More Thoughts on Sex Ed in the Orthodox Community

“Insanity is defined as repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result”

It seems the subject of sex education in Orthodox society just won’t die. Yet another article is up (Hebrew) talking about the lack of preparation in our circles for marital life. I’ve even heard some (privately told) stories about how the first night for some newly-weds was awkward and even terrifying, since they didn’t know what to expect. Needless to say, while all eventually do learn “how” to do it and how to have children, there is still very little discussion of sex as marital communication.

So, we all agree on the problem. We disagree, however, with the solution. Almost all the articles I’ve seen propose introducing sex ed into schools or having “bride teachers” spend less time discussing taboos and more time on the positives of sex. If only the religious establishment would wake up and address the issue, all would be solved.

I think this is a dumb idea that is doomed to failure. I understand where it comes from – the religious “welfare state” mentality that constantly says that the religious establishment knows better than Joseph P. Jew. Hence, literally every discussion I’ve seen of virtually every problem in religious society places the onus of solving the problem on the religious professional establishment – Rabbis, bride teachers, teachers &c.

But from what I’ve seen and heard, even when there were “classes” in schools, they were utterly worthless – either too technical or too focused on prohibitions (like the devil-worship that is masturbation). Trying to get religious functionaries to talk about sex in a positive light without a million negatives is like trying to get yeshivas to discuss Kant: it might happen in a few LW yeshivot, but that’s about it. It won’t solve the broader problem.

So, what do you suggest?

I argue that we should look to another source of authority and respect – the family, or more specifically the parents (or older siblings, if needed). In my opinion, parents are a much more natural and much less scary address for all questions regarding the opposite sex and, well, sex. Most of the people I’ve seen who have a relatively healthy attitude towards sex gained it because of the openness of parents to talk about it and allay anxieties on the subject.

Parents – both the mother and the father – are a much better solution than constantly, and pointlessly, trying to get functionaries to act against their extremely conservative nature. To all of you parents out there – stop “passing the buck” to someone else. Your child will naturally come to you first about these questions. Stop sending them to people who are even less qualified and less likely to help your kid.


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at:
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3 Responses to More Thoughts on Sex Ed in the Orthodox Community

  1. Shlomo says:

    If another argument for this is needed, you could argue that parents are the only people who can talk to teenagers on these matters without the suspicion of impropriety.

  2. Pingback: Sex Ed and the Orthodox Community: The Other Side of the Coin | QED

  3. Pingback: Does Modern Orthodoxy Not Believe in Fun? A Response to Rabbi Yitzhak Blau, Part II | QED

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