Shmuley Boteach, known as “America’s Rabbi,” is host of the award-winning national TV show, Shalom in the Home on TLC. He is also the internationally best-selling author of 20 books, including his most recent: The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion for Life. JDate President Greg Liberman got the chance to have a chat with the prolific rabbi to discuss his new book and how it can help JDate members create relationships with both depth and passion.
The problem in dating today is that it’s no longer about the masculine progressing to the feminine which is what it should be. It’s the feminine progressing to the masculine…
Greg Liberman: So tell us a little bit about your new book, The Kosher Sutra and what prompted you to write it?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I think sex is dying in America. We all seem to believe that sex is the most powerful of all human impulses; that it’s the strongest of all human instincts. So what could explain its demise in our time? All the statistics show that there’s a lot of sex on TV and on beer commercials, but there just isn’t any in our bedroom. One in three American couples is entirely platonic. The average American couple has sex only once a week for seven minutes at a time. And, then in the singles community, the majority of them are not having partnered sex. You’re talking about a small minority of people who are having sex in America.
According to CNN, during this recession, the average American is watching five hours of television per night, which is just astonishing when you think about it. So five hours of TV a night is 35 hours per week versus seven minutes of sex. There’s another statistic that shows that a quarter of American husbands spend approximately an hour a day downloading porn! I’m actually astonished that more attention isn’t being focused on this. What are we going to have, our kids delivered by stork? Are we going to see the manifestation of Woody Allen’s original vision in Sleeper of the Orgasmatron, where we have sex with a machine?
So, what I was examining is what happened to our libido? What happened to our sex lives? I wrote The Kosher Sutra to try to penetrate the erotic mind. What are the secrets of erotic attraction? And what is eroticism? Eroticism isn’t a woman holding a whip; that’s a forgery of true erotic passion.
Greg: You talk in the book about some of the couples that have implemented the suggestions from your book. What kind of impact has it had on their relationships?
Rabbi Shmuley: Since the book’s publication, I have been positively startled to discover the number of couples that stop me on the streets or that write to me in the thousands to tell me how useful the advice has been and the dramatic enhancement it’s brought to the couple’s sex life, intimate life and romantic life.
I’m about to start filming a new season of my TLC television show Shalom in the Home and I was at one meeting recently, where a very senior producer at one of the big syndicators just went on and on about what she and her husband are doing differently now. She mentioned, for example, that before reading the book, she thought that marriage was about total openness. She was naked around the house very often. And then she read the book and she discovered that one of the erotic principles is mystery and forbiddenness. So she decided to make herself a little bit more mysterious and a little bit more forbidden to her husband by keeping her clothes on. Before reading the book, her husband would be in bed watching television and she would come in take off all her clothes and he would continue to watch television. These days, she comes in, takes off all her clothes and he turns off the television and watches her.
Greg: What kind of advice can you give to our members about building a foundation for the kind of relationships you’re talking about?
Rabbi Shmuley: All erotic principles are the same. The eight erotic sequences which I enumerate in the book are not just true for married couples, they’re true for single couples, and they’re true for people who are living together. Eroticism is a universal precept which can be applied to any situation. Let’s take it with dating.
Dating today is broken. Very few people would disagree with that. The core problem in dating today is simply that we have moved away from the traditional and natural progression of romance, which is from masculine to feminine. Not just in terms of the man pursuing a woman, but even in terms of the dynamics and the chemistry of the relationship. Notice that men start relationships in a very masculine kind of way. They flirt with women, they use pickup lines, they spend money to try to impress her, they pick her up in this nice car, and they talk about what they do; it’s a very masculine form of braggadocio. But as the relationship progresses, the men become more feminine in the relationship. They become more domesticated; they become more romantic; they become more intimate. So even in men you should use progression for the masculine to the feminine until the ultimate display of the feminine shows in both parties, when they get married and build a home together. It becomes a very nurturing kind of environment.
