Forbidden Sexual Partners

So one of the basic laws for humanity is against having sex with certain partners. So I’ll just go through this command, its details, and maybe more.

So who are the forbidden partners according to the basic seven laws, if someone where trying to keep the bare minimum? Although there are texts that go through this law, I’m going to type this out from my own head first to make sure that I’ve learnt it.

So a Gentile man is not allowed to have sex with

1) the wife of his biological father;
2) his biological mother;
3) the wife of another man;
4) a man;
5) an animal and;
6) his half sister, the daughter of his biological mother but not of the biological father.

OK. So I’ve typed that out. So now I’ll double check that I got it right.

Good! I got it right! It’s kinda easy. I just have to remember the verse in Bereshis [Genesis] 2 that says “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh” and then remember the additional words from Abraham when he spoke to Abimelech and said that he was married to his sister, but not from this mother’s side (Bereshis [Genesis] 20:13).

It is important to state that these 6 forbidden relations go both ways. What do I mean? Well, just as a man is forbidden from having sex with the wife of his biological father, so too is the wife of a man forbidden from having sex with that man’s biological son. And in the same way a man is forbidden from having sex with his biological mother, so too is a woman forbidden from having sex with her biological son. So this law imposes restrictions on women too.

Now, it’s important to note that “wife” as I’ve stated it above does not mean “wife” as used in English nowadays. These days “wife” means a woman who has a marriage certificate stating that she is married to some guy (with the agreement of the guy, of course). That’s not the exact or only sense that the term “wife” means in the Seven Laws. The term in Hebrew can be understood just as “woman.” So the first prohibition would be for a man not to have sex with the woman of his biological father and the third would be for a man not to have sex with the woman of another man. So a man and woman may not be “married” in the governmental, legal sense. But because they cohabit in a lasting and monogamous way, the woman may be considered his woman/”wife.”

… if a Gentile man and woman both consent to live together as domestic partners (although they have not had a wedding ceremony or officially certified their marriage), and they behave publicly as husband and wife for an extended period of time, the woman is judged
as fully married, since it is assumed that a woman and man living together in this way have had relations with the intention of marriage.
Therefore, she is also judged accordingly. While she is known to be living together with her male partner, she is forbidden to any other
man. If she does have relations with another man, both he and she are liable for adultery, since she has already become a “b’ulat baal,” as
mentioned in topic 3:1. (pg 514, Rabbi Weiner, The Divine Code, Part 6 [The Prohibition of Forbidden Relations], Chapter 4 [Precepts Related to Marriage, Fornication and Divorce], topic 4)

Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace and he and she decided to marry, he would bring her home, conduct relations in private and thus make her his wife. Once the Torah was given, the Jews were commanded that when a man desires to marry a woman, he must acquire her as a wife in the presence of witnesses. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Marriage (Ishut), Chapter 1, Halakha 1, a version can be found at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/952874/jewish/Ishut-Chapter-One.htm)

The question is, “what does it mean to marry?” It appears to mean to live together in a sexually intimate and exclusive way. As can be seen above, it could be informal or without government licensing. These days marriage means something slightly different, where a man and woman will do everything that a so-called “married” couple do – live together, expect exclusivity in sexual relations, maybe even having children – yet will say “I don’t want to get married” where what they really mean is “I don’t want the government paperwork,” as if that made a substantial difference. Again, I’m reminded of how many times I am told “well, it’s just a piece of paper, isn’t it?” Once again, this shows how the modern culture has twisted things and made them superficial by focusing on the paper and not on the union. Who said the spirit of idolatry is dead (i.e., seeing creation and getting a twisted view of an aspect of it, instead of seeing the Creator)?

So – I may come across crude in the next part, but I’m focusing on the basic parts of the practical aspect of this law, not the ideals – what does all this mean in terms of having sex with another man’s woman and also having sex with one’s father’s woman? Firstly, we’re not talking about a woman who has the sort of relationship with a man that is like that of a prostitute, where there is no commitment, not living together, no expectation of exclusivity, regardless of whether money exchanges hands. If a woman simply “screws around” with a man in such a way, then she is not the “wife” of that man. Such a woman is not included in the core of this prohibition. So, at least where it regards the basic practical elements of this law (the part that can make you liable), it would not be forbidden for a man to sleep with the prostitute, casual girlfriend or non-committed mistress of another man. It only applies to the “wife” of a man, a woman who is in a committed, sexually exclusive relationship with the man. In some cultures that could include what is called the concubine. This is confirmed by the following:

Any female domestic partner of a man’s father has the same status (regarding forbidden relations) as a wife with a formal marriage contract, [13] so she would be liable for relations with her partner’s son.

[Footnote] 13. From Parashat Derachim, p. 7 and 20, a Gentile man is liable for adultery through relations with another man’s “concubine,” as he would be through relations with another man’s fully married wife; see topic 4:10 below. (In Torah Law, a “concubine,” or pilegesh in Hebrew, is a woman who establishes her home with a man and engages in marital relations with him, but without a formal marriage contract or a secular marriage license.) (pg 475, Rabbi Weiner, The Divine Code, Part 6 [The Prohibition of Forbidden Relations], Chapter 1 [Precepts Related to Marriage, Fornication and Divorce], topic 3b with footnote)

ASIDE: This could mean that, today, even in the western world that doesn’t use the word, the women who live with their men in a sexually exclusive way would be classed as the equivalent to a “concubine.”

So all this is to show that “marriage” and “a wife” in the Seven Laws is not defined by a piece of paper or permission from the state.

Also a man having sex with a man is forbidden as well as anyone having sex with an animal and a man having sex with his half sister on his mother’s side.

Now, what does it mean to “have sex?” In our day and age, there are different things that are called sex, things that I won’t really get into here. I’m just gonna focus on the forbidden act. The act that is forbidden is what I’ll call “the penetration of the male member into the other participant’s member.” It’s important to note that I said “male” and not “man.” Why? Because where it comes to the prohibition of having sex with animals and its application to women, she becomes liable when the penetration event happens. For a better definition, go to Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, Issurei Biah, Chapter 1, halakhah 10 and 11 which can be found at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/960647/jewish/Issurei-Biah-Chapter-One.htm.

I’m going to leave that right there as it is enough to show that is not included in forbidden acts when it concerns the basic practical aspect of this law.

I hope you don’t mind me stressing this again, but this article is only concerned with the basic practical aspects of the law that causes one to be liable. I haven’t touched the subject of what is distasteful or acts that can be considered to be leading towards the basic forbidden acts and how they can be viewed. So I’m not addressing those things that could be seen as rationally “obligatory” for those who want to live in the fullness of what it means to be human, in the image of Deity. In fact, that may be something I could do in a future endeavour. Having covered the basics at least once in my blog, once I have the foundations laid then I can focus on the associated positive acts or advised self-restrictions one can do in order to just be a better person.

But for now, I think that’s all, folks.

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