Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What is the religious value of 'ick'?

I've been over at Joe Settler's place, makin' a nuisance of myself, and I'm left with some questions from our conversation, namely, what is the religious (or political, for that matter) value of the 'ick' factor?

Apparently the Israeli Tourist Board folks ran some campaign to bring gay travelers to Israel. They included some pictures of gay couples doin' gay couple stuff around Jerusalem. Per Joe, and some other things I've seen on the web, religious MKs and some other people went berserk. These photos seem to include:

This one, featuring two young men in yarmulkes gazing deeply into one another's eyes in a familiar honeymoon-photo location. Joe comments that they 'slapped' yarmulkes on gay models for this, and I have to say, that given the fact the guy with his back to the camera doesn't seem to have bothered to pin his, and may be about to lose it altogether in the passion of the moment, this could be the case. (Also, how does his mother feel about him walking around Jerusalem with a tattoo showing.) (It's also possible that these two models are straight, in which case we have an altogether different kind of deception going on.) Joe tells me that that this photo is the equivalent to a picture of a priest and a nun making out, and asks me to consider how I would feel if I were a devout Christian and saw that.

Unfortunately, I spent a while living in Ireland, a deeply Catholic nation where hiring kissing telegram people dressed as clergy is considered rollicking fun. And equally unfortunately, I think that what Joe is implying is that people like this--boys in kippot who go to Jerusalem for the Jewishness and kiss because they're in love--don't exist--and I know a bunch. Although most of them (I'm thinking of one notable exception, Mrs. Bluejeans knows who he is), they're not that conventionally pretty.

Do I care if the religious MKs were offended? Well, yes, I do. I don't want them to feel bad, but this is the face of Judaism too, and, uh, to modify, they're here, they're gay, they wanna see Eretz Yisrael and they're willing to pay. I'm entirely aware that some people are not comfortable with the existence of religious gay Jews, but they're part of us, (and an incredibly good and strong part too, editorializes the Balabusta). Live, says I, and says the tourist board too.

But apparently some of the lady MKs were not so happy about this picture, which was sent out by the Israeli Consulate in NYC, to interest straight men of a certain age in Israel. The young lady in the photo, as you can see, is stretched out on a wall, in a bikini and high heels, in a bluntly sexual pose. Apparently Dahlia Itzik and Zahava Gal-On were not so amused.

I'm not so amused either. I'm used to this kind of thing, everything is sold with women's mostly naked bodies, but this is, by me, offensive in a way that the other is not. Why? Couple of things. First, the couple in the gay tourism photos are a couple, being sexual together. This woman is being a virtual stripper. Secondly, this apparently is meant to promote a piece Maxim did on 'Women of the IDF'. Please imagine male soldiers being sexualized like this, and then their consulate happily promoting it, and you get the real-world equivalent to this ad.

Joe feels that the reaction is hypocritical--if Dahlia and Zahava weren't willing to support the religious MKs, their outrage now is worthless. I dunno. Where is the outrage of the religious MKs now? Are they OK with this? Is the sexual exploitation of women something they take for granted, or can't be bothered with?

Joe says that the Maxim ad does not bother him, while he is offended as a religious Jew by the gay couple one. He also sees hypocrisy in MKs objecting to one but not the other. I say that the gay couple ad does not bother me, while I am irritated as both a woman and religious Jew by the Maxim one. So, here's my question. Does the 'ick' factor actually have a religious nature to it, or are Joe and I both responding to our socialization and opinions around homosexuality, tznius, and Judaism, and trying to put some spin on it?


Eliyahu said...


Abigail said...

I guess I don't understand why Joe isn't offended by the Maxim ad. Isn't it offensive to him as a religious person to promote Israel using such an un-tznius image, even if the sexism doesn't bother him?

alan said...

The gays are covered up. The woman is totally un-tsnius. No competition.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I say that both ads gave me an "ick"...and I don't understand why Joe wasn't offended by the Maxim ad.

I'll ask him tonight.