Sex manual released for ultra-Orthodox Jews

11:00 AEST Wed Apr 24 2013
Kimberly Gillan
Gefen Publishing
Gefen Publishing

For the first time, Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth will be able to learn about sex prior to marriage, thanks to a new instructional book.

With no formal sex education and little outside influence Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews remain largely in the dark, sex-wise, until their wedding night, but Dr David Ribner, who is a rabbi and social worker, is seeking to enlighten the ultra-Orthodox youth by teaming up with Orthodox researcher Jennie Rosenfeld to write The Newlywed's Guide to Physical Intimacy.

There are manuals for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, but they tend to be vague.

This book is clear and concise, and also touches on oral sex and masturbation –– topics considered taboo amongst ultra-Orthodox Jews. The book also features an envelope in the back with diagrams of three basic positions, featuring outlines of figures with no faces.

He says ultra-Orthodox boys and girls have little interaction and physical contact, as well as limited access to movies and the internet, so often have no idea what sex involves.

"Sex is only appropriate within a marital context," Ribner told the BBC.

"Beyond that it's not talked about. Because of that, it's become very difficult for people to have any kind of dialogue about it."

The book starts with basic information, including how men and women's body shapes differ.

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

Dr Ribner was born and studied in New York before moving to Israel, where he has been a counsellor and sex therapy teacher for 30 years.

"We wanted to give people a sense of not only where to put their sexual organs, but where to put their arms and legs," he said.

"If you have never seen a movie, never read a book, how are you supposed to know what you do?"

The book was released in English last year, and will soon be released in Hebrew.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, the senior rabbi for the Great Synagogue, told MSN NZ that this book will be a great tool for ultra-Orthodox youth.

"For anyone who is Orthodox within the Jewish community, it would be very difficult to walk into a sex shop or broach that matter with a family therapist who wasn't necessarily Orthodox or understanding of Jewish religious norms," he said.

"But if it's known that this kind of thing is available through reputable Jewish publishing houses and comes with the endorsement of reputable religious authorities then people are going to feel more comfortable to seek it out."

Rabbi Lawrence said all brides and grooms undergo counselling and sexual education before they get married, however he thinks this book will be a great tool for couples who are already married.

"In an Orthodox community, most people's first taste of sex will be within marriage, even down to hand touching and kissing," he said.

"And where it isn't going right immediately, it is with your partner for life who you have just married and believe you are in a sacred bond with. There is no breaking it off or finding some incompatibility now and thinking you can move onto the next partner."

Rabbi Lawrence said this can lead to fear of being in the bedroom.

"But a manual breaks down the inhibitions of asking questions and enables couples to get it right, is of great value," he said.

"It does it within the confines of Jewish religious law and what is permitted in relationships and what images you are permitted to look at. It is enabling families that otherwise may fall apart over an inhibition about discussing sex, to see these are normal problems that happen to everyone in relationships at some point."


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