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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Rafi Ostroff

Female Pleasure (For men & women)

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Many men misunderstand the need for female masturbation. Some men feel female masturbation threatens their masculinity; they are concerned that if their wife can pleasure herself, she will have no need for them. They may be concerned that she will be less interested in having relations. Others believe female masturbation is prohibited, since they view it in parallel to male masturbation. Some question whether masturbation is appropriate, even if it is permitted halakhically; is it not an inappropriate use of sexual organs and sexual energy?


Throughout the generations, female masturbation was frowned upon by society, and not considered normative behavior; in fact, according to one study, 19th century doctors used masturbation as medical treatment for hysteria. However, over the last decades, the attitude toward masturbation has shifted, and thanks to the evolving discourse about healthy sexuality, today masturbation is better understood within the context of female sexuality and a healthy sexual relationship within the religious and halakhic context.


Prior to the pioneering research of Masters and Johnson, little was understood about female sexual pleasure. Their work opened the floodgates for research in this field, and today society is far better informed than ever before in this field.


But let us begin with the halakhic sources that relate to female masturbation.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed offers an important current halakhic perspective on female masturbation in his book Simhat ha-Bayit u-Birkato (p. 119):

Women are also prohibited from self-stimulation for the purpose of self-fulfillment. The reason is that passion should be preserved for the purpose of strengthening the love and connection between man and wife, not for the selfish self-fulfillment.


The reason cited for this ruling is purely educational; in order to better understand this ruling, it should be read in context. The chapter that includes this citation discusses the sanctity of sexuality specifically within the context of marriage, as a cornerstone of the marital relationship.


However, Rabbi Melamed adds that the prohibition on female masturbation is less severe than male masturbation, for two reasons: (a) When a man ejaculates, he is subsequently unable to fulfill his halakhic obligation to satisfy his wife's sexual needs. (b) A woman cannot 'extract semen in vain,' since she does not produce sperm, which has the potential to create life. Based on these parameters, female masturbation should not be prohibited at all; however, as explained above, Rabbi Melamed prohibits female masturbation for educational purposes.


Rabbi Melamed is a unique current rabbinic figures of our generation; his halakhic writings are extremely attentive to our reality, and this is the reason his works are purchased by the thousands. However, numerous studies have been written about the positive impact of female masturbation, and its significant contribution to healthy sexuality and a healthy sexual relationship. In fact, he mitigates the prohibition in a footnote and writes:


When a woman is unable to be fulfilled sexually by her husband, as per his halakhic obligation, and the advice of a God-fearing professional therapist is that she should attempt self-gratification, she may do so. Firstly, because the purpose of self-gratification here is for the sake of a mitzvah; secondly, in a time of need the positions of Rabbeinu Tam and the Birkei Yosef can be relied on.

We see here that even Rabbi Melamed, who generally objects to female masturbation, recognizes that women may need to masturbate for the purpose of strengthening their relationship. In the paragraphs that follow, I will relate to various aspects of female masturbation and its impact on the marital relationship.

  1. Difficulties and challenges relating to female sexuality

A common concerns raised by men who seek sexual therapy is that their wives do not enjoy or initiate sexual relations. There can be many reasons for this phenomena, but one central reason may be simply that the wife does not enjoy sexual intercourse. A woman who is not fulfilled by the sexual relationship will not initiate; she may comply with her husband, but this is not a fulfilling situation to either partner in the long run. It is therefore crucial that both partners are satisfied by the sexual relationship. In order to ensure this is the case, the complexity of female sexual pleasure requires exploration. For the woman, the best way to understand female sexuality is through guidance and self-exploration. It is best for the husband not to be present, since the anticipation for answers may create a stressful atmosphere that hinders her ability to explore. A woman needs time and space to truly understand her sexual needs; once she understand her own needs, these can be more easily conveyed to her husband. In chapter 12 of my book, Lada'at Le'ehov, I included a detailed guide, authored by a woman, for women who have a difficult time reaching orgasm.


Once a woman has explored her own sexual needs through guidance and masturbation, she is more likely to desire sexual relations with her spouse, and may also initiate, as we read in the Eiruvin 100b: "R. Shmuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Yohanan: Any woman who initiates sexual relations with her husband merits children the stature of which were not even seen in the generation of Moshe."

