
comprehensive history of the culture wars over sex education but also
an important examination of the politics of sexual speech in the United
States. Exploring the clash between professional sex education
advocates on the one hand and the politicized Christian Right on the
other, Irvine vividly demonstrates the crucial role that sexual speech
plays in cultural politics. Examining a range of issues played out in
living rooms and schools since the 1960s, she shows how a newly
emerging Christian Right chose sex education as one of its first
battlegrounds, then went on to dominate the public conversation on the
subject. Talk about Sex is a rich and fascinating consideration
of American sex education's strategic place in the long history of
efforts to regulate sexual morality by controlling sexual speech.

Irvine's original argument shows how sex education served as a bridge
issue between the Old Right and the New Right. Exploring the political
uses of emotion as it relates to sexuality, Irvine demonstrates how
this movement draws on the tenacious power of sexual shame and fear in
order to galvanize opposition to sex education. This book skillfully
demonstrates how—by framing sex education as radical, dangerous, and
immoral—the Right has fostered a climate in which it is risky, as
former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders found, to speak out in support
of sexuality education.

Hi Amy,

Thanks for your comment. Can you please provide a source for your statement: "It is a fact that persons, youth or adult, who engage in sex tend to be more depressed." ? This isn't the least bit believable without a source.

As written in my original post, I respect any person's decision to follow the laws of niddah and taharat hamishpachah. I believe that the spiritual intensity of a relationship can certainly be elevated by it, even if it is not my own personal sexual practice. What is irresponsible on part of the is to withold information that enables youth to make healthy sexual decisions should they find themselves in a situation when they might need to protect themselves. Newsflash: there are many Orthodox youth--far more than you might believe--who will have premarital sex regardless of halachah, a traditional Jewish education, or frum family values. So shouldn't they be given thorough, accurate information about how to protect themselves? Using scare tactics about sex is only going to exacerbate the possibilities for dangerous sexual practices. My "liberal feminist negative statements" as you call them, are actually just a request to equip youth with information that will give them an informed, broad, and empowering understanding of health and sexuality. So yes, absolutely teach youth about niddah and abstience, even advocate for it. But do not generalize pre-marital sexual experiences as only producing "stress, regret, guilt, loss of self-respect, debasement, commitment issues, anger, depression, relationship killer, and stunting personal growth," as states. And do not withold accurate information to which all youth are entitled.

As to your comment about sexual assault and violence, sexual abuse and intimate partner violence within the Orthodox community is a rather known and prevalent problem. It's a problem that niddah is not going to solve, and a problem that the Orthodox community should really think about addressing more openly and honestly. So frankly, does little to eradicate a socio-cultural problem that is not immune to Orthodox communities and is often far more manifest there than in more progressive segments of the Jewish community.

I recommend that you read Jay Michaelson's book G!d in Your Body and check out his chapter on sex.

So I have to go bowling if I want to get kissed? Great, I love both !

Here's something for a website about sexual health for Jewish teens. We at JVibe (a magazine for Jewish teens) published an article about making healthy sexual decisions in the face of today's teen realities. Many teens from all Jewish backgrounds and teen educators thanked us for this resource, so maybe it's a good place to start... Showayne M Author of Crown Molding Angles

Who would mind a kiss from a girl, I am at the front row!!

Children should be educated about sex from the age of 9 onwards I think. This could reduce the risk of unwanted teenage pregnancies.

According to Amy Balila, abstinence education encourages "Taking that time with your special someone, to talk, get to know one another, and connect on an intelligent level." It's unfortunate that this statement is so wrong. Balila should watch "The Education of Shelby Knox". The film outlines an inalienable truth about abstinence education: what teens need is not "time to talk" but a condom at the crucial moment. Teen pregnancy rates rise dramatically in schools when abstinence-only sex ed is put into place. I hope Jewish teens will have some sense to look at the facts and protect themselves.

I am appalled at Amy Balila's response to a thoughtful blog post about the choice of some on the Jewish right to present abstinence as an important belief without Halachic grounding, and without real facts.

The hysteria of this comment is revealed by the statement "Ask anyone who has been sexually assulted what impact one sexual experience has had on them." The issue with sexual assault is assault! The sexual part of the assault will certainly have psychological ramifications, but they have nothing to do with normative sex or normative relationships.

Given that studies seem increasingly to be showing that abstinence-only education has a very short-term positive effect, and that long-term, teens who have received no actual sex education are likelier to get pregnant and likelier to catch STDs, surely there is room to question the approach taken by this Orthodox organization without trying to imply that sanity and a respect for the teens being educated is solely limited to "liberal feminists." Shouldn't it be something that all of us embrace?

I can't believe the author of this smear campaign. First let me say that I was one of those teens that wanted to abstain but gave in to peer pressure, and before I became religious, Ba'al Teshuvah, I had years of sexual history. Anyone who has any understanding of the Orthodox community, Torah, or morals in general would see the purpose and benefit of teaching abstinence. Lets face it, religious or not, today's youth are going to learn about sex. And responsible parents, yes even religious ones, talk to their children about the ramifications of pre-marital sex. Inside a religious community it is taught that sins of the flesh are not only, well, a sin, but also a major distraction. It is a fact that persons, youth or adult, who engage in sexual activities tend to be more depressed. Makes a lot of sense to me. Sexual relationships are complex, physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are meant for those adult enough to handle them. Ask anyone who has been sexually assulted what impact one sexual experience has had on them. The ramifications are endless and last a lifetime. Anyone who has experienced niddah knows how amazing and special abstinence can be. Taking that time with your special someone, to talk, get to know one another, and connect on an intelligent level. If the youth is unaware of the person he/she is with, the last thing they should be doing is having sex. Lastly, I resent this woman and her claim that bowling is a ridiculous idea for youths attempting to aviod sex. It is absolutly possible for youths to enjoy one another's company without jumping in the sack. My point is this, this website is intended for Jewish teens who, in a religious community are taught morals of abstinence and the value of marital sex. Responsible parents teach their kids the pitfalls of premarital sex. It is quite possible for teens to abstain and teaching abstinence as well as the negitive effects of sex, as this website does, is the most responsible and effective way of saving our kids from making grave and dangerous decisions. And your liberal feminist negitive statements are the reason why so many teens are finding it harder to abstain. How are they supposed to live up to higher expectations if we laugh in their face and tell them it's an impossible task. We as adults must take responsibility for our youths and rear our children to be better teens and adults at a higher standard.

Here's something for a website about sexual health for Jewish teens. We at JVibe (a magazine for Jewish teens) published an article about making healthy sexual decisions in the face of today's teen realities. It's now online at this website. Many teens from all Jewish backgrounds and teen educators thanked us for this resource, so maybe it's a good place to start...

Many teens have sex or are interested in being close to someone they "dig." This crosses the line in terms of where you come from, your religion, your upbringing, etc. It is just human to have these feelings. The feelings come first and then it is what we are told to do with them that comes next. I grew up attending a Unitarian Congregation in Rochester, NY in the 80's. In our youth group (and I'm sure it is still going on) we would package condoms with little info sheets on how to use them and a little bit about having safe sex and place some of them in the bathrooms in our building. I can't remember now where the rest were placed, but some did go into my pockets which I brought to my high school bathrooms because I knew folks were having sex. It's just reality, so *IF* you are going to do it, do it safely! Right.

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Need a Kiss? Try Bowling, Says the OU." 11 May 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 23, 2018) <>.


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