All posts by Shosha Pearl

Shosha Pearl writes Jewish erotica. Uniquely, her stories of love and lust are largely set within an Orthodox framework and the sexy stuff that happens in them conforms with Jewish law (Halacha). You can follow @ShoshaPearl on Twitter, visit her on Facebook to say hi - or have a look around her website www.shoshapearl.com to find out more.

Help me choose my cover design (please)!

I’m back at my writing desk in the mornings before work (not easy for a non-morning person!) slowly making my way through the first edit of ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’. I’m excited to say that progress is being made and I am even thinking about giving myself a publication deadline.

To make things a little fun and to keep a momentum around the project, I thought I’d conduct a small poll on some of the cover art I created a while ago. If you have a minute to spare, I would love if you could help me choose the best cover design.

Here is a selection of covers based around two different Shutterstock images I have chosen. You will see the watermarks are still on the images because I’m only using the sample (watermarked) pictures until the final version is selected. Naturally, the end product will be watermark free!

If there is one you like best I’d be thrilled if you let me know  via a comment below, Facebook, Twitter or even an email. Tell me which option rings your bell but if none of them works for you, please choose ‘Option 6’ 😉

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Can’t wait to see what you think :)

Thanks so much!

Shosha

 

 

 

 

Miriam’s Well and the parsha: mikvehs are about sex too

I get annoyed when discussions around the mikveh are sanitized – when the sex is left out and it’s all about babies.

I’ll explain. Last Motsei Shabbat I was at a women’s fahbregen for a friend’s birthday. It was very pleasant and very chassidish. At some point in the evening, the rebbetzin gave a dvar Torah about this week’s parsha, Chukat. She talked about Miriam dying, about Moshe hitting the rock to get water which became known as Miriam’s Well.  She explained that the well was not just the source of drinking water and the place where things were washed – it was also the mikveh. Without Miriam’s Well, she explained, Bnei Yisrael would have had no mikveh, which meant they would not have been able to have children.

Of course, this is a totally reasonable reading of the parsha, but as soon as I heard it I wanted to call out: Well, actually, no, Miriam’s Well meant that Bnei Yisrael could have sex (and then maybe, as a result, have babies)! To represent the mikveh as purely being about reproduction and Jewish continuity (important though they are) seemed to me to be missing an essential element of social and marital stability: sex.

Not so long before, Bnei Yisrael had actively chosen to abstain from marital intimacy because of pharoah’s edict to kill any Jewish baby boys born. How much more, then, was the freedom from Egypt and the provision of a constant water source (and thus a mikveh) a reason to have sex!? Surely it is just as important to celebrate the liberty of the Jewish people which allowed for a normalization of familial existence – including having sex! To me, this seemed a pretty important detail to wash over (pun intended).

I get annoyed when people don’t acknowledge sex. We are Jewish and sex has been heralded by chazal and their spiritual and intellectual descendants as fundamental to a balanced existence. I’m all for being contextually appropriate, but what’s wrong with acknowledging the intimacy that can create new life? I see no reason to sanitize something so beautiful among a group of women: to acknowledge (even in passing) that Miriam’s Well was the channel through which Jewish husbands and wives could be together.

It’s a mitzvah after all.

I didn’t rant until I returned home and spoke to my husband. But the issue is still sitting with me – so I am sharing my grievance with you and ask that we don’t sanitize the sex!

#dontsanitizethesex

Rant over – thank you 😉

 

 

 

Other frum erotica you can read while waiting for the next Shosha Pearl story (!)

I finally finished the first draft of my latest story (yay!), which is currently called ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’. The title’s a bit of a give-away, but for those who haven’t worked it out, it’s about a woman who witnesses her neighbors having sex …and, as a result, her world is turned upside down.

I’m really quite excited about the story, but it needs a redraft and edit, so it might be a little while until it is released.  But my aim is to make this happen as soon as possible.

In the meantime, however, if you are looking for something to read in the area of frum erotica, have you taken a look at Jayde Blumenthal?

Hot little denimThis week I finally managed to read some of her work. I read Dirty Denim Girl: A grownup Jewish bedtime story (which was a quick, spicy read) and I’ve also bought her Hassidic Passion trilogy, which I’m only a little way into, but I’m already  looking forward to  finding out what happens between Raizy and Beryl! Her writing is good, the plots are interesting and her characters resonate.

