Monday, April 28, 2014

It's all rather complicated..

Orthodox, celibate, gay and that's OK | David Benkof | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

Gee.  Via First Things, I found this long column by a gay, celibate Orthodox Jew all about how he disagrees with some opinion within Orthodox circles that celibacy is not really a reasonable option to expect of gay men.

The variety of opinion within Judaism appears quite vast, including within the Orthodox branch.

Here's a particularly unusual part of the column (with frum meaning traditionally observant, as explained near the start of the article):
So what should a frum gay man who simply cannot achieve celibacy do? Actually, our tradition has addressed such questions. In the Gemara (Masechet Moed Katan 17a), Rabbi Il’ai states that if a man’s urges to see a prostitute overcome him, he should wear black, go to a place where he’s anonymous, and do what he must – so there’s no chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name). That teaching shouldn’t be taken as a literal prescription for gay men looking for a legitimate sexual outlet. But it shows that the Torah doesn’t consider sexual behavior to be “all or nothing,” and that Jews should seek to attenuate sexual transgressions.

Indeed, there are vastly more possibilities than the three choices many Orthodox gay men describe: promiscuity, partnered sex, and total celibacy. Every frum gay man should
seek rabbinic counsel before determining his approach to private behavior. But here’s an example of something for which a gay man might request a heter: hiring a professional, straight, non-erotic massage therapist in order to experience occasional male touch. It’s not ideal because it could lead to arousal, but it’s definitely better than actual sexual encounters – whether with a life partner or a stranger.

Speaking of which, should a gay guy who feels he cannot remain celibate choose a private, exclusive bond with one man over occasional, discreet hookups with strangers? It probably depends on what “a private, exclusive bond” and “occasional, discreet hookups” mean. Such topics are precisely why Orthodox Jews go to their rabbis for
halachic advice.
Catholic reasoning gets exceptionally detailed in terms of what straight sex can involve (people don't realise this, I am sure, because nearly all priests have given up as a lost cause any attempt to actually try to spell out the details.  Given nearly all of the laity think Catholic teaching on contraception makes no sense, they have good reason not to discuss the other details of married sex.)   But what Catholic reasoning tends not to get into is the preferable ways to sin sexually if you really have to.  That's what makes these paragraphs sound odd.

Actually, it has also just occurred to me that the entire column doesn't mention masturbation, which seems a bit of an oversight if one is considering in nitty gritty detail what gay men can be (more or less) excused for doing.  Are rabbis just too queasy about that topic?  (Well, it's not as if there is much Christian discussion of that topic either - and it is probably fair to say that if want a religion where you'll find someone who'll excuse it for men, Islam is probably number one.  Of course, some Islamic analysis even allows for temporary marriages for travelling husbands too, which is perhaps the most flexible religious attitude for men wanting sex "legitimately" that has ever been devised.)

Anyhow, it shows again the extensive reconsideration going on across many religions about how to view homosexuality.

Update: it has also occurred to me that this sort of topic used to be the favourite one of conservative but gay Catholic blogger John Heard at his Dreadnought blog.  He always used to argue that Catholic insistence on celibacy for gay folk was not cruel.   Googling him this morning, I see that he has changed his mind on legal gay civil marriage - he now supports it. As I say, changes are happening across the board.

1 comment:

nottrampis said...


It doesn't matter whether you are heterosexual or homosexual only married people can have sex.

Any sexual act outside of this . homosxualty, fornication or adultery are sinful.