Sex-Therapist Advocates Masturbation For Orthodox Women Despite Taboo

'FemFeeling' Has Received Endorsement From Several Rabbis

Breaking Taboo: Unlike other “kosher” sex guides, “Femfeeling” advocates the virtues of female masturbation.
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Breaking Taboo: Unlike other “kosher” sex guides, “Femfeeling” advocates the virtues of female masturbation.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published December 12, 2013.
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To secular readers, such advice seems innocuous. But in sexually conservative Orthodox circles, Grunberg’s recommendations are taboo breakers. Over the years, many Orthodox rabbis have denounced female masturbation as an illicit act that causes psychological harm and does damage to the marital union.

“Some of the things he wrote potentially are deeply empowering to Orthodox women,” said David Ribner, an American-born Orthodox rabbi and sex therapist in Jerusalem who has written several books on sex aimed at religious Jews. “That is a positive contribution and a step in the right direction.”

Grunberg was unable to find a religious publisher for “Femfeeling,” which he ultimately published on his own. He has sold several hundred copies, but believes his message has reached thousands more through a website of the same name as well as women sharing the information with their friends.

Even more noteworthy, he has received the endorsement of several Orthodox rabbis, including Nathan Lopes Cardozo, an internationally recognized authority on Jewish law and dean of the David Cardozo Academy in Jerusalem. In an interview with JTA, Cardozo dispelled the notion that female masturbation is counter to traditional Jewish teaching.

“There is no prohibition on female masturbation,” Cardozo told JTA, adding, “The Jewish tradition has a healthy attitude toward sexual pleasure. I think the Orthodox world was influenced by Christianity to view it as a taboo.”

Ribner says support for the book among Orthodox rabbis is part of a growing acceptance in the religious world of efforts to help couples struggling with sexual intimacy.

A new website with educational resources aimed at observant Jews was launched in September. Growing numbers of Orthodox day schools are using the sex education curriculum “Life Values and Intimacy.” And Ribner’s book, “The Newlywed’s Guide to Intimacy,” was translated recently into Hebrew. Ribner says he has even been given rabbinic approval for some of his patients to use a vibrator if they have trouble reaching orgasm.

“Over the past decade, you started having more Jewish Orthodox sex therapists,” Ribner said. “And sex therapists in general have become more aware of the need to work within the cultural context of their patients. So rabbis today have more confidence that I or my colleagues won’t do anything to contradict them.”

Another factor is the easy online access to sexual information that compels the Orthodox world to provide alternatives that take religious sensibilities into account. “Femfeeling,” which includes information on foreplay, sexual positions, role play and lubrication, is designed so readers can stash or throw away parts they consider too racy.

Rabbis also may have a more practical consideration in mind.

“Orthodox women marry later in life these days, and rabbis realize this raises the risk of them having premarital sex,” Grunberg said. “So even if some rabbis wouldn’t like women to masturbate, they figure it might at least keep them from having sex.”


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