"The prevalent discourse in the religious public, both before and after the wedding, is 'give it to him even if you don't feel like it,' 'make it possible, go with the flow.' That's the worst thing. It makes a woman not want to even more and develop a negative approach, and it's definitely not fair towards the women. I had a couple in which the husband asked a rabbi what he should do if his wife is not showing enough interest in marital life. The rabbi said, 'Have a talk with her, explain to her that it's very, very important to you, and that she should allow it.' These are destructive statements. They stem from a conservative worldview that women 'don't really enjoy themselves.' A woman doesn't want to have sex because it's not good for her, because she's going through something. Let's help her instead of forcing her into an act she doesn’t want."
Rabbis, Girls – Even Orthodox Girls – Just Want To Have Fun, Orthodox Sex Educator Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The transition from a chaste couple who (at least in theory) has never touched, let alone kissed or had sex to a married couple with the sudden (relative) freedom to get it on can be confusing for some young couples, an Israeli sex educator says.
But until recently, these young married couples had to navigate the world of married sex alone or ask their rabbi for advice – a prospect few young marrieds relished.
And even those who did ask for help often got little useful advice in return – until now.
About two years ago, Michal Prins – a doctoral candidate in gender studies at Bar-Ilan University – realized there was a demand from these couples for help with sexual issues, and she opened the Yahel Institute in response. It offers sex counseling and education. The demand, Prins says, far exceeded even her optimistic expectations.
So Prins opened training courses for Orthodox “marital relations instructors" – women trained to serve as ‘first responders’ on the way to happy sexuality.
Prins is 32-years-old, happily married and has four children.
Her master's thesis was reportedly written on the way Orthodox women cope with their body and sexuality after many of the barriers placed on them by Orthodox and haredi modesty laws have been lifted by marriage and sex has been permitted to them for the first time.
"One of the conclusions from my paper was that marital relations are an issue which has not been dealt with much in the religious society. There is a lot of loneliness, and there is no one to turn to for information or counseling. That is actually why we set up the Yahel Institute. You can't talk about these things as part of a friendly conversation, and it won't come up in a meeting at the synagogue or on the bench in the garden. These couples cannot just pick up the phone and call a friend – even a good friend – and ask them to recommend an urologist or sex therapist,” Prins told Ynet.
Is the main problem in your opinion lack of knowledge?
"Not necessarily. Sexual relations are not something you can read about in a book and then excel in. Even if there was good bride guidance beforehand – and there is excellent guidance today – that still doesn't mean anything. Everyone tells her she's supposed to enjoy herself, but the next morning she finds out that it's more complicated than she had thought. Then they get stuck and there's no one to turn to.
"Judaism gives sexual relations a place. Judaism even sees it as an ideal, and a woman's sexual pleasure as a mitzvah. The couples know that it's something good. The heart of the problem is the detachment many religious women feel from their body and sexuality, because during the years of adolescence physicality is pushed aside, saved for the day after the huppah [wedding canopy],” Prins reportedly said, adding that the radical transition "on that day and afterward” can sometimes be extremely difficult. The attempt to separate the body and its needs – the animal self – and soul and its needs – the “Godly” self – in Judaism leads to an incorrect interpretation of halakha nd theology, putting physical needs and sexual pleasure at a disadvantage.
"In our society,” Prins continued, “women are educated to give: To volunteer, national service, a career, children, their home. They give and give all the time, and then when it comes to her – she's not there. If a woman doesn't know how to stop and make time for herself, and say wholeheartedly, 'I deserve this, this is for me' – it won't happen."
Prins says the Yahel Center plans to begin training men as sexual instructors as well in the near future, as well.
"I intentionally stress that it's counseling and guidance, not sex therapy. We are not therapists. When there is an apparent problem, sometimes all it takes is guidance and direction, and a few focused meetings solve the issue.
"If it turns out during the initial meeting that there is need for an in-depth examination by specific professionals, we already have a fixed list of recommended people: Starting with sex therapists through physiotherapists for the pelvic floor to urologists, alongside accommodation to the couple's religious level,” she said.
"I haven't checked the statistics, but it's mostly difficulties around the woman's enjoyment of intercourse. If a man comes with a sexual performance problem, he is referred directly to a sex therapist and urologist. With a woman it's much more complicated. Perhaps it's something emotional she has been carrying around since adolescence, or from the first night? Something in the bedroom that isn't working right. On the other hand, a woman who comes and says she is in pain is immediately referred to a psychotherapist for the pelvic floor, in order to clarify the reason for the pain. Only after we know if it's something physiological, or an emotionally-based problem, we'll be able to offer the proper treatment,” Prins reportedly said.
Talli Rosenbaum is an AASECT certified sex therapist and the academic director of Yahel’s training program.
"When there is a problem, 'close the gaps.' Explain how the body works, what is an orgasm. Many people don't come with this knowledge. The goal is to hold an open and accessible talk, with maximum sensitivity,” Rosenbaum told Ynet.
"There is an amazing phenomenon here of men who pick up the phone and say, 'My wife isn't enjoying herself. Guide me through what I have to do so that she'll be content.' In my eyes it's amazing that what matter to them, at the end of the day, is her enjoyment.
"On the other hand, some of the women won't even sit down with me for a meeting. It's not an easy situation in any case, and you must know how to approach and touch such intimate and sensitive issues."
But there is sometimes one conversation which can solve years-long problems, Prins says.
"I treated husbands who learned that before getting into bed, there are 'preparations.' You must wash the dishes or complete other domestic chores in order to give the woman time for herself. A woman needs to be available for desire. In order to say, 'I deserve this,' 'I want this,' and definitely in order to initiate. "She needs space, and so she needs help. A woman must know that she is loved, that her needs are honored, and that some of her traditional roles are being taken care of to let her make time for herself,” Prins said.
But the attitude of the Orthodox and haredi communities toward sex amy be women’s biggest enemy.
"The prevalent discourse in the religious public, both before and after the wedding, is 'give it to him even if you don't feel like it,' 'make it possible, go with the flow.' That's the worst thing. It makes a woman not want to even more and develop a negative approach, and it's definitely not fair towards the women.
"I had a couple in which the husband asked a rabbi what he should do if his wife is not showing enough interest in marital life. The rabbi said, 'Have a talk with her, explain to her that it's very, very important to you, and that she should allow it.'
"These are destructive statements. They stem from a conservative worldview that women 'don't really enjoy themselves.' A woman doesn't want to have sex because it's not good for her, because she's going through something. Let's help her instead of forcing her into an act she doesn’t want.
"When I talk to the couples who approach me about the fact that a woman must reach satisfaction every time they have sex, my colleagues say to me, 'That's so 1980s,' and they are right. But we are a conservative sector. So religious people are 30 years behind everyone else. We have to work on it, but that's what should happen eventually. A woman is supposed to enjoy herself – always,” Prins insisted.