Last week, I went to a sex shop.

Last week, I went to a sex shop.

This was not my first visit to such a shop, but it was my first truly enjoyable visit.

I’ve bought sex toys before. Usually from the internet. Usually I have a pretty good idea of what I want, and I would much prefer to shop from the privacy of my own home and without creepy sex shop owners knowing what sets me off.

This time, though, I was on the search for…something to wear. I wanted to buy a corset. This would require trying on and measuring and figuring out just which one I wanted. I could’ve done the whole thing online by buying a couple and then returning all but one–but that seemed to difficult. So, the husband and I set out on a sexy adventure.

Something close to the item I ended up buying.

We’d been to this particular shop before, and the last time, I really didn’t like it. The guy who owns the place was way too in your face. Even when we told him that we were “just browsing” and didn’t need any help, he stayed about 5 feet behind us and offered up his opinion on each product that we expressed even the slightest interest in. This time, though, we appreciated his wealth of knowledge about all things sex related.

He gave me something to try on. But then…he walked into the dressing room with my husband and I!! I was shocked by this. He explained this particular item and how to best put it on and what to look for when trying it on, and then he said, “I’m gay. Do you want me to be in here to help you try it on, or would you rather me wait outside?” I knew I wanted him to wait outside–just because I’m buying stuff in a sex shop (with my HUSBAND) doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of modesty–but sometimes I have trouble expressing my opinions if I think the other person will disagree with me. So, I was really proud of myself for saying, “I think I’d prefer you to wait outside”.

Here would be an appropriate place to talk about gay sexuality in relation to straight people. One of my best female friends is a lesbian. I have slept in the same bed with her, even after she came out to me. She thought that maybe I would be uncomfortable. Similarly, this man thought that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with him in the dressing room with me, because he was gay. I see where they’re coming from, I really do, but, the thing is, I’m straight. I wonder sometimes if I’m too heteronormative, if I don’t want gay men to see me with my shirt off because I think that really this man might find me attractive, even if he says he’s gay. And conversely, there’s no way that my lesbian friend will view me as a potential sexual partner, because, hey, I’m a straight woman. But I digress.

The thing about corsets is that they have a very intricate way of lacing up in the back, so they usually require someone else to do the lacing. (There are videos and websites on the internet about ways to lace up your corset on your own, but I’m definitely not there yet. I can barely zip up the dresses with the zippers in the back on my own.) I assumed that would be my husbands job. But, alas, he had to learn how to do the lacing. Since I couldn’t show him, the shopkeeper came in to help him out. It was a learning experience for both of us.

Even after the corset was on, the shopkeeper stayed in the dressing room to help asses fit and sizing. He was completely, 100% professional. Still, it was weird that I was wearing something intended only for my husband in front of a complete, male, stranger. The shop owner was really, really helpful. He gave sizing and fit tips that I would never have received on the internet. He told us a lot about the background of the product, and storage tips, and even some usage tips. I keep feeling like, it was weird that he was there. I wonder if this comes from my orthodox perspective, that there were so many things “un-tznius” about that experience that it must have been wrong. And then I wonder if that’s a good thing. I’m glad I got this man’s help. I’m glad I bought the product.

I’m really pleased with my purchase. I love the way that I look in a corset. It shapes my body in a way that I’ve never seen my body look before. Suddenly, I have all these wonderful curved. Suddenly, I feel sexy and beautiful. I’m glad that I bought it, and I’m glad that the shop keeper was able to help us. But there’s this thought in the back of my head that it just wasn’t appropriate. I don’t know what to do with the thought. I mean, in the future, if I want to buy another one, I can purchase it online, now that I know what to look for and what size I am. But I wouldn’t have gotten there without the help of the shopkeeper.

I guess a lot of orthodox women have this issue, and I guess that they find ways around it. Even if they’re not buying corsets, they’re buying underwear and bras and have to be sized. And I guess they only use female shopkeepers. But what if the shopkeeper is a lesbian (not an uncommon situation for women who work in lingerie stores)? Is that a violation of tznius? What if it’s a male shopkeeper, but he’s gay? Does that make a difference? And if not, does that mean that in the eyes of tznius, there’s no such thing as homosexuality? Because thats a thought that I’m not comfortable with.

