Four Five Seconds to Domestic Violence

Sometimes, when you spend eight ten twelve hours a day working on something, you start to see that thing everywhere, even when other people might not.

For me, that thing is domestic violence. As an attorney who works on child abuse and neglect cases, I get more than a few cases a day that involve domestic violence (because hey, if you’re going to beat up your kid, you may also be beating up your partner).

So as I was driving into work the other day, I heard Rihanna and Kanye West’s new single, Four Five Seconds. For the unfamiliar, here are the lyrics:

Four Five Seconds (Lyrics from metrolyrics.com)

I think I’ve had enough
I might get a little drunk
I say what’s on my mind
I might do a little time
‘Cause all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

Woke up an optimist
Sun was shinin’, I’m positive
Then I heard you was talkin’ trash
Hold me back, I’m ’bout to spaz

I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

And I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’, “How could I be so selfish?”
But you called ’bout a thousand times
Wondering where I’ve been
Now I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’ “How could I be so reckless?”
But I just can’t apologize
I hope you can understand

If I go to jail tonight
Promise you’ll pay my bail
See they want to buy my pride
But that just ain’t up for sale
See all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
That’s all I want

Songwriters
Mccartney, Paul / Fenty, Robyn Rihanna / Omari, Kanye West

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The radio show hosts couldn’t figure out what it meant. They spent a long time discussing what “Four Five Seconds” means–is it forty five seconds? Four, five? Four “five seconds”?

They did not talk about the heart of the song, which is, to me, obviously about domestic violence. At least, I thought it was obvious. Apparently the internet doesn’t think so. I googled “Four Five Seconds meaning”, and didn’t find anything about domestic violence, other than one article that simply hints at “ins and outs” that Rihanna and Chris Brown have gone through. Wikipedia had this to say about the meaning of the song:

Lyrically, it “express emotions ranging from the flip to the resigned”.[9] Sharan Shetty of Slate stated that the song is about “heartbreak and redemption”,[17] while a Yahoo! Newsreviewer noted that it is about “personal travails and confusion”.[18] Nora Crotty of Elle magazine described the single as an “ode to repenting in the morning for the foolish mistakes you made the night before”.[4] -Wikipedia “FourFiveSeconds”

Baffled that that nothing explicitly mentioned the clear domestic violence message of the song, I tried googling “Four Five Seconds domestic violence”. Nothing. There were some sites about the song and some sites about domestic violence, but really nothing that linked the two. So, dear internet, let me tell you. “FourFive Seconds is a song about domestic violence, told both from the perspective of the abuser and the victim. It attempts to go beyond the surface level discussions that so often surround these debates, and get into the heart and souls of people in such relationships.

All of My Kindness is Taken for Weakness

Rihanna doesn’t waste any time getting into the heart of domestic violence. Survivors might feel like they’ve had enough, but they’re willing to give their abusers one more chance, out of the kindness of their hearts. Over and over again survivors talk about not wanting to give up on their abusers. They love their abusers, and so, even while recognizing that they’re not being treated as they should be they bestow “kindness” on the abuser, giving the abuser a chance to redeem themselves.

From an outsider’s perspective, this “kindness” is so many times called “weakness”. We often hear things like “Why can’t she just leave that guy–he’s always beating her and slapping her, she’s just too weak to leave”. Rihanna herself suffered such victimization. After Chris Brown famously assaulted her in 2009, Rihanna left him. After many rumors that they were back together, she announced in 2013 that they had reunited. Commenters on a Rolling Stone article about the reconciliation had this to say about that decision:

“I love seeing someone like her run back to her abuser-she looks like the idiot she is by her actions.” Hook UK

“Rihanna is a role model for young women. By staying with her abuser, she is encouraging other women to stay in abusive, dangerous relationships. It’s only a matter of time before one of those women ends up battered, maimed, or dead. As far as I’m concerned, Rihanna has or will have blood on her hands. Shame on her.” Robotclam

So many times victims say that they want to give their abusers “one more chance”. It is an important step. While so many people view it as weakness or idiocy, it is not meaningless. It is an important step that a victim takes towards recognizing that there is a problem in the first place.

Four Five Seconds from Wildin’

I absolutely love the chorus of the song. It evokes so much emotion. The pouty, slow breaths of the lines bring up feelings of struggle. The references to Friday and Monday make one remember that personal struggles are not just about these lofty ideals of “what type of person is right for me” and “what do I want out of life”, but rather are often much more finite–“how will I pay the rent this week” or “my child is sick but I can’t take any more time off of work” or “we don’t have any more chicken in the freezer but I don’t get paid until Thursday”.

