Thursday, August 17, 2017

She made me do it officer

The Talmudic imagination: you got to love it...they boldly went where no men had gone before. One of the Taludic sages Rava ( literally 'the great one' )says in Tractate Yevamot folio 53b, that a man can never be considered forced to carry out a sex act, because an erection comes only willingly. In response Rabah, R. Chiyah and others conceive of bizarre alternative circumstances, such as a man falling from a roof with his erect penis (erect because he was planning on sex with his wife) landing in another woman's vagina. Or someone literally inserting the man's penis (erect because he planned on sex with his wife) into another woman.

Sadly, perhaps, I have not experienced either of these possibly delightful scenarios, but they cum to mind because there is another Jewish legal principle "“ones Rachmana patreh” — that the Torah does not hold a person accountable for an involuntary act. With same sex marriage on the public agenda in Australia at the moment, what is the halachic take on it? Well of course that depends on which authority you ask, and if you shop around Jewdiciously enough you will find one that confirms your world view. ( As is the case with all religions and their adherents.) So if for one individual same sex attraction is involuntary, hard-wired, genetic, then the Torah's explicit prohibition and punishing of homosexual intercourse - presumably penetration - would not apply, but would apply to someone who is bi curious and can seemingly 'choose' between hetero or homosexual relationships.

Rava's claim is that erections are always voluntary, and therefore the male who penetrates another male's body is liable for sanction and punishment. The other rabbis attempt to come up with scenarios where penetration was not a voluntary act. ( "He made me do it officer")
What has always fascinated me about these 1800 year old texts is how all subjects are discussed with equal gravitas, and how creative the arguments and counter arguments are.

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