Sunday, February 26, 2006

Society's Preoccupation with Homosexuality and Brokeback Mountain

First of all, I credit the "My Urban Kvetch" blog for linking me to this video. The link is here or here:

I don't get it what today's society's preoccupation is with gay people and gay relationships. I have had close male to male relationships which were friendships, not sexual relationships in any way. I've slept in bed with men, hugged men, hung out with men, but I've never even considered anything close to a sexual relationship with them.

I used to have a girlfriend who wanted me to go to a gay bar and to hook up with a man in front of her just so she can see the experience of two men kissing. I never did it, nor did I ever consider it.

In law school, our Jewish association wanted to have a gay rights presentation. I told them it was not appropriate from a Jewish perspective. When they challenged me about my anti-gay mentality, I told them that Judaism was about promoting sexual morality [through Taharas HaMishpacha (family purity laws), Niddah, and laws of sexual relations (just to name a few)], and just as a man is not allowed to be sleeping around with women and having sexual thoughts about women, so too men are not allowed to be sleeping around with men and having sexual thoughts about men. They are both forbidden by the Torah. Further, it's the same desire, and Judaism in both cases says "control yourself."

My friend came back to me and said, "But at one point it becomes moral for a woman and a man to be together sexually; for men and men it will always be forbidden," to which I retorted crudely that both men and women have very similar anatomies. Homosexuality is a preference of one over the other.

Forgive me for quoting the Lubavicher Rebbe in the same blog entry as my comment in the above paragraph, but he stated it the best that when it comes to homosexuality, nothing comes of it. It is simply not useful.

Just as in so many things in Torah, from a homosexual's point of view, this is simply not fair. However, to a pork lover, kashrut laws are not fair. To a man who desires to be with many women, the laws of monogamy and marriage are not fair. Torah calmly tells us what is right and what is wrong. The message regarding homosexuality among many other things is simply "control yourself." Argue if you must.

However, from a shallow point of view, I thought the video clip was very amusing. It captures the best scenes which really bring out the relationship between Doc Brown and Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movies [which happen to be my favorite movies of all time]. I commend the person who took the time to make such a spoof on the Brokeback movie.

By the way, I refuse to go see such a movie. It's a waste of time and promoting homosexuality for Jews is against Torah which would make this movie a treife movie for me. As for non-Jews, enjoy the movie. I don't think the homosexuality rules apply to you, although many religions have taken them on voluntarily. I need not mention priests and little boys. That's a problem of its own. The problem there is not the homosexuality, it is the abuse of a child. Not my fight.

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Robbie said...

To start, Brokeback Mountain really doesn't promote homosexuality. In fact, it's almost a cautionary tale, because the two main characters live false lives, in despair and depression through most of the film. There is no happy ending, no push for anyone to become gay.

Your position of homosexuality as a choice is quite easy for you to make, as you are a striaght man and hard-wired as such. It doesn't make sense to you to be sexually attracted to a man, in fact, from what I've gathered, the thought of it is repulsive to you.

From my perspective, a sexual though about a woman ills me in much the same way. I've tried, trust me I've tried, to think typical "red-blooded American male" thoughts, but to no avail. Try as much as I did, there was no denying the feelings I had - this was the way that God had created me, whether I liked it or not.

I'm not going to argue the points in your post - it is almost moot because you believe that human sexuality is a choice. I'll let you know, though, that sexual morality, monogomany, the desire to live a committed Jewish life and raise Jewish children - in a religious environment - isn't the foreign idea you infer it to be in our commmunity.

You mention that "...nothing comes of [homosexuality]. It is simply not useful." The same can be said for the union of a barren man or woman with another or a fertile person. Judaism allows, and in many cases encourages, marriage for the sake of love, for the sake of companionship.

A God that desires for His people - even just one of them - to live a life that is unfulfilling, void of love, companionship, or happiness - that is no God of mine.

Zoe Strickman said...

Putting the homosexuality issue aside, and assuming that I am wrong and it is a genetic thing, if G-d created you that way then there must have been a purpose. None of us are given challenges unless we have the inner strength to handle them.

