Secularizing (Jewish) Sex

By Naomi Seidman

Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), Spring 2011

The author discusses the discourse of Orthodoxy which sees the secular world as free and liberated. She describes how traditional religious practices dictated acts of the body; secularity set them free. Where tradition had married sex, within prescribed limits, secularism opened the door on other varieties, other pleasures. If this is so evident even today, long after a great-grandmother refused to cover her hair or a great-grandfather took the shears to his side locks, it is because the dramatic clash of tradition and modernity (though, of course, both of these are "modern" phenomena) is playing itself out before our eyes once again -- with sex, women, and bodies (as before) -- serving as the contested battleground. In this new arena, though, the struggle between those who view religion as sexually oppressive and those who diagnose secularism as sexual license runs up against contradictory claims and phenomena: educated women proudly reject the miniskirt and "reclaim" the veil in the name of self-expression or even feminism; a variety of cultural contexts have seen the resurgence of "backward" practices under the banner of a difference sort of liberation--the resistance to globalism and the self-righteousness of modernizers. The secularist response has been predictable: a muting of "rationalist" and feminist critique under the dictates of cultural sensitivity and in recognition of the claims of minority self-determination. But it is not only postcolonialism and postsecularism that has softened secularist critique: after Foucault, do we know any more what it means to be "free"?

Topic: Tradition, Feminism, Orthodox Judaism, Freedom, Marriage, Sexuality, Secularism

Name of Publication: AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies

Editor: Bunzl, Matti , Havrelock, Rachel

Volume/Issue: Spring 2011

Page Number(s): 8-9

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Genre: Article

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Seidman, Naomi. Secularizing (Jewish) Sex. AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies. Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Spring 2011: 8-9. http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=12006


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