Jayde Blumenthal has an impressive  catalogue of stories to choose from and I would love to know what you think of her stories (as I am sure she would!). From what I can see, they are all set in a frum context, but I’m not sure just how  taboo her subject matter gets (I haven’t come across anything assur to this point). If you’re willing to do some exploring, I think you’ll be rewarded.

Please  stay tuned for the release of ‘Her Neighbor’s Pleasure’ and in the meantime, take a look at Jayde Blumenthal’s books. You can also visit her website and join her mailing list.

 

 

Have you seen ‘Felix and Meira’?

Earlier this month, a new Canadian film dealing with sexual tension in an (ultra) Orthodox framework was released for general viewing in cinemas.

The film, ‘Felix and Meira’ (‘Felix et Meira’ in French, the language in which it is produced), explores the relationship that develops between a frum married woman, Meira, and a non-religious Jewish man, Felix. Their relationship as it develops from friendship to something more, results in Meira being exposed to a world outside of her chassidic community and causes her to question everything about her existence.

I love seeing how writers and filmmakers handle the tension that builds when people start to look at their life in a different way. From a storyteller’s perspective, Meira’s struggle intrigues me, as does the reaction of the people around her.

Because I haven’t yet seen it, I can’t be sure about details of the film, but it looks like it might push relationship and behavioural boundaries  further than than I do in my writing …but I can’t be sure!

Although reviews appear to be mixed, I am looking forward to seeing it. Let me know what you think if you already have.

Here’s the trailer in the meantime…

 

When Shosha Pearl met Craigslist

It seems not everyone is preoccupied with Passover right now. Last weekend I was informed of a posting on the New York Craigslist’s personals section in which a frum couple are seeking an 18 year old woman to join them in some form of erotic play.

This information would be interesting enough in itself – you may not be aware that there is a sub-culture of religious Jews who seek other religious Jews via Craigslist personals (and probably through other means) for different forms of casual sexual encounters who discreetly flag themselves to each other by using the term ‘frum’ in their listings – but this news was even more interesting because the
person who posted the ad had used my email banner graphic (the pink one above) as one of their images!

I still don’t quite know what to make of this development, but let’s be clear about this: SHOSHA PEARL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS POSTING!!!!

It is fascinating to think that this is real people doing something that Shosha may one day write about. And while posting on Craiglist for a menage a trois  may not be in line with what most of our rabbis would suggest for maintaining shalom bayit, there are no real halachic transgressions going on. I am sure there are many people who would believe that this is not appropriate behaviour for a ‘good Jew’, but if we are talking tachlis on an halachic level, there’s nothing technically wrong with it.

It’s up to you to decide whether you think such a thing is OK or whether it should stay with the confines of fantasy.

Either way, let me take this opportunity to wish you a chag kasher v’semeach.

Why some people think frum sex is not sexy

This month I was reminded that for many people the sex lives of religious Jews are completely unsexy…or worse, even a bit grotesque. It seems, for these people, the idea of an Orthodox Jewish couple having sex has the same  the ‘ewww’ factor as thoughts about their parents getting it on.

You may not be aware that earlier this month my stories (and me, to an extent) were the subject of an article on the online magazine, Jewniverse . Zachary Solomon, one of my recent Twitter connections, wrote a short piece about me and my stories which was great, and I was thrilled. However, my delight was a little tempered by the title: ‘Erotica that only a Jewish mother can love’. Ouch!

It got worse when My Jewish Learning (a great resource, by the way) tweeted the article as: ‘Erotica that only your rabbi would love’. I made a somewhat veiled plea on Twitter for both publications to consider other ways of promoting this story and eventually Jewniverse changed the article’s title to ‘Erotica for the kosher set’. Baruch Hashem!

I’ve had discussions with various people of late about what lies at the root of the perception that sex involving religious Jews is just not sexy. And I’ve come up with a few observations:

1. All religious people, regardless of ethnicity or spiritual system, seem to be painted with the same brush: if G-d or an observance to the laws of G-d plays some sort of reasonable place in your life, then there seems to be a perception that sex, sensuality or any form of erotic pleasure should not. In fact, I have known secular Jews to make comments suggesting that observant Jews who get into exploring their sexuality – or even frum people who make risque jokes about sex – are somehow hypocritical. This is not a Jewish idea. There is nothing inside Judaism that says you can’t love G-d or be an observant Jew and not be into – or comfortable talking about – sex.

