"There is today only one romantic thing a man can do," writes Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in his bestselling Kosher Sex. "This is to ask a woman to be his wife."
The 33-year-old Boteach encourages readers to get married, stay married, and have great sex--but only two weeks a month (more on that later). Jewish and non-Jewish audiences are taking to Boteach's frank and conservative advice, inspiring him to pen the recently released Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments, in addition to two more books coming out this summer, Kosher Emotions and Confessions of a Rabbi and a Psychic.
"Your marriage is not a facet of your life. It is your life. It is not a detail of your happiness, but its central source," Boteach writes. After spending 10 years as rabbi at the University of Oxford, Boteach now lives in New Jersey with his wife and six children, lecturing, writing and developing a Jewish singles network called JDate.com and American Singles, an online singles database.
In Kosher Sex, you say, "Sex represents the most powerful dependency of men on women." So why do women depend on men?
It's reciprocal. We treat sex as a biological need. I see it as a need for intimacy and the closest possible human interaction. Similarly, we don't treat love as a need but rather as a luxury. Because we're afraid to be vulnerable, nobody seems to fall in love because no one is ever good enough.
Are you asking people to lower their standards?
Of course not, everybody is special. There aren't only two percent of special people in the world.
You suggest limiting sex to two weeks per month. Why?
Passion is fire and intimacy is water. How can you have fire and water? One extinguishes the other. Every month there must be two weeks devoted to physical love and two weeks devoted to emotional intimacy. When a woman's menses begins, two weeks are up before monotony sets in.
Do women need to police their husbands?
Jealousy is a very valuable component of any relationship. Like anything, too much will kill you. But to say jealousy is a sign of insecurity is ridiculous. We're all insecure. Healthy insecurity means you want to feel needed. If you see your husband flirting or drawing too close to another woman, you have every right to walk over and say, 'I don't appreciate that.'
You condone using sex to mend arguments.
First both sides have to say, 'I'm sorry' and show they're sorry through touching. But if you are going to talk about problems while emotions are raw, it's only going to make it worse.
But what could be worse than trying to make love while emotions are raw?
Eroticism requires obstacles and barriers. Raw emotions can provide such obstacles. Sometimes you do have to come clean and say 'I'm sorry.'
You believe sharing a relationship with a profoundly secure person can be the loneliest experience of all because--while they cherish you, they don't depend on you. That sounds pretty feeble.
Why? Are there truly secure people? I have never met a secure person in my entire life. It's an anomaly. The natural human state is one of insecurity. We look to have relationships to balance that. If your husband said, 'I love you but I don't need you,' how would you feel? The greatest human need is love.
In the chapter about pornography, you state: "If watching a documentary on the Amazon rain forest becomes more interesting than watching your wife undress, you know that your marriage has had it!" But people age, change physically, and even more so, get used to seeing each other.
All physical beauty is subjective. Did you think your baby was ugly? Probably somebody else thought your baby was ugly. Parents see their children's beauty. We hope that emotions color the attraction for a married couple who's been together forever.
You believe lust leads to sex and sex leads to love and love leads to further commitment. All that can happen from mere lust?
The first stage in any relationship is attraction. You can call it love, attraction, desire to possess someone. And it's mutual. Stage number two is what I call verbal exploration. It's where couples start talking. Who are you? Where do you come from? Number three is emotional intimacy. Couples start talking in a way they don't talk to anyone else. And finally number four is a culmination of that entire journey. And that's physical intimacy. That's where the relationship comes alive.
And that would happen after marriage?
No premarital sex?
I'm no sexual prude. I know what's going on out there. I was a rabbi to students for 10 years. I see myself as trying to help people achieve their hearts' desires by combining passion and intimacy; to have a loving result with a best friend. Who wants to have a lover who doesn't call in the morning? Who uses you? Who doesn't understand you?
What is the purpose of sex?
The Catholic position is that sex is all about procreation, a means to an end. That's manifestly wrong because a woman will love sex when she's pregnant. Women love sex post-menopause. Then, is pleasure the purpose of sex? If that were true, as long as people were having great sex, they would never remember it as a painful experience. Sex without intimacy is not fun. Sex is the motion without emotion. No, sex is the ultimate bonding process. The purpose of sex is to have us hunger for human company in perpetuity.
How did you get into this?
My parents divorced when I was 9 years old and I've always been trying to think how to keep a man and a woman together. I would like to reduce the current divorce rate from 67 percent to, say, 30 percent over the next 10 years. What kind of world is it where more than half the kids grow up in a single family home? And what about the fact that nobody believes in love anymore?
Do you believe that soaring divorce rates and a crippled state of marriage is an American epidemic?
No. It's an epidemic of the prosperous classes. The West is wealthy so it's happening in the West. People have money so they a) don't feel dependent on other people; b) have increased choices based on their affluence; and c) watch television because of their affluence. Look at poor people. Poor people have great sex all night because what else are they going to do?
How does the elderly Hasidic community react to your work?
I don't know if they even know that much about it.
Outside the Jewish community?
Outstanding, even better than in the Jewish community.
They arrive at my ideas without any preconceived notions.
I've had some outstanding reactions from feminists. The book is really pro-feminist. It says that women are sublime creatures that deserve a hell of a lot of respect. It's not destructive to women; it's destructive to men. Men have become so de-sensualized, they only want to make love to a beautiful woman. Today's wife is like an air traffic controller. She has to give directions.