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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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Steven I Dutch
Steven I Dutch
3 years ago

Given the mores in the Middle East, I’ll bet anything the story has a lot less to do with respect for the woman than with the “property rights” of whichever male is her “guardian.”

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

@steven I Dutch

Well that wasn’t a racist assumption at all.

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

@Lainy
Yeah, not even a little surprised to see that coming from Steven Dutch.

Kimstu
Kimstu
3 years ago

@Lumipuna:

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)

Ask them how their “reasoning” applies to the “right to a speedy and public trial” enumerated in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution for those accused of a crime, with said right including the accused’s right “to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence”.

If we can “theoretically” “enslave other people” as lawyers and judicial-system workers in order to ensure a universal right to a fair trial, then we can “theoretically” “enslave other people” as healthcare workers in order to ensure a universal right to healthcare.

There are many other aspects of Constitutionally guaranteed rights that also implicitly assume the necessary cooperation of other people in ensuring those rights. Libertarians tend not to realize this because libertarians are generally pretty shit at logical reasoning.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
3 years ago

Wasn’t Steven Dutch banned?

Talonknife
Talonknife
3 years ago

I like libertarianism in theory – the principle of only doing things that people consent to doing is great. However, in practice, I’ve seen libertarians argue in all sincerity that it’s morally justified to sell heroin to children because the child consents. To paraphrase Groundskeeper Willie, “Damn libertarians, they ruined libertarianism!”

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

In theory I like some parts of libertarianism. In practice they’re just entitled white dudes with “economic anxiety” who don’t think they should have to pay for the infrastructure they use.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
3 years ago

Certainly no white western cultures treat women as the property of their fathers and husbands.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
3 years ago

Steven
There’s male guardianship in America (Turtle Island) too. Including having to get a man’s permission to get a haircut in Michigan.
https://71republic.com/2019/02/10/5-sexist-laws-united-states-2/
So this is a man’s problem worldwide and not just the middle east.

Specialffrog
Specialffrog
3 years ago

I don’t really get the difference between libertarianism and oligarchy. Or plutocracy more specifically.

Amy E
Amy E
3 years ago

While I appreciate the passage in context, I note that at no point does anyone ask the woman herself what she wants to do. Of course, I suspect that horrible penalties would beset her, married or unmarried, were she to choose to have casual sex – whether to save someone’s life, or for any other reason. She doesn’t have any agency, any choice of her own. Am I missing something here?

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

@Amy E
I didn’t take it that way at all. In my opinion, it was reinforcing her agency. I mean, the way it’s tranalated in David’s post makes it sound like they’re saying she’s not allowed to make that choice, but if it were put into more modernized phrasing my understanding, especially with some of the context provided in this thread, is that it would say something more like “she doesn’t have to” rather than “she may not.”

Leum
Leum
3 years ago

Pikuach nefesh doesn’t apply in three cases: murder, adultery/sexual immorality, and idolatry. That is, you can’t murder someone to save your own life (except in self-defense or defense of others as discussed above), can’t commit adultery even if you’ll be killed for not doing so, and can’t worship idols if the penalty for abstaining is death (although this last one gets complicated). In this particular story, the rabbis aren’t arguing that the woman doesn’t have to have sex because she doesn’t want to, her desires are irrelevant; she can’t have sex with him because they’re not married and they can’t get married because the rabbis think the man specifically wants the illicit pleasure of fornication.

Richard Smith
Richard Smith
3 years ago

@Leum: In those cases, it can be resolved with the help of a detective pikuach.

Dalillama
Dalillama
3 years ago

@Lumipuna

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)

Yeah, right-libertarians like to gas on about ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ rights, based on whether the right in question is one they support or not. ‘Negative’ rights are things like free speech and gun ownership, which supposedly don’t require anyone to do anything in order to have them, ‘positive’ rights are things like healthcare, housing, and anything else the provision of which would disrupt the capitalist paradigm.

@Talonknife

I like libertarianism in theory – the principle of only doing things that people consent to doing is great.

They have a very funny idea of what does and doesn’t constitute coercion. To wit, they claim that any arrangement in which one party is not literally putting a gun in the other’s face is purely voluntary.

However, in practice, I’ve seen libertarians argue in all sincerity that it’s morally justified to sell heroin to children because the child consents.

That’s actually one of the less repulsive things right-libertarians are known to argue for.

To paraphrase Groundskeeper Willie, “Damn libertarians, they ruined libertarianism!”

