In many religious cultures, strict separation of the sexes from childhood until marriage is observed, but this can make members of the opposite sex seem almost like aliens from another dimension. This is true as much for Orthodox Judaism as it is for Islamic religion where non-related men and women are kept separate for religious reasons too. Because Orthodox Jewish newlyweds have no opportunity to get to know the contours of the opposite sex prior to marriage, a Rabbi-meets-therapist in Jerusalem has created a sex manual that will be soon be released in Hebrew.
Manuals which combine sexuality and spirituality are nothing new, of course. The ancient Indian Kama Sutra which describes and illustrates a variety of sex positions combines sensual instruction with lessons on the spiritual life. Dr David Ribner, the therapist who has co-written The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy with another Orthodox researcher, has left nothing unexplained, as even the basic features of the the opposite sex’s body are unknown to Orthodox adherents.
One of the problems faced by Ribner was how to include diagrams of sex positions that would not scandalize pious readers. While some guides titillate their users with graphic imagery of positions (such as the recent Kama Sutra app that offers 3D holograms of complex human models), Ribner decided on faceless diagrams which are as abstract and non-pornographic as possible. The diagrams included are even presented in a sealed envelope which the sensitive may discard.
There are always myths surrounding sex and sexuality in all cultures, and one of the myths that dogs ultra-Orthodox Judaism is that newlyweds have sex the first time through a hole cut in a sheet. Ribner discredits this myth as having no basis in recorded fact, however. It is hard to believe that people who have not been permitted sexual contact throughout childhood and adolescence will be content with a hole in a sheet on their wedding nights!
While Ribner’s manual is already sold in English, it is yet to be released in its Hebrew translation, but both the writer and others have acknowledged that it might draw negativity from the more conservative quarters of the faith. Yet for many, it will make a first sexual experience less of a bewildering mystery.
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