It is important not to "throw the baby out with the bath water." Obviously you're here on a Jewish site, so your Jewish soul (which is just as important as mine) is reaching out to find a connection and meaning. Your sexual orientation shouldn't put blinders on the rest of your Jewish identity.

It is just more difficult for you because you are faced with a challenge that some people equate with the center of their existence. They don't call it yesod for nothing.

Whether I am right or wrong about sexuality being a preference (and please forgive me for my opinionated and crude answer), it is important to find the balance within your own life so that you can come as close to Torah as possible.

The sexual prohibition against males having relations while important is only one of many commandments that can be kept. Other important commandments for a male are to put on Tefillin every day, to keep Shabbat, and to keep kosher. Just because you break one commandment does not negate your Jewish identity. You are still a Jew and your Jewish soul still has a need for you to do mitzvahs for it to be nourished. -Zoe

Robbie said...


I agree about God creating us all with challenges we can handle - and I believe mine is to help others see that I'm not an abomination.

You've inferred incorrectly about my observance, as it turns out - I'm shomer shabbat, shomer kashrut and a regular davener.

I don't believe that sexuality is central to my existence - but as much as we can attempt to deny it, sexuality is a huge part of who we are as people and as Jews. It's all a matter of the approach.

And as much as I don't like it, yes, male-male sexual relations are forbidden Toraically, but there are times - and this is where you and I are sure to disagree - that the law is simply wrong. There have been other laws throughout history that are Toraic that have been negated by Rabbeim, I believe that this is another instance of necessity.

And when it comes down to it, all I'm looking for out of life is probably the exact same thing as you: to find my soulmate, to raise Jewish children and to lead a positive and fulfilling life.

It's just that my kids are going to have two abbas.

java bean rush said...

I just found your site.
What's your classification in law school?

Zoe Strickman said...

(3L, studying for the bar exam).

The real me said...

Nice post.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Robbie--What other parts of the Torah have been found by Rabbeim to be "wrong?" I support civil unions for gay people (well, I support civil unions for all people, I don't believe the government should be in the marrying business...) but I have a hard time rectifying my desire for homosexuals to have the same legal footing as heterosexuals and what the Torah says. I had resigned myself to living with that logical inconsistency, but I would be interested in hearing about a way in which both beliefs could be alligned in an intellectually satisfying way.

Robbie said...

Without research, for now, both slavery and polygamy come to mind - although in those cases it's making the law stricter, rather than more lenient.

BrownsvilleGirl said...

"My friend came back to me and said, "But at one point it becomes moral for a woman and a man to be together sexually; for men and men it will always be forbidden," to which I retorted crudely that both men and women have very similar anatomies."

Okay, so you changed what you previously wrote, which was something along the lines of "an asshole is an asshole," right? Because I didn't respond right away, but I do want to now. You changed the way you phrased it, but if you're still thinking the same way, I want to point something out. You can kiss anyone, male or female, and their lips are just lips. But whose do you want to kiss? Sure, people can always turn off lights and pretend that the person they're engaging in anal sex with is a male, but if it's a female (and mind you, male and female backs are very different, so there's no mistaking one for the other), the guy might not even be able to get into it. It's not appealing to him. What's appealing to him is being with a male, not just a tush. Anyway, I just wanted to say that.

a s e said...

I'm gonna point out here that the Torah has very little to say about homosexuality. In fact, the Torah says nothing about it. The Torah prohibits male-male anal intercourse. That's it.

I feel strongly that as uncomfortable as this topic makes some people, we should all keep our halachic minds on while discussing it.

And there's a big difference between Issurim de-Oraita and Issurim de-Rabanan when it comes to their social implications, halachic ramifications, and the leeway according Rabbanim historically to deal with both.

a s e said...

