Judaism in its more traditional forms (such as Orthodox Judaism) is a ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (i.e. you must make babies) religion. It does not necessarily mean that one needs to have as many children as possible, but one needs to have at least two. That means that people who follow more traditional forms of Judaism are required to have at least a minimal amount of PIV sex (artificial insemination? I don’t know). On top of that, marriage is so strongly encouraged that it is almost a requirement. Though marital rape is forbidden, withholding sex from a spouse (particularly a wife) long-term is considered to be bad, and could lead to divorce. On the other hand, menstruating Orthodox Jewish women are required to abstain from sex for about two weeks every month. Furthermore, sex should only happen in joy, so for people who are sex-repulsed and can never experience joy during sex … well, I do not know what rabbis would make of that.
I was raised in a secular environment, and I only attended Jewish ceremonies occasionally. My father is not a Jew. All of my living Jewish relatives are either non-religious or have converted to another religion. Eventually, I became an atheist.
Some older people in my Jewish family grew up in an Orthodox Jewish environment. They have a very charged relationship with the religion.
For Israeli Jews (religous or not) the Great Baby Race between the Jews and the Arabs adds tremendous pressure to make babies. Last year, I met an Israeli man (though he comes from a Jewish background, he refuses to identify as a Jew) who moved to Taiwan and plans to stay there. One of the main reasons is that he is committed to staying childfree, which makes interacting with other Israelis … difficult.
When my mother left Israel, she was an unmarried, childless, 30+ year old woman, and she says that she felt there was no place in Israeli society for someone like her. This was a major reason she moved to the United States.
My unmarried, 30+ year old Israeli cousins have also moved to the United States … and my family expects that, even if they do not stay in the USA, they will never move back to Israel.
Okay, too much Israel talk, back to Judaism!
My older relatives who had a much more religious upbringing sometimes react against it by emphasizing that we (the younger people) don’t have to live by the principles that they were raised with – including the one about making babies. I cannot recall a single instance of any of my Jewish relatives even suggesting that I would have children, and when they do comment, it is some form of ‘you don’t have to have children’. Furthermore, they have never suggested that I marry, or even get a boyfriend. It is actually the non-Jewish side of my family which is more inclined to suggest (though always subtly) that I may get a boyfriend/husband and have babies.
My grandfather decided he did not want to marry or have babies, and had rejected at least one marriage offer. Then my grandmother had an unplanned pregnancy, which is how my grandfather got a wife and babies anyway. He grew up in a very religious household, became an atheist at a young age, and ran away from home multiple times because of clashes with his family. Perhaps my grandfather only rejected marriage and babies because he had an extremely unstable life, but based on what I know of my grandfather’s personality, I strongly suspect he was also rebelling against his upbringing.
So … how do I sum all that up? Both Judaism as a religion and Israeli society push compulsory baby-making, which is a form of compulsory (hetero)sexuality, not to mention that Judaism pushes marriage (and a certain level of sex within marriage) independent of procreation. However, my Jewish/Israeli family has an allergic reaction to this, and thus emphasizes that marriage / baby-making / sex are *NOT* compulsory. Even though my family does not openly accept asexuality, I feel pretty comfortable with being asexual in this context, and perhaps this is why I never experienced the sense of being ‘broken’ that many aces experience.
Bonus: Some Information on What My Family Is Like
My grandfather had diabetes for decades. But he loved sweets, and eating sweets was obviously more important than listening to his doctors. And because he had sweets to eat, he wasn’t interested in dying yet. When my family told the doctors about what he was eating, they did not believe us because they said, if he was eating so much sugar, he couldn’t possibly still be alive.
I’ve heard that, towards the end of my grandfather’s life, he had a conversation like this with my mom:
Granfather: Don’t bother coming to my funeral.
Mother: Fine, I won’t.
My mother did not attend my grandfather’s funeral.
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