12 Surprising Facts About Orthodox Jewish Sex Lives & Beliefs

When you see a Hasidic Jewish family bundled up in long, dark coats, with covered hair, you might assume they are very modest in the bedroom, too - but you'd be shocked! While some kosher sex rules are highly restrictive, others sound surprisingly progressive, even daring.

Of course, Judaism is practiced very differently by different people, and Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular Jews all have variations of how they interpret the Jewish sex laws. This list focuses on the very conservative teachings of Hasidic and other strict Orthodox Jewish sects, though many of the attitudes towards love and sex these groups find in the Torah and the Talmud influence much more liberal Jewish groups, too.
  • They Are Encouraged to Have Good Sex

    When done properly, Jews consider sex to be a mitzvah, or a righteous act. Far from being considered sinful or shameful, sex within a healthy marriage is thought of as intimate and loving. 

    For this reason, spouses can never compel one another to have sex against their wishes, or use either sex or the withholding of sex as a threat or punishment. Couples also shouldn't have sex when they are angry, or when one or both partners is intoxicated or otherwise unable to consent. 

    However, for more conservative Jews, sex is still strictly off-limits outside of marriage, and even mild physical contact between unmarried young people is strongly discouraged.
  • Male Masturbation and Homosexuality Are Banned

    The Talmud prohibits men from "wasting their seed;" that is, performing sex acts where semen isn't being used to potentially create new life. In the most extreme versions, some rabbis have argued that wasting semen is as bad as killing a child, since you are preventing that child from being born.

    For this reason, conservative Judaism outlaws male masturbation and male homosexuality. Other sex acts, like oral and anal intercourse for men, are permitted as a form of foreplay, but the male partner must always ejaculate into this partner's vagina.

    (Female masturbation, by contrast, is not explicitly forbidden by the Torah, though some rabbis discourage it. The Torah is also silent on the topic of lesbianism.)
  • You Must Satisfy Your Wife Every Day - Unless You're a Camel Driver

    Photo: Pete Self / Flickr
    A Jewish husband has an obligation to provide his wife regular, fulfilling sexual intercourse. The exact amount of sex she can expect varies depending on his occupation. "Men of leisure" should be available to have sex with their wives every day; for laborers, it's twice a week. Camel drivers (the Biblical equivalent of long-haul truckers) were away from home more often, so their sexual obligation was only once every 30 days, or once every six months for sailors.
  • The Woman Must Come First

    A husband has an obligation to satisfy his wife sexually, through whatever means she requests, including oral sex or the use of sex toys. Not only does this lead to happier marriages, but traditionally, it was thought that letting a wife orgasm first would make her more likely to conceive a son.