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The Sages of the Talmud weren’t having any of that incel bullshit

No, you CAN’T talk to her through the fence

By David Futrelle

Incels, as a subculture, have only been around for a relatively short time, historically speaking. But their weird brand of melodramatic sexual entitlement is nearly as ancient as civilization itself. Indeed, incel bullshit has been a thing for so long that it was even addressed in the Talmud.

And the Sages, let’s just say they weren’t having any of it.

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: There was an incident involving a certain man who set his eyes upon a certain woman and passion rose in his heart, to the point that he became deathly ill. And they came and asked doctors what was to be done with him. And the doctors said: He will have no cure until she engages in sexual intercoursewith him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not engage in sexual intercourse with him. The doctors said: She should at least stand naked before him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not stand naked before him. The doctors suggested: The woman should at least converse with him behind a fence in a secluded area, so that he should derive a small amount of pleasure from the encounter. The Sages insisted: Let him die, and she may not converse with him behind a fence.

In other words: Take the hint, dude. You’re not entitled to sex with her. You’re not entitled to see her naked. You’re not entitled to talk with her, even through a fence.

And if the internet had been around back then, the Sages might have added that you’re not entitled to pester her for foot pics on Twitter.

Now, if you read a bit further in the Talmud — here’s a link to the passage in context — you’ll discover there are differences in interpretations as to what this story actually means, which is kind of the whole point of the Talmud in the first place.

I’m obviously no Talmudic scholar — I’m not even Jewish — but it seems to me that at least one of the lessons of the story is that no man is entitled to sex with a woman just because he claims he’ll suffer in some extravagant manner if he doesn’t get it — which is to say, if some woman is somehow convinced or compelled to have sex with him. (Obviously that’s also true no matter what the genders involved are, but just as obviously the Talmud does not go into that.)

In any case, this is a lesson to keep in mind whenever incels or others start insisting they have a right to sex. Or when incel-sympathetic pundits and (supposed) intellectuals start whining about “sexual inequality” or, like Jordan Peterson, suggest that the only way to protect society from male rage is to institute some system of “enforced monogamy” to ensure that even the angriest of the incels can get laid.

In researching this passage from the Talmud, I ran across some people using it to make this exact argument to incels today. A little less than a year ago, one incel Redditor — a regular commenter in the Braincels subreddit — went to the AskFeminist subreddit to complain about what he saw as women’s unfair advantage in the so-called sexual marketplace of the dating world.

“It is obvious that women are the ‘selective’ gender,” he wrote.

They have a lot more success in all online dating : casual and serious. They generally have a much easier time getting laid or finding a partner. This can and does create resentment in some men, especially those struggling in dating … .

Yeah, dude, trust me, we know about your resentment. Everybody knows about your resentment.

The regulars in the AskFeminists subreddit, naturally, challenged pretty much every claim in his post, and then some.

Virtually all the commenters taking apart the incel complainer made good points. But in many ways the most interesting comment came from a woman calling herself Ouruborealis, who worked the story from the Talmud into a long comment that dealt with, among other things, the same sort of entitlement that the Sages so magnificently dismissed.

“No one is entitled to the time or body of another,” she wrote.

No one. … if you get rejected or ignored, move on … Getting bitter and shitty and lashing out and whining about how women are too picky is not a good look– it will not help you get laid.

No, no it won’t.

Feeling entitled to a date or to sex with someone else just because you’re attracted is ugly, by itself … and I just don’t understand how MRA’s, PUA’s, and incels don’t get that. …

[T]hey can’t get a date because women can tell they have this attitude towards them and it’s not fun or appealing to deal with.

No, incels, your lack of a sex life isn’t going to kill you. But acting as if it will, or convincing yourself that your allegedly “involuntary” celibacy is a crime against humanity so uniquely cruel that it justifies violence, either towards others or towards yourself, well, that attitude is going to kill your sex life forever — or at least until you can work through your issues enough that women can’t smell your bitterness a block away.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

I can’t wait for the incels to interpret this exactly the wrong way and start screaming that their inceldom is part of some bizarre Jewish conspiracy to…keep them from getting laid?

It’s definitely something that I’d expect from them.

doomcup
doomcup
3 years ago

Gotta say, this is my favorite headline of any WHTM post ever up to this point.

Also the Talmud is great. It’s basically a bunch of forum threads from ancient rabbis about stuff.

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

They have a lot more success in all online dating : casual and serious.

Do we, though? Or do the majority of us who create profiles get fed up with the non-stop onslaught sickeningly abusive messages we receive from men and give up, making it so that a higher percentage of the remaining women are successful?

doomcup
doomcup
3 years ago

This is my favorite article headline of any article so far.

Also the Talmud rules; it’s like a collection of forum threads from old rabbis.