I remember one night in college, I was all stressed out because I had a big paper due that I wasn’t nearly ready to turn in, along with some other finals and shifts at my part time job. I called a friend, who told me that she was also feeling stressed. We decided to meet up and talk about our issues. I remember feeling almost angry with her when she told me that the problems that were keeping her up at night were “what type of person do I want to be” and “where do I see myself in 10 years?”. Of course those are important questions to answer, but you can’t really deal with them until you turn in that final paper, which is due no matter what type of person you are.

While a relationship can give people joy and love and safety, there are also practical benefits. There’s housing, there’s shared finances, there’s co-parenting. I know someone who has been separated from his wife for years, but still hasn’t signed the final divorce papers because he and his daughter are benefitting from being under his wife’s insurance. This arrangement works for him, but if his wife was abusive, it may not be practical. There’s a lot of extortion that happens: Sleep with me and be my partner, or you can’t stay in my house anymore. If you leave, you’ll have no where to go. Your job (if you even have one) won’t be enough to pay for an apartment and living expenses all on your own. Stay with me, where it’s safe.

If I Go To Jail Tonight, Promise You’ll Pay My Bail

If my husband needed to be bailed out of jail, I would march over there and bring every single penny in my account to help him out. Because I love him and he’s good to me and he deserves my help. Even if he did something foolish and stupid–he might have to deal with the consequences later, but I’d help him out in the moment because, love.

For so many victims, the sentiment is the same despite years of being treated badly. There is still love. There is still affection. There is still a very real feeling that the abuser deserves to be loved, despite whatever may have happened in the past, because, love.

This can’t be dismissed very easily.

There are no easy answers. We can educate boys and girls how to behave in relationships and what is healthy and what is unhealthy, but at the end of the day, every individual has to make the choice that is right for him or her. There are so many nuances involved in the decision that an outsider can’t see. All that an outsider can do is offer assistance and support, and most importantly, to be there, no matter what.

“He put me in the hospital when I was pregnant with her. The next day he started crying, begging for forgiveness. He said: ‘I’m so sorry, I was drunk, I need you so much.’ So I took him back. The next time it happened, he managed to convince me that it was my fault. He said that he wouldn’t have gotten so angry if I had paid more attention to him. So I started thinking that I could be better. Then it happened again. Honestly, I stayed with him so much longer than I should have because I was afraid of becoming the stereotype of a single black mother.” HumansOfNewYork.com
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On Daughters

One of my strongly held opinions is that everyone has a story. I love following Humans of New York for that reason. It makes me think about who could be sitting right next to me, what they might have gone through, what they might have seen, what they think.

I don’t generally talk to the strangers around me, however. I often prefer to commute in silence, and I know others do, too. There’s nothing worse than waking up too early, planning to sleep during your hour-long bus commute, and finding yourself sitting next to someone who just wants to tell you about themselves.

BUT. Yesterday, the man I sat next to on the bus had so much to say that I couldn’t help but be interested. It started when I asked him about the bus schedule, he answered me, and then proceeded to tell me all about his job, his family, and his religion. It was fascinating.

Early on in the conversation, he told me that he had older daughters, but younger sons. He said he wished it were the other way around, because he would have liked his children to help him shovel the 10 inches of snow that recently fell, but that his sons were too young and “I can’t make my daughters do that”.

I said, half jokingly but actually very seriously, “If your daughters are big enough to hold a shovel, they can help shovel the driveway”. He said, “Nah, I couldn’t make them do that”. I let it go, and he went on to tell me about his life in the military, being shot in Saudi Arabia when he was 18, his view that Jewish women were much more liberated than Muslim women, and many other things.

Then he told me that his oldest daughter is a sophomore in college and she wants to join the Navy when she graduates. He doesn’t think it’s a terrible idea, after all, she’ll go in as an officer and her education will be paid for and she’ll have a great career ahead of her. His wife, on the other hand, is terribly opposed to the idea, fearing for her daughter’s safety.

I just listened as he told me all about his family’s drama, but as I thought about it, I remembered his earlier statement about the snow. This woman is not some feeble lady. She wants to join the Navy. Even if she has a desk job, she’ll have to go through basic training, which is much more physically demanding than shoveling snow. And he doesn’t mind that–he’s even in support of the idea! If his daughter can spend 10 hours a day climbing through ropes courses and learning to shoot, she can pick up a shovel and help her family clear the snow from their driveway. Fathers shouldn’t be afraid to give these chores to their daughters.

Tefilin: The Route to Empowerment?

It seems that the issue of the day is women wearing tefilin. For those of you living under a rock–or, you know, outside the tristate area–SAR school in Riverdale recently made a statement that it would allow women to put on tefilin during school prayer services, if they desired to do so. The Ramaz School quickly followed suit, sending home a letter to parents clarifying that their policy would also be to allow women to put on tefilin.