Literally true. Libertarianism originally referred to leftist anti-hierarchical communalists. Milton Friedman quite deliberately chose to call his crypto-fascits ideas of unfettered capitalism ‘Libertarianism’ in order to spoil the term for the left.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
3 years ago

In practice, libertarianism can be boiled down to “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
3 years ago

@Gaebolga:
I believe the British version is ‘I’m all right, Jack!’ (Which is also both the title of a 1959 British satire movie about union negotiations in which nobody really comes out looking good; and the refrain of a Spirit of the West song, Profiteers, about landlords who kicked out long-term tenants in advance of Expo ’86 in Vancouver in order to charge inflated rates to tourists.)

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
3 years ago

Dalillama,

Which is of course, a lie on the part of libertarians. The negative rights of free speech and gun rights do require people to do things. Their version of free speech demands that private companies and public and private universities provide them with platforms. Guns demand a large infrastructure of police, courts, and hospitals to deal with the consequences of lots and lots of guns. Then there’s the beuracracy involved with enforcing private contracts.

tim gueguen
3 years ago

Part of the problem with libertarians is that they downplay or ignore the problem of power imbalances. They treat those involved in a conflict, such as a dispute over a chemical company dumping toxic waste, as if they have equal resources.

Bakunin
Bakunin
3 years ago

@Leum
I’m not Jewish myself, but pretty much everything I’ve read about the Talmud suggests that one reads what they want to into it. Conservative rabbis may see this as a reinforcement against fornication, but as the Jewish commenters above have shown, this is easily read as a condemnation of entitled dudebros

Luzbelitx
3 years ago

doomcup
May 2, 2019 at 7:13 pm

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

This is the first time in my life I’ve thought to myself “hey, I should totally read the Talmud”

(I was raised a Catholic, then apostatized, so I do have a vague grasp of the Torah from my Bible studies)

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
3 years ago

So this might be a silly thing to ask, but how come orthodox Jewish women wear wigs for modesty purposes? If seeing a woman’s hair is immodest, how is covering it up with a wig that looks like hair modest?

I’m just curious on the logic behind it.

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
3 years ago

@Scanisaurus:

If seeing a woman’s hair is immodest, how is covering it up with a wig that looks like hair modest?

First, they’re often bald (or nearly so) under the wig. The wig doesn’t so much cover hair as the scalp, because the hair is constantly being cut to remove it and its devilish attractiveness from a married woman who has no business being attractive to anyone anymore now that she’s landed a husband.

More directly to your question, originally the wigs didn’t look very genuine. A long time ago those wigs might have been made of wool, and today they are often synthetic in ways that look realistic in twilight, but are pretty obviously nylon (or similar) in good light. The result is … odd, at least to me. To the extent that they’re trying to make themselves less attractive, I think the women wearing nylon wigs are successful. (Of course that’s a personal, aesthetic judgement.) In fact, there is quite a bit of (sexist, obviously) discussion in communities where the haircutting/wig tradition is common about which wigs in-group women should be allowed to wear, and most of it is about how “attractive” the woman looks with the wig on. If she looks attractive, then obviously she’s doing something wrong (according to their morality).

The entire point of the original bit was a weird cross between the traditions of wearing head-coverings before G-d and making women responsible for all adultery, as if merely looking good is the sin, and men are automatons that can’t help sticking their dick in anything as long as its hair is long, clean, and silky enough.

So, yeah. They don’t think that covering their heads with an attractive wig is modest.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
3 years ago

@Crip Dyke
Thanks for the answer, that’s really interesting to know!

Though I still struggle to see why they’d get through all trouble with getting wigs as opposed to just covering their heads with headscarves like Muslim (and until the Victorian era, also most Christian) women do, since it’d be a lot less ambiguous and make clear from a far distance that the head is covered.

Moggie
Moggie
3 years ago

@Scanisaurus:

Though I still struggle to see why they’d get through all trouble with getting wigs as opposed to just covering their heads with headscarves like Muslim (and until the Victorian era, also most Christian) women do, since it’d be a lot less ambiguous and make clear from a far distance that the head is covered.

I can’t really comment on that, but I just wanted to point out that headscarf-wearing remained common among British non-Muslim women into the 1960s. My mother wouldn’t leave home without wearing one, just as my father always wore a flat cap.

Scarves remained a common sight in Britain until the mid-60s, probably more so in the north than in the south.

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