"You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn't see myself reflected at all. I was like, 'Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don't exist?' And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it."
-- Junot Díaz
The idea that bat Yiftach has a life of holy celibacy and of women's community, of relation to but apartness from the wider community, feels very important to me in my identity as someone who likely won't engage with the Jewish community from the structure of a sexual-biological nuclear family. The idea that space was delineated for me by Sefer Shoftim and by Rabbi David Kimchi, hundreds and hundreds of years before my birth, is incredibly validating.
The dark-and-perhaps-truer read of this text, when I take off my Find A Home glasses: Yiftach controls either his daughter's sexuality or her life. No-one can or will help her, except to wail.
These rabbis' comfort in not being sexually attracted to women, even as they recognise that other men in their situation might do so, again feels very comforting (it's not a disease, it's just a fact of their experience! That they can name! To other people!). The fact that this internal experience has a nafka mina, a practical effect on halacha, feels nothing short of incredible.
The dark-and-perhaps-truer read of this text, when I take off my Find A Home glasses: This is a text about holy people not feeling lust, and it doesn't take into account any women's experiences (maybe the bride is attracted to Rav Acha and would rather he not be so close? maybe the mikvah-goers feel scared, their space invaded by Rabbi Yochanan, worried about what he could do?)