As everyone in show biz knows, if you want attention, you’ve got to have a gimmick, and more than a decade ago, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach came up with a great one.
In 1999, Boteach published Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy. It wasn’t the first time sex advice was offered from an unlikely source. He figured correctly that if people were willing to talk sex with a little old Jewish lady named Dr. Ruth Westheimer, they would surely go for sexy marriage advice from an ultra-Orthodox rabbi dressed in black - Dr. Ruth with a yarmulke.
He’d already test-run the concept with success in Great Britain - when he published a similar book a few years earlier provocatively titled “The Jewish Guide to Adultery: How to Turn Your Marriage into an Illicit Affair.”
The “Kosher Sex” concept was a hit, Boteach became a media favorite and dubbed “Dr. Ruth with kippa” - the book was excerpted in Playboy Magazine. Using the Bible and the Talmud for examples, Boteach argued, in a world of one-night stands, that committed relationships could be sexy and that "passionate love making” leads to marital bliss. It was an age-old message that many people, mostly women, wanted to hear, and got Boteach on the sofas of Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, behind the microphone of his own radio show and ultimately his own series, Shalom in the Home.
Beyond the sex and relationship talk, Boteach never missed an opportunity to get his name in the headlines by rubbing shoulders with celebrities. He told The Guardian "God gave 10 commandments at Sinai, and the 11th commandment, which they expunged but which has come down orally, is 'Thou shalt do anything for publicity and recognition'."
As an early profile related, Boteach argued about pornography with Penthouse publisher Larry Flynt, fixed up Roseanne Barr’s daughter with a nice Jewish boy, and befriended Deepak Chopra. More recently, he escorted TV medical guru Dr. Oz on a trip to Israel. Most famous, of course, was his stint as Michael Jackson’s “spiritual adviser.”
Two years ago, he attempted to parlay his celebrity into a political career, taking a detour into politics, getting the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in New Jersey, but ultimately losing the election, despite a hefty bankroll from supporter Sheldon Adelson - with whom he recently appeared on a political panel.
But for now, the detour into politics seems to be over. Shmuley the politician is gone and Shmuley the “sex-pert” is back.
Whether it’s to cover his campaign debt or just pay the rent, Boteach decided to get back to basics this year and offer a spiced up version of his old shtick to a new generation of what he clearly views as desperate housewives.
His new book is titled "Kosher Lust: Love Is Not the Answer," in which he makes the pitch that “it is not love, but lust that is the glue of a marriage.”
He promises that if we all follow his lead, we will “restore lust to its rightful place as the central pillar of marriage.”
It all sounds awfully familiar.
But this time, the reaction is different. 2014 is not 1999. These days, women - Jewish women in particular - have little tolerance for a male ultra-Orthodox rabbi telling them what they want - and they are giving him a piece of their minds online and across social media.
And make no mistake - Boteach is, quite literally, telling married women what they want. Specifically, in a column he penned in The Huffington Post titled, naturally, “What Women Really Want.”
And what do (presumably all) women want in Boteach-world? “Women are not looking just for love in a marriage; they are primarily looking for lust. A woman wants to be wanted, needs to be needed, desires to be desired. A woman does not go into marriage principally to be loved; she goes into marriage to be lusted after …. This is what a woman thirsts to hear more than anything: "I desire you. I want to be physical with you. Your beauty is overwhelming to me. I cannot control myself around you. I find myself thinking about you constantly and I have to have you - I don't care what the consequences are. I don't care if we don't go to sleep tonight and we have to get the kids to school in the morning; there are no physical considerations that can suppress my desire for you." That's what women want and need to hear; that's what will melt a woman, because it taps into her core desire. ”
Frimet Goldberger reacted scathingly in The Forward to Boteach’s pose as a ‘women’s sensuality guru’: “Spot on, Rabbi! Women get married because they want their husbands to lose control. Married women desire only men who know how to tap their cores and melt them. Women get married because they hate to sleep and want to be ravaged at every hour, as if by Christian Grey in “Fifty Shades of Baloney” … It is heartening to see a rabbi speak for the ladies and dictate what they desire — or should desire…. Women around the world read your piece and exhaled a collective sigh of relief. They dropped their functional and domestic work, quit their jobs, stashed all the children into boxes labeled “functional” and took off to tap into their lost sensuality…”
Another writer, blogger Aliza Worthington, took the snark a step further and decided to red-pencil and grade Boteach’s essay as if it were an English paper, correcting his grammar while providing snark and anger regarding his argument.
She assigned him a D-plus for both grammar and content and charges it is full of “Grotesque stereotypes, massive overgeneralizations, flawed analysis, unsubstantiated assertions completely false dichotomies and endorsement of rape culture.” Her conclusion: “Basically, your solution for women's collective waning libido is to hypersexualize her and allow her to be the whore you know she wants to be. Banish her tired functionality with your open lust for her. That will make her whole! Sadly, this essay is … filled with reductive reasoning and closeted misogyny.”
The comments on these articles - and those on the Facebook and Twitter shares, echo the aggravation with Boteach. Here’s a sample: “He is such an ass,” “I pity his wife,” “Whether or not our marriages are ideal has nothing to do with Rabbi Boteach's condescending and presumptuous misogyny,” “The generalizations and dichotomies of Boteach's piece are infuriating, and false false false!” and “Never did I think I would be seeing the good rabbi flaming the fires of rape culture. Shame on him.”
Surely, there’s no shortage of troubled Hollywood stars in need of a spiritual adviser, minor celebrities who need a tour guide in Israel - or maybe another office in New Jersey Boteach can unsuccessfully run for on Sheldon Adelson’s dime. Anything to get this guy out of our beds.