Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Jewish Woman and Her Period, Part I

This series of posts was inspired by the talented and beautiful Molly, over at Molly's Daily Kiss. You should check her out. She's on Twitter, too. She lives in the UK, but we can forgive her for that.

I've decided to divide this issue up into two or more posts, because I have a lot to say, and a lot of background information to give. Feel free to skip this stuff if it bores you. No kink here today.

In Jewish Law, there are very strict rules governing when a married couple can have sex. I say married couple, because single people are not supposed to have sex at all. In fact, they are not supposed to touch a member of the opposite sex. Unmarried people who follow the rules prohibiting any form of touching of the opposite sex are called Shomer Negiah. Keep in mind, it doesn't matter how old the single person is, how long they've been "dating" other people, what their plans are for their future long as they are not married, there is supposed to be NO TOUCHING.

(This has led to a true crisis among Orthodox singles, who are growing older and older without finding their "soul mate," and are remaining completely celibate because of it. It is sad, and it is wrong...but I digress.)

Once you are married, of course, you are allowed to have sex. Sometimes.

When a woman is having her period, she is considered a Niddah, one who is unclean, impure, in a state that prohibits her husband from having sexual relations with her. She cannot have relations with her husband until she has counted down the proper number of days of "cleanliness," and then has gone to the Mikvah, the ritual bath. The trip to the Mikvah must be done at night, it must be kept a private matter, and once she returns home, it is considered a positive commandment by God that she have sex with her husband as soon as possible.

The rules surrounding the laws of Niddah have changed over thousands of years, making them even more strict. It used to be that a woman counted seven days from the first day of her period, or until the last day of her period, whichever came last, to go to the Mikvah. Over time, the Rabbis decided that wasn't good enough, and instructed women to count seven days from the last day of her period before she could go to the Mikvah. 

So let's say a woman's period is five days. 5+7=12. So from the first day of her period, she cannot "be" with her husband for the next twelve days. But that works only if her period is five days. If she has ANY fresh blood come out of her vagina, even a smear on the toilet paper, then that is considered another day of her period, and she has to wait another day to start counting the "clean" days.

During the time she is in Niddah, she is not allowed to touch her husband in any way. Yes, you got that. NO TOUCHING. The married couple is expected to sleep separately, or create some sort of boundary between them. They cannot kiss, they cannot hug...he cannot even hand her a cup of coffee, because their fingers might brush together.

Of course, all this changes once she goes to the Mikvah. Then, she is clean, she is ready for the miracle of her husband's sperm, and she is obligated to be a vessel for it once again.

The whole point of this, of course, is to make babies. Because if you know anything about the female reproductive system, you know that a woman ovulates about fourteen days after the first day of her menstrual period. If she starts having sex with her husband on day 12, it is most likely the optimal time to get pregnant.

(Of course, female sperm live longer than male sperm, so typically women who ovulate two days later end up having more girls, which is why you see so many Orthodox families having more girls than boys...but I digress again.)

 The point is, sex between a married couple, at least while the woman's reproductive system is still working, is about making babies. When she has her period she is unclean, she is scorned, she is spiritually looked down upon because she is not pregnant.

This is the education I grew up with. Yeah, you can imagine the hang-ups I had regarding my period. Dirty. Shameful. Sinful. An abomination in the eyes of God.

Next: A Jewish Woman and Her Period, Part II


  1. I learnt something and that is always a good thing. I am looking forward to part II, as I now wondering how you have coped with this and the possible negative effect it has had on your self image and your period. Society/religion has a lot to answer for....


    Ps...Thank you for the link back and shout out.

  2. Your welcome, Molly!! And thanks for the inspiration for the posts. :)