I struggled to get up again this morning, even more than usual. I slept for about eight hours, after going to bed late, but then spent two hours in the zone between sleep and full wakefulness, too burnt out to get up. I guess, given the emotions of yesterday evening, it’s not surprising that I felt emotionally exhausted. It was well into the afternoon before I really felt able to get going.

I did various things today: shopping, cleaning the oven for Mum, various odd chores, and a 5K run, as well as half an hour of Torah study. Unfortunately, because I was late getting up, the run was after dark, which is always harder. It still felt like a slightly wasted day, with a late start and a big pause in the early evening when I got back from my run to exhausted to do anything for a while. I couldn’t really face doing any more than that, any more Torah study or any more stuff in general. I was too tired by the end, and rather depressed.

Possibly I’m just feeling pessimistic today.


PIMOJ’s reaction to my novel makes me worry a bit how other frum (religious) people will respond. There’s actually very little sex in it, but there is some: a rape (which is over in a couple of lines; the book focuses more on the emotional after-effects for the female character), and also some frank discussion of sex (although no actual sex scene) where one character is trying to emotionally manipulate his wife into agreeing to have anal sex. I would say this is not what people would expect from a frum novel, except that there is very little frum serious literature to compare it with.

I didn’t want it to be “just” a frum book, but to be relevant to a wider audience. I fear I have fallen between two stools, with a ridiculous unwillingness to show actual sex for a mainstream audience, but much too much for a frum audience. The frum world won’t talk about sex except with strained euphemisms (hence Haredi comedian Ashley Blaker did a joke about the Jewish punk rock group, The “Marital Relations” Pistols). But I felt I couldn’t duck these issues, having seen (from neshamas.com, the Intimate Judaism podcast and elsewhere) that the nature of consent within marriage and the existence of domestic abuse are real issues in the frum community that we are rather in denial about and I thought it would unrealistic and untrue to duck those issues.

As an example that I should have known — in a sense, did know — what I was getting myself into, just before I started work on my novel, The Jewish News, a free Jewish newspaper, not particularly frum, ran this article about abuse (trigger warning for all kinds of abuse). The next week, they got a lot of complaints, saying it was too graphic for a family newspaper. (I’m not sure how many young children read newspapers these days.) Certainly no frum newspaper (Hamodia, Mishpacha, etc.) would ever run an article like that. But where can articles like this be run — and be seen by those who need to see them — if not in a newspaper? So I knew that if I got my novel published, I was likely to have negative feedback, but that just convinced me of the need to write it. But maybe I was wrong and this will do harm rather than good. I don’t want people to see it as saying that Jews are particularly bad people or that Judaism is a bad religion. I wanted my characters to see Judaism as life-supporting even when they were at their worst.


On the plus side, PIMOJ and I are connecting again. Last night we “spoke” (in text — I wasn’t up to speak on Skype) about what we admire in each other and why we want to continue the relationship (although I’ve noticed PIMOJ doesn’t describe it as a relationship, just that we’re “getting to know” each other). We’ve been texting again today. I do want to talk about what happened in therapy and with my rabbi mentor, though, especially as I feel a bit self-conscious with PIMOJ now.

I worry that we are too different in terms of personality, and also that she doesn’t know many frum men; if she did, maybe she wouldn’t find me so interesting and unique. Sometimes, even before this, I feel guilty for dating her, when I should tell her to try dating other guys first.

I guess PIMOJ doesn’t fit my mental image of the type of person I would expect to marry. To be honest, the person who most fitted that image was my first girlfriend and that didn’t work out at all, because she was already becoming a different person. There was someone at university who I thought fitted the bill too, but she wasn’t interested in me. I’m not sure what this proves, except to note that a lot of people (most people?) end up with someone different from what they think their ideal mate would be.


Predictive text today wanted me to say “I’ll have to wait until I get… arrested.” Now I’m wondering what my phone thinks of me and why.

14 thoughts on ““Marital Relations” and Violence

  1. I think of the poem by Emily Dickinson that starts – “Tell all the truth but tell it slant. Success in circuit lies.” I see your dilemma and I want to suggest that the heart attitude that leads to manipulative sexual relations in marriage or even marital rape shows itself a thousand times outside of the marriage bed in regular daily interactions and is rooted in the idea of relationships being transactional as opposed to sacrificial. You don’t necessarily need a sex scene to expose the problem. Show what that man or woman looks like in the kitchen, the office, the shul. That’s where the problem first shows itself. And that’s where people are more likely to convince themselves they aren’t beasts when they really are. Diseases have initial mild symptoms before they are fatal. That’s when you want to detect them and even then it’s stupid to focus on the disturbing symptoms instead of the root of the issue. The law tells us what the symptoms will look like but it doesn’t tell us how to avoid getting them. That’s why the Wisdom writers urged people to seek understanding. People ultimately know this stuff is wrong but they don’t know how to stop. Id want a story that shows me the dark and the light and then how to walk in the light.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Then to be honest I don’t think you should have to get too graphic in the bedroom unless you are trying to appeal to people who get thrills from viewing dismembered bodies at accident scenes. I’d focus on showing it effectively as possible in the other places which can be a real challenge if you are a fish writing about the water you grew up swimming in.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Lol, trust me, having sex doesn’t mean you know “how” to have sex. Being a real man does and that is something you can learn and be long before ever having sex and it’s what is getting lost while everyone complains about how dull it is in the bedroom. That’s what is missing.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting that you should mention that detail from your book as I was watching the fascinating BBC documentary on the case of Sally Challen yesterday (recent court case concerning domestic abuse, murder and the new defence of coercive control). In that case there were incidents of rape/sodomy in the marriage. Trashy novels aside, I don’t agree that you have to depict graphic sex in order to attract a contemporary audience. I think it is only necessary if the plot demands it. I can understand why PIMOJ, whom you imply, lives a pretty sheltered religious life, may find it hard to deal with issues like this which are shocking, and would be hushed up in polite society let alone religious circles. If tackling issues like this is such a delicate matter within your community, you could always publish your book under a pseudonym.

    One’s mental image of one’s soulmate, in my opinion, is always miles away from the person you end up with. Relationships are always about compromise. One of the reasons why so many marriages fail today is that people are unrealistic in their expectations as well as being overly focussed on satisfying their own needs.

    I’m also wondering if she’s much younger than you? Is that why you think she should try dating other men first?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had heard of the Sally Challen case, although not those specific details, but I did do some research into abusive relationships to try to make it realistic.

      I don’t really want to publish under a pseudonym, but I guess that’s me thinking that at age thirty-seven, I should have something to put my name to. My parents have three pieces of art on the walls downstairs painted by my sister and at some point they’ll have wedding photos from her wedding (I hope… it’s three years since the wedding!) and I feel they ought to have something from me. I guess there is the Doctor Who book…

      I don’t think PIMOJ is much younger than me, although I’m a bit hazy on her exact age. I don’t think she’s dated many other people, though, and she is certainly not integrated into the Orthodox community and hasn’t dated there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really have anything to base this on other than my own vague impression, but newspapers seem like they should be more PG-related, in part because they’re more likely to be read in public, while novel reading is more private. I would read a newspaper in Starbucks, but I probably wouldn’t be as keen to whip out Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe the bit about anal scared PIMOJ a bit if she doesn’t know that’s something that comes up in the non-kinky hetero world.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t think “non-frum” = “lots of sex” … I mean, sure, it’s more acceptable, but that doesn’t mean that all non-frum books have it. There’s plenty of amazing literature with almost no sex in it at all.

    Also, different personalities (as other people have written on other posts of yours) is a good thing, I think!

    Liked by 4 people

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