Who Is Watching All the Porn Marketed to Orthodox Jews?

"Frum porn" features supposedly Orthodox women in ankle-length skirts and head scarves having sex. But are ultra-religious Jews actually watching it?

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Sep 15 2015, 10:05pm

Screenshot via frumvids.com

If you look hard enough on the internet, you can find just about any porn microniche. There's incest porn, amputee porn, Mormon porn, and porn that takes place exclusively on trampolines. Rule 34: If you can imagine it, the pornographic version already exists—including the emerging category of "frum porn," or porn for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The term "frum" comes from the Yiddish word meaning "devout" or "pious," and is generally used to describe the most Orthodox Jewish communities. The popular webcam porn site clips4sale.com currently has 74 videos tagged "frum fetish," plus another 31 tagged "frum lesbians." That puts the frum genre somewhere between "Arab MILFs" (196 videos) and "albino fetish" (6 videos).

Many of the videos listed on clips4sale.com come from another site frumvids.com. The site is pay-to-play, but in a teaser video on the homepage, you can see a pair of women in ankle-length skirts and headscarves (a display of modesty) making out and then undressing each other. The whole thing gives off an amateur vibe, with poor lighting and bad video quality.

Modesty is considered a paramount virtue among Orthodox Jews, so the fact that frum porn exists is strange. Frum sects have adopted an ultra-conservative interpretation of the Torah, and adhere to a strict set of Jewish laws governing dress, behavior, and any contact between the sexes.

"In the face of modernity, Orthodox Jews—Hasidic Jews, in particular—have become even more insistent on modesty with respect to sexuality," said David Biale, a Jewish studies scholar at the University of California, Davis. "Insofar as they resist the modern world, they resist any kind of sexual license. Women are supposed to dress modestly and not reveal the flesh of their legs or their arms; if they're married, they don't reveal their own hair."

If that's the case, then what kind of Orthodox Jew would watch frum porn? I asked Nathan Abrams, a Jewish studies scholar who edited the 2008 anthology Jews & Sex. Abrams, who currently teaches film studies at Bangor University, said he'd heard of frum porn, but that he wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

"When I first came across [frum porn], I was skeptical that it was actually a real thing," Abrams told me. "The film industry is market-led—as soon as something arrives, it caters to that taste. So if this is a thing, why has it only come about now?"

According to Biale, the answer might have something to do with the internet. "With the exception of Chabad, which is much more technologically friendly, Hasidic groups take a very negative attitude toward the internet," he said, in part because of the availability of sexualized images, and all the other unpure things that exist on the web.

But because it's virtually impossible to run a business offline, some Orthodox groups allow the use of "kosher internet," with various filters that prohibit access to unsavory sites, explained Biale, who recently concluded a study on the use of the internet among Hasidic Jews. According to his research, he added, "even though that's the party line of these Hasidic groups, in reality, they're all using the internet"—and not just the kosher version.

"It's almost impossible to restrict people from using it how they want, and so now, there's a tremendous amount of Hasidic activity on the internet," he said.

I showed Biale a few of the frum porn videos (he was very uncomfortable, but agreed to humor me) and he pointed out various signifiers of Judaism in the scenes. "You see people wearing the tallit katan—a garment for under a shirt or a coat, which has fringes—they're wearing it while having sex. That's supposed to tell the viewer that this is a religious Jew," he explained. "But, is he really? Or is he an actor? And who are the viewers of this stuff?"

I had the same question. Are Orthodox Jews sneaking on to the internet to secretly watch frum porn? And if so, who are they watching in these videos? Are the porn actors Orthodox Jews too?

Looking for answers, I reached out to the moderators of frumvids.com. A unidentified representative replied, telling me that "frum porn is porn for religious Jews or people who have fetish fucking religious Jews. Why? Because people like to see people who are like themselves. And I can assure you that religious Jewish people are people."

The representative pointed to the rise in "kosher pornography," or porn with an explicitly Jewish bent. Porn actor James Deen, who's long been open about his Jewishness, made a film in 2009 called Nice Jewish Girls, where he plays a rabbi, while several women spin a dreidel and then drip wax from a menorah onto each others' nipples. Another popular film, the 2006 Assrealis, was shot in Israeli, using dialogue in Hebrew and casting local, Jewish talent. (Notably, the year after its release, Assraelis came under fire by a group of rabbis who argued that its use of the official "kosher" label was incorrect.)

The difference between these films and those made by frumvids.com, according to the frumvids representative, is legitimacy. Unlike Jewish porn where "the only thing that's Jewish is the menorah on the background," the rep wrote, pornography on frumvids.com is made for an Orthodox Jewish audience, with a cast of actors who all identify as Orthodox or Conservative Jews.

According to the email, frumvids.com doesn't collect demographic data on their viewers, so there's no way to prove definitively that the people searching for "frum porn" are in fact Orthodox Jews. But it's clear from the hundreds of Craigslist posts soliciting "frum webcams," "frum nudes," and "frum encounters," that there is a market for this among Orthodox Jews.

I responded to one of the advertisements from the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist, which was soliciting a "nice sexy frum girl." (For what it's worth, I disclosed that I was a journalist, and not a "nice sexy frum girl.") The guy behind the advertisement, who identified himself as a married 25-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew living in Brooklyn, who agreed to talk to me on condition of anonymity, and told me he had posted a similar ad to Craigslist before but hadn't met anyone yet.

I asked him if he'd ever watched any frum porn. He said he had, but not very much because "they charge a lot for it." He added that "in general, the responses on [Craigslist] are pretty weak and the chances of meeting someone are even less," making porn a more viable outlet.

I asked what made him choose to search for frum porn in the first place—watching pornography on the internet is a serious offense in the Orthodox world, and you don't get brownie points if the porn you watch involves Orthodox Jews. He replied that he felt "more comfortable with someone from the same background."

Biale suggested that, for people making their foray into the vast world of internet porn, there's something comforting about searching for what you know—in this case, the frum world.

"In a world where modesty is such a high value, if these people are indeed Hasidic Jews, they are breaking out of that in the most radical way possible," he told me. "But what's fascinating about the internet is that all these things that are private are suddenly out there. It turns out that there is an infinite variety of fetishes, and what the internet does is it allows us to see their existence."

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