(I accidentally used the wrong email address, so I guess my first time making this comment got eaten.)

Jewthulhu
Jewthulhu
3 years ago

Oh man. I followed the link to read the whole comment, and it is super good.

The reply to it is not. Do not waste your time, other people who might potentially click that link.

mcbender
3 years ago

How have I never heard of this story before? This is fantastic.

Feels odd to be dabbling in scriptural quotations, but here, have another one: “there is nothing new under the sun”.

Jennifer
3 years ago

Many alt-righters and white supremacists already take for granted that “feminism” is a “Jewish plot” to destroy the white race or whatever; I’m sure they’ll manage to view this as more proof.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

Well, that’s certainly taking “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” seriously.

@Anonymous

I can’t wait for the incels to interpret this exactly the wrong way and start screaming that their inceldom is part of some bizarre Jewish conspiracy to…keep them from getting laid?

At a guess, the argument will go like this: We don’t actually hear the woman’s voice. (Normally, we think this is a good thing, but we can coopt feminist talking points sometimes, like when we want to rag on Muslims for oppressing women.) Anyway, for all we know Stacy there would have really liked to sleep with the sick guy, but the ((((((EBIL JOOOOOOZZZZZ)))) cockblocked him and boxblocked* her.

The fact everybody in the story is Jewish won’t occur to them.

* This is only one of the terms I’ve heard as an equivalent to “cockblock.” You may prefer another.

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
3 years ago

the Talmud is great. It’s basically a bunch of forum threads from ancient rabbis about stuff.

So. Much. This.

I remember when my ex was doing some serious talmud study and would share with me all the good bits that I hadn’t read (and some that I had). Good times.

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

Well, that’s certainly taking “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” seriously.

Not really, though? One is saying you aren’t owed anything from a woman just because you want it. The other is saying you shouldn’t even desire* it.

*I know there are some other interpretations, but from what I understand, this is the most widely accepted.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
3 years ago

a certain man who set his eyes upon a certain woman and passion rose in his heart, to the point that he became deathly ill.

I…guess it’s possible for unrequited love to affect your health, but not to the point of retiring to bed and citing a mysterious “deathly illness” for which, equally mysteriously, the only cure is the affections of the beloved. Good for the Sages for shutting down that attempt at emotional manipulation.

Why is when someone says “give me X, or I will harm you/myself/random strangers”, if X is money or property it’s called extortion and everyone agrees we don’t negotiate with terrorists, but if X is a woman’s body suddenly we’re expected to sympathize with the poor victim making the demand?

I mean, we all know the answer (money and property are considered valuable, women’s bodies are not) but it’s just interesting how this line of moral reasoning suddenly shuts down when an opportunity for sex is involved.

Bina
3 years ago

They have a lot more success in all online dating : casual and serious. They generally have a much easier time getting laid or finding a partner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2MPoqqzwdY

That’s funny, because this feeeeemoid has had so remarkably little success at it that I’m half tempted to call myself an incel.

I don’t, though, because the volassholes have totally ruined that term. Just like they do with everything else they touch.

Aonymous
Aonymous
3 years ago

I should add that while the sages of the Talmud were hardly feminists, they were far more fair to women than anybody else at the time. For example, women in Jewish law were never property. They had many legal rights including no forced marriage, the right for alimony in case of divorce, etc.

While polygamy was technically legal, of all the hundred of sages of the Talmud we know only of two or three who had two wives. I exclude the “polygamist” Rabbi Yehuda Ha’Nassi, who “married” and immediatelly “divorced” some poor women during a famine, to have a socially acceptable excuse to give them “alimony” and thus save them from starvation!

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
3 years ago

Tangentially related, I’ve sometimes seen libertarians on Twitter argue that “healthcare can’t be a right” because then you’d theoretically have a right to enslave other people as healthcare workers. (Or at least I think that’s what they meant)

Well, yeah. I’d be willing to accept conscription, if there was no other way to recruit healthcare workers. I’m sort of willing to accept even military conscription, which is more than a theoretical issue, and arguably necessary in some circumstances. It’s another matter whether you could actually get any decent healthcare services out of conscripted people. It’d likely be a rather desperate “better than nothing” solution.

And no, sexual deprivation isn’t remotely like healthcare deprivation. And yes, the argument I refer to above is a blatant attempt to distract from the question of how to fund healthcare.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
3 years ago

Let him die?

But . . . why can’t his entirely unreasonable requests — or even just one of them — be fulfilled instead?

Miri
Miri
3 years ago

As a Jew myself, I can confirm that every Jew in the world is in on a plot to deny incels* sex.

*my phone autocorrected incels to insults, which I think is very accurate

TheKND
TheKND
3 years ago

@Miri

Talk about a low-bar conspiracy… I mean… do you even have to do anything to help women realize not to touch these creeps?

