I received a very shrewd email regarding the YU Beacon controversy, in which the online student-run newspaper lost its affiliation with Yeshiva University and saw one of its co-editors resign after it refused to permanently erase a sexually themed essay. That piece, “How Do I Even Begin To Explain This,” describes a young Orthodox woman’s premarital dalliance with an Orthodox young man in a hotel room. Though not graphic, it does describe a few furtive details, and concludes, “Between the fumbling, the pain, the pleasure, I convince myself that I’ve learned how to make love.”
But has she? One thing the essay doesn’t mention, as my emailer pointed out, is any method of birth control or STD prevention. In the Orthodox community, not all are onboard with contraception; Agudath Israel, for example, protested a New York City campaign to encourage condom use a few years ago. The thinking goes that talking about condoms encourages promiscuity and premarital sex, and premarital sex is verboten. In fact, something like the converse is true: premarital sex is likely to happen, and therefore you may as well discuss condoms, which can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of disease. In allowing the open discussion of premarital sex, the YU Beacon was, in effect, promoting safer sex. But it would have been nice if it had, so to speak, gone all the way in that department.