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Nov 22, 2011


Disclaimer: I want to make it abundantly clear that the following words are not a declaration of what I do, how I will act or my plans vis-a-vis Halachah. It's not about how I feel about Halachah, or Hashem, or my dedication. What follows is purely an expression of longing, of feeling, and of pain.

As a short intro, I'm going to give a bit about my story of deciding to maintain shmirat negiyah. It started when I was a teenager in high school. Becoming super-religious was my version of rebellion. That way, I could look at my parents with righteous indignation and express my frustrations while feeling justified in doing so. I have since outgrown my teenage rage, but there are vestiges of it that I think I still hold onto (or perhaps, that are still stuck to me). I stopped touching my aunts and cousins; all Halachic technicality aside, it's a really tough experience in a Sefardi family. I practically withdrew from everyone -especially females -when it comes to affection. I even stopped hugging my Mother and Sister for some time. It took me a while to get over it, and in some ways I still think I am.

Of all this, the most important thing to note (or rather, the part that I'm focusing on here) is my own withdrawal. Almost like starving myself, pulling away. Even though I've come out of that shell in many ways, part of me resents my early choice and experience of shmirat negiyah. I made it an excuse, (perhaps unintentionally or unconsciously) using it as a tool to push others away. Just to be completely clear, it's not the Halachah that I'm upset over, it's myself.

Because now, I crave touch. I need to be touched. I'm deprived of it, living far from my family, far from those who were so affectionate when I grew up before I pushed them away. It's still taking time to even let them in. Don't get me wrong, I was always a particularly touchy-feely guy and I believe I would still have that strong need, desire and feeling a lack in physical affection.

Most of time, I skate by. Mostly on numbness, because it's the only way not to tear myself apart from the inside. But I can't -and I don't want to -shut out how I'm feeling. Those are the times when I lament being away from family that I can hug just because I want or need one. When I feel frustrated that I'm a guy, and so it's not really acceptable to cuddle, or get a massage, or generally to have lots of affectionate touch, even hugging. More isolation.

Beyond that, I want to be touched by a woman, and one that I'm attracted to, care about and will love. All these things are cumulative. I can't parse them out, but they compound on each other exponentially. Suffice it to say, it's complicated.

For me, right now, it hurts. It's painful, and it's lonely. I can be with friends or on a date, but I'm isolated this way. By an invisible wall, a barrier, a force-field built by Halachah (and culture/society and some of my own ridiculousness) that separates me from the touch I need. And I know I need it like I need food, water and air.

At this very moment, I'm starving, dehydrating and suffocating. I'm experiencing years of withdrawal and deprivation. In my lucid moments of awareness, away from the numbness that has become a stoic refuge from a reality I can hardly face, I have indescribable agony and all I wish is to be tenderly touched, to be shown care and affection and to feel that physical presence, because fundamentally it's how I experience and connect with the world around me. That is how I'm built to feel, and so it represents a gateway to my emotions and my heart.

It's a moment like this that brings the realization of how much it means to tie my hands and hold back the touch I want and need to give too; these are all my expressions of care and affection, building-blocks for connections and a shared understanding of one another through the touch-experience.


  1. Thank you for this post.

    Please repair relationships with your family. It won't necessarily fix the problem of craving touch, but it will be rewarding in other ways.

    I don't really understand shmirat negiyah. I know it is a fence around a fence around the fence of premarital or extramarital sex, but if the fence is crumbling your neshamah, then maybe it is one fence too far. Can you hug a person without initiating a sexual relationship? I have for years, but I still find myself craving touch.

  2. Based on my picture of you from reading all of your posts, my recommendation is that you settle. Find a girl that will have you, and marry her. You clearly desperately need to get married soon. If not touching a girl is causing you as much anguish as comes across in this post, then perhaps you need to relax some of the standards that you're looking for and settle for good enough: A girl with a roughly similar hashkafa who when married will let you touch her.

  3. Whoa. That is intense advice.

    I will comment on my understanding of the reasons for Shomer Negiyah. It's more than just a fence.

    As human beings we are rational animals. Therefore we have two paradigms of relationships: rational and animal. We can have a relationship of mind, two people that respect each other as minds, and are partners in reflecting on themselves and choosing a balanced lifestyle. Or we can have a purely animal relationship, based on lust and physical attraction. The ideal relationship between a man and wife combines both paradigms, with physical satisfaction aiding and deepening a connection that exists beyond the physical.

    The danger is that desire to touch and be touched is a tremendously powerful thing - you describe it well in your post. It is all to easy to fall into a purely physical relationship, to not get to know one another as minds, to rely on physical attraction as the glue that keeps two people together.

    Sometimes physical relationships move so quickly that you're in love and you don't even know each other.

    Me, personally... I have my heart set on a truly human relationship, a partner who respects my thinking and who is committed to personal growth as a couple. I love Shomer Negiyah because, when you can't touch another person, you won't last long if you can't have a good conversation with them. It gives you room to notice the possible conflicts and lacks of compatibility in your personal philosophies and to build a relationship of mind that will only deepen with the addition of a physical component.

