Sex and Secrecy

Honesty is always the best policy — unless, of course, you’re talking about sex. The Orthodox Union (OU) has recently launched Negiah. org [negiah is Hebrew for touch], “the first abstinence website for Jewish teens.” Its aim is to teach Jewish youth that “it’s okay to say no.” This may be a good thing in a hyper-sexualized secular society, but here the task is undertaken not through entirely honest means.

Although Jewish law prefers abstinence before marriage, focuses not on halakha, but on what it presents as medical facts. The website devotes an entire page to the health risks of every mechanical or pharmaceutical method of contraception, and implies that contraception mostly does not work. (No allegations are sourced, and they also happen to fly in the face of curricular recommendations from the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine).

Interestingly, the vocabulary of the website is somewhat, uh, sparse; “penis” and “vagina” are never named, though you will see “vaginal walls” in a section explaining how spermicides increase a woman’s chances of getting HIV. (This claim also goes unattributed.)

The site is hosted by the OU and links to the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, which claims to be “at the forefront of the battle against assimilation.” Sounding eerily like the Christian right is perhaps not the best battle plan.