The blogosphere blew up with articles, both in support of these women and against them. And let me tell you, there was A LOT of opposition. Avital Chizik wrote that we don’t need tefilin because there are other, more serious issues facing the female community. Eliana M. Aaron wrote that a woman taking upon herself the obligation to wear tefilin is actually anti-feminist because it takes women away from their roles as mothers and wives. (I can’t even).

I’d like to respond specifically to Avital Chizik’s article, because I saw it spread like wildfire around facebook, with friends from all walks of life in support of her position.

Well, I’m not.

For full disclosure, I don’t regularly put on tefilin. I did once, when I was teaching at a Coservative hebrew school, and I had to teach my students how to put it on. I found the experience incredibly moving. I was using an old pair of tefilin, someone’s grandfather’s that had been kept in tip-top condition, and as soon as I wrapped myself in the leather straps, I felt like I had this metaphysical connection with generations of Jews who came before me.

But I digress. I don’t regularly put on tefilin, mostly because the issue never came up and a little bit because I was afraid of being a trailblazer. But I have nothing but support for the women that do.

Avital says in her article that she finds it hard to put in to words what she has been feeling during this debate, but that she’s going to try. I, too, have been having trouble articulating exactly what my thoughts are, but since she tried, I’ll try.

She starts off with:

The average Orthodox woman today is not preoccupied with fighting for ownership over her father’s and husband’s rituals. To imagine otherwise is at best sensationalist and at worst delusional.

She is right. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to discuss the issue.

Then she says:

Ask the average Orthodox woman what threatens her stake in this community – and she will tell you that it is certainly not tefillin, … Ask her what she is worried about – and you will hear a very different kol isha (woman’s voice), if you only listen. Women here are worried about living in a world where family status is essential, definitive and fragile: where the unmarried, the childless and the divorced occupy a lower caste. Women who are denied divorces continue to waste away for years, waiting for freedom to remarry. Abuse in our community’s schools is taking painfully long to be investigated.

It’s true! Those ARE important, pressing issues in our community. But, listen very closely, THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY ISSUES. Why must we enter an argument over “my subjugation is worse than yours”?  Why can’t I fight for agunot AND ritual inclusion?

And that brings me to my final point. Avital laments how women in her community, a flourishing modern orthodox community, are still afraid to let their voices be heard. They’re afraid to talk too much at the shabbat table, for fear of being considered “male”. They choose to talk about trivialities, not because that interests them, but because if they talk about serious topics people will look at them funny. They go to shul and stand in the back and chat about their kids, because, well, that’s what women do.

She’s right. These are major problems in our community. But then there’s the kicker. She ends off her article with

So – tefillin? Adjusted prayer services? Female rabbis? Lowered mehitzahs? I’m not convinced… Because I don’t care to own the bimah. I simply want to own my mind.

She fails to make a major point of connection here. These rituals, which she dismisses as unimportant and not part of her world, could be exactly what is holding her back from empowerment. It’s natural that when men attend a friday night prayer service that is made up of approximately 50 men and maybe one or two token women (who mind you are hidden on the other side of the mechitza), led by a male rabbi, and then walk home with all the men chatting about the [male] rabbi’s sermon, only to come home to their wives who have spent the last hour setting the table and making sure the chicken soup stays warm, that everybody present at that meal will see a clear yet unspoken gender divide, in which women are good at cooking and cleaning and shopping, and men are good at thinking.

Avital fails to make the connection that the ritual observance in judaism is not simply about the rituals themselves, but about the meaning behind them. I believe the answer can be found in Tanach.

“Why have we fasted, and You did not see; we have afflicted our soul and You do not know?” Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue business, and [from] all your debtors you exact [payment]. ג. לָמָּה צַּמְנוּ וְלֹא רָאִיתָ עִנִּינוּ נַפְשֵׁנוּ וְלֹא תֵדָע הֵן בְּיוֹם צֹמְכֶם תִּמְצְאוּ חֵפֶץ וְכָל עַצְּבֵיכֶם תִּנְגֹּשׂוּ:

Isaiah 58:3

There are rituals, like fasting and putting on tefilin, but the rituals have underlying messages. Fasting is intended to make humans focus not on their day to day activities, but on God. Therefore, when the Jewish people fasted but did not internalize the message–spending their fast days transacting business instead of in prayer–God chastises them.

Similarly, the ritual of tefilin is intended to make torah learning an inherent part of a person. That’s why the boxes contain excerpts from the shema. When Avital complains that she’s not treated as an equal in regards to her mind or her learning, perhaps part of the solution would specifically be to adopt more rituals. To say that you didn’t fast on Yom Kippur, and yet you are upset that you didn’t feel a connection to God would be, in the Orthodox world of rituals, absurd. To say that you don’t want to attend minyan every day yet you feel excluded from the “good ole’ boys club” is also absurd.