Joseph B
Joseph B
3 years ago

I’m obviously no Talmudic scholar — I’m not even Jewish — but it seems to me that at least one of the lessons of the story is that no man is entitled to sex with a woman just because he claims he’ll suffer in some extravagant manner if he doesn’t get it — which is to say, if some woman is somehow convinced or compelled to have sex with him.

Here’s the fun thing, speaking as someone that is Jewish.

This passage has one other aspect of context that really brings it home. In Jewish law, all “Thou Shall Not”s are suspended in order to save a life. It’s called pikuach nephesh, and essentially, if you can identify a specific person whose life is in danger if you do not break the laws, then that life supersedes the Law.

Eat pork or stave? Eat the damn pork.

Work on Sabbath or die? Work.

Someone about to murder someone else? “Thou Shall Not Kill” just went out the window: stop that killer by any means necessary, upto and including killing him. (Btw, in this context, rape is classified as the same as murder, so you are allowed, by Jewish law, to fatally wound attempted rapists before they complete the act if that is what is necessary to stop them)

And in that specific Talmudic case, note what the specific back and forth between the doctors and the sages says:

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: There was an incident involving a certain man who set his eyes upon a certain woman and passion rose in his heart, to the point that he became deathly ill. And they came and asked doctors what was to be done with him. And the doctors said: He will have no cure until she engages in sexual intercoursewith him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not engage in sexual intercourse with him. The doctors said: She should at least stand naked before him. The Sages said: Let him die, and she may not stand naked before him. The doctors suggested: The woman should at least converse with him behind a fence in a secluded area, so that he should derive a small amount of pleasure from the encounter. The Sages insisted: Let him die, and she may not converse with him behind a fence.

The doctors say: “He’ll die.”

The rabbis say, “Pikuach Nephesh doesn’t apply. She does not have to compromise herself for his sake.”

Just to bring home the full and total context of this statement.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

>>>>>Someone about to murder someone else? “Thou Shall Not Kill” just went out the window: stop that killer by any means necessary, upto and including killing him. (Btw, in this context, rape is classified as the same as murder, so you are allowed, by Jewish law, to fatally wound attempted rapists before they complete the act if that is what is necessary to stop them)

This is known as “din rodef”, the “law of the pursuer”, i.e., of someone who threatens to kill or gravely harm you. It is legal to kill them if there is no other way to stop the harm.Interestingly, the fetus is legally a “rodef” – they are treated as if they were pursuing the mother with intent to kill her, because pregnancy and, especially, childbirth were at the time dangerous. It is therefore allowed to kill the fetus to save the mother’s life.

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
3 years ago

This is fascinating stuff. Thank you, Joseph B, for the greater context.

doethreetwoone
doethreetwoone
3 years ago

@Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)

I’ve sometimes seen libertarians on Twitter argue that “healthcare can’t be a right” because then you’d theoretically have a right to enslave other people as healthcare workers

As much as I love some aspects of libertarianism (especially respect for the autonomy of others as a key moral principle), that is just silly.

In same token, I guess:

-Voting can’t be a right, b/c it would mean enslaving elections workers;

-Trials cannot be a right, b/c it would mean enslaving judges; and (related) JuryTrials cannot be a right b/c it means enslaving your “peers”.

Bluecat
Bluecat
3 years ago

Thank you for filling in the context Joseph B. Great to have that perspective.

it’s a wonderful story – and David, a truly great headline.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
3 years ago

Speaking of Jewish here’s a story of a woman who saved her rabbi from a antisemitic white male terrorist.
https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/april/lsquo-hero-rsquo-synagogue-victim-died-saving-her-rabbi

and Here’s a orthodox Jewish woman who got online misogynistic hate for just wearing a freaking wig.
https://nypost.com/2018/09/09/orthodox-jewish-women-slammed-for-wearing-slutty-wigs/

and another antisemitic attack
https://nypost.com/2018/11/08/man-arrested-for-ripping-wigs-off-orthodox-jewish-women/

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
3 years ago

@Joseph B:
I don’t know that I’d heard the term for it before, but I have heard pikuach nephesh come up before in terms of vaccination debates. Sort of ‘yes, the vaccines are often cultured in cell lines that shouldn’t have been collected the way they were, and yes, there’s often gelatin from pig’s hooves involved as a culture medium, but the good they do in saving lives is more important than that’. Accept the not-as-clean-as-we’d-like vaccines while still looking for better methods.

And yes, as you say, that definitely adds another layer of context to this. Some of which may just be ‘yeah, he can find another hobby’. After all, even if he dies, it’s his own personal obsession that killed him, not any action or lack thereof from the woman.

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