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Good Sex: A Jewish Feminist Perspective

Good Sex: A Jewish Feminist Perspective

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Published by NYU Press
This chapter, by Melanie Malka Landau, discusses the relative lack of positive sexual instruction for women in Jewish texts and how female fulfillment can be a part of the Jewish sexual experience.

A chapter from The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism, edited by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg.

In this unique collection of essays, some of today’s smartest Jewish thinkers explore a broad range of fundamental questions in an effort to balance ancient tradition and modern sexuality.

Buy the book today!
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0814776051?ie=UTF8&tag=np050-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0814776051
This chapter, by Melanie Malka Landau, discusses the relative lack of positive sexual instruction for women in Jewish texts and how female fulfillment can be a part of the Jewish sexual experience.

A chapter from The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism, edited by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg.

In this unique collection of essays, some of today’s smartest Jewish thinkers explore a broad range of fundamental questions in an effort to balance ancient tradition and modern sexuality.

Buy the book today!
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0814776051?ie=UTF8&tag=np050-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0814776051

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Publish date: Jun 1, 2009
Added to Scribd: Jun 02, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

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08/21/2013

 
93
6
Good Sex
 A Jewish Feminist Perspective
Melanie Malka Landau
WHEN WE THINK
o “good sex” we hink o sex ha eels good andgives pleasure. Some less aeced by adverising and popular culure may hink o sex as acs beween humans ha creae connecion. Bu we know ha sexual relaionships are no only beween wo aomized individuals bu are locaed wihin a complex se o conexs and relaionships. I goodsex is abou sex wihin an ehical conex, hen good sex rom a emi-nis Jewish perspecive has is own se o quesions o accoun or. Tischaper asks: How can we make sex holy as eminis Jews while grappling wih he gender injusices ha emerge hrough he male-cenered exualradiion? A he ouse I acknowledge ha I am limiing his discussion oheerosexual relaionships. I hink he heerosexual relaionship is hepoenial sie or radical gender ransormaion on he level o gender rolesand he separaion beween gender and biology. A he same ime I believeha his is limiing, because i reinorces he idea ha here really are wopolarized sexes as opposed o a coninuum o sexual beings atesed o by he exisence o inersex people. A ocus on heerosexual relaionshipsalso bypasses he gender injusices ha abound or Jews in same-sex parnerships.Te quesion now is his: Can a jus and good sex be rerieved andashioned rom he compulsory heerosexualiy o a male-cenered rabbinicradiion? Judih Plaskow argues ha “he quesion o wha consiuesgood sex rom women’s perspecives simply canno be asked wihin heramework o he sysem.” 1 In his chaper I ask his quesion in dialogicalrelaionship wih he radiion. Tis process o rerieving and reashioning, which I aim o achieve here, builds on he exciing scholarship ha shows
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94 Melanie Malka Landau
love and passion or boh rabbinic exs and radical eminism while creaingan evocaive dance ha weaves ogeher he srands o heir commimens. We ener he discussion on good sex rom he House o Learning (
 Beit  Midrash
) and he experience o women reading abou sex rom he voiceo men in he almud. Te almud places a high value on learning, and ye rabbinic culure excludes women rom his mos prized pracice. DavidBiale argues ha he exclusion o women rom he highes culural valueo learning and he dominan male role in sexualiy were inimaely andinseparably linked. Alhough women’s business was highly imporan, heexual radiion atribues superior value o men hrough heir ocus onlearning and because hey have more religious obligaions han women do.Moreover, compared o non-Jewish men and Jewish men who did no he scholarly ideal, he rabbis considered hemselves o be a sexual elie which was maniesed hrough heir sexual resrain. Women and orahare used inerchangeably as objecs o male desire.2 When people are reduced o objecs, even by being classied in onegroup or anoher, heir ull range o humaniy and o possibiliy is denied.o acknowledge objecicaion is o recognize ha here is no paricularcorrelaion beween he way ha women are represened and he livedrealiy o hose women. When we read exs abou women, we may learnmore abou he dominan discourses rom which hey come han abou he women hemselves. Tus, how man and woman are seen o be is acually a consruc upon which whole socieies, economies, and religious sysemsare based. A sory in he racae
 Menahot 
a in he Babylonian almud illus-raes one way o seeing he move rom objecied o subjecied sex. My reading o his sory also shows how rabbinic exs can be appropriaedor a eminis agenda. Narraives yield a muliude o inerpreaions hausually refec he ideological commimens o he inerpreer.In his paricular sory, a rabbi paid a lo o money o come o a world-renowned prosiue who lived by he sea. He had o ravel very ar andschedule his appoinmen wih her well in advance. Finally, his urn hadcome. Aer waiing or some ime he was escored o a luxurious room wih seven levels o elaborae beds — six silver beds crowned by a golden bed on he op. Te woman or whom he had been waiing was naked onhe op bed, waiing or him o come up. He undressed as he climbed he beds; aer he removed his shir, he
tzitzit 
atached o his undergarmensmacked him in he ace, as i o admonish him or wha he was abou o
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Good Sex 95
do. Casigaed and embarrassed, he wen back down and sa naked on heground. When he woman saw his, she came down aer him; hey acedeach oher naked on he ground. She had never been rejeced. Beoreshe le him leave, she waned o know wha blemish he had ound in herha caused him o reac in his way. He old her ha she was he mos beauiul woman he had ever seen in his lie, bu he explained ha hereis a commandmen called
tzitzit 
ha called him o accoun or himsel by appearing as our winesses as he ascended he beds o have sex wih her.Te woman was oally ransormed by his encouner. She did no lehe man leave unil he old her his own and he name o his eacher. Shehen divided her propery hree ways: one-hird or he poor, one-hird orhe governmen, and one-hird she ook wih her. When she arrived a hesudy house o Reb Hiyya, who was his rabbi’s eacher, she old him hashe waned o conver o Judaism. Te rabbi asked her i she had aken aancy o one o he sudens. She handed him he noe ha he man had writen or her wih he name o his own and his rabbi. Te Sage hen oldher she could now ully consummae her relaionship wih ha man wih whom she had nearly had relaions. Te ale ends wih her spreading hesame linen or heir marial union ha had been previously spread or heiranicipaed illici union.3Te rabbi in our sory undergoes an inner ransormaion ha resulsin his no longer seeing he woman he prosiue as an objec. His “sinis inerruped by he riual ringes. I conend ha his man did no only hink prosiuion was wrong because i is agains he law — rabbis ound various jusicaions or seeing prosiues bu raher ha i was no how he was mean o relae o anoher human.Even i i is oo speculaive o sugges ha he saw her as a subjec,once he inerruped he process o objecicaion she hen ook uponhersel auonomy as a subjec and could see hersel in a new way. I is anear miraculous momen when he horizon o possibiliy opens up andhumans see ha here is a range o alernaives in a given siuaion. A orceo no less han Divine proporion he myhical inervenion o he
tzitzit 
 was needed
 
o inerrup he objeciying relaionship.Tis may be a reminder abou he inensiy o he drive o objeciy.In his sory he Divine voice hrough he vehicle o he
tzitzit 
is usedas a way o promoe he shi o subjec. A oher imes Divine auhoriy,a leas hrough he orce o he law, is used o reinorce unequal powerdynamics beween men and women in a relaionship.
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