I’m a nice Jewish girl. I don’t quite meet the socioeconomic requirements to have acquired a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-esque status of “Jewish American Princess”, but some might argue that I’m pretty close. My mother, for one. (Hi, mom!) But I digress.
Growing up, I was heavily immersed in Jewish culture, learning, and spirituality. I went to Jewish day school from Kindergarten through the eighth grade and was Bat Mitzvahed at twelve years old. I attended United Synagogue Youth (USY) group events and went to temple on the High Holidays. I said the prayers, I ate the food, and yes, I got the eight presents every year on Chanukah.
So you might be wondering how a nice Jewish girl like me ended up living a BDSM lifestyle and preparing to marry a (gasp!) goy.
My story, I’m afraid, isn’t all that unique. Not quite a tale as old as time, but definitely a familiar one. You see, I find that there is quite a bit of crossover between the world of BDSM and Jewish culture. For me, at least, the two have frequently intertwined in a most delightful and sometimes even surprising way. At the age of twenty-eight, I now live a decidedly more secular lifestyle than I ever have; however, I still remember my Jewish roots and I always will.
When did you first notice that you had an affinity for “unusual” sexual practices? I distinctly recall a certain fondness for the ritual of laying tefillin in the temple during morning services. For the uninitiated, this practice involves tying a leather strap with an attached box (inside of which is a scroll of sacred text) around one’s arm and another around one’s head. These straps are purposefully tied in a specific pattern and are meant to be tied tight enough that, upon removal, there should be obvious markings on the skin to remind the wearer of their spiritual covenant with G-d. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this served as a precursor to my interest in both rope bondage and heavy impact play. I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of restraint and, much like the purpose of tefillin, the way in which my marked skin serves as a reminder of my capacity for strength and endurance.
Going Against the Grain
Another hint from my school days was in Bible study when we learned about polygamy. Our teacher asked the class what we, a bunch of prepubescent whippersnappers (see what I did there?), thought about this practice. In my usual way of presenting a stark contrast to the status quo, I raised my hand and, when called on, exclaimed that I thought it was a great idea. Now, my underdeveloped and less than sophisticated mindset had me giving a cringe-worthy answer to support my point of view. I’ll spare you the details, but it was heinously juvenile. I can still recall the look and sound of shock on my classmates’ faces as if I could not possibly be so…so…weird. Well, I was and I still am. I have since learned considerably about the practices of polyamory and the benefits to mutual openness and transparency in relationships and my fiance and I happily refer to our relationship dynamic as “monogamish”. Different strokes for different folks, surely, but it works for us.
Deviance at Dances
As I got a little older, I began attending events for my synagogue’s youth group, USY (Far West represent!). It was there that I got my first taste of a pretty gnarly first kiss (thanks for nothing, Jewish boy who shall remain nameless) and an awakening of my own sexual identity. I don’t quite remember how it happened, but grind dancing became the thing to do in those wonderfully wacky adolescent years. You know, the kind of dancing where the dude is bound to pop an awkward boner as he and his dance partner uncomfortably smush their crotches into one another in a vain attempt at looking cool? Yeah, that. I don’t remember his name. I just remember it happened and my mother — who was one of the parent chaperones for that particular dance (hi, again!) — made the proverbial “cool mom” move of walking the fuck out of there before she, bless her heart, caught witness of her daughter (me) making a complete ass of myself. And ass-make I did. A lot. I blundered my way through myriads of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, school dances, girl/boy parties, and terrible kissing. There were growing pains, for sure. In fact, that’s just about all there were in those days. It wasn’t until the spring of my freshman year of high school that I first delved into the world of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a community to which I owe a great debt of gratitude for shaping me into the person I am today.
My Rowdy “Rocky” Days
It came as no surprise to me that I found many kindred spirits within the Rocky community. In fact, it was of a particularly special note that I found I was one of many Jewish identified individuals in the cast, which I joined at age sixteen. Eschewing the comparatively tame environment of what school and USY had to offer me, I began to devote a great deal of my time, energy, and life to the hours between midnight and 3 am every Saturday night and beyond. I shouted callbacks, I dressed in impossibly skimpy clothing, I cuddled, I kissed, and I grew up. It wasn’t just a movie. It wasn’t just a cult phenomenon. It was a family — my chosen family — and a new way of life.
As I matured, and finally reached the seemingly elusive age of consent, I took my first steps into an even larger world, one that up until that point, I had only imagined. On the night of my eighteenth birthday, I attended a dance club for the very first time. Not just any club, mind you, but a goth club called “Perversion”. It was there that I witnessed BDSM play for the first time and, upon my second time attending the club, experienced it first hand. Well, hand, flogger, and riding crop.
The minute I felt the beautiful sting of leather against my bare skin, it was as if it was be’shert. That is, in Yiddish, “meant to be”. All those years of spotting traits within myself that “polite society” had surely deemed out of the norm were finally beginning to make sense. All the dots connected. My love of tight restraint, my penchant for exhibitionism, my overwhelming desire to have my physical limits tested. It was all there for me. Manna in the desert after wandering around in a haze of adolescent ignorance. I was by no means a “grown-up” yet. But I was grown enough at least to legally and consensually experience so much of this new world for the very first time. And the second time. And the third. And so on.
Naughtiness and Nuptials
Today, I enjoy living a lifestyle that, though predominantly vanilla in appearance, is by no means as such. My fiance and I are lucky in that we are a straight passing, monogamous passing couple; however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are both, as the kids say, queer “AF” and proud of it. We enjoy a certain, structured openness to our relationship and work together to create a dynamic of transparency, trust, and love as well as fun and friendship. We participate in the kink lifestyle both in and out of the house as well. We are both rooted in our respective religious backgrounds, mine, of course, being Jewish and his being Catholic. We respect each other’s culture and spirituality and like to share and learn from one another about our beliefs. We never debate or challenge but instead prefer to view the subject of differing religious viewpoints with an open mind and an understanding that, although we don’t have to agree on everything, we both have the right to believe in what we will.
In fact, with our wedding in the coming year, we have decided to make the ceremony and reception something that is uniquely “us” in terms of it being almost entirely non-traditional. When asked whether or not I wanted to have a Rabbi and/or a Priest for the ceremony, I concluded that this was a bad idea because if they were to walk into a bar, who knows what could happen? Though we intend to keep things mostly secular, the few Jewish customs that we have agreed on including are the presence of a chuppah (wedding canopy), the smashing of the glass, and the hora (circle dance with us being lifted up in chairs). He’s never done the hora and I’m honestly super stoked both to see him get lifted up in a chair as well as to do so myself as I haven’t done it since my Bat Mitzvah when I was utterly petrified. Truly, I am most excited that we get to spend the rest of our lives together, sharing a relationship that is far off the beaten path. And that’s just how we like it!
In conclusion, it’s been a long and wonderfully winding wild road to get me to the place in my life in which I currently find myself. It’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world and I am happy to continue forward on it every day. Finding oneself isn’t easy, nor is balancing a life of kink and vanilla simultaneously, especially having been raised in a religious community. I do believe that, like everyone else, I am created b’tzelem elohim (in the image of G-d) and that, as such, G-d loves me just the way I am. If not, why would I have been made this way?