“The Joy of Text” Features a Discussion on Speaking With One’s Children About Sex and Brings on Guest Dr. Joy Ladin to Discuss Changing Genders
Last month’s episode of “The Joy of Text” featured a discussion on educating one’s children on sexual matters, an interview with Dr. Joy Ladin, and a Q & A segment. This episode was the first in the series to have an advertisement (from neither the Jewish Orthodox Femininst Alliance, nor Yeshivat Chovevei Torah). As per usual, MaHaRaT Ramie Smith moderated the featured hosts, Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus and Rabbi Dov Linzer.
The opening segment focussed on speaking with one’s children about sex and it was very helpful, even beyond the specifically Orthodox Jewish context, with a relevance for all Jews and people, in general. And it is a very important topic since, as Rabbi Linzer put it, “There’s something very powerful about the sexual part of our body and our identity and so on, and that’s why it needs to be talked about; it needs to be normalized.” Dr. Marcus had a lot of wisdom about this topic and it’s worth listening to multiple times and/or taking notes. Here is one example:
I think already, by age 10 or over, you should be very clear about value-setting. I think value-setting can go in earlier, but it’s a little hard to talk about values when you’re talking about the fact that a baby is growing in the uterus. But, for sure, when you’re talking about touching each other, having premarital sex, any of those conversations, that’s where your values come in. And that’s where I think…the parents aren’t very clear, themselves. They say they’re clear, but say to the parent, “Articulate to your partner, out loud, what your values are; what is the message you want to give your kid?” And part of those say, “Don’t touch anybody until you’re married!” or “Get married at 22 and start dating when you’re 23.” I think parents are very conflicted.
And, responding to the concern that teaching and/or talking about sex could lead to young people then going and engaging in sexual activity, Dr. Marcus said that “The statistics suggest that the more you educate kids, the later they start being active. Even the situations where the activity is the same, they’re better educated about it, so there is less disease, there’s less abortion…. Nobody has been able to produce evidence to suggest that the more you talk about something, the more people act on it.”
This was a really phenomenal segment and it’s worth listening to at multiple times.
As to the phone interview/conversation with Dr. Joy (né Jay) Ladin, I will state at the outset that it was fascinating, insightful, and that Dr. Ladin provided very articulate responses to the questions. However, I do not understand why Dr. Ladin was on a show dedicated to discussing sex. At the top of the show, Ramie Smith stated that they would be speaking with “Dr. Ladin to discuss transsexuality in the Orthodox and Jewish communities”, which I thought would be incredibly fascinating. For instance, they could discuss what it’s like to have one set of genitalia and then a different set. They could also discuss how sexual intercourse or other sexual activities feel while possessing one set of genitalia versus another. Or they could discuss what it’s like to have sex as a male, but feeling like a woman. These discussion topics and others like them would have shed a lot of light on these matters, both educationally, but also to give people a sense of how the experience of sexual intercourse differs, depending upon one’s sex.
Alas, transsexuality was not discussed. Nor, for that matter, was sex. Why was Dr. Ladin on this show about sex? Perhaps it was because of the famous Caitlyn Jenner transition that switching genders was in the news. Yet, sex was not discussed at all. This move was both bizarre and baffling. Moreover, from the interview, the listener never knew/heard if Dr. Ladin had undergone a sex change, only that Dr. Ladin changed genders. Discussing a gender change and nothing about sex on a show about sex is a mismatch. It is as if a baseball player had been brought on to discuss baseball on a show about football or if a radio host had been brought on to discuss radio on a show about television. In the former instance, they are discussing sports, while, in the latter, they are discussing broadcasting (news, perhaps), yet one can see how they are nevertheless different. The same is true here: sex and gender are two distinct topics, even if they can be seen in the discussion as similar as baseball and football are as sports. This was a badly missed opportunity and it seemed as if it were a ploy to capitalize on the Jenner attention. Sadly, this segment had less to do with sex than the one advertisement on the show, which was for erectile dysfunction.
It was still interesting to hear the story of someone who changed genders and this segment could prove to be an interesting entrée for a future conversation on how halakhah deals with sex change(s) and transsexuality, which should be interesting.
For the third consecutive episode, “The Joy of Text” only answered one question in the Q & A segment, with episode’s question having originally been asked during last month’s blogcast and saved for this segment:
I am an Orthodox Jewish man who is autogynephilic, which means that I am sexually aroused by the thought or image of myself as a woman. This has no bearing on my gender identity and is more akin to a fetish, though many autogynephilics do physically transition because of it. I identify as male and present as fairly masculine. From a very young age, I can recall instances of arousal at people’s accounts in children’s stories involving any sort of male to female gender transformation. I began to have persistent gender fantasies of myself becoming aesthetically or anatomically female before puberty, which elicited strong feelings of guilt on my part. Although I’m attracted to women, I also happen to be asexual, so these fantasies are more arousing and enjoyable than normal sexual fantasies, which I do not have. While I have never cross-dressed, both due to my disinterest and in the Biblical prohibition, many autogynephilics do; the prospect certainly arouses me. I, do, however, enjoy transgender-themed erotica. I have told several close friends about this and I fully intend to tell any future romantic partner simply because it informs my sexuality to such a great extent.
While Rabbi Linzer responded, “Any types of fantasies or dress-up or any type of activity that could turn you on, as long as it’s a part of relating to the person in front of you is totally fine”, there’s much more in both his and Dr. Marcus’ responses.