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One of the arguments for modesty is that men can’t stop to think of women in a sexual way. So why can male rabbis be in the mikva with a female conversion candidate? Doesn’t this counter all the things we are taught about modesty? (Shoshanna Jaskoll: Make up your minds on modesty).

One argument that it does not is that the situation is the same as for a woman seeing a male doctor. It is allowed to see a doctor of the opposite gender. Supposedly the doctor can maintain a professional distance, so the situation has nothing sexual. I agree and I have seen male doctors with no second thoughts. But I guess that a doctor has seen hundreds of naked patients and as a result is very used to it. The situation with a beit din is very different. Orthodox rabbis are not used to seeing naked people all day, they might do a few conversions a year. Also, in general they remove themselves from anything related to sexuality, which makes a naked woman in the room even more unusual. So I don’t think this is a good analogy.

I am undecided on the issue of male rabbis in the mikva, but in general I argue against excessive modesty. I do think that it is possible for men to not think of sex when they see a woman. Maybe not for 16 year old hormone-crazed teens, but grown men should be able to ignore the body of a woman and talk to them normally. Evidence for this can be found in the millions of asexual social interactions between men and women in a workplace or family setting.

On the other hand, I can imagine that certain things can cause a man’s thoughts to go down the way of fantasizing about a women. And I guess that a naked woman in a bath is one of these things. Many people argue that the rabbis don’t actually see anything inappropriate, only the head or there is a robe or something. I am not sure it makes a difference, it is the situation in itself, not what is actually seen that makes it weird.

The point of this post? I don’t know what to think. Three clothed men and a naked woman in a bath makes a setting for a late-night movie I guess, but I don’t actually think anything inappropriate will happen with a beit din and a conversion candidate. I only know that I would be very uncomfortable and though I would really like to convert, I am not looking forward to the mikvah experience.

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