    I hope I've expressed that clearly.

  4. Clearly there's a huge struggle about what to DO with all this emotion that's touched a nerve and your responses reflect that preoccupation (though it's not one I put forth or chose to focus on). Maybe that merits an entirely separate post/discussion.

    The level of concern and care for my well being expressed by y'all, particularly through the well-intentioned advice above, is heartwarming, admirable and shows a genuine concern for this issue and myself.

    However, if you have a concern or feel as though you are getting a sense based on a phrase or a theme in my blog, I'd rather you email me and/or express your curiosity privately than make assumptions/speculations about the many elements of my personal life that I intentionally leave out of these pages.

    I do so very much enjoy receiving email with your feedback, it's like getting a hand-made card and note in the mail. Extra points if it's embroidered with original thoughts.

  5. @jprincess

    Give the guy a break. He's just describing something that probably goes on in the minds of most Orthodox Jewish men who haven't slept around.
    We women, when we feel frustrated or heartbroken at a dead-end relationship, we go shoe shopping or eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's and complain to our friends and that pent up energy fades. It's easier for us . . . I imagine not so much so for men.

  6. This is incredible writing. Especially because it speaks to so many. I obviously don't know you or your life circumstance so you can take or leave this but I just wanted to let you know (as I'm sure you well know) that hanging in there is the best possible thing you can do right now. For me, what I do, is focus on how beautiful touching will be with the person I love and who loves me back when the moment comes. Especially after all this buildup of not touching ANYONE else. It's the beauty of shomer negiya. It makes that first touch infinitely more special. All those who I have spoken to who have broken shomer negiyah keep mentioning how much they regret it and how much they admire and envy those who haven't broken it. Good things will come. IyH they will come soon. :)

  7. I support and encourage you to maintain your commitment, but it sounds to me like you need some support and encouragement from outside yourself in order to do so. I really encourage you not to go it alone. This is a tough row to hoe without a good mentor. I don't know where you live, but you need to find someone to help you get through the tough times. It is tough. It is hard. But, I believe it can prepare you for a sacred and loving marriage in which you will no longer need to feel deprived. But, if you just tough it out and come to resent it, it will likely push you off the derech! Good luck, dear friend!

  8. I'm curious to understand what you are objecting to in the comments, Ish Yehudi? Your post is not about asking for advice on what to DO, but a description...but even if I read it as a (great) description of a (common) feeling, I may still feel compelled to *help.

    I do wish I knew what you could do to feel better, without giving up your ideals or "settling."

    The problem is the contradiction in the ideology of SN: Yael says "
    The danger is that desire to touch and be touched is a tremendously powerful thing - you describe it well in your post. It is all to easy to fall into a purely physical relationship, to not get to know one another as minds, to rely on physical attraction as the glue that keeps two people together. " But if your needs are so powerful, you'll end up pushed (psychologically and socially and halachically) to get married quickly, as jprincess actually advises, and then you may actually be more likely to fall into a purely physical, if religiously sanctioned, relationship....and since this would be your permanent relationship, that seems pretty dangerous.

    1. The expectation that I'll get pushed into that relationship is what I object to. It's an assumption. Being forced into a relationship by religion is ridiculous, and essentially bullying.

      Getting married because I'm in pain is more unacceptable to me than violating Shomer Negiah. If push comes to shove and I have to choose one way, I'd be more likely to touch.

      But I don't think those are the only two choices. Which just inspired my next post.

  9. Thank you for opening up your heart to us.

    Have you ever joined a wrestling club, studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or practiced any martial art?

    I'm a frum guy and used to wrestle. It was sometimes hard for me to wipe the post-wrestling smile off my face. :)

    Also, have you never been to a male licensed massage therapist (LMT)? If not, why not? A massage from a professional can relieve stress, aches, and pains; and massage professionals truly are a professional bunch.


    1. At the MetaFilter user named "RokkitNite" adds:

      "Could you work on increasing your tactileness in a non-sleazy way? You know, getting used to shaking hands, patting someone on the back to congratulate them, hugging people when you say hello and goodbye, that sort of thing. Just slowly, increment by increment, work on getting more physical contact in your everyday interactions with friends and colleagues. Learning how to be tactifully tactile, as it were, sends cues to other tactile people that you're comfortable with that, and you'll gradually find yourself getting more of it back."

    2. When you greet someone you know, touch him briefly on the shoulder or on the shoulder blade. There are many people who won't touch you in return, but some will. If someone touches you back, that's a good sign that he likes being touched.

  10. It is reassuring to hear that I'm not the only one who experiences shomer negiah this way... if reassuring is the word I want. I appreciate your insight about how a general desire for touch on a human level is compounded with the specific desire for touch on a partner-bonding level. And it really is physically painful. For what it's worth, being able to hug friends (I'm female; we can do that) doesn't address the pain for me, because I am being careful to hold back lest the depth of my actual desire for touch show through inappropriately. I realize you wrote this a couple of years ago; I hope things have gotten easier by now.