The New Drug
A rabbi and a priest sat next to each other on a train from Kiev to Warsaw. At lunch, the priest pulled out a bacon sandwich and offered a half to the rabbi.
“No, thank you,” said the rabbi, “It’s against my religion to eat bacon.”
“Tell me the truth, rabbi,” asked the priest. “Have you really never had any bacon?”
Considering that he will never see the priest again, the rabbi decided to divulge his secret.
“Yes,” he said. “When I was young, I was alone in a strange town, and I was tempted to try it, and so I had bacon for the first and last time in my life.”
As the train came to a stop at Warsaw Rail Station, and the companions bid their good-byes, the rabbi politely said, “Best regards to your wife.”
“But I am not married,” explained the priest. “It’s against my religion.”
“Have you never had relations with a woman?”
“Well, truth be told, when I was young, I met a girl and we fell in love, and on one occasion I succumbed to the temptation and we were intimate,” confessed the priest.
The rabbi looked at him inquisitively. “Tell me, father. Sex sure beats bacon, doesn't it?”
We all have our temptations, and many of us had had an episode of giving in to them. It is especially true for the temptations of the sexual nature. In fact, those who have “experimented” with unsanctioned sexual behavior likely outnumber those who, being otherwise frum, have fallen for bacon. Combine this with raging hormones and natural curiosity of adolescents, and it is almost a given that a lot of young, frum men do not enter marriage nowadays with knowledge gained solely in chosson schmoozes. Sex is out of the box, and except for the most isolated of us, sexual or sexualized information comes at us from everywhere. I once took my then-five-year old son to a barber. Being that he had just started to read, he read everything that had letters on it. “Ta, what does ‘sexiest’ mean?” he shocked me by asking. Times Magazine’s “sexiest man of the year” was staring at us in the most innocuous of places – a barber shop!
We can't pretend that our children don’t see the magazine covers, don't pass by bench advertisements, or don’t drive past billboards that put sex words and sex acts in their proper context. We can't shut this stream down even as we try our hardest to prevent them from watching TV, going to the movies, or checking out “that book” at the library. As our children mature sexually, even the most “removed” of them will seek out information on sexual topics. And if we are too squeamish to provide them with this information, they will get it from peers or from the environment. This is a natural developmental stage and most of us have been there, done that. This, by itself, is not bad news.
The bad news is, that unlike when we were growing up and furtively looking up words like “puberty” or “intercourse” in the encyclopedia, there is a new player in the field of sexual education. Its name is Internet (I know, you knew THAT). It’s ubiquitous and it’s omniscient. And the worst news is, it offers a very graphic, very detailed, and very distorted crash course in human sexuality in the form of pornography. I know you knew this, too. But I wonder if you knew that according to a recent documentary, 90% of 8 to 16-year olds have watched pornography on the internet? And Stephanie Carnes, the president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, reports that 75% of 14 to 17 year-olds view pornography regularly.
Do you think religious youth have been spared? You may be right. I don’t know of any statistics that tell us how many frum teenagers have seen “schmutz”, as we call it, on their electronic devices. All I know that over 1,300 members, or about 20% of total membership, on the GuardYourEyes.org website are 14 to 17 year olds. These 1,300 are courageous young men from religious families who are searching for help with breaking the porn habit. And it is a known fact that teens are much less likely than adults to seek out help with their porn problem, so the percentage is obviously much higher. So can we afford to dismiss this problem as secular or “goyish”?