RELIGION

From Bondage To Masturbation: The Sex Practices Orthodox Jews Deem Kosher

02/14/2015 10:31 am ET | Updated Feb 14, 2015

What does the Talmud says about pleasure and power? How does Orthodox Judaism affect a person's sex life?

To answer these questions, HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd spoke with Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish sex counselor, Dr. David Ribner, chairman of the Sex Therapy Training Program at Bar-Ilan University, Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rabbinic Dean at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Allison Josephs, founder of Jew In The City.

The Orthodox community "is not monolithic," Marcus noted. Views on sex and sexuality vary, as they might in any religion. On the whole, though, the doctor said messages about sex should ideally be positive.

"It's a lot about finding a partner, having a good, fulfilling sex life, making God be part of the bedroom because God wants us to have good and fulfilling sex lives," Marcus said.

That said, there are certain limitations that many Orthodox Jews observe, Linzer added.

"Orthodox Judaism is against sex before marriage," he said. "Even in terms of marital sex, itself, there are limitations. Some people think that this has to do with different types of positions, or minimizing pleasure. [...] That's the direct opposite of the Jewish message."

The "Jewish message," he said, is that sex should be a connection with the other person. It should not be exploitative and should not take advantage of another person.

A new documentary by filmmaker Ori Gruder, entitled 'Sacred Sperm,' looks at the taboos and traditions surrounding sex in the Orthodox community. Gruder also found that many strictures apply -- like a prohibition on masturbation -- and many view sex as sacred and deeply personal.

For those too shy to discuss the topic out loud, Orthodox sex counselor David Ribner joined forces with teacher Jennie Rosenfeld to publish The Newlywed's Guide to Physical Intimacy, being heralded as "a sex manual for Orthodox Jews."

"We wanted there to be a place where people could say, 'I know nothing and I want to know something,'" Ribner told BBC.

For more on sex and intimacy in Orthodox Judaism, watch the clip above and check out the full conversation at HuffPost Live.

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