Before my wife and I became religious, oral sex was a standard on the menu, and now that we have gradually begun living an Orthodox lifestyle, my wife finds it hard to do without it, since it’s just about the only way she can experience a climax. Is oral sex really forbidden, or just an added stringency for husbands who are seeking to be saintly? Doesn’t the mitzvah of pleasing one’s wife overweigh things like this?
Certainly the mitzvah of pleasing one’s wife is of upmost importance in a marriage. Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, the late Chief Rabbi of Israel, writes in his book, “Darkei Tahara”:
“A man is obligated to make his wife happy in the mitzvah of marital relations, on the night of her ritual immersion, and even at other permitted times when she so desires (Pesachim72B, Rashi). This obligation is from the Torah (Shemot, 21:10). A husband who withholds himself from conducting relations with his wife to deliberately cause her anguish is transgressing the Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 76:11). Furthermore, there are Torah authorities who state that even if he does not intend to cause his wife anguish (but does so to comply with his idea of saintliness) he still is transgressing the Torah (“Beer Haitev” there). In any event, everyone agrees that he is violating an injunction of the Rabbis, for she cannot obtain satisfaction in this matter from anyone else” (Darkei Tahara, Ch.19).
“A husband who seeks to ascend the ladder of holiness, must do so in the manner set forth by our Sages, in a step by step way, without withholding from his wife the basic obligations he has towards her. Rewarded is he who leaves this world without having caused chagrin to his loved ones. The Talmud relates how serious this matter is by telling about Rav Richumi, who would study Torah all year with Rava, and come home on the eve of Yom Kippur. One time, he prolonged his learning as Yom Kippur approached. With great expectation, his wife anxiously awaited his arrival, thinking “For sure, he’s on the way” each moment. When he delayed in coming home, she felt so sorrowful that she wept. Rav Richumi was sitting in the upper gallery of the study hall, and when his wife shed her tear, the floor under him collapsed and he fell to his death (Ketubot 62B).
“Thus, a man should take precaution to rise up the ladder of holiness together with his wife, so that both of them will be happy and ascend together, and not separate himself from the world with his own personal sanctity at the expense of his spouse” (Darkei Tahara, loc. cited).
However, pleasing one’s wife sexually cannot come at the expense of transgressing the halacha which states:
“Even though it is permitted for a husband to do with his wife, with her consent, as he pleases, ‘to have relations whenever he wants, and to kiss whatever place he wants (excluding her sexual organ), and have relations in the normal manner, or in the not-normal manner, and in differing ways – nevertheless, it is in these regards that the Sages say: ‘Sanctify yourselves in that which is permitted to you.’
“And even though one may kiss whatever part of his wife's body that he wants, it is forbidden to look at, or to kiss, his wife's sexual organ, for whoever looks there has no shame, and trespasses ‘and you shall walk modestly with your G-d’ (Michah, 6:8), and he removes the look of shame before G-d from his face; for whoever has a sense of shame will not sin. Not only this, but he incites his evil inclination, and all the more so, someone who kisses that place transgresses all of the above and ‘You shall not make an abomination out of your souls’” (Aven HaEzer, 230:4. Darkei Tahara, Ch.22, 3-4).
The Bible commentators, Rashi and Onkelos, explain that man is distinguished from the animals by his Divine gift of speech. The mouth is considered the "Goblet of the King." The praise of G-d is to fill our mouths. If we fill it instead with impurity, we pollute the King's goblet, and lower our Divine status.
While a woman's sexual organ leads to the womb, where the miracle of life begins, its outer opening is a place of impurity, urine, and menstrual blood. Someone who engages in this practice without repenting can be sure that the holiness of his prayers will be severely hindered. Jewish Law frowns upon oral sex, and the Kabbalists stress its damaging effects, especially concerning the likelihood of wasting semen in vain when performed on the male.
On the Torah portion, Shemini, the Zohar explains that the concepts of “mouth” and “tongue” are related to transcendental places in the world of Atzilut, for the sefirah of Malchut is called “mouth” and the exalted Yesod of Zer Anpin is called “tongue.” Therefore, a man should not pollute his mouth and tongue, because our actions in this world affect the highest, parallel, spiritual worlds above, polluting transcendental spiritual channels as well as the soul, G-d forbid.
To put it bluntly, performing oral sex on your wife is a spiritual knockout. Though it gives your wife physical pleasure, is it worth sacrificing all of your special Jewish holiness? Hopefully, you can find other ways to please your wife. If that’s the only thing that brings her satisfaction, maybe you can help raise her to a higher spiritual plane. In a sense, having you “go down on her” is degrading you. Is that what turns her on? Perhaps encourage her to learn more, to go to more Torah classes for women, and try to set an example for her. True there are some women who need a long session of foreplay before they can reach their orgasm, and not every husband can hold himself back indefinitely without spilling semen in vain. So what’s a husband to do?
Here are some suggestions that other couples have found helpful. Some women have trouble relaxing when the kids are at home, even late at night when the children are sleeping, so take your wife to a hotel on her immersion night and see how it turns her on. And try whispering sweet things in her ear during foreplay, how much you love her, and how wonderful a person she is, and how you are so aroused by her, and the like. Try a little soft background music, or “meditation” discs of running water and waves. You can also try massages to relax her – a good, old-fashion foot massage breaks down lots of barriers. Also, she is sure to like a slow, gentle, loving massage of her clitoris. This is mentioned in the Talmud as a recommended practice (Shabbat 140B), so there’s no need to be shy. Try using an oil-based lotion since creams are forbidden on Shabbat. There are all kinds of oils in heath stores. This is a pure, permitted way to help her reach her climax without oral sex. If you become so charged by all this foreplay that you can’t hold back, then it is best to have relations immediately, so that you don’t spill semen in vain. Afterward, rest a bit, make yourself an energy-packed fruit juice cocktail, or a few sips of beer (without getting drunk), and have relations again (with all the foreplay she needs) so that she will reach her climax before yours. If performing oral sex on you is what turns her on, while there are some rabbis who condone this, there is the danger of premature ejaculation and spilling semen in vain, which does great spiritual harm. Kabbalists warn that even the thin transparent drops of fluid that sometimes appear before a full ejaculation are also considered semen, so you have to ask yourselves if the momentary pleasure is worth the risks. Instead, try old fashion kissing – it can be the greatest turn on there is when it comes through a deep spiritual union. A husband and wife who work on deepening their love for each other don’t need all of the unnatural acts that have come to replace true intimacy. Remember, love love love - love is all you need.