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An argument against shomer negiah?

January’s been a slow work month for me so I’ve been wandering around the J-blogesphere a little at night. I came across Masculine Jew the other night, which appears to be a blog written by an anonymous sephardic guy who’s looking for someone to marry. I usually read shidduch blogs to find something to make fun of, the truth is most of them sound the same and suck. But this Masculine Jew’s blog is different.

The latest post is his dating statistics, the fact he’s actually keeping track is pretty cool – I’m sure he must be somewhere up on the OCD spectrum, because I would never even think of keeping track of such exact numbers. After looking at that I jumped around a bit and found this painful reminder of why I think shomer negiah is a bad idea, basically this guy really needs a hug from the opposite sex and maybe some nice soft caresses.

Shomer negiah is great if you can be a regular person about it, but when anything leads to such pain it seems like a bad idea. I’m also not sure if it’s a good idea for someone to get married if they have such high expectations of what the touch will be like. It seems to be a recipe for disaster – any psychoanalysts in the house?

Now of course the critics will say that I’m a heretic for saying that something in the Torah is a bad idea, there are plenty of things in the Torah that are bad ideas and that I think should evolve like the rest of our religion. Slavery is a pretty good example of that, but I don’t even think shomer negiah is in the Torah. What this guy needs is a hug, some gentle caresses and maybe some nice heavy cuddling action in a twin bed. He should also remember that if he’s too depressed by such things to learn Torah, it’s probably better to touch a girl than be bittul Torah.

Find out more about shomer negiah on 4torah.com

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • A. Nuran January 17, 2012, 9:13 PM

    Just re-read The Lord of the Rings on the new e-book reader. One of the things that struck me was how Sauron worked. He didn’t corrupt people by indulging their vices. They fell because he exaggerated and distorted their virtues until those good things became monstrous.

    The ideas of modesty, fidelity and restraint are good ones. When they are taken past a certain point they make people miserable, mentally unbalanced and prone to do very bad things that can ruin their and others’ lives.

    • batsheva January 17, 2012, 10:09 PM

      Amen, Real Nuran!

    • Ilana January 18, 2012, 5:49 AM

      Now that is midrash I can get behind 🙂

  • Woodrow/Conservadox January 17, 2012, 9:44 PM

    If you are not touching your relatives that is taking things too far. Yikes!

  • OrthoFeminist January 17, 2012, 11:58 PM

    This guy seems pretty clear that a lot of what he is feeling is a result of his own self-imposed restrictions not mandated by halacha. He makes a fair point, that society accepts women hugging and cuddling and touching each other, but not so much with men. It seems the bigger issue is the communally imposed stereotyping of cuddly men rather than the halachikly/rabbinically imposed restriction of shomer negiah (and I’m not even a huge supporter of Shomer Negiah to begin with!).

    • Heshy Fried January 18, 2012, 8:49 AM

      It is possible that he’s gay as well, but yes I’m a cuddly man and plenty of gals are cuddly gals as well. I’m actually serious, if he’s craving some man cuddling he may be up there on the Kinsey scale and just not admitting it to himself, I never craved cuddling with a man – that’s just gross.

      • Ish Yehudi January 18, 2012, 10:47 AM


        There’s a distinction between sexual and affectionate touch, albeit one that men rarely seem to make. Just because I described feeling deprived of physical affection, doesn’t make that a sexual issue.

        For women, affection and sexuality are more clearly separate. In large part, I believe, because it’s acceptable and understandable for a woman to be heterosexual and have/want/receive physical affection from other females. Cuddling was a clear example of that (which, as you noted, is gross for men to think about).

        I agree with you, though. Not interested in cuddling with a guy. I’d also much rather get a woman to massage me… but given my Halachic adherence and comfort with my own heterosexuality, I don’t freak out at the thought getting a degree of physical affection like a massage, hug or high-five from another guy.

  • Ilana January 18, 2012, 5:24 AM

    Wow, that’s pretty tragic. This is why I think a moderate approach to shomer negiah would be best for most people- hugging family members or close friends platonically, shaking hands with a colleague, clapping someone on the back when they’ve done a good job… these are not things that are going to lead to wild monkey sex on the subway. Or elsewhere.

    A friendly hug or handshake need to be imbued with so much sexual meaning. You can wait to have sex, kiss, or anything else until you’re married, but to deny yourself all platonic physical contact with friends and family of the opposite sex is, I think, emotionally unhealthy.

    • Ish Yehudi January 19, 2012, 8:28 PM

      I’m pretty sure that, for men at least, denying sexual contact is also unhealthy.

  • ksil January 18, 2012, 7:06 AM

    not sure slavery is the best comparison.

    can you find a “don’t do” mitzvah that has been abolished?

    it seems like we never repeal those….only add fences

    • Dan January 18, 2012, 9:20 AM

      Well, people who like to say that would usually start talking about eruv and heter iskah now. Heter iska is the better argument, but inasmuch as it is a legal loophole which already existed, not a very good argument either.

    • A. Nuran January 18, 2012, 11:40 AM

      The nature of taboos, especially neurotic ones, is that they never get less restrictive. They’ll get right up to the point where they are completely intolerable, back off a notch and then ratchet up again in a few years.

  • Mike the MO Maven January 18, 2012, 2:45 PM

    A. Nuran- I agree 100%

    It’s like a vicegrip with these chumras, the more you struggle, the tighter it gets. Before I ever even heard of shomer negiah I hugged my female cousins on a regular basis without feeling any sexual undertones whatsoever- and still do. I guess since all these so-called “gedolim” many of whom are closet pedophiles gets a hard-on whenever they look at a girl, they assume everybody else does too.

  • Yochanan January 18, 2012, 6:58 PM

    Maybe we should incorporate a Christian Side Hug type of thing.

  • Travelling Jewess January 19, 2012, 5:11 AM

    It’s pretty clear that that Ish Yehudi suffers not just from a lack of *sexual* touching but from a lack of non-sexual, purely affectionate physical contact – which *doesn’t* mean he’s gay. Especially since it appears from his post that physical affection is very much part of his culture and upbringing. One of the worst side effects of the obsession with shomer negia is that people think of all touching in a sexual context (this is really obvious from some of the comments). Taken to extremes, it can really screw with people’s minds and make the most innocent things seem like some awful perversion. Meanwhile, scientific studies showed that babies deprived of physical contact, but cared for well in all other respects, don’t develop properly. Physical contact isn’t as crucial for adults as for babies, perhaps, but still an important part of life – and I’m not talking about sexual contact here, just plain old hugs, etc. It’s certainly much easier for us women – we have a culture of hugs and other physical signs of affection with other women; what do men have – a hearty slap on the back? Or they can hug other men, but only when drunk… 🙂

    There was one particular comment to IY’s post – to get married as quickly as possible to the first girl who’ll have him – which is a terrible piece of advice to give a single person. IMO, this sort of attitude is a major reason for divorces and unhappy marriages in the frum community, where sexually frustrated singles marry the first person they come across just because they know they can’t get anywhere near a person of the opposite sex otherwise. Ish Yehudi would do better to give his female cousins and aunts the odd hug but wait to meet the right (or ‘right enough’) person before he marries!

  • Nig January 22, 2012, 11:00 PM

    It’s pretty clear that you’re ghyey

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