(accorded, not "according")

All of this becomes relevant when you start discussing the lives of real people, which is what any discussion of "homosexuality" is.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Robbie--It seems like slavery and poligamy were only reluctantly allowed in the Torah while sex between two males is clearly and unequivocably verboten. Also, as you point out, there is a big difference between making the law more strict than relaxing it. A lot of halacha is putting up proverbial fences around certain activities to make sure that people don't accidentally violate the law. But I can't really think of one instance (although I am in no way, not even close, an authority) where Orthodox Rabbis said, "you don't really need to follow that part of the Torah anymore."

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I agree with Ba'al Teshuva that the government should get out of the issue of marriage altogether. Marriage is a religious concept, where's the separation of religion and state?

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

where's the separation of religion and state?
Don't get me started. There is no such thing.

Robbie said...

BT -

Anal sex between to males is expressly forbidden, but that's pretty much where it stops.

Stacey said...

Every day science is getting closer to proving that homosexuality is genetic. There was a study published last week out of UCLA identifying a certain behavior of the X-chromosome in mothers who have more than 1 homosexual child.

I cannot stand the closed-mindedness of the Orthodox world. And even in the Conservative movement if it discovered that a student in rabbinical school is gay, they are kicked out. What complete BS!

I don't care that the Torah forbids homosexuality. I believe that the Torah is man-written, not the ultimate word of God. I don't believe homosexuality is a sin (incidentally, I am hetero).

Brokeback Mountain was a beautiful, heartbreaking movie. I hope it sweeps the Academy Awards. It deserves to.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Anal sex between to males is expressly forbidden, but that's pretty much where it stops.
This might be an ignorant question, but is it common among gay men to refrain from having anal sex while still maintaining other forms of sexual intimacy with their partner?

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Stacey--You're unlikely to make much headway with those sort of arguments on a website maintained by a Chabadnik and frequented by Orthodox or trying-to-be Orthodox Jews. To be honest, it only makes you and your arguments look bad to resort to overly-emotional diatribes againt Orthodox Judaism. If I wasn't trying to keep my real identity a secret I'd link you to an open letter I wrote to the gay rights crowd about how to better persuade conservatives and religious people. ;-)

Robbie said...

BT -

In a word: Somewhat.

There are plenty of men who do refrain from anal sex for whatever reason (discomfort, dislike, health risks, etc). I'm sure you know there's plenty of other stuff that's possible.

Compare it to a Hetero couple having vaginal sex - it's one part, and a centerpiece, at that, but it's by no means the end-all be-all of straight sex.

(If it is, though, you should talk to someone - life gets boring after a while, no?)

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Robbie--Thanks! :-)

Stacey said...

I'm not trying to make headway into anything. I am merely expressing my opinion.

The Orthodox movement has serious problems. Serious ones. My grandfather broke from ultra-Orthodoxy years ago and I am glad he did.

Aside from the intolerance of homosexuality, that movement is not for me for many reasons.

I would never belong to a branch of Judaism where I cannot receive aliyot, be counted for a minyan or read Torah.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. Orthodoxy and all it's flavors account for less than 10% of American Jewry.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

Stacey--Allrighty then. Thanks for sharing. Silly me for thinking that respect for differing viewpoints was a good thing. :-/

Stacey said...

You are so uptight. I respect the right of any Jew to affiliate with whatever movement they wish. One size does not fit all. I was merely stating my opinion of the Orthodox and Conservative views of homosexuality and why I take issue with those.

a s e said...

To Stacey -

What sort of reaction were you looking for from your comments? Did you expect a productive one, just just a cycle of disrespect?

To Ba'al Teshuva -

There's no parallel for the homosexual of straight sex. Biologically, human beings are built for the male sex organ to fit into the female sex organ. But looking at the whole picture, a person is attracted to another person, not to a hole or a plug. When someone has a sexual orientation that contradicts the male-in-female design, they have a bunch of options for showing their love physically, depending on the kind of preferences and concerns mentioned by Robbie. Gay man doesn't necesarily imply anal intercourse. (Neither does "gay sex" for that matter)

trm said...

Stacy, While one size might not fit all, most of the non orthodox today are that way because they were raised that way, not because they tried both and picked how they want to live.