Advertisements

My Thoughts on Pre-marital Sex

It seems like today was pre-marital sex day on the internet. The New York Times published this piece by a 35-year-old virgin considering her choice to wait for true love to have sex, over on FrumSatire blogger Heshy Fried wrote this piece about virginity and the orthodox community, and Shmuely Boteach wrote this piece positing that saving sex for marriage makes better sex.

I guess I ought give my two cents.

It’s no secret on this blog that I had sex before marriage. In fact, I had sex with three different partners before my husband: A long term boyfriend, a one-night stand, and a guy that I was dating casually but very much not in love with–I was just bored. Ironically I suppose, my husband and I agreed that we wouldn’t have sex until we were married, and that’s what we did.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to say on this subject, and I’ve got a few thoughts:

Prequel: This is not a halachic discussion.

I know there are those out there who will tell me that I shouldn’t have had sex before marriage because it is a violation of halacha. I know there are also those out there who are of the opinion that pre-marital sex can be done within the auspices of halacha. This is not a discussion on that issue. I fully believe mikvaot should have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding unmarried women, but beyond that, I don’t want to discuss the halacha. I want to discuss the mental thought process of premarital sex.

I will also note that when I was engaging in premarital sex, I felt a tremendous amount of Jewish guilt.  I read up on all of the opinions that said that premarital sex/mikvah usage was totally halachically appropriate, and yet, still, I felt like I was doing something innately wrong by having sex. Perhaps because my world viewed it that way. For this reason, no amount of halachic reasoning would have been able to change the guilt I felt.

1. I think the long term boyfriend and I dated longer than we should have, because of sex. 

This is important. This was the reason I didn’t want to have sex with my husband before we married. I wanted to be sure he was the one, and I remembered being blinded in this previous relationship. The relationship was very much over, we were in different places both literally and figuratively, I wanted to move forward with my life and he didn’t, we disagreed on some pretty important life issues, I felt like I couldn’t talk freely with him–and yet, still, we dated for several more months. The sex was good, and I think we were both just really afraid of sleeping alone.  I didn’t want this to happen again, so when I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband, and things started getting physical, I said “let’s take this slow”. As I started to realize more and more that I was falling in love with him, I told him, “let’s wait for marriage for sex.” This maybe was a mistake, because he was very strict on not letting me break the rules. I tried, oh, I TRIED, but he always found ways to convince me not to go the distance. Still, things worked out for us in the end despite us not actually having sex before our marriage.

2. I think having casual sex was very important for me. 

I learned a lot about myself when I was having casual sex. I learned what I liked sexually, and that’s huge. (Often, I hear people talking about waiting for marriage in a negative light, by positing that one takes a huge risk by not having sex with the one person that they will be having sex with for the rest of their lives. It’s a real concern, and I don’t know how to answer it other than by saying that with my husband and I, we had a pretty good taste of what the other was like in bed before we got married and before we had sex, because we had done “everything but”.* I’ve also never heard of any couples actually breaking up solely because they weren’t a good match sexually-unless you count the people who went from being gay to being straight or vice versa. I think that most of these “issues” can be resolved by honesty, communication, and a willingness to be adventurous.)

Having casual sex also gave me a huge self-esteem boost when I most needed it. I was in a bad place. I felt like no one could ever love me, because, well, I wasn’t in love with anyone at the moment. But then came my opportunities for casual sex. They thought I was pretty. They wanted to have sex with me. I liked that, a lot.

I felt empowered when I was having casual sex. I was in control of what I wanted. I could try out whatever I wished without scaring the guys away, because hey, there’s always a new guy willing to try new stuff with me. This was an amazing feeling that I think more people really need to experience.

