I had forgotten the oh-so-sweet rush that comes from a blog posting- the sense of accomplishment when you look at the torrents of words that have somehow poured forth from your fingertips; the anticipation laced with a bit of anxiety as you wait to see how the world has accepted your offering; the thrill of joy each time you check and see that there is a comment, and the curious suspended excitement as you wait for the page to load. So addictive it is. Enough to stir me from my habitual torpor, actually having something useful to say be darned.
And from that unusually florid introduction onward:
I was talking to one of my roommates about my last post (She reads, apparently, but will not comment, thus necessitating actual verbal dialogue. The horror, the horror.) and we both attributed the shomer negiah phenomenon to reason #2 below: the gap with the values of society.
To elaborate: once upon a time, Jews lived largely among Christians or various ascetic sects and could generally go along with the idea that sex was- generally or entirely- bad. Of course, they realized that sex in marriage was a different story, but then again, so did the Christians and so everybody was happy and halacha developed along lines that fit everybody's values and that was that.
But nowadays, general society has massively different opinions on a number of different fronts. The first is that sex is pretty much alright when done for almost any reason or situation (barring a mutually accepted loveless marriage, which still is somehow very immoral.) The second- and more interesting- is that love justifies all. People in books, movies, real life will do unbelievably silly and/or immoral things under the banner of love and even if it ends tragically for themselves or others, Love is brought out as some ineffable, overarching, incontrovertible justification.
Last year, I attended a shiur in which the speaker suggested (based, I believe on Paradise Lost and C. S. Lewis) one of the most compelling definitions of Avoda Zara that I had ever heard: Idolatry is taking one value or ideal and setting it above everything else- putting it in the place of God. Over the years, there have been idolatries of nationalism, of honor, of nature.
And ever since then, those have been the terms in which I have framed my annoyance with almost all bits of culture out there, from ridiculous paeans to Love like Enchanted to otherwise sensible books. They seem to worship love. But I believe (with the firmness of one who has no personal experience on the issue) that love justifies nothing that is not otherwise justified, and nothing that is overwise justified needs love to justify it. (Including sex.)
The problem is that even for those who intellectually agree with that sentence, I think society's canonization of love makes it difficult to wholeheartedly pledge themselves to a standard that is often going to be in conflict with the all-important Love. And therefore pro-shomer arguments are forced to base themselves on the relatively weak ground that shomer is actually the best servant of Love, rather than the stronger and less arguable point that it is a religious requirement likely formed with little to no interest in what effect it will have on Love, one way or the other.