Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sex and the Single Bat Leveyha
May 13, 2011 7:03 AM   Subscribe

"God is totally down with sexpionage, at least according to the Zomet Institute, an organization dedicated to interpreting Jewish law for modern living" -- on the Mossad's precursor to Russia’s femme fatale spy Anna Chapman.
posted by maud (26 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
FYI they are all stoked at the Kremlin now cuz they indicted the dude that blew Chapman's cover. Too bad he lives in London. Good luck with that extradition.
posted by spicynuts at 7:10 AM on May 13, 2011


This article has a strangely nasty tone-- a commenter wrote,

>I am concerned about the amount of spyshaming going on in this post

and, yeah, this seems like catty slutshaming, with the viciousness of the espionage world used as an excuse.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:16 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slutshaming? I read this totally the opposite way: as making fun of the ways in which expedience drives flexible morality in some religious types.
posted by Slothrup at 7:18 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is sexpionage not a tag for this post? Also, how have I never heard the term sexpionage before?
posted by chunking express at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


A fine question! Added.
posted by maud at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2011


This was pitched in a really weird way. All of the knicker-gazing conjecture was on whether Cindy slept with Vanunu and not on whether Vanunu slept with Cindy (or you know, they just slept together). Nobody I could see was interviewing his friends to discover if he was the kind of guy who'd put out on a casual encounter. I was similarly not impressed with the way the promiscuity quote from the Rabbi was left to hang with no commentary or analysis. I'm dismayed the Awl let this run without more rigorous editing.

Also, in no way is the CIA more interesting than Mossad, but the fact that female CIA operatives are forbidden to sleep with subjects while male operatives are not is fascinating. Like, really, the chastity of American women is more important than the security of all American citizens?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:32 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


>Slutshaming? I read this totally the opposite way: as making fun of the ways in which expedience drives flexible morality in some religious types.

I dunno.

These lines

> “Our Sages of Blessed Memory,” says Rabbi Ari Shvat, reassuringly, “elevate such acts of dedication to the top of the Halacha's mitzvahs pyramid."

> So, for Mossad lady spies who do sex for the cause, it’s all fun, games and rabbinical blessings—duly noted.

don't seem to me to be the central point.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:36 AM on May 13, 2011


I can't believe Judith isn't mentioned...
The Book of Judith has a tragic setting that appealed to Jewish patriots and it warned of the urgency of adhering to Mosaic law, generally speaking, but what accounted for its enduring appeal was the drama of its narrative. The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life.
posted by melissam at 7:40 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


melissam - no pics?, Come on, now...
posted by bashos_frog at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2011


I think the central point is that the Righteous, when evaluated by their own moral and ethical frameworks, tend to excuse deviations from those frameworks so long as their very secular purposes are served. It's Okay When We Do It Because ...

It's hypocrite-shaming.
posted by adipocere at 7:53 AM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


darth_tedious : and, yeah, this seems like catty slutshaming, with the viciousness of the espionage world used as an excuse.

Biiiiiiig difference between a woman having sex because she enjoys it, and a woman using sex as a weapon to trap someone into doing things they otherwise wouldn't do.

Yeah, we can all joke about the latter as SOP in the "marriage" game for all of human history; but the specifics here don't sound all that funny. Hero blows the whistle on Israeli aspirations to get bigger bombs, hero receives a warm welcome in the UK, so Israel tricks him into leaving the UK so they can kidnap him and throw him in a cage. Real ROFL'er, right?
posted by pla at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


>It's hypocrite-shaming.

Ostensibly, but it still reads like a prurient celeb gossip piece:

sexydetail glamorousdetail sexydetail... But What Matters is SHE'S SO TACKY. Also, sexydetail... you Dear Reader are so much better!
posted by darth_tedious at 8:01 AM on May 13, 2011


the Righteous, damn near every single person, when evaluated by their own moral and ethical frameworks, tend to excuse deviations from those frameworks so long as their very secular purposes are served.

The older I get the more convinced that we, as a species are all mentally ill and inconsistent in what we say and what we do.
posted by edgeways at 8:02 AM on May 13, 2011


Stop using sex as a weapon!
posted by TedW at 8:03 AM on May 13, 2011


adipocere: I think the central point is that the Righteous, when evaluated by their own moral and ethical frameworks, tend to excuse deviations from those frameworks so long as their very secular purposes are served... It's hypocrite-shaming

I'm completely clear that hypocrite-shaming is the central point here. Something that smacks of slut-shaming is the means chosen to achieve that goal, though, in a way that ends up derailing it rather than serving it. A more well-balanced editorial slant on the exact same story would have been more credible.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:06 AM on May 13, 2011


The whole story of Esther (celebrated on the Jewish holiday of Purim) is about how a hot Israelite girl gets an in with the Persian king, and prevents the destruction of the Jews. Esther's daring and bravery were always emphasized in Hebrew school, but honestly, she wouldn't have gotten a chance to use them without the hotness.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the author was trying for humor, but the breezy and casual tone (eg "sexy Cindy", "For a girl of Cindy’s skill, this was easy-peasy") was offputting to me. It's an interesting story (as well as opening a window into the moral complexities of sexual espionage), and deserves serious and interesting writing.
posted by Forktine at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


sexpionage

Agent OO, licensed to lube.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


it still reads like a prurient celeb gossip piece

and deserves serious and interesting writing.


