Readers Respond

You have a lot to say about teen girls and oral sex.

Jewish Teens and Oral Sex

I very much enjoyed the last issue of LILITH. But I was deeply disturbed by the article on the “oral sex epidemic.”

The prevalence of oral sex among Jewish teens reflects, to my mind, a failure to articulate and promote a code of Jewish sexual ethics that emphasizes the holiness of the body and the value of modest behavior. Teenagers who are preparing to become b’nai mitzvah should be educated about the potential of the body to serve as a conduit for divinity, both through its active participation in prayer (where we kneel and bow to God) and through its adornment in vitual garments (tallit, tefillin, etc.). They should be learning, too, about the injunction to “walk modestly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and to “not awaken love until it please” (Song of Songs 2:7)—calls not for prudery and abstinence, but for a deep and abiding awe for the beauty and sanctity that can be achieved through appropriate expressions of sexual intimacy, (p.s.—of course, I also think Lilith should take upon itself to articulate such a code!)

Ilana Kurshan, New York, NY

I want to congratulate LILITH and liana Kramer on the excellent article on sex and Jewish adolescent girls. I would like to share [it] with a group of professional and lay leaders of the Reform Movement at a weekend think tank on Jewish adolescents. One correction—when I’m cited in the article: my title is Co- Director of the URJ Youth Division. Rabbi Eve Rudin is the Director of NFTY.

 L’Shalom, Andrew Davids, New York, NY

Kudos on the article about oral sex among teens. It horrifies me that this is happening. Brings back memories, too. I was abused as a child, and performed oral sex on my father many times. It’s degrading; I can’t believe that these girls will come away from this act unscathed. It will affect them and every relationship they have in the future. And it’s true, they are not getting pleasure….

Mary Corbett

“It’s Not Sex” tipped me over the edge. As a regular shul-goer I knew about inappropriate teen-age behavior at prayer services. As a day-school parent I knew about “being on the circuit” for a year and a half at 12 and 13, about large cash gifts, and even about children attending the parties but not the bar or bat mitzvah services. I thought I knew all about over-the-top parties. But I did NOT know about the epidemic of way-under-age one-sided oral sex in general and how that plays itself out in Jewish spaces and events.

Since the publication of LILITH’S article, I have been talking to day school administrators, religious school principals, rabbis, and parents about what can be done. The surprise to me is that this news is actually old news to many. My child is eight; my hope is that in the next four or five years it will be possible to effect a cultural change. I hope my community will cooperate in setting limits and publishing guidelines for parents, and in the process reset the norms; both my child’s day school and my shul say they are willing to work on this. In terms of barbat mitzvah, I call it “Take Back the Mitzvah.” For me, the issue is not about oral sex per se (since my personal theory, developed in adulthood, is that men who don’t like cunnilingus don’t really like sex). It is about ensuring that limits exist to keep children of both genders physically and psychologically safe.

Jonina Duker, North Bethesda, MD

Caring for The Kids isn’t only for Women

I just wanted to thank Susan Weidman Schneider for the important editorial in the latest issue of LILITH (Winter 2003-4). This is a wonderful issue over all with essays on sex, food and children. More specifically, in her “From the Editor” column, Susan writes about the Association for Jewish Studies and our efforts to bring childcare to the organization’s annual meeting for the first time this winter. She also makes important connections between these efforts and the recent study “Do Babies Matter,” the first national data on how professors with children fare in academe. Needless to say, the results are not good for women. Despite the fact that we want to believe that childcare is not just a women s issue, the effects of having children on the careers of academic women are quite negative, and this is not the case for academic men.

Laura Levitt, Philadelphia, PA The writer is Director of Jewish Studies, Temple University.