Friday, October 23, 2009

SEX!!! (Now that I have your attention . . . Read this Research about Observant Married Jewish Women and Sexual Life)


This is an extremely important study with some extremely important findings that women, men, rabbis, and Mikvah professionals should study intently.

The findings are complex, but boiled down, the study makes it clear that women need more education about sex in marriage, they are afraid to ask their rabbis questions of a personal nature, most see the Mikvah as a positive experience, and that, unlike their peers in the general population, who have sex once or twice a week, married women who practice family purity usually engage in sex much more frequently.

Family purity does not increase one's sexual satisfaction, according to the survey, but it may increase one's emotional satisfaction with the marriage--however, women complained that their husbands not only physically distance themselves during Niddah, they also emotionally distance themselves.

Also, dispelling a GIANT myth, 75 percent of women reported that they engaged in touching, petting, kissing, etc. with their husbands before marriage.

Thank you, Rabbi Angel, for posting this extremely important study on your webpage, "Jewish Ideas."

Sex within marriage is a gift from Hashm, a sacred and beautiful act. There is no reason why we cannot discuss it openly, educate our Kallahs fully, and provide opportunities for them to ask questions without embarrassment.

Without meaningful sexual relationships, husbands and wives cannot fully appreciate the blessing of marriage. We all need to work together to insure this extremely important aspect of marriage is not ignored or spoken of as if it were not beautiful and meaningful (and fun!).

Observant Married Jewish Women and Sexual Life: An Empirical Study


By Ellen Labinsky <> and James Schmeidler and Rachel Yehuda <> and Michelle Friedman <> and Talli Y. Rosenbaum <>

Posted October 23, 2009 - 12:07pm

Dr. Michelle Friedman is Director of Pastoral Counseling, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Dr. Ellen Labinsky is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center; Talli Y. Rosenbaum is a Urogynecological Physiotherapist and AASECT Certified Sexual Counselor, Inner Stability, Bet Shemesh, Israel; Dr. James Schmeidler is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology, is the Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Division includes the PTSD clinical research program and the Neurochemistry and Neuroendocrinology laboratory at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center. This article appears in issue 5 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.


Taharat haMishpahah, literally, “family purity,” refers to the series of Jewish laws and customs governing sexual behavior between husbands and wives. The laws of taharat haMishpahah need to be understood in the larger context of observant Jewish life, which seeks to elevate everyday behavior in light of a divine plan. According to this understanding of the religious Jewish mission, each and every action has the potential to be imbued with sanctity, or kedushah. Taharat haMishpahah is considered one of the pillars of observant Jewish life. Volumes are devoted to the laws of taharat haMishpahah, so a brief summary of this complex area will be incomplete.

In short, taharat haMishpahah requires that husbands and wives abstain from all physical and sexual contact for the duration of a woman’s niddah time, that is, the length of her menstrual period plus an additional seven “clean” days. During the niddah period, observant couples adhere to a series of restrictions that are designed to prevent physical intimacy. These include refraining from physical touch such as holding hands, sharing a bed, or passing objects directly to one another. At the end of this approximate twelve-day separation, a woman immerses herself in the ritual bath (mikvah). After this, the couple is permitted to resume physical and sexual contact.

Our exploration of the lived experience of taharat haMishpahah starts with recognizing that the system’s influence extends far wider than the domain of marital sexual life. Development of a sexual self is recognized as a normative process that begins in infancy and has physical, cultural, and emotional components. Thus, the centrality of taharat haMishpahah in observant Jewish life impacts on attitudes and behaviors regarding modesty; auto-eroticism; conduct between men and women outside of marriage; education of prospective brides and grooms; and the experience of intimate emotional and physical marital life given the rhythm of the menstrual cycle.

The incorporation of these laws and attitudes, including the fundamental concept of monthly sexual abstinence and renewal between husband and wife, has been cited as a key factor in promoting and maintaining Jewish marital and familial happiness.[1] <> Other theorists have stressed that the laws surrounding taharat haMishpahah act to harness and discipline physiological drives into a framework of kedushah (holiness)—not necessarily happiness—represented by marriage.[2] <>

We respect, yet do not attempt to resolve, these perspectives. We perceive the laws of taharat haMishpahah to be a given, not subject to negotiation. We understand that these regulations are embedded in a larger context of religious life. Women who observe taharat haMishpahah are almost certainly keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath and holidays, educating their children in Jewish schools, and otherwise maintaining a high degree of religious affiliation. Our efforts are directed to an empiric investigation of the sexual life of Jewish women committed to observant religious practice. The goal of our inquiry into the intimate lives of these women is to better understand this deeply personal experience from as scientifically rigorous a perspective as possible.



  1. I am thrilled to see this! As I've been saying for quite some time, "Kallah teachers" need to do a better job of educating their students.


  2. B"H

    I felt the same way. I also thought a lot about the women who answered these surveys and how courageous they were to share their intimate life so that others would understand the needs of the larger community. They are truly women of valor.



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