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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.
I 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”.