May a husband and wife with mutual consent (and assuming niddah, seed spilling, etc. are not an issue) use handcuffs or other restraints or toys to spice things up?
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Yes, it's fine to use toys, restraints and such to spice things up, in moderation, so long as there are no safety or issues of potential betrayal of trust held by either parter. There are actually two mitzvot regarding sexuality, one being p'ru u'r'vu-- to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis1:28.), and the second instance is in Exodus 21:10 where it is written for the husband to ensure he sexually satisfies his wife (Exodus 21:10). Today we would extend this provision to the full range of gender expression in relationships.
There's even a company out there to serve the spices: KosherSexToys.net. While I don't recall the sages specifically writing about couples and bondage, in Daniel Boyarin's scholarly work, Eros and the Jews, you will find examples and sources for a variety of ways to spice things up, including at the back of the Talmud tractate Berachot where the rabbis actually record their dreams, some of which are quite saucy. It is vital to respect that something unwanted by one member of the couple must be kept off limits. If one person's passionate desire for something that is too kinky for the other persists, it is respectful to explore helpful possibilities in the presence of a good sex therapist.
Judaism encouragessexual pleasure, with the understanding it is vital to the formation and sustance of healthy long term relationships. [The Rambam wrote extensively on this; see ShulhanArukhEvenHa'ezer chap. 76.] Further, so long as neither of you are objecting, everything sexual between just the two of you is permitted. [See the ShulhanArukhEvenHa'ezer 25:2 with special attention to the opinion of the Rama. The Sheva Brachot, "Seven Blessings" that come at the end of a Jewish wedding and that are repeated through the following week at meals hosted by friends also mentions this factor:
"Blessed Be the Source of Life who created joy and celebration, sacred partnerships (hatan v'kallah, in the original), rejoicing, jubilation, pleasureand delight, love and consideration (rei-ute in the original), peace and friendship..."
Our tradition does indicate that the presence of God is part of the process of conception, and in some far right wing communities there is a strong emphasis on keeping one's mind on the holiness of what is happening. For some, this can become a counter-productive turn-off and barrier to healthy intimacy and conception, and the ultra-Orthodox counseling group Puah is available to help debunk this trend. Indeed, counselors across the spectrum of Jewish life describe on their websites and in their writings that they tend to suggest "spicing things up" when indicated, for long-term relationships can well-benefit from creative interaction.
Let me first answer the question you asked then I want to answer a question you didn’t ask.
Insofar as handcuffs/restraints, as long as there is no physical harm or danger to either party, and there is real (not coerced) mutual concent, I don’t see any problem with it. In fact, in our society, where sex in every form is available to be viewed on the internet (I am not implying that you do this, only stating a fact) and where divorce is rampant, I think it is crucial that a couple keep their sexual relationship fun and vital. If this is something that you both want, it seems harmless enough and if it spices up your marriage, so much the better. Toys, is an even easier question. I see no problem.
Now let me turn to a question you didn’t asked but raised accidentally. There is a perception among many that it is forbidden for a man to ejaculate anywhere but in the woman’s vagina (some people say vagina or anus.) They believe that every other form of ejaculation, whether from oral, manual or any other form of stimulation during the intimate encounter is forbidden. In my opinion this is false.
Firstly, even though this is what Rabbi Joseph Karo writes in the Shulchan Aruch, basing himself on Rambam, Rabbi Moses Isserles, in the same section, based on R”i the elder, states that it is permitted to have a sexual encounter that leads to ejaculation outside of the vagina or anus (called derech eivarim) "occasionally". He writes this in Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 25:2.
Although I am sure that the average rabbi knows this source, for some reason, maybe prudery or excessive "frumkeit", this is hidden from many people in Chattan and Kallah classes. I believe that hiding this is a terrible sin since it creates sexual anxiety in the couple. In a time when marriage is on the rocks, with high divorce rate even in the frum community, and the outside world offering anything and everything, making sex in marriage more tense and less fun may be one of the greatest sins a rabbi can do. (Yes, this is polemical, but I think it is true nonetheless.)
Furthermore, the text of Rambam upon which Rabbi Karo builds his halakha (Mishneh Torah, “Hilkhot Issurei Biah”, 21:9) is actually a censored text. This is a fact. In any uncensored version of the text (see the notes on the Frankel edition for instance), you will see that Rambam too permits ejaculation outside the vagina (derech eivarim) and, unlike Ri, doesn’t even say that this should only be done “occasionally.” He just says a couple can do what they want, no holds barred. These words were erased and replaced with "as long as he doesn't shed seed in vain," but these were not Rambam's words. How much power should a censored text be given? In a sensitive issue like this, I would see little or none at all.
This is a great and practical question. Sexual intimacy between two married partners is essential to the Jewish tradition. In fact there is a great story in the Torah about a student who sneaks under his teacher's bed. At one point the student hears his teacher (a rabbi) flirting (maybe even fondling) with his wife on the bed. The student reveals himself shortly thereafter and even though the teacher is surprised by the student's presence, he is also understanding about the student's efforts. In response, the student exclaims, "This is, too, is Torah, and I must learn it."
There is a valuable piece of Torah to be learned from sexual intimacy. Song of songs is a wonderful example of what it means to love someone intimately and to be in awe of their beauty. Sex can be a wonderful way to connect with one's partner. It's a moment of vulnerability as much as it is about love. I would argue that the love is what makes the vulnerability possible...
We can chalk all the intimacy, vulnerability, and love involved in sex up to recognizing the divine image inherent in each person. But this also requires that we see them as also have worth and dignity. Taking into consideration your assumptions about niddah and seed spilling, as long as your behavior during sex does not effect your partner's dignity or sense of self worth, and as long as it's meant to improve the sexual relationship between the two of you then there is nothing wrong with using handcuffs and/or retraints.
Two words come to mind: HAVE FUN.
As long as this consent is between two sane adults in a healthy relationship and non-compromised state of mind, and as long as there is a way for each party to end this sexual behavior with no consequences, and as long as no one is hurt and no laws broken - what you do in your own private bedroom (or other places for the sake of spicing it up) is your own business. I am not even sure why you would seek a response from a Rabbi about this.
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