Dov Linzer, chief rabbi of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school (YCT), hadn’t heard of the Kama Sutra — until, that is, he researched the topic for a podcast.
“Joy of Text,” a new monthly podcast hosted by YCT and the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), will address taboo sexual topics within the Orthodox community. Masturbation, premarital sex and pornography are just a few of the subjects in the works. The first podcast, “Fantasy, Concealing Abuse, Kama Sutra Cards and Vibrators,” went live last week.
“We don’t want people to be ashamed of these topics,” said Rabbi Linzer, who is co-hosting the monthly podcasts with Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox sex therapist and one of JOFA’s founding members. “It’s time to name things for what they are — no more euphemisms and no more indirectness.”
The podcast follows in the path of Jewrotica, a pluralistic website launched in 2012 with the goal of discussing sex and Judaism in a positive, open context.
“Sexual identities are gentle souls,” said Marcus, who was profiled last week in The New York Times for her work with women in the sexually stringent charedi community. “They can be crushed easily under too much restriction. The goal is to bring these topics out of the dark; so talk and laugh about them. Sex doesn’t have to be such a hush-hush, heavy topic — it can be fun,” she said.
Though the podcast is primarily aimed at an Orthodox audience, the content is intended to attract listeners from all walks of life, stressed Rabbi Linzer. “Sexual fantasy is an important topic in general,” he said. “Our content is universal.”
The podcast is being produced by Jewish Public Media (JPM), the company responsible for “SermonSlam,” Jewish-themed performance art shared on YouTube and iTunes, and “Talking in Shul,” an audio segment about sex education in Jewish day schools. David Kalman, co-founder and CEO of JPM, said podcasts achieve an “intimate relationship with the listener.”
“Audio is an excellent medium for sensitive topics,” said Kalman. “It’s just the listener and his ear buds. There’s a lot of privacy, and total engagement in the conversation,” he said.
Each “Joy of Text” podcast will include three components: a conversation about the topic between the co-hosts, a guest speaker on the topic, and a segment dedicated to questions from the audience. Questions can be sent in anonymously via the podcast’s website, TJOT.org. Said Marcus: Addressing audience questions will give the “theoretical discussion practical impact.”
In the most recent segment, the two questions selected for discussion related to the use of vibrators and the Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu sex manual.
Rabbi Linzer foresees other practical benefits of the project, specifically for seminarians.
“It can give a community rabbi footing to begin a conversation with congregants about how things are in the bedroom,” he said, noting that YCT students spend significant time training for such conversations.
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Though they are not sure how many listeners will tune in, Marcus and Rabbi Linzer are confident that the podcast will make a splash.
“‘Oh, my God, did a rabbi really just say that?!’” said Rabbi Linzer, mimicking one response he received to the first podcast. “That’s one reaction. But then there’s this: ‘Thank you so much, rabbi, for just straight-up saying the word sex.’”