This post by Yedid Nefesh got me thinking about the male sexual impulse. While I've been thinking about addressing male sexuality, that's a whole other topic. However, in reference to the male impulse for sexual contact and sexual release, I have a metaphor.
Imagine having to fast for a day. Many of you may not have to imagine, and know some of the challenges that come with it and those feelings of weakness, headaches, stomach aches, hunger, thirst, inability to focus, exhaustion... that tell us our body is in need of nourishment and drink. In a sense, it is a kind of withdrawal, all those powerful physiological alarms that tell us that our body requires care.
For some, fasting for a day isn't terrible. Imagine having to fast for two consecutive days, or three, without any opportunity to eat or drink. What about fasting for a full week? A month? A year?
A person would die long before then.
The male sexual impulse is often compared to hunger or thirst. It's a need that does not simply go away after being filled once, or once in a while. The body sends out powerful physiological reminders and alarms reminding us that we need care.
And yet, we are told not to until marriage. So, from the age of about 13 until our 20's at the very least, we're starved. Can you imagine living for seven years without food? Without water? If we were forced or kept alive, but had to live with that kind of starvation... it is a form of torture.
For many observant men, it gets worse. We are told we cannot touch. And, in many ways, we can't look. But it's there. Women are on the street, in stores, on the roads. Beautiful and tempting... and we are hungering. All the time. All. The. Time.
(From this perspective, I can understand the extreme divisions. I don't agree with them, for a great many reasons, and I don't find this reason sufficient to justify the extreme measures and lengths, but that's just my own little mind.)
To try and understand what it takes for a man not to act on that impulse, that hunger, that torture, is to understand how every moment -from moment to moment -that he does not give in he is producing miracles, engaging in the most exalted acts of heroism and moving mountains in restraining himself.
Put him in a relationship or dating a woman, and you've multiplied his difficulty exponentially, especially when the couple find each another attractive.
Maybe I'm just too much a disciple of Rav Levy Yitzchack of Bardichev, but for every moment that a man restrains himself -especially under this kind of pressure -he builds tremendous merit for himself. It is a test that is passed for each and every second of restraint. I don't count the number of times it's broken, but the number of seconds it's maintained, and the dedication to maintaining that restraint.
It's a perspective I think can only be gained by understanding the forces at work. Understanding it without having to experience it is perhaps, shall I say, difficult.