You’d think everyone is headed off to an ass-eating contest this weekend, right after stopping off to work a glory hole first — we’re in an era of such unprecedented sexual openness about our deepest, kinkiest desires.
And yet, obviously not, because a Jewish rabbi is simultaneously touring the country to warn married people that they’re stuck in a sexual famine, voluntarily friend-zoning themselves into a bedroom so dead that there is nothing to do but sit around watching Netflix and farting at each other while not fucking.
The solution is simple, he says, though not easy. Just do a few key things to preserve the erotic integrity of your relationship, like stop watching Netflix so much, stop hanging out naked all the time, and don’t discuss anything practical after 9 p.m.
The rabbi is Shmuley Boteach, and he’s been hawking this lustier, kinkier version of married-people sex for a while in teachings, books like Kosher Sex, reality sex counseling shows like Shalom at Home, and most recently at a talk in Sydney, Australia, where he warned about the dangers of the rise of the modern platonic marriage. Often called Dr. Ruth with a yarmulke, he’s big with celebrities and, for a while at least, couldn’t stop mentioning his friendship with Michael Jackson. Hopefully not anymore.
But if we can put that aside for a minute and think about his actual advice, though somewhat drawn from Jewish teachings, it also still fits neatly within secular modern therapy’s advice for straddling a very fine line with the people we love and presumably want to fuck for decades. It does involve not being so joined at the hip that you can never actually miss the motherfucker enough to want to get down to bangin’.
Somehow, in spite of being culturally inundated with sexed-up everything, long-term couples still don’t have enough sex for their liking. Whether or not it’s actually less than coupled-off people use to fuck or not is hard to figure out, given that the data is always based on self-reporting. But the fact remains: For whatever reason, pushing all of our sleazy desire out into the cultural open has not translated into more fucking at home. The reason, experts seem to think, it’s that we’re all settling for companionship instead of passion.
The only way to keep the passion is to be close, but not too close, to keep the sex alive. If that sounds like an argument against marrying your best friend, you would be correct. As Boteach put it in his recent Sydney talk, the reason you “have so much time” to sit around watching Netflix with your spouse is “because you’re not having sex.”
Don’t get him wrong. He concedes that ironically, watching so much TV together is probably the reason your relationship is still hanging on, but that’s not actually a good thing. “What binge watching does is, it almost saves your marriage — because we don’t want to confront the loss of passion, to acknowledge it, so having this noise to fill the silence is a convenient escape from having to focus on the loss of intimacy,” he said at his Australian talk.
The biggest obstacle to a passionate marriage, then, is over-familiarity. That’s also the message of Belgian couples therapist Esther Perel, who has long argued that couples must “make space for themselves within their togetherness” in order to keep fucking:
With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter. When people become fused — when two become one — connection can no longer happen. There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: This is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.
Paradox, indeed! You need to go away long enough so that I will want to fuck you. When you live together, that’s not so easy. So let’s consider a few of Boteach’s hot sex tips:
- Don’t discuss practical matters after 9 p.m.; it “extinguishes eroticism”
- Netflix and porn are just distractions from your relationship issues
- Men and women should be open to each other’s erotic fantasies
- Men should ask their wives “erotic questions,” including “sinful” ones involving their fantasies about other men
- Men should always make their woman orgasm first
- All sex positions are great, but missionary is the most intimate, because it’s full-body contact and you can make eye contact
- Her hair is hot, one of the “sexiest things around,” and you should both really get into it
- Women should be sexually unavailable for some period of the month, like during menstruation, because it “drives men crazy with lust”
- Oral, anal, sex toys, S&M and fucking on a golf course are all hot and should be done
- Couples should shut the door when they go to the bathroom, for mystery (and smells)
- Couples should not walk around naked when the television is on, as it waters down the value of nudity, which must be earned. Make nakedness a special occasion.
- Novelty in sex doesn’t have to mean a new partner, it can mean a new experience with the same partner, by “going deeper into their fantasies”
- Have an affair — with your wife!
While some of these sound a little cheesy (her hair!), it’s also all extremely logical. To be clear, period sex is great, and so is nudity, and there is real value in being with someone you can just be with and not be ever-vigilant about making sure you come off as alluring. People need to be human with each other, which includes bouts of diarrhea and wicked farts.
But what’s being proposed here wouldn’t really have to contradict all that, so long as that sort of familiarity isn’t the norm. You don’t have to be Jewish to see the value in keeping things fresh and changing them up. So maybe, if nothing else, we should all try a few of these things every so often. Try to alternate the deep couch imprint of Netflix binge-watching with a week of dates and time apart and new outfits and the kind of sexual withholding that makes you want to fuck again.
Esther Perel has also long argued that by fixing the sex, which means maintaining the proper distance with a lover, the rest of the relationship will fall into place. For generations of people looking for their bestie to trudge to the altar, that sounds intuitively out of order. But we’ve been allowed to do it our way all this time and look where it got us: Watching Netflix all night instead of fucking. Maybe it’s time to give this space thing a fair shot.