Intimate Judaism: My Spouse Wants Sex Less Often Than I Do!” – What Does Jewish Law Say?

Submitted by Talli on Tue, 01/08/2019 - 16:35

Sexual relations are considered to be a meaningful aspect of Jewish marriage. Sex is a positive commandment for procreation, and it is considered  a negative commandment for a man to withhold his wife's "onah", understood to mean, her entitlement to sex.

(שְׁאֵרָהּ כְּסוּתָהּ וְעֹנָתָהּ לֹא יִגְרָע" (שמות, כ"א, י'

Food, clothing and sex, he should not withhold from her

A woman is expected to fulfil her husband's desire for sex. A "rebellious wife" who refuses sex, may be divorced without receiving compensation from her ketuba (marriage contract). Some sources discuss when it is permissible to force your wife into having sex 

Masechet Nedarim 15b:

…דאמר רב כהנא: תשמישי עליך כופין אותה ומשמשתו, דשעבודי משעבדת ליה

Rav Kahana says: (If she made a promise to withhold sex) you may force her because she is obligated (enslaved) to you.

(איזוהי אשה כשרה? כל שעושה רצון בעלה" (תדא"ר פ"ט"

"Who is a kosher woman? One who does what her husband wants "

 A "rebellious wife" who refuses sex, may be divorced without receiving compensation from her ketuba (marriage contract)

Does Jewish law mandate sex, even when one partner doesn't want to?

Can you use legal texts to demonstrate your entitlement to sex?

How do we reconcile that concept with the understanding that autonomy and mutual consent are core values of sexual and marital health?

Listen to the new Intimate Judaism, where Talli Yehuda Rosenbaum and Rabbi Scott Kahn discuss the sources and the psychology.