Orthodox Judaism and Sexuality
My guest, whom I will call Matty, grew up in an orthodox Jewish family. In this personal story, she shares her unique perspective on her upbringing and how it has affected her life from sexuality to marriage and more.
Within this episode she shares a lot of the challenges of her religion, but also the beautiful aspects of her marriage that speak so profoundly to her sexuality and womanhood. This is a great educational opportunity for non-orthodox listeners and will only serve to widen the dialogue on sexuality as a whole. An important perspective from a great guest; listen along!
The General Rules of Marriage for Orthodox Jews
She prefaces this section by saying that she doesn’t want to offend anyone by her experience; there is variety in the way people practice Judaism. Matty says that growing up as an orthodox Jew meant there was no practice in intimacy with the opposite sex: no co-ed schools, no romantic affection in relationships, and no close contact until marriage.
Matty says that while married (as is a rule for orthodox Jews) she was not allowed to touch her husband if she was menstruating. If she wanted to pass her car keys to her husband, she would have to put it down completely; she couldn’t do a hand-to-hand transfer. And once her period had ended, and she had waited 7 days, only then was she “pure” and could reunite with her husband in close physical contact again. This was a tough transition for her when she was first married as a young woman, but it also made the times they could be together that much more special and appreciated.
This dynamic doesn’t mean that orthodox partners are not regularly communicating. Matty says that they offer counseling and really encourage married couples to communicate despite not embracing or having sex for (usually) 10-14 days a month. With that regular communication, the waiting periods are not as difficult.
Support for Orthodox Couples
Matty says that she absolutely dreaded the time that she was away from her husband and couldn’t touch him. In those periods of time, they had to have separate beds. It was extremely hard, and they learned to really communicate and express the challenges to one another. Matty said it wasn’t that she missed the sex so much; she just missed the opportunity to be cuddled and touched, which is something we can often take for granted in any relationship.
Restrictions in the Bedroom for Orthodox Jews
Matty says that the general rule was ‘whatever pleases the woman’ in the bedroom. She says that the male has to ask permission, as well, before sex. She says that not all husbands follow the rule, but from a spiritual standpoint, the woman must be pleasured in the marriage.
The Jewish belief system centers around celebrating the woman. For example, during the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat), they start it off every week by singing songs that celebrate the matriarch of the family.
Sex Therapy as a Last Resort in the Orthodox World?
Matty says that not a lot of orthodox couples talk about their sex lives because it’s such a private thing. This doesn’t necessarily differ all that much from the non-orthodox world, either. But as Matty says, no one is openly discussing these things. She also says that a couple who seeks sex therapy or counseling would most likely do it as a last resort. This shares similarities with the non-orthodox world, too.
The Sex Talk with her Children
Matty stresses the importance of communicating to her children early and being open to questions that arise about sex. She says it’s extremely important to bring context to menstrual cycles and intercourse, and also emphasize the beautiful aspects of sexuality in general. She says the orthodox community differs in the amount of information it shares with children, but there has been a lot of books recently that points towards a shift in communication on these important topics.
For much more on orthodoxy and sexuality, listen along to this great episode!