My surname looks Jewish. Its not, and Im not the God in whom I dont believe chose not to honor me in that way. Given my capacity to follow rules, though, thats probably just as well. Keeping kosher is just too complicated. I mean, Ive lived in New York long enough to know that you dont serve bacon cheeseburgers on potato rolls for Passover, although they are awesome. Still, Jewish law covers way more than I ever imagined. Like sex toys.
Despite lots of restrictions on the human body, its display and its use, most sex toys can be kosher. I dont know how, but I have it on pretty good authority, that of Rabbi Natan Alexander who lives in the Judaean Mountains near Jerusalem, that such is the case. The problem is shopping for the various bits of plastic, silicone or whatever. Usually you have shops or websites advertising and selling these products, and they do so by showing risqué pictures and more. In short, they bump up against the no-pornography rules of kosher life.
Rabbi Alexander has launched a website called Better2gether.com that avoids the titillation and vulgarity of the competition. He personally inspects the packaging and contents of the box or whatever the site sells to ensure that it is in harmony with Orthodoxy teachings.
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According to Bloomberg, “Alexander wants to turn his e-commerce startup into the one-stop shop for religious Jews. Better2gether currently takes orders from Israel, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and South Africa. The sites sales are small but growing. Alexander soon hopes to raise about $50,000, a modest sum to fund ongoing development and supplement lost income from his previous job.
Gothamist ran a small piece on a different website that catered to customers with similar concerns, and “KosherSexToys.net has everything from ‘Male Genital Desensitizer’ to lubricant launchers with narrow injectors that make it ‘easy to lubricate the hard to reach places.’ Oh, and glass dildos as low as $18.99! Actually, these are pretty good deals.
The Jewish Week notes, that KosherSexToys.net “is operated out of the Orthodox enclave in Lakewood, N.J., by a self-described ‘pretty frum guy’ named Gavriel (who asked that we not use his last name), a man who wont go ‘mixed swimming’ but has more than 400 sexual products for sale. He says he got into the business, which opened last fall [this was published in January 2012], because he and his wife were looking to buy sex toys and ‘we couldnt find a place where we felt comfortable.’ Too many sites featured ‘crude and disturbing pictures,’ provocative models alongside the products and wording ‘that we normally wouldnt read and would generally stay away from.’ This site claims to only use ‘clean and clinical language.'”
While theres nothing that violates Jewish law going on here, Gavriel said, Just because theres nothing wrong with it, doesnt mean its the kind of thing you want to talk about in shul with your friends.
And suddenly, I had an ecumenical epiphany. Orthodox Jews arent the only ones to whom this might appeal for instance, several states in the Midwest suffer from excessive shyness. Indeed, to be confirmed in the Lutheran church as I was (boy, have I lapsed), a state of almost endless embarrassment about something appears to be mandatory. Sex is a particularly fertile arena for such awkwardness.
Well, guess what? There are similar sites for non-Jews with embarrassment issues. Bloomberg wrote that Christians can choose from an array of wholesome sex shops, such as Covenant Spice, Bedroom Blessings, Married Dance and the Pure Bed. Muslims can buy lubricants and other products that supposedly adhere to Islamic law at El Asiras website and stores.
The whole thing is meshuggah, and it makes me want to plotz.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.