Advertisement

Rabbinic Understandings of Marital Rape in the Talmud

  • Mari Rethelyi
Chapter
Part of the Religion and Radicalism book series (RERA)

Abstract

In this chapter, Mari Rethelyi uses religious studies and textual approaches to consider attitudes towards marital rape expressed in the Jewish rabbinic traditions, particularly the Babylonian Talmud. Rethelyi notes that, from the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmudim up to the present day, rabbinic texts discuss female rape within the context of proper/improper and legitimate/illegitimate sexual relations between married men and women. To explore their approach to marital sexual violence, she considers first the broader topic of sexuality within marriage, which is subject to two distinct legal regulations within Judaism: the laws of onah (regulating male sexuality and men’s conjugal duties) and the laws of niddah (regulating women’s menstrual cycles, purity status, and their “availability” to have marital sexual relations). Drawing on these legal traditions, Rethelyi maps out rabbinic understandings of and responses to marital rape. While the laws do, to some degree, offer women a form of protection from spousal sexual violence, they nevertheless remain rooted within patriarchal discourses, which sustain certain gender inequalities while also evoking rape-supportive understandings of sexuality and gender relations.

References

  1. Adler, Rachel. 1998. Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.Google Scholar
  2. Belser, Julia Watts. 2014. Sex in the Shadow of Rome: Sexual Violence and Theological Lament in Talmudic Disaster Tales. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 30 (1): 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biale, Rachel. 1984. Women and Jewish Law. New York: Schoken Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bilsky, Leora. 1998. Giving Voice to Women: An Israeli Case Study. Israel Studies 3 (2): 47–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Diamond, James A. 2008. The Deuteronomic ‘Pretty Women’ Law: Prefiguring Feminism and Freud in Nachmanides. Jewish Social Studies 14 (2): 61–85.Google Scholar
  6. Friedman, Michelle, Ellen Labinsky, Talli Y. Rosenbaum, James Schmeidler, and Rachel Yehuda. n.d. Observant Married Jewish Women and Sexual Life: An Empirical Study. Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. https://www.jewishideas.org/article/observant-married-jewish-women-and-sexual-life-empirical-study. Accessed 11 July 2017.
  7. Gravett, Sandie. 2004. Reading ‘Rape’ in the Hebrew Bible: A Consideration of Language. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 28: 279–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hammer, Aviva. 2010. Blood Rhythms: Sex in an Orthodox Jewish Marriage. TheaterJ blog, 5 May. https://theaterjblogs.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/what-mikveh-means-to-me-sex-in-an-orthodox-jewish-marriage/. Accessed 11 July 2017.
  9. Harris, Rachel. 2012. Introduction: Sex, Violence, Motherhood and Modesty: Controlling the Jewish Woman and Her Body. Nashim: Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues 23: 5–10.Google Scholar
  10. Heschel, Susannah, ed. 1983. On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  11. Kaufman, Carol Goodman. 2010. Domestic Violence and the Jewish Community. Nashim: Journal of Jewish Women Studies and Gender Issues 20: 172–175.Google Scholar
  12. Ringel, Shoshana, and Rena Bina. 2007. Understanding Causes of and Responses to Intimate Partner Violence in a Jewish Orthodox Community: Survivors’ and Leaders’ Perspectives. Research on Social Work Practice 17 (2): 277–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Rofé, Alexander. 2005. Defilement of Virgins in Biblical Law and the Case of Dinah. Biblica 86 (3): 369–375.Google Scholar
  14. Rosen, Tova. 2003. Unveiling Eve: Reading Gender in Medieval Hebrew Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rudavsky, Tamar M., ed. 1995. Gender and Judaism: The Transformation of Tradition. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Satlow, M. 1996. Try to Be a Man: The Rabbinic Construction of Masculinity. Harvard Theological Review 89 (1): 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Wegner, Judith Romney. 1988. Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Yassour-Borochowitz, D., and Oded Goldberg. 2009. ‘Suddenly She Realizes That Her Husband Is Not Exactly Rabbi Akiba’: Perceptions of Masculinity of Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jewish Battering Men. Journal of Gender Studies 18 (4): 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mari Rethelyi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

Personalised recommendations