Huh, you'd almost think that The Awl, bringers of "How to Cook a Fucking Steak" was a snarky gossip blog!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Zomet Institute is a resource for Hareidi (strict, ultra-orthodox) Jews -- so about 8-10% of Israelis.

I'm uncomfortable with the idea that they are being portrayed here as the ultimate authorities on Jewish religious traditions with regard to anything. While I'm sure they'd like to think of themselves that way, they don't set government policy or (presumably) have anything to do with the way the Mossad does business. They certainly don't speak for all Jews, and presumably not for every member of the IDF, whom we know range from secular to various levels of religious observance.

Also:

(One tiny drawback: becoming a “Valentine Operative” means you'll never marry a Kohen (a Jewish priest), but frankly, if you’re the kind of slut who’ll have sex on the job, such a man wouldn’t touch you anyway,

This doesn't apply in any way to anyone but Orthodox Jews. Conservative / Masorti, Reform, or Secular Jews (Kohanim) don't follow that "guideline." You know, the majority of us who aren't super-religious and (hopefully) don't slutshame women.

or as Rabbi Shvat puts it, “these missions may naturally be tasked to women who are already promiscuous.” Win-win!)

Way to be an ass, Rabbi Shvat.
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole story of Esther (celebrated on the Jewish holiday of Purim) is about how a hot Israelite girl gets an in with the Persian king

The Talmud comes up with a funny rationalization for that one, basically saying that it was ok only because she was passive. Our rabbi (in middle school!) explained that she pretty much just lay there. (Literally she was merely "natural soil.") How they get that from the text of Megillat Esther is anybody's guess.
posted by callmejay at 8:34 AM on May 13, 2011


zarq : This doesn't apply in any way to anyone but Orthodox Jews. Conservative / Masorti, Reform, or Secular Jews (Kohanim) don't follow that "guideline." You know, the majority of us who aren't super-religious and (hopefully) don't slutshame women.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but unless working as an "honest" prostitute, using sex as nothing more than a tool to get the job done deserves a healthy dose of shame associated with it.

I got nothin' against "sluts" (your choice of words, not mine); Deliberately manipulative use of sex, however, should brand a person (of either gender) as some form of social pariah.
posted by pla at 8:43 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


... basically saying that it was ok only because she was passive.

The original "Lie back and think of England"?

And I can't even imagine what would lead to describing being sexually passive as being "merely natural soil". Is the phrase "spilling your seed on the ground" to be contrasted with "vigorously inserting it in the ground"?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:52 AM on May 13, 2011


basically saying that it was ok only because she was passive.

Wow, so the essental thing that would have made prostitution immoral here would be if the woman enjoyed it? This message just gets better and better!

(More charitably, I guess, he could be trying to make the distinction between Esther actually having the hots for the enemy and sleeping with them (=bad, despite eventual good outcome) vs. doing it in order to help her own people (=good, noble self-sacrifice)?)
posted by hattifattener at 1:35 PM on May 13, 2011


How they get that from the text of Megillat Esther is anybody's guess.
posted by callmejay at 4:34 PM on May 13


Not anybody's. Just theirs.
posted by Decani at 3:11 PM on May 13, 2011


To be clear, the reason the rabbis of the Talmud had a problem with Esther having sex with the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) was that, in their reading, Esther was married to her uncle Mordecai. In their interpretation of Jewish law, a married woman who has sex is liable to death, i.e., has committed a hugely terrible sin. Not only that but an adulterous woman is not permitted to have sex with husband again. (Had the Jewish heroine been unmarried, her sin would have been much more minor.)

In fact, the sin of adultery is considered so bad that a married woman should let herself be killed rather than commit adultery. By allowing herself to be "raped" ("just lie there") when the king called and not enjoy the sex, she could avoid the death penalty and return to her husband! When Esther decided to go to the king herself, she could no longer rely on the legal justification of rape. Thus the rabbis read the words "and if I perish, I perish" which in Hebrew literally mean "if I am lost, then I am lost" to refer to the fact that she would now be prohibited from returning to her husband Mordecai, as she was about to have willing sex with another man, King Xerxes. There is, however, among many rabbinic commentators that any sexual behavior was acceptable to save the entirety of the Jewish people.

This is of course not to defend the attitudes of the rabbis of the Talmud toward sex, which attitudes were wrongheaded in any number of different ways.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 3:54 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


« Older Here's to the crazy ones...  |  Do doctors violate the 2nd Ame... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments