I was recently flipping through a fashion magazine and came across an article about a celebrity’s makeup. She was wearing this color eye shadow, that color lipstick, and then I saw what the blush color was called, and I wanted to blush! I couldn’t believe it – the name that this popular company uses for one of its blushes is a sexual term for when a person might look flush (preceded by the word “super.”) SUPER!
When did this happen? When did the most private things creep into so many public places? Now, before you start to think that I’m just some prudish Orthodox woman, let me assure you that I’m not. Despite not being religious as a kid, I grew up in a household with pretty traditional values. That being said, my mother spoke very openly about sex and bodies and never made any of it a matter of shame. So too with my kids, everyone knows what the proper names for their body parts are and feels comfortable using them, and I gave my kids a talk about the birds and the bees (like my mother did with her kids) at the ripe old ages of five and three. (Age appropriate of course!) And before I got married, when I learned about sexuality in Jewish law, my kallah teacher (the teacher a bride-to-be learns with before the wedding – a groom-to-be has a teacher too) was also far from prudish. In fact, she was quite clear that according to Jewish thought, a husband and wife should have a very satisfying marital life, and that there aren’t too many restrictions once you’re behind a closed door during the right time.
So it’s not sexuality that I’m uncomfortable with – it’s the constant, in your face displays of it. Which is why, incidentally, I’m not writing anything explicit in this post. There’s an idea that in the Talmud the rabbis would use euphemisms for sexual terms. Not because they were anti-sex or embarrassed by it, but rather in order to maintain a certain level of tznius (privacy). The expression for this phenomenon is “hamayveen yaveen” (those who understand will understand).
What public displays of sexuality am I talking about besides risqué makeup names? There are so, so many, but most recently I’ve noticed blog posts being written and broadcast to the world about some of the most embarrassing, private sexual stories you’d only share with your very best friend, and reader after reader applauding the writers for being so “raw” and so “real.” Or a recent YouTube video about a twelve girl at sleep away camp who is the first in her bunk to get her period and how she casually and flippantly talks about her private parts (using both technical and slang terms) like she’d talk about the weather.
She’s just “acting” you say, what’s the big deal? Well, in my humble opinion, twelve year old girls SHOULD feel like private parts and periods are a big deal and even a bit embarrassing as they adjust to this momentous change. When young viewers see how blasé this funny, viral video makes the subject, they might start to force themselves to treat something that is monumental like it’s insignificant, and I find that troubling.
I’m sick of seeing hashtags online where people describe their excitement over a pair of shoes using a compound word made up of “shoe” and a sexual term (the same one used for the blush!). And I don’t know why when people post pictures of what they’re eating it’s become commonplace to use a hashtag compound word which mixes “food” and adult entertainment. And speaking of adult entertainment, I can’t believe that books like 50 Shades of Grey are being read on buses and planes out in the open for everyone to see. Where books like that fit into (or don’t fit into) Jewish law is a separate discussion. I’m not talking about what people read in the privacy of their homes. I’m talking about men sitting on buses coming home from work, trying to mind their own business and seeing the woman next to them reading this book. (True story!)
It’s poles used for a certain type of, ehem, dancing – objects that used to be reserved for private spaces where men would go to see, well, dancers – popping up in gyms all over the country, being used in prime time TV shows on major networks. Again – something SO sexual becoming so commonplace. And I hate that I can’t seem to play ANYTHING on the radio when my kids are in the car. Songs like “Blurred Lines,” the most popular song of the summer, is chock full of racy lyrics and two explicit videos, one more explicit than the other. It’s not the troubling rapey undertones of the song or the fact that according to an article I read, singer Robin Thicke’s wife is the one who suggested that he make a version of the video with naked women. No – I’m not talking about those points today. It’s that this song is being played constantly on the radio, being spoofed all over YouTube, on every late night show, which means that if you’re out shopping or sitting at home on the computer, you’re being bombarded by these highly sexualized ideas again and again and again, and they start to become meangingless.
I’m afraid that when everything is sexy, nothing is sexy. That when private matters become public matters, intimacy between friends and spouses can no longer exist. That when nothing is left to the imagination, there is never an opportunity for a couple to uncover and discover, and what a shame that is. I am sick of how society has blurred the lines between private and public; not because I am anti-sex, but specifically out of a desire to preserve the specialness that ought to come with it. Sex is extremely potent. We all want it to be. But I think much of secular society has forgotten how to achieve it. Like a drug user who has become tolerant to his drug and keeps needing larger quantities to get the same high as before, so too the world at large keeps pushing the sexual envelope to feel more since the previous thrill has left them numb. If only more people understood the secret to desire that Judaism has known all along: passion is created when freedom is mixed with measure and restraint.