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From: Russell Hendel <RHendel@RO.HCFA.GOV> Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 12:36:42 -0500 Subject: An Insight for Slit Skirts I would like to offer an insight to a discussion on slit skirts, the most recent reference being Jeremy Nussbaum's discussion in Vol 23, # 67. Jeremy correctly states that there are two opposing halachic forces: A desire for Modesty (--restricting sexual tensions by dress codes A desire for allowing women to look Attractive (eg the allowance to wear jewelry etc) First, I would like to note that Jeremy uses the word "condone". Actually there are many halachic sources that Encourage women to look attractive. Some examples might be (1)Rabbi Akiba's statement that women should wear Jewelry while Niddah since otherwise their husbands might find them ugly and divorce them. (2)Similarly the Rambam explicitly states that a person should look at a prospective wife to make sure she is attractive. I believe the Rambam in part derived this from (3)the explicit statement by Moshe Rabaynu that Bnos Slafchad had the right to marry "men that were good in their eyes" (=good looking). These 3 examples show that halacha doesn't only Condone attractiveness but may Encourage it. Returning to the above mentioned halachic tension between Modesty and Attractiveness I would like to introduce a concept found in Utensil laws (Calim). In Calim we find the concept of a Utensil with a Dual Function. For example a pencil could function both as a writing instrument and as an erasing instrument. The point of this observation is that if the pencil becomes irreperably broken it is Still A Utensil because it has an eraser (the secondary function). This has relevance to the laws of Toomah which need not concern us here. Returning to laws governing sexual tension I would like to borrow this concept and point out the following distinction between say exposing ones face and exposing ones legs (with a slit dress): A face has a Dual Function: It is used in Communication (it is generally agreed that communication is more than words but also occurs thru facial and bodily gestures...there are even studies which indicate what % of communication come from these gestures and nuanaces)The face could also be used for Sexual Purposes (call it what you like: attractive, arousal, feeling good etc). On the other hand exposure of a leg can have only One Purpose (sexual tension). (In hot climates it can serve an air conditioning effect and this should be discussed separately). We can now suggest that halachah opposed sexual tension when that was the Only purpose of the act but did not oppose it if the act had other purposes. Thus one can expose ones face but not ones legs. We can go a step further and state that halachah opposed Sexual Confrontation...if the act had only one purpose...sexual tension...then the receiver of the act is being confronted. However when an act has two purposes the receiver is not being confronted even though there is sexual tension. In connection with this I should mention a Heter I personally heard from Rav Aaron Soloveitchick (he personally told it to me in response to a question) concerning wearing pants for skiing. Again we can analyze this from the point of view of Purpose: Normally exposure of leg separation (wearing pants vs skirts) is a cause of sexual tension. If this is the Only Purpose of wearing pants then In Addition To The Sexual Tension there is also Sexual Confrontation and hence this should be prohibited. However if there is another purpose...such as the facilitated ease of movement which comes with wearing pants for skiing....then even though there is still Sexual Tension there is no Sexual Confrontation and hence the act should be permitted. I close with a discussion of wearing makeup (we only gave a heter for exposing the face). Makeup serves three purposes: (1) creation of sexual tension; (2) combatting "ugliness" (the tendency of the viewer not to want to remain viewing the person); (3) feelings of satisfaction or "feeling good" to the wearer that come from wearing the makeup (similar to the feelings from washing ones fact or putting oil on it). If a person has a right to expose ones face for purposes of communication then it would certainly be permissible to use makeup that would combat any tendency of the viewer not to continue viewing. It would also be permissable to do so if it gave personal satisfaction to the wearer. There might still be categories of makeup that would be discouraged if their sole purpose was to cause sexual tension. In summary I hope introducing the idea of Dual Purpose will complement the Modesty-Attractive tension in halachah and lead to a more precise understanding: Single purpose acts that have sexual tension are confrontational and should be discouraged: Dual Purpose acts that have some other purpose, even if they also cause sexual tension, should be condoned, allowed, or encouraged. Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d. ASA Dept of Math and COmputer Science Drexel University, Phil Pa rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu