I have pretty radical views about mikveh* and the laws of family purity. I was in the car coming back from a sheva brachot* and we began to discuss the prevalence, or not, of the observance of the laws of family purity on the part of the Modern Orthodox.
I voiced my belief that women should start going to the mikveh when they first get their period. I understand that this screws with shmirat negiah*, and causes some other issues, but here's my reasoning:
1) Men have a coming-of-age ritual. Instead of co-opting theirs, or maybe in addition to, women should have their own. After all, girls get bat mitzvahed at 12 generally, in a nod to the fact that a) their fathers can no longer sell them, and b) they physically mature faster than boys.
2) Marriage is a random time to take on a new mitzvah. Your life is already changing a lot. We, or at least I, am able to keep rituals because they become, well ritual. I'm used to them, I don't see them as disruptive. If you start younger, at a more natural point (when the possibility for keeping the mitzvah starts) you are more likely to integrate it into your life, and keep doing it.
3) By explicitly tying mikveh to sexuality and marriage (which I understand that it is, really) it comes with all sorts of baggage about being "dirty" and "male oppression" and many other issues. If we can separate mikveh into two distinct parts, one being about coming of age and womanhood, and the other being about sexuality, I think that it would be easier for the modern woman to observe, or be comfortable with observing.
This brings me to my nex point. David Kelsey, of blog-crush fame, posted on Jewschool about the issue of bnei niddah*. Basically saying that people who become more religiously observant should be told that as their mothers did not (presumably) observe the laws of family purity, that they are considered unclean, or unmarriageable. This explains, in part, some of my popularity during my brief foray into frumster.
At any rate, I'm pretty sure that I heard the following at a shiur* a year or so ago, and I'd like to know if that is my crazy imagination, or if I really heard it. Amit seems to think that it's my crazy imagination, but I'd like a second opinion:
Some sources hold that a shower can be considered in place of mikveh for women who do not observe the laws. It isn't permissible to observe in this way, but it is acceptable b'di eved*. This would mean that really very few people are bnei niddah*.
*Mikveh is the ritual bath, there are a number of restrictions on what qualifies. According to the laws of family purity, a woman must immerse herself in the mikveh seven days after her period has finished before she can resume relations with her husband.
*Sheva brachot is Hebrew for seven blessings and refers to the seven days after a couple is married, during which time friends and family hold celebrations for them, and at each of these gatherings the seven blessings are recited.
*Shmirat negiah, to observe the touch, meaning observance of the laws governing physical relations between men and women. Practically means not touching any non-related member of the opposite sex. Except one's spouse.
*B'di Eved is a Talmudic term, meaning that while an action isn't acceptable if you set out to do it, it is an acceptable alternative if it has already happened. For instance, it is preferable to keep meat and milk separate, but if you drop some meat (less than 1/60th of the total) into a boiling pot of milk product, you can still eat it. That doesn't mean that you should go around adding in 1/60th meat to everything, just that if you mess it up, it is ok.
*B'nei niddah, children who were concieved by parents who did not observe the laws of family purity.