3. Married sex is really, really, good. 

I guess I’m a little biased, because I’ve only been married less than 2 years. I wonder what we’ll say in 20 years. Still, there’s something  really amazing about having sex with someone who knows you inside and out, someone who cares more about your own pleasure than their own, someone who wants nothing more than to make you happy. I suppose these same things would apply in a long term relationship, but in my very limited experience, it was totally not the same. With me, there is so much more concern for the other in my marriage than there ever was in any of my long term relationships. That’s not to say there wasn’t concern before, but the level is just so much MORE in my marriage. To go off tangent for a bit, my co-worker was telling me about her thanksgiving plans: She lives with her long term boyfriend of seven years. Every year, they go to her family’s house and have a huge Thanksgiving dinner with about 35 relatives from all over the country. His mom usually spends thanksgiving with friends at the beach. This year, she decided that she wanted to stay home and have the couple over for dinner. My co-worker was feeling torn about the different options. One person suggested, “It’s just his mom? Why don’t you bring her to your family’s gathering?”. She responded that she didn’t think her boyfriend was ready to take that step yet. We all were a little surprised, I mean, you’ve been together for seven years, you live together, but you don’t want your parents to meet? I think it goes back to the fact that there is an inherently deeper connection within marriage than in any other romantic relationship. But that’s just me. To each her own.

The gist of Shmuley Boteach’s argument is that premarital sex destroys the pleasure of married sex. One hundred percent not true. I left my previous sexual partners for a reason–I didn’t LIKE them. I chose my husband for another reason–I really really DID like him. Further, I want to stress that just because my married sex is way better than any sex I’ve had before, it doesn’t mean that I’d advocate celibacy until marriage. It means that I’d advocate marriage. But, as noted, there were a lot of benefits I achieved by having sex before marriage, and I think those are really important. Going back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

4. Sometimes, I really don’t see the difference between “hooking up” and having sex. 

I should be clear here. When I use the term “hooking up”, I mean partners kissing and touching and being naked with each other and getting the other to achieve orgasm, but no vaginal sex. I know the term is used for a plethora of meanings, and as such, has become a word with no meaning, but it is the best term to describe the aforementioned acts. The New York Times article makes a point that I thought a thousand times when I was in sexless relationships. The author describes a religious muslim friend’s opinion that if you’ve had an orgasm, you’ve had sex. I know I wouldn’t go that far, I mean, my first orgasm occurred was when I was riding a horse, does that mean I had sex with a horse? But still, when you’re in bed with someone and you’re both naked and you’re holding each others’ genitals, I mean really what’s the difference in how the orgasm is achieved actually? Any sorts of concerns about being “blinded” by the physical would still be present. The New York Times author described the difference as being able to feel in control of when things would start and stop, but it sounds to me like she just needs to try BDSM. She also talked about not wanting to be in a place of emotional vulnerability, but let me tell you, you are emotionally vulnerable in ANY relationship where you find yourself falling for the other person. And conversely, the ability to have casual sex and know that it’s only casual sex gives over the same feeling of control that she sought by refusing to have sex.

5. Above all, I think the decision to have pre-marital sex or not should SOLELY be a decision by the individual. 

I think community expectations, one way or the other, are really awful for people exploring their sexuality.  I would never tell someone, you must have sex before marriage. Also, I would never tell someone, you should definitely not have sex before marriage. I feel like these articles all come from one extreme or the other, some being liberal feminists that feel like women in particular are missing out because they’re not having sex, and some from religious leaders who feel they have a divine obligation to stop the immorality that  comes from having sex before marriage. The key here, really, is that sex is a deeply personal decision, and as such, should be decided upon by the person.

——

*I cringe a little when I hear the phrase “everything but” used, because I often feel that people don’t really mean it. You did EVERYTHING but sex? Really? Have you SEEN the internet. I’m SURE there’s a lot you haven’t done. There’s a lot I didn’t do. What I mean by the phrase is that we had come SO CLOSE to having sex, that we were pretty sure what having sex with the other would be like: awesome. And so far, we’ve been pretty right.