  1. Self-exploration causes most women to want sexual relations more, not less

When men masturbate, their sexual energy is spent, and often a man who masturbates loses the desire or ability to have sexual relations with his wife immediately, sometimes for the rest of the day, and possibly longer, depending on testosterone levels, general health, and other factors. Female sexuality works differently: female masturbation often results in greater desire for sexual relations. A woman who is in touch with her own sexuality, and understands her own sexual reactions, may gain confidence in the bedroom, which can lead to an improved and more fulfilling sexual relationship with her husband.

  1. Masturbation does not replace a husband

I have not yet met the man who prefers to be in bed alone instead of with a partner. Although many men masturbate regularly, even in the context of a relationship – no one would give up on a relationship with a woman for masturbation. Masturbation cannot replace a fulfilling joint sexual experience. Sexual relations are more than mere physical contact; sex comprises of soulful connection, words and sounds, scent and connection. There should be no concern that self-exploration will lead to the husband's redundancy or dismissal, unless he is inconsiderate of his wife's needs. There is no reason to assume that a woman will prefer masturbation to a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship, or that masturbation will replace one's husband.

  1. Pleasure Products

Some women use pleasure products, such as vibrators, during masturbation. I have devoted another article to these products and their impact on the sexual relationship. As stated above, there should be no concern that these products will replace the need for a sexual relationship with the husband. Even the best pleasure product cannot replace a loving relationship with another human being. The sexual relationship is far more than anything a machine can supply; a pleasure product can contribute to a more fulfilling and pleasurable sexual relationship, but cannot replace it.

  1. Is female masturbation a challenge to masculinity?

Perhaps; the question is how one views masculinity. If one's view of masculinity is that a woman should be dependent on her husband for all purposes and have no independent existence of her own, masturbation can be taken as a threat, since she will enjoy a personal and pleasurable experience without her husband's assistance. If masculinity means empowering one's partner, providing her with the space she needs, acknowledging the value of personal independence within the relationship – then masturbation poses no threat, and in fact, can serve as a new expression of personal independence within the relationship. Men should nurture masculinity that does not rely on ego and power, but rather on self-control that provides space for his wife, children, and others. Giving one's wife the space to explore her own sexuality, and transferring the responsibility to her, can work wonders for the sexual relationship. This is truly empowering and fulfilling masculinity.

  1. Openness

Many women feel uncomfortable speaking about their sexual needs, even with their husbands. Similarly, many men will avoid speaking to their wives about masturbation or 'extracting semen in vain.' The ability to speak about sexuality demands confidence and trust, and an openness to intimacy. Sometimes religious education, stigma, negative connotations, and other emotional blockages can get in the way of an open conversation about sexuality. If a woman feels she needs help opening up, she should seek guidance from a reliable professional in the field.

  1. When is masturbation frowned upon?

The approach toward female masturbation penned above is altogether positive; so when is masturbation frowned upon? If masturbation creates contention or a divide between a husband and wife; if it diminishes the desire to have normative sexual relations with her husband, or her desire to have sex; if she becomes addicted to masturbation, in a way that affects her everyday functioning, or creates tension with her husband – in all these cases, masturbation should be avoided. If this is the case, it is important to seek guidance from a professional sex therapist to iron out the difficulties and find the right path toward a healthier sexual relationship.


Conclusion

I hope the explanations above can alleviate the halakhic concerns of rabbis and laymen who have a negative approach toward female masturbation. I believe female masturbation is a positive force which can contribute to a healthy sexual relationship within a marriage.


One may still wonder, whether masturbation is appropriate, even if it is permitted? Should a woman spend time and energy on self-indulgence and exploring her own sexuality?


The answer to this question depends on the view of sexuality within the religious context. I have written extensively on this matter in my book Lada'at Le'ehov. This question also depends on the space provided for pleasure within the relationship.


In conclusion, female masturbation can contribute to a woman's positive attitude toward the sexual relationship, and her knowledge of her own body and understanding of her sexuality can improve her relationship with her husband. Based on the information we have today, there is no reason for concern that female masturbation will harm the marital relationship. These considerations, along with the dangers of seeking sexuality outside the marriage, certainly point to a preference for female masturbation, as a means toward building a healthier sexual relationship.





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