The problem in dating today is that it’s no longer about the masculine progressing to the feminine which is what it should be, but the opposite. It’s now become the feminine progressing to the masculine, meaning that women are chasing men these days. Women come across as a bit desperate andvery lonely. They all feel inadequate in some way. The culture makes women feel so wholly inadequate. What does it mean to be a woman in America today? It’s simple. If you’re a woman, you are never thin enough; you are never young enough, etc. If you go to almost any American university campus, you’ll discover something amazing. It’s the women who chase the men for sex. It’s the men who have the pick of the litter. So, the net result is that it’s the women chasing the men, which means the men get bored. There’s no thrill of the chase and there’s no excitement. And it’s the wrong order of things.
I think that the average woman trusts a man who proves himself to her. She slowly opens up to a man who ennobles himself on her behalf. So, when a guy takes you out on a date, what woman would naturally feel that she would want to sleep with a man who simply bought her dinner? And yet one out of three American women has sex on the first date, thinking he bought me dinner, I owe him something. Saying no or making it clear that that’s not going to happen is not being manipulative; it’s being natural. To go to bed with him is being manipulative. He hasn’t engendered any intimacy, he hasn’t won you over, andhe hasn’t captured your heart. Erotic principles are universal. Women need to be a bit more unavailable. Not intentionally so, but they should indulge their natural instincts. Women trust men who are trustworthy.
…women, before you go out on a date, if you want to spend 20 minutes in front of a mirror, half an hour in front of a mirror, even an hour, okay. But you have to spend at least as much time reading a newspaper.
Greg: Are you suggesting that, for example, on online dating sites women should never be the first ones to reach out to men?
Rabbi Shmuley: No, no. I don’t have such hard and fast rules. For me the problem with those rules is it goes back to the original book, The Rules. I had a warm relationship with the author of The Rules. We did several debates, but I just don’t believe in this game of manipulation. And, it’s not true that if he doesn’t call, he’s not interested. Very often a guy won’t call because he has low self esteem or he has confidence issues and he’s afraid of rejection.
What I’m talking about is going back to what we know works. What we know works is something called courtly love. Courtly love was invented by Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Courts of Provence in the 12th century. She was the mother of Richard the Lionheart. And what the principle of courtly love simply said, is that a woman should see herself as a little bit of a prize and she should believe in her feminine gift and feminine charm.
In my opinion, when you go on a date and this guy’s not ready to pay for you, that’s a big, big no-no. I don’t believe in going Dutch because it doesn’t show that he’s made any effort to appreciate you. And this isn’t about money; it’s not about what the guy does. It doesn’t matter whether you go for ice cream or go for Starbucks. But, when he sits down with you and says, let’s pay fifty-fifty, that’s just not a gentlemanly action. Or, if you go on a date and he answers his cell phone. or looks at his BlackBerry. These aren’t manners. Would he do this with his boss on an interview? Of course not. So why is he doing it with you? Because he doesn’t feel he has to work so hard to impress you.
I’m also a great believer that women, before you go out on a date, if you want to spend 20 minutes in front of a mirror, half an hour in front of a mirror, even an hour, okay. But, you have to spend at least as much time reading a newspaper. I’m not into hot chicks, I’m into brain dames. Your body will only get you so far. It will make someone interested for sure, I’m not denying that. But skin and body parts are monolithic and their impact wears off after a while. If you don’t believe me, why do you think porn needs pictures of thousands of women? Skin and body parts only go so far. It’s the brain dame, it’s having a mind, it’s having an opinion that truly matter. It’s the women who are actually smart and opinionated who remain in the popular culture for decades. Whereas, those who only have beautiful bodies remain in the culture for only four or five years. Here’s an example: Meryl Streep, still in the culture, Barbra Streisand still in the culture. I love all the women who have a brain like Hillary Clinton who just stick around for many, many years. Look at Brigitte Bardot who’s afraid to show her face in public because she can’t deal with aging because that’s all they told her to cultivate. Now, that’s a tragedy. So when it comes to internet dating in particular, I think it’s very important to show in your profile that you have a brain.
