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The OU Screws Up Sex Ed

Please abstain … from its advice!

Marc Tracy
February 22, 2011
(This Recording)
(This Recording)

Hey, look, it’s the Orthodox Union’s “The First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens.” Get your laughs out now, because the thing ain’t funny. (Okay, okay, the line, “Unlike dogs, lions or lowland gorillas, we can weigh our choices and control our physical urges,” is pretty funny, and the line, “Teens—especially girls—may need many things, emotionally,” is “funny” in the same way watching pregnant women smoke on Mad Men is “funny.”)

But the very same outdated and irrational religious puritanism that drove the site’s existence also renders it, um, impotent. For example, the lead article, “What is Abstinence?” is so afraid to use terms like “oral sex” that it fails to answer its own question. “We will simply define abstinence as refraining from sexual activity,” the site declares, “but we’ll leave it up to each person to determine for his or herself what constitutes sexual activity.” Apparently, when you take the sex and the education out of sex education, you’re left with nothing at all.

Former Tablet Magazine intern Dvora Meyers’s take, which grounds the site (which is a few months’ old) in recent attempts to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, is worth reading in full. In the meantime, maybe it is time for the OU to join the 21st century. Or maybe at least the 20th?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.