I think that one way to effectuate change in female empowerment is to be part of the establishment, to be present, to lean in and to say, “I want to be here, so listen to me”. When you hang out in the background and then cry that your voice isn’t heard, well, then, part of the fault is on you.

The Empowering Skirt: What I Learned From My Mikvah Lady’s Outfit

I know a  lot of women who have anxiety about going to the mikvah. Many of them feel that they have to “put on a show” or act frummer than they are, in order to gain acceptance at the mikvah. Some women cover their hair at the mikvah when they don’t in real life. Others walk in wearing a skirt and long sleeves, so as not to arouse more questions. Some make sure to remove all their nail polish, even though they believe it is kosher to tovel.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about such problems. The mikvah in my town is relatively open, people wear any and all outfits (I’m more surprised with the women in high heels than I am about the ones in sweatpants), and there’s really not much of an “interrogation” feeling.

That in mind, I was more than surprised when I encountered my mikvah lady leaving the mikvah. I had the last appointment of the night. When I went to tovel, she greeted me in a long skirt with pants sticking out at the bottom. I didn’t think anything of it, it was cold that night, perhaps she just wanted an extra layer of warmth under her skirt. We did our thing, and I left. I went back to the preparation room to get dressed and gather my things. As I was walking to my car, I saw her going to her car as well–wearing only the pants!

I was shocked. Not because she wears pants, but because she specifically wore a skirt over her pants in the mikvah. Apparently, she too feels that she has to dress “frummer” at the mikvah. Many, many women wear pants in our modern orthodox community, but I guess that some women might not feel comfortable with a woman in pants as their mikvah lady.

Lest you think that she’s doing this because her boss told her to, she is the boss. She is the woman who runs the mikvah, trains all the new mikvah ladies, and has been around there longer than I’ve been alive. She doesn’t have to answer to anyone, except, I guess, her clients.

It makes me think about the power that clients have in places like mikvaot. We can sit here and complain on the internet all day about the crazy rules or the rude mikvah ladies or the dirty water, but we also have to remember than we are consumers. Just as we have the power to insist that our mikvah ladies wear skirts, we also have the power to insist that they are kind, open, and welcoming. And we should utilize that power. When we are upset with something that happens in the mikvah, call and file a complaint. Write about it. Tell your friends. Soon enough, you will start to hear things like “Oh, yeah, that happened to me, too.” Well, encourage those women to complain as well. We are the consumers in this relationship, and we are the ones with the power to effect change. So let’s do it.

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.

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.

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*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.

Covering My Hair and Changing My Name

When I was in Israel, I remember studying the laws of hair covering with a woman who grew up in the US, moved to Israel as a teenager, and got married in Israel. She and her husband honeymooned to Italy. She told the class of how, when she arrived at the bed and breakfast in Italy, the very religious Catholic host wouldn’t let her and husband share a room, because she didn’t think they were married. They hadn’t yet changed their names, and they didn’t wear wedding rings. In an attempt to convince the host that they were, in fact, married, she pointed to her mitpachat (head scarf). “This is something that only MARRIED Jewish women wear, see.” The lady didn’t buy it. I don’t remember how, but they did eventually convince their host that they were married, and they were able to share a room.

I make a big deal out of the fact that I don’t cover my hair at work or during day to day activities, only when I’m at shul or weddings or otherwise religious activities. For me, that’s my way of letting the world know where I stand Jewishly–I follow halacha, but I’m not an extremist. I think that because I had my struggle with hair covering, other things, such as changing my name after marriage, were less important to me. Still, for most secular people, hair covering or lack thereof really means nothing. It seems, however, that a woman’s last name after marriage is much more symbolic in secular, feminist circles.

I have been reading a lot from feminists in support of women keeping their last names after marriage. From the blogs that I read, it appears that if you’re “a real feminist” and a “strong woman”, you don’t change your name. (See, for example, this article about why Emma Watson thinks Hermione Granger wouldn’t change her name to Hermione Weasley after her marriage to Ron Weasley). Well, as I’ve told you all before, I changed my name after I got married. Sure, there were (and still are) some logistical difficulties, but once I get past those, I really don’t mind that I changed my name. In fact, I WANT to have the same name as my husband and our future children. But then I read things like the Emma Watson article above, and I start to doubt my decision. Am I a bad feminist? Am I supporting a society of Patriarchy? Will people think I’m naïve and–gasp–a republican, once they find out I have a maiden name??

In my heart, I know these things aren’t true. But, in some ways, I feel that perhaps the reason that I cover my hair in the manner that I do is exactly why a lot of feminists keep their maiden name: A way to show the world that I am a non-conformist, and that I don’t want to do things just because I’m told to do things.