Ladies attract gentlemen; whereas girls attract boys. You know it’s fascinating, women love bad boys. They love bad boys because bad boys are exciting and women, above all else, love an exciting man. They love the self confident man, they love a guy with a sense of humor; those two virtues always rank highest in women’s opinion of what makes a man sexy. Women love the bad boy because he breaks the rules, he’s nobody’s slave and he’s exciting. But you know what? They love dating bad boys, but they hate when they end up married to one. So you need to have some vision as to what it is that you want.
I think that when people write these cutesy little things [in their dating profiles], they’re more interested in style than substance. What they say sounds great, but really, they’ve said nothing, they just said it in the cutest way possible.
Greg: Is there any advice you can give to our JDate members about what they should include in their profiles? And also, in terms of forming the foundation of a successful relationship, what they should look for in other people’s profiles?
Rabbi Shmuley: Well in your profile, the first thing I would show is that you have personality, that you have character. I would mention that that you’re close to your family. I know people are usually adverse to saying things like that but if it’s true, you should say it, because it shows character. I think you should mention that you’re a good friend who people trust and that you certainly take care of your body, not for vanity reasons, but because you believe in being healthy. In other words, you’re a put-together person. You’re in control of your life and you’re in control of your destiny. I think you should mention that you regularly undertake activities that are intellectually stimulating, whether you go to classes, lectures or you love going to bookstores. You love going to synagogue, you read a lot of newspapers, you follow the general election quite closely; things like that that show that you’re not an empty vessel.
I think you should mention that love is something that you cherish and value; it’s not something that’s cheap. I think you ought to show that there’s a bit of forbiddeness associated with you, but that you’re available to people who have a rich understanding and commitment towards the subject of romance and love.
As far as looking at what other people write, I think that when people write these cutesy little things, they’re more interested in style than substance. What they say sounds great, but really, they’ve said nothing, they just said it in the cutest way possible. Be wary when they tell you that they spend all this time at a gym and that’s the main thing they focus on. Or look out for people who appear a little bit angry or bitter. You want to stay away from that kind of thing. You want to have a man or a woman who still has retained their innocence, who are not cynical and beaten down by relationships.
Greg: Is there a right pace to how people should start relationships, especially when they meet online?
Rabbi Shmuley: Yes, yes. There are four stages in every relationship, as I detail in my book Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments. The four stages are number one, attraction. You see someone at a party, you see them in synagogues, you see their profile on JDate and you’re drawn to them. You’re drawn to them mysteriously. None of us can truly fathom the secrets of attraction. You don’t know this person’s name, you don’t know their hobbies, you don’t know their interests, and you just feel yourself drawn to them. And hopefully you’re drawn to them for reasons other than the merely physical shallow and superficial. So that’s stage one, obviously. You need to feel compelled by them, that there’s something pushing you toward them.
Phase number two is verbal exploration– who are you, where are you from, what do you do? It’s joining her in conversation when you begin to explore each other verbally, not physically. Phase number three is emotional intimacy. It’s when you begin to tell each other things you haven’t told anyone else. It’s where deep trust and deep togetherness is fostered in the relationship. Phase number four is physical intimacy, the consummation of the first three stages.
And it’s very important that couples follow those four stages. If you put one or the other out of order, like if you start with attraction and then go straight to physical intimacy, which is what a lot of couples do before they’ve had a chance to become emotionally intimate, you know what’s going to happen? That third stage might never come and that second stage, verbal exploration, having good communication, it might never come. It’s remarkable. So you can’t put them out of order and you have to allow the relationship to gradually unfold.
Greg: Great, well thank you very much, I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us, I know your advice will be very helpful to our members.
Rabbi Shmuley: Thank you very much. Have a very good Shabbat and thank you for your time.