Sara Krengel

Look, but don’t touch?

The beauty and wisdom of Judaism is that it is super practical. Judaism does not believe in relying on miracles, tempting fate, nor in testing human nature and limits. It understands our humanity with all its foibles, temptations and quirks.

There was a fascinating debate on the internet a little while ago between Dennis Prager and Jordan Peterson. The discussion revolved around P*rn (I have inserted an * into all provocative words so that filters will not block this article), adultery and lust in the Ten Commandments. This led to a rebuttal by Rabbi Shais Taub. I highly recommend watching it. The bottom line was that Prager clearly misrepresented Judaism on this subject.

But what is even more fascinating to me on this topic, is that it isn’t just Dennis who gets it wrong, it’s pretty much the entire world: the legal system; society; the internet; all major corporations and most major religions. To prove my point, let me give you a few issues and insights into the current state of affairs (pun intended):

  1. A high ranking police officer told me point blank that the law is that a man can stare lustfully at any woman he wishes (of any age or marital status), as long as he does not touch her or solicit anything from her.
  2. P*rn*graphy is clearly not illegal in society (other than concerning minors and even that is not being truly enforced). Sadly, its proliferation and financial power clearly prove this.
  3. The legal system allows for any s*xual act as long as it is consensual – it does not matter if it is adultery, as long as there is consent. It is true that consent is irrelevant in the case of minors, but do we truly believe that everything I have said above creates a healthy society?
  4. Will lusting after women without touching them really create a safe society? Is it dignified?
  5. Does lust itself not lead to other activities? Is it possible to lust without being involved in any action? What about the skyrocketing number of s*xual addictions?
  6. Do women feel comfortable being the object of someone else’s lust, and if not, then why do they so often portray/sell themselves that way?
  7. I will admit that, unlike Rav Rimon, I watched Noa Kirel’s performance in the Eurovision (largely to understand what my daughters were watching). Frankly, I was appalled at the overt and aggressive sexuality of such a young woman. No, I am not a prude, I just do not enjoy watching women flaunt their sexuality to a world that is far from respectful or controlled towards them. No, Noa, I don’t want to see you dance!
  8. I have been to many beaches in my life, in many countries, and I can never get over how many wives and girlfriends sit there stewing while their husbands and boyfriends salivate over other women on the beach. Watch the various expressions on the people next time you go, and you will see what I mean. One friend of mine even commented that she doesn’t understand why men, including her husband, cannot keep their eyes to themselves. The answer is because they don’t have to in our world; legally, morally or socially.
  9. For me, the most intriguing and irritating piece to this entire puzzle is the fact that most women want and demand respect and monogamy, even though their behavior and dress often suggest quite the opposite. If women want their men to be upright, controlled, respectful and monogamous, then why are they participating in men’s lustful and base behavior? Why are there female p*rn stars at all? Why are female’s wearing practically nothing on the beaches for all to see, and then they get all upset that other men are taking notice – including their own partners? Last time I checked, there was no male equivalent of a bathing suit with a little string “covering” only the crack of their bottoms.
  10. Finally, every time I discuss these topics with my students, I often get the same response: “Are you saying that she was asking for it?” I never understood that question. Asking for what? No one ever asks to be raped or molested – that is always unforgivable, horrific, immoral and illegal. The question really should be: If you behave and dress in a s*xual manner, are you asking for respect and monogamy or not?
  11. And then of course there are the students who say that they are just trying to be in fashion and keep up with the styles of today. There are also those who tell me that I am really oversexualizing everything. To the first point, my answer is that the fashion industry itself is oversexualizing everything, because it makes good money – like P*rn. And secondly, it isn’t me who’s oversexualizing everything; it’s the world we live in. Don’t believe me, just turn on your screens for 10 minutes, or better yet, watch this documentary:

In contrast to our oversexualized world, and to society’s famous ideal of behaving in any way you please as long as you are not hurting anyone, Judaism has definitive laws and ideals against oversexualizing anything at all. The Torah clearly states: 1) “Lo Taturu” – “You shall not go astray after your eyes” (Bamidbar 15:39) – one is not allowed to look at any other person’s body unless it is their spouse; 2) “Lo Tikrav” – “Do not come close” (Vayikra 18:6 &19) – one is not allowed to touch any other person whom they are forbidden to have s*xual relations with (i.e. anyone other than their spouse), with the exception of parents and children. 3) And when it comes to respecting other people and their bodies, we are told in the Talmud (Berachot 19b): “So great and important is human dignity that it even overrides a prohibition in the Torah!” How much more so should we follow the above prohibitions when they themselves are what provide us with human dignity!

Judaism understands that we humans cannot eat our cake and then still have it on the morrow. It understands that every behavior, action, sight and thought will affect us to some degree; that we humans do not remain static and unaffected by our surroundings. We are what we see, hear, do, eat, smell and touch! Let us use our senses and our humanity wisely!

About the Author
Teacher of Jewish Philosophy, Family Purity, and the Jewish take on dating and marriage; Mikveh Tour Guide; proud mother of 6 AMAZING kids; Rebbetzin; American Israeli who is in love with the Jewish People, Torah and Eretz Yisrael!