Friday, October 22, 2004

What does modern Judaism say about prostitution?

What does modern Judaism say about prostitution?
© (1998) By Rabbi David J.B. Krishef 
(Reprinted by permission)

Q: What does modern Judaism say about prostitution? Morally., is it considered wrong or evil? If so, if someone uses a prostitute what should he or she do to make themselves good again in the eyes of G-d?

A: I am sorry that it has taken me so long to respond, but your question required a great deal of careful thought. I decided that the best way to answer is to begin with a general look at sexuality in Judaism.

Unlike within certain forms of Christianity, in Judaism, human sexuality is an unequivocally positive expression of love. In early Catholicism, marriage without sex was desirable; the people with the highest religious commitment - Priests and Nuns - still may not marry. The theoretical underpinning of this attitude towards sexuality is that marriage is a concession to the evil sex drive.

Within Judaism, however, the sex drive is both good and bad. It is essentially a neutral impulse which can be used for good or for evil. But the sex drive is only one aspect of ourselves as people. For adolescents, whose sex drives are awakening for the first time, it may seem like it is the most important aspect of themselves. But mature human beings should see themselves as whole, integrated people. Sex is important, but should only be one way of establishing a relationship with another person. A relationship based entirely on sex, or an expectation of sex, is one in which one or both partners see each other as tools, rather than as full human beings, created in the image of God.

Our sexual activity should flow from our values, shaped by our Jewish heritage. The sexual act is the most intimate physical expression of love, and demands a relationship with a similarly deep, intimate level of commitment. The marital relationship is the only one with such total commitment. In a non-marital relationship, no matter how committed the partners may be to one another, the fact that they have not chosen to formalize the relationship before God and their Jewish community is indicative of the less than total commitment that they have for one another.

Sexuality takes place in an atmosphere of love, commitment, and honesty. A marital relationship, even though in a bad marriage these three components may not always be present, provides the strongest basis for providing such an atmosphere. The marital relationship is also the best setting for the two-fold purpose of sexuality - companionship and procreation.

Prostitution, therefore, is not an acceptable form of sexuality. It lacks any kind of commitment; it treats sex as a comodity, rather than as a deep expression of love; and the prostitute her (him) self is nothing but a tool for sexual activity, rather than a complete human being.

Two final arguments: No method of birth control, short of complete sterilization, is 100% effective. Although Judaism does permit abortion under a wide variety of circumstances involving the physical and/or emotional health of the mother, abortion purely as a means of birth control is absolutely forbidden by Halacha - completely immoral. No one should engage in sexual relations unless they are willing to stay together and raise a child. In addition, it is a mitzvah to protect our bodies from illness and disease, and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases from prostitutes is extremely high.

One who has used a prostitute repents by resolving never to do it again, and then God will forgive the sin.

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