Sex and Holiness

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Holy Sex

Written by Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus.  Bat Sheva is the clinical director of the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in NY, a prolific author and an observant Jew.  For more pieces by Bat Sheva, visit the Better Sex Blog.

Rated PGI was speaking to a group of rabbinical students yesterday, and after the talk I was challenged by a young rabbi-to-be. He said that while I talked about sex being safe, consensual and fun, I had left out all references to it being “meaningful” or  “holy.”

He was partially correct. I struggle with what it means to have sex be a “holy” experience, although I believe it can be one of the most transcendent and meaningful experiences one can ever have. I struggle because having been raised in a fairly religious environment, I saw firsthand how much damage can be done by putting the full weight of holiness on the experience. I struggle because I think that there can be moments of holiness in sex, but that trying to make every sexual experience “meaningful” is both unrealistic and a set up for failure. I struggle because while I think sex in a specific context (within a committed relationship for example) is in and of itself a holy act, I am not at all sure exactly what that means for the action of sex itself.

In truth, when he was talking about holiness, he was arguing using language that I would define as “mutual.” Sex should not be a selfish act; it should not be all about one person’s pleasure but about considering the other person in the equation. And I agree whole-heartedly, but I’m just not sure that ultimately defines “holiness”.

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  • Guest

    This makes me think about Shabbat – another example where holiness is an important element but not the only one. Shabbat is also about rest, family and community – as well as gathering yourself after one week in preparation for the next. It’s the same
    with sex. It’s good to have all the elements available in your sexual catalogue but every time is different (or it should be) so that on some occasions we have more of one element while at other times, more of another. Frankly, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if every time my husband and I had sex the over-riding energy was one of holiness. It’s gotta be fun and naughty at least some of the times, no?