Even a Good Jew Masturbates

Holly Randall
‘I’m a bad Jew.” I’m walking with my friend, an ex porn journalist who has finally shunned my sordid world in order to devote himself fully to Orthodox Judaism. He’s lamenting that though he dedicates himself to his religion, he cannot seem to rise above his carnal desires, which is namely, masturbating to porn. And it’s not just your vanilla couples-type porn. It’s some pretty dirty stuff, and I know this because it’s the same kind of porn that I’m into.

I would like to tell him that the only reason he is into hardcore pornography is because he was raised in an ultra-religious, sexually repressive home. But then what is my excuse? My parents are atheists and agnostics respectively, and as hippie-type pornographers they provided me with a very liberal environment to grow up in.

Contrary to my Jewish friend, I found porn a little too early (through no fault of their own; I was a sneaky kid) so perhaps it’s that Freudian theory about childhood development: potty-train a child to early or too late, and either way they can become anal-retentive. In our case, I was potty-trained too early, while my friend seems to have been potty-trained far too late.

But I don’t tell him this as we’re walking to shul, because I’m getting a little nervous. I’ve never been to a religious service in my life, much less a conservative Jewish one. But in my quest for spirituality I’m open to almost anything, and I need material for my column. But let’s pretend I’m more inclined to the former reason, and that I’m not here for base journalistic purposes.

I’ve been told I have to wear a dress or skirt that will cover my legs. I also have to cover my arms. I cannot swear, reveal my profession, or even call him by his real name. At temple, people know him by his Jewish name, Levi. And people will know me as the shiksa with Levi, since I’m sure I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb.

When we arrive, the religious service is already over but there are lectures that run all night. It is the Jewish holiday Shavuot so the tradition is to stay up all night, keeping busy with the readings of the Torah. We arrived in time for a lecture on gossip, and how the Jewish religion weighs in on the subject of a loose tongue. Of course this is ironic, as my friend was the undisputed king of porn gossip, and has given it up for the purity of his soul — a soul who is still drawn to pornography.

I looked around the room and said to him: “Look at all of these people here — it is mostly men, yes? I can guarantee you that there’s at least one, if not many, individuals here who also watch porn. Even as a religious man I do not think it is wrong for you to masturbate. God doesn’t care that you spew forth a few knuckle-babies then and again. To be honest, I think it’s perfectly natural and healthy. What He cares about, if you really believe in Him, is that you are a good to others and try to be the best man you can be. That’s all any of us can really ever do.”

I think perhaps he was momentarily reassured by what I said, but I can imagine that when he is alone with his congregation, or his rabbi, the shame will seep back in and he will feel guilty again. I went home, enlightened somewhat with knowing a bit more about an unfamiliar religion, but happy that I did not feel the pressure to be so pure and chaste. I was glad that the spiritual path I have chosen does not dictate that I adhere to a strict sexual code.

When I arrived home that night, I checked my email before going to bed. Much to my surprise (and delight), I received this email: “Holly, this may seem strange, but did I see you at temple tonight? I am a member of your website and a big fan of your work. I would have come over to introduce myself but I was much too embarrassed to admit how I knew you. Anyhow, keep up the good work, I love your stuff.”

Who knew I could have been so right on? Triumphantly I forwarded the email to my friend. I hoped that if not providing at least some amusement, it would relieve his remorse a little. We are all sexual beings, and it should comfort him to know that even a good Jew masturbates.

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