Getting intimate with Yael the Sex Geek about sex and religion
As a journalism major the first thing I was taught is to not go into an interview with any expectations, which is always easier said than done! I went into the interview with Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez, the author of An Intro-guide to a Sex Positive You: Lessons, Tales and Tips with the mindset that this was going to be one of my standard interviews, I was going to ask her the questions, she would give me the answers and then I would write the article! Oh boy! Was I wrong! 😲
In the hour and ten minutes we chatted, I was truly forced to think about things differently! I have always been fascinated about the topic of Religion and Sex. I experienced my sexual trauma when I was very young and then again at fourteen. I spent a large portion of my life feeling ashamed, I felt as though I would never truly be valued in society because I was no longer pure. 😓 I spent a portion of my late teens and earlier 20s in only sex based relationships with men (friends with benefits) because I felt like that's the only value I could bring to a relationship. It took me a while to heal from this but, I still carried subconscious beliefs about being a sinner for having sexual experiences. 😢
My very informal mini research proved to me that a lot of human beings in their early 20s have a really unhealthy relationship with sex and religion. 3 AM conversations with friends made me feel less alone in my shame, because I found out that I was not the only one feeling like a sinner for having sex. 👭
A little about Yael
Yael is the embodiment of the quote ‘the wound is where the light enters you’ by Afgani poet Rumi. This amazing soul started off as a reproductive rights educator at the age of fifteen. Sadly, right before she started the program she experienced her own sexual trauma. This led her to try and understand how people deal with, heal from, and talk about reoccurring trauma as opposed to a one-time-thing like a single rape or a natural disaster!🔍 Her curiosity of trying to figure out ‘what it looked like when someone had to keep going back to the abusive environment’ led her down the road of volunteering. She started working in an office with abused children which was not her experience but she did it anyway. Yael has also worked with Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), a non-profit dedicated to women who engage in survival sex or have been domestically trafficked.
While working witth GEMS, she realized, ‘sex workers are ignored and marginalised. That leads to them experiencing shame and trauma, not necessarily from the work itself but the people and stigma around the work’. So she started exploring sex worker rights and started doing public health papers around this topic. 📝
While she was doing all this amazing work she had this realisation that she was having a good time and was having positive sex and she wanted other people to have positive sexual experiences too, which led her to dedicating her work to helping others avoid negative experiences whilst teaching them to create positive sexual experiences. 🥰
The whole time Yael was explaining her story and how she got to where she was, I was just staring at her in awe! I have also experienced sexual trauma in my life and it took me a long time to heal from and actually share my story with the world, which is completely fine! We are all on our own journeys🛣️ and there is no time limit to dealing with or healing from your own traumas!
If you were not already inspired by this amazing human, she basically wrote her book to her fourteen year old self.
Sex and Religion
Yael stated the first step to breaking these negative patterns and to creating a more positive sexual experiences, is to figure out if the shame is religiously or purity rooted if you were raised in a religious household.
She goes on to say, ‘The interesting thing is that religion is not nearly as sex negative, as the cultures in which the religions exist in. Judaism is a very sex positive religion and Islam also has a lot of sex positive pieces to it. However, the cultures that engage with Islam are often ones in which sex negativity is perpetuated. Christianity is not by itself sex negative, the people who decided to make it sex negative, made it more popular. If you are in particular someone who is religious, then you get to explore religion through the eyes of the book and not the eyes of the people that talk about the book.’ 📕
Yael’s response about viewing religion through the eyes of the book and questioning the credibility of the people that preach about the book shifted a lot of thoughts I had about religion.
Like a lot of religions one of the biggest rules about Judaism is not to do harm against your own body. It is believed that your body is a temple of God therefore doing any harm to it is actually anti-religious! Yael explains that smoking can actually be viewed as a grand sin because of the harmful effects it has on our body. However, people are not nearly as judgemental when people smoke🚬 in the community compared to when people have sexual experiences!
When I was younger I actually really enjoyed being a part of my religion. However, when I turned eleven I was sent to a religious school and that's where I started to develop negative feelings towards my religion. I felt that I was constantly being judged for not being a good enough Muslim! I would go to school in a state of anxiety because I was so afraid of being picked on by my teachers! 👨🏽🏫
My friends and I were once accused by the vice principal of trying to impress boys because we went to the bathroom to spray deodorant on ourselves, which was not true! The average temperature in Botswana is close to thirty-degrees. I know how weird it sounds but my friends and I would bond in the bathroom over nice smelling deodorant. I personally think people would have more positive religious experiences if we were judged less by the elders in the community. 👴🏿
Sadly, Islam has a lot of negative connotation attached to it. In actuality Islam is very a positive religion. The main focus on Islam is humanism and how to be kind to people, animals and nature. There are numerous phrases and passages that talk about not being judgemental and one of the biggest sins in Islam is to backbite. It is also a religion that looks out for woman’s rights! Unfortunately the people and cultures that engage with Islam have completely turned the religion upside down.
She carries on with her response saying, ‘human’s sin! It’s natural and expected. I don’t consider any of this [sex before marriage, masturbation, and being queer] sinning but if you are someone that considers this sinning, there is no reason that this sin is worse than all the other ones on the daily that people are practising. A big point in all our religions is to love thy neighbour and not be judgemental. That means that you get to not be judgemental of your-self when you are engaging in things that are good, positive, and pleasurable as long as everyone is consenting.’ 🫂
Yael concluded her answer stating that everyone cherry picks the laws they want to follow from their religion. So if you are going to cherry pick, pick the things that bring out humanity and not the things that excuse the lack of humanity or excuse your hate.
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