I have not watched the new Netflix series My Unorthodox Life, a show supposedly about how fashion executive Julia Haart lives her life in freedom from the repressive Orthodox Judaism in which she was raised.
I’m not boycotting the show because it attacks Judaism. This has become weirdly common on Netflix. Indeed, you’d think its executives would at least have come up with a more creative name that using the exact same title as the 2020 Series Unorthodox. Less so I am skipping the show because of Julia herself. I’ve never met her and I have nothing against her. Many people who are raised religiously abandon it and that is their choice.
I am utterly opposed to religious coercion of every variety and if Julia feels that orthodoxy is an oppressive downer, that’s her choice.
And even less so am I skipping the series because of the hypocrisy of how Netflix would never even contemplate doing a series of how, say, an American Muslim woman rebels against wearing the hijab and her perceived oppression of Islam.
One more thing. I’m not even skipping the series because of its perceived exploitation of Julia’s children, something I’ve been extremely careful about in my own TV series. When I did Shalom in the Home for TLC, many producers pushed us to do an entire series about my own family. They said it would be a positive portrayal of a religious Jewish family. But some of my kids were opposed so we dropped the entire idea.
No, I’m skipping the series because of Julia’s ridiculous comments about Judaism and sex. If she could be so wrong about what her religion says about life’s most passionate interaction, then she might just be wrong about the rest as well.
To be sure, I knew that it would come to this. If someone wants to attack a minority, they first go after their sexuality. Recall that a deeply racist America would regularly attack the African-American community with horrible sexual stereotypes, especially about the aggressive nature of African-American men vis-à-vis a white woman’s virtue.
With Jews it’s the opposite. We are regularly portrayed as being sexually repressed and just the other day a woman who is an ally of the Jewish people actually asked me, in all seriousness, whether Orthodox Jews have sex through a sheet with a hole in the middle. I responded that it was a lie. Only Reform Jews do that. We Orthodox have sex in two separate bedrooms – through a hole in the wall.
But humor aside, Julia significantly compounds these lies with her fallacious portrayal of Jewish sex in the New York Times: “I just don’t believe that God would put me into hell because my knees show,” she starts her interview, quickly segueing into how, when she left Judaism, she was suddenly free. “Freedom for me meant freedom in every direction. Sexual pleasure, that’s a big deal. I’d never been on a date. I’d never been kissed by someone I had chosen. When I left, I basically went crazy. I think the first guy I was with was a Cirque du Soleil guy.”
An acrobat, oh my! And in the series trailer Haart replies to the question as to whether Judaism has “rules about sex” by saying sardonically, “My dear, there are rules about which shoes you’re supposed to tie first.”
But while I cannot vouch for the contortionist sexual flexibility of the average Orthodox Jewish husband, I can say this, and Haart knows it. Judaism is the only religion on earth that commands a man to pleasure his wife and make her orgasm before he does so himself. It is the only religion on earth that says sex is not for procreation but passionate intimacy, captured beautifully in the book of Genesis where Adam and Eve are enjoined to use sex to become “bone of one bone and flesh of one flesh.” It is the only religion on earth that forbids a man from thinking erotically about another woman while making love to his wife.
While Julia feels that the modest attire which she wore as an orthodox Jewish woman was stifling, Judaism believes that modest clothing is actually very sexy. It invites a man to mentally undress the woman he loves. Any relationship expert worth his or her salt will tell you that a critical ingredient in sustaining attraction in long-term monogamous relationships is something called “erotic obstacles,” impediments to the fulfilment of lust. When we get what we want too quickly or too easily, it bores us, which is why no fast-food eatery can ever compare to a gourmet restaurant. When we wait for the food our mouths salivate and it tastes so much more delicious as a result.
As for Judaism’s rules about sex which she so derisively dismisses, the interesting thing is this: Judaism has almost no rules about sex, something I highlighted at length in my book Kosher Sex. Every position and every pleasurable interaction is allowed. Indeed, about the only things that are forbidden are pornography, because you’re being excited by strangers and not each other, and having sex during menstruation, because Judaism wants the “erotic barrier” of sexual forbiddeness of several days each month to magnify lust and desire. Husbands and wives need a period of sexual separation in order to hunger for each other’s bodies again.
Indeed, the Orthodox Jewish marriage is based far more on lust than love, a point easily demonstrated by the tenth commandment. It expressly forbids lusting after your neighbor’s wife, which by direct implication means you sure as heck ought to be lusting after your own.
I’m assuming Julia went to religious seminary where she must have learned the Talmud’s teaching that the Song of Solomon – a deeply erotic love poem about the electrifying longing between a man and a woman – is the Torah’s holiest book.
Orthodox Jewish couples have not only great sex, but the best sex. Sensuality is constant and eroticism is deeply encouraged, which is why orthodox Jewish women dress so beautifully and elegantly, a point that Julia completely mispresents. Don’t believe me? Go to any of the Orthodox communities in Brooklyn or Manhattan and be amazed at how gorgeous and striking the religious Jewish women are.
So why is Julia dumping on her religion and claiming the women are “flat [people] they could disappear”? I don’t doubt that she might personally have had a terrible experience in the practice of her own faith. Such things do happen in religious communities. But to be fair, they happen in the secular world as well, perhaps even much more often.
How many secular women are sickened to death by the endless debasement of sexuality and women through porn? How many secular women have gone to bed with professional seducers who then gave them the slam-bam-thank-you-Mam version of terrible in-and-out sex, never to be heard from again. Does that mean that all non-religious men are sexual jerks? Of course not. Prejudice is the act of generalization, something that Julia seems guilty of when it comes to her own faith and her own people.
When I published Kosher Sex twenty years ago, I thought it would sell a couple of copies in the traditional Jewish community. Instead, it became a worldwide best-seller that was translated into nearly 20 languages and read mostly by a secular audience and mostly by women.
Why? Because so many secular women are sick and tired of being made to feel that they are sexually inadequate if they turned forty, or they haven’t had liposuction, if they haven’t jabbed a Botox needed into their skulls, or if they decided to leave their breasts natural.
The sexual statistics of secular American marriages are these. One in three married couples is platonic, defined as having sex less than once every three months. The other two-thirds are having sex once a week for – wait for it! – seven minutes at a time, which includes the time the husband spends begging. OK, the begging part is a joke. But the rest is deadly serious.
And why is that? Because a world which has made sex on TV and the internet so available, so explicit, and so casual has actually killed off sex, which requires mystery, sinfulness, and unavailability to sustain its erotic attraction.
Why is why I can’t give you exact figures on how often Orthodox Jewish couples are having sex. They actually believe that sex is potent when it’s not discussed as cavalierly as Julia does.
But the strength of the Orthodox Jewish family, admired throughout the world should tell you this: Husbands and wives are deeply connected through strong erotic attachments and profound sexual ecstasy.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is author of the international best-sellers Kosher Sex, Kosher Lust, and Lust for Love, co-authored with Pamela Anderson. His daughter Chana started the Kosher.Sex company which seeks to enhance passion and intimacy in marriage. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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