Sisterhood Blog

Bedtime Reading: Meditations on Sex

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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Two new books relating to sex, sexual identity and Judaism are on their way to your bedside table.

While for the past few years books for Christians about keeping the spark alive in bed have been big sellers in Christian publishing, books focusing on the Jewish connection — Rabbi Shmuley aside — are a relatively new development. Publishers Weekly writes:

The search for new voices on sex is hardly limited to Christian publishers. Several cutting-edge books this summer and fall are for a Jewish-interest audience. First among them is The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism (NYU Press, June), an anthology edited by Danya Ruttenberg, a young woman rabbi who made a splash last year with the release of her memoir, Surprised by God (Beacon, 2008). The second, Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (NYU Press, September), is also a collection, edited by Gregg Drinkwater, Joshua Lesser and David Shneer, and includes commentaries on the weekly Torah portions Jews read in synagogue that seek insights into queer lives.

Included in the Ruttenberg anthology are essays on pornography, nonmarital sex and masturbation. The cover image is of a suggestively rumpled bed. Rabbi Ruttenberg, author of two earlier books, is speaking on a panel Thursday at the 92nd Street Y on “Jewish Women, God and the Next Generation.”

Out at the end of this month is Sharon Moalem’s “How Sex Works” (Harper). Not aimed at a specifically Jewish audience, the book is the second for Moalem, who is a doctor by virtue of a PhD in human physiology. He also wrote the New York Times best-seller “Survival of the Sickest.” Promoting that, he appeared on “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, wearing a black yarmulke, telling Jon Stewart that women may menstruate to relieve our bodies of excess iron, which may in part have been a defense against the Bubonic Plague, which killed half of Europe’s population in the 14th century.

His new book explains the evolutionary rationale for why we (and our bodies) do what they do, sexually speaking, like the impact of watching porn on a man’s fertility.

It’s certainly makes fertile ground for reading.


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