Sigmund Freud was perhaps one of the few singular geniuses of the modern era. The importance he attached to the sex drive and its impact on all human behavior was revolutionary. One could say that his insights single-handedly changed the way modern man thinks about sex.
Though much of what he taught us has been discredited - I don’t think anyone can deny that the impact of his thinking remains. He opened the door to the present era of sexual freedom and promiscuity that is so prevalent in our world today. His theories combined with the advent of oral contraceptives contributed mightily to the sexual revolution of the sixties.
Religious Jewry has not escaped this phenomenon – no matter how much our rabbinic leaders have tried to isolate us from it.
Rabbi Dovid Landesman in defending the proposition that there may not be ‘a greater level of promiscuity’ today than in the past made the following point:
As an educator who has had literally hundreds of conversations with teens on the subject, I can only tell you that the change that I have noticed - and most of this is in the last decade - is an increasing willingness to admit to being non-shomer negiah. The bushah factor is no longer present in many sectors of our communities, but I am not sure that this indicates a greater level of promiscuity.
What he is in effect saying is that not only is it a problem today - it is not only widespread but it has been that way for a long time. I agree but I also believe that it isn’t only the willingness to admit it that has increased. Incidences of it that have increased as well. Permissive societies are conducive to that whether one isolates oneself from society or not. That value (or lack of it) seeps in. But as Rabbi Landsman also says, "Those who engage are not talking about it!" Except anonymously on the Internet. Getting accurate statistics are therefore difficult if not impossible.
But I think there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that non marital sex in the Frum community is huge! How huge is impossible to determine - but huge nevertheless. Furthermore violations of Hilchos Erva – forbidden sexual practices - isn’t only common in modern Orthodoxy.
Here is some of that anecdotal evidence:
We find Chasidim involved with prostitutes in enough numbers to put them in the background of a brothel scene in a popular television show. This phenomenon was first revealed decades ago by Sidney Biddle Barrows, the ‘Mayflower Madam’.
One does not have to dig too deeply on the Internet to find sites that cater to people interested in Frum extra marital affairs.
And what about the Posek who Matir’d mistresses (Pilagshim) in our day? And the fact that some single women are going to the Mikva so they can be prepared to have casual sex without the severe consequences of violating Issurei Niddah?
That leads me to the following guest post which is more anecdotal evidence of widespread non marital sexual activity in the Frum world. It was written and sent to me by someone involved with Shadchanus (matchmaking) for over 20 years. She allowed me to publish it if I did it anonymously. If this doesn’t tell the story – nothing does.
I have been very active in making shidduchim for the last 20 years. In fact, I've made 10 - all, B"H, very successful. This affords me the position to hear all sorts of things of what goes on in dating.
In my mind that there is A LOT of premarital sex going on. I don't think, for the most part, it is "casual" sex, but rather in more "serious" relationships albeit not committed to marriage yet type relationships.
The issue is simple: The hormones are raging. Singles living alone in a place like the Upper West Side of Manhattan have all sorts of opportunity.
I believe that the single biggest reason why Modern Orthodox singles are having difficulty getting married is because there is no incentive to do so. The women are way too willing to give in to their own hormonal needs. There is also the "competition" factor: Not unlike public high school kids, a young woman starts to feel pressured that if she does not "go along" then the guy will find someone else to date. There is the fear (and many times rightfully so) that by not allowing the relationship to progress along sexual lines, the young lady is depriving herself of a potential marriage partner.
The solution? Singles should be encouraged to live at home with their parents whenever/wherever possible; alternatively (a poor 2nd choice but it does offer some protection) - lots of roommates.
The guy is not bringing his Tefillin unless he is relatively sure he can "score". The young woman has some how sent signals that she would be willing. If this is something as simple as she allowed him to hold her hand or give a good night kiss, the guy knows it's just a matter of time.
This is definitely not just an OU phenomenon. Without going into too much graphic detail, I can tell you that the latest "Bais Yaakov craze" is intensive foreplay sans the "final act".
After hearing what I've heard over 20 years, I am convinced that the solution is to marry them off as young as possible - literally 18 yrs old. It's what I will encourage my children to do. The hormones are just too strong and it defies nature to expect healthy young people to hold off until their mid 20's while they get college, Smicha, whatever out of the way.
Just my opinion based on what I’ve heard so many times.