For the first 200 years of Jews in America, almost all of them were orthodox Jews.

Along those same lines, I think we should ban all god believing religions because the god that they claim made this world made it impossible for me to give birth to children among other things.

Ahuva said...


Forgive me, but after reading your post about your grandfather, I wonder if you might be carrying around a little too much emotion to really deal with these issues logically? There are many ways to understand Orthodoxy other than the amazingly negative depiction you and I were subjected to in our youth. Have you read any books by Blu Greenberg? She has a very interesting way of reconciling feminism with Orthodoxy. She's not cannon, but it's a good way to see that there really is a positive side to Orthodox Judaism and that there's more than one way to look at the laws.

As other people have already said, the Torah says that male-male anal sex is forbidden, not homosexual attraction. I really didn't like Brokeback Mountain as a movie. It was so sad... and the depiction of homosexual love didn't resemble anything I would think of as "love." While heterosexual relations can be as emotionally violent as what they showed in Brokeback Mountain, I didn't think anyone would consider that "good" or "healthy" in a relationship. It was horribly sad.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

You are so uptight. I respect the right of any Jew to affiliate with whatever movement they wish. One size does not fit all. I was merely stating my opinion of the Orthodox and Conservative views of homosexuality and why I take issue with those.
Me? Uptight? You've got to be kidding. My definition of repectful does not involve putting down others' beliefs, that all.

Shiri said...

Zoe, would you care to explain why you did not delete Stacey's comment? seriously, do you welcome this ultra-liberal typing diarrhea?

Robbie said...

Shiri -

The hardest part of an honest conversation is listening to those who think differently than you. How will you ever further yourself if you don't listen to what others have to say?

It's important to know what's out there and not shut yourself off to the world. But something tells me that's exactly what Stacey was talking about...

Zoe Strickman said...

I didn't delete Stacey's comments because they are her opinions and they must be respected even if I disagree with them.

There have been many people who have been hurt by orthodoxy and who mistakenly associate their bad feelings with Judaism as a whole.

From what I have learned and not based on my own emotions or my own opinion, I reject the comments above stating that the Torah was man-written (per Stacey), the belief that the Torah contains errors [such as homosexuality and slavery] (per Robbie), along with the many comments above making distinctions between anal sex and other sexual male activities. It's a tough thing to deal with or to reconcile, but male-male sexual relations are a no-no. If I remember correctly, I think the verbiage is that "a male may not lie with a male." So there is nothing there about anal sex, kissing, preferences, or liking a man's back over a woman's back. From what I have learned, homosexuality between males is simply not allowed.

I do want to stress that a practicing homosexual damages his own Jewish soul and the Jewish soul of his partner. However, according to all opinions, he is still a Jew and must be respected as one.

I have more to say, but I will post it as a new blog post because this post is getting close to 30 comments which is intimidating for anyone to read. I do want to commend those who have made comments. I have read them all very carefully. -Zoe

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't expect this to be posted but here goes.

Food for thought: Why is everyone so fired up about this brokeback mountain movie? It really hasn't done all that well in the theaters anyways. The numbers I've seen say its only made about 76 million. The powers that be say that a movie needs to make 100 million to be a blockbuster so why was it even nominated? In fact, all the movies nominated for best picture made even less than BBM. And most people I've talked to say they have not and will not see it.
This is a clear cut case of the liberal agenda trying to force their homosexual opinion on us. And I for one am sick of it. Homosexuality goes against nature and God. You ever see two bucks doin it in the woods? And Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. I mean really, how much more proof do you need? Call me narrow minded if you wish. Personally, I don't care. I don't claim to be perfect by any means, I'm a sinner just like the rest of you but at least I know what sin is and homosexuality is a sin period. And I for one am sick of seeing it on TV, in politics (gay marriage) and now in the movies. GIVE IT A REST PEOPLE, IT'S WRONG!!!!
One more thing. The Chronicles of Narnia made over 300 million and wasn't nominated for best picture. HMMMMMMM, makes you think don't it?