2. The laws of family purity (taharat hamishpachah) might put limitations on the things that Jews can do sexually, but many would argue that over time these can add to a sexual dynamic (I accept this is arguable). As for all the chumras and minhagim that can be imposed on intimate relationships between couples, they are not halacha – they are not Jewish law. If people choose to take on more, it is their choice.

3. Surely the children are the proof that religious Jews are doing it a lot. My husband and I have been known to joke about certain frum couples who, from the way they look at each other, the way they talk about each other, are clearly at it like rabbits. These are couples who have been married for years, who have numerous children, but whose sexual dynamic is alive and vibrant. It is a joy to see .

One of the lessons I have learnt in the short time I have been Shosha Pearl is that when it comes to basic human drives and emotions people are pretty much the same. I have had strangers write to me from the frumest environments who have told me how my stories have resonated them (which is wonderful to hear).

But at the core of the Shosha Pearl project is an acknowledgement that we are a tribal species. Shosha Pearl writes erotic stories about frum people for frum people (although others are very welcome to read them if they are interested) because readers often feel more able to connect with stories – especially intimate life stories – which contain people like them. Hence, we are seeing a rise of erotic fiction that is ethnically or religiously based. By extension, therefore, this principle may  also explain why people who are not observant Jews don’t like to think about the idea of frum Jews in a sexual context.

Friday night dinner: what happens when the guests go home?

‘Let’s Bench’, my most recent short fiction piece, was published by Jewrotica last month.

If you haven’t yet read any of my other stories, or if the only ones you have read are the original two on this site – ‘Fringes of Memory‘ and ‘Before the Canopy‘ – then you will see that my latest tale turns up the heat (although for those of you who have read ‘I Will Watch You‘, you will know this is not the only example I have of explicitly detailed sexual encounters).

The story looks at what can happen when a guest is inappropriately flirtatious with his hostess and how that affects the sexual dynamic between a husband and wife. In this case, it leads to what has been elegantly termed: “jealous arousal”.

If you would like to read some more about the story’s evolution, then take a look at my latest email to my mailing list (where you can also read my ponderings on erotic fiction).

But better yet, why not read the story?

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Sacred Sperm – talking about haredi sex

Continuing the subject of my last blog post regarding the conversations going on at the moment in the Orthodox Jewish world on the subject of sex and, in particular, what is good, what is forbidden: have you seen the new film ‘Sacred Sperm’?

Incredibly, my previous post neglected to mention this film at all (bad Shosha!) even though I had expressed hope that current discussions around sex might eventually reach out into the ultra-Orthodox sections of the Jewish world – the very purpose of Ori Gruder’s new film!

Gruder, an Israeli film maker who become a baal teshuva (newly religious) from around the age of 30 and now lives within a Breslav Chassidic framework, decided to make the film when he found himself struggling with how he should talk to his own son about masturbation and other topics around sex.

The film seeks to address the confusion, uncertainty and laws around a topic which is generally considered taboo within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world  – as well as many other environments.

As Gruder says in his interview with Haaretz: “I believe the rabbis feel the time has come to put these subjects on the table and talk about them.”

sacred sperm - 1Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see the film. I do not live in area where it has been released and it is not available on iTunes (plus I don’t download pirated films) so my ability to comment on the film is somewhat limited. But from the interviews and clips I have seen I am beginning to form a few thoughts:

  1. This is an important development. I am thrilled that the film exists and that this topic is being raised within a haredi context.
  2. This is a film made with love. I am delighted that it has been made by someone from within the community who respects its traditions but who is also willing to ask questions. Without having seen the film, I can’t know how far Gruder’s enquiry goes; perhaps, out of respect for the frum discourse, he won’t ask enough questions, but at least he is asking questions with the aim to inform, educate and clarify – and he is doing so from a position of understanding of, and sympathy for, the sub-cultural nuances.
  3. What about women? My reservation about the film from all the promotional material I have seen is that it is appears to be male focused. While the prohibition on masturbation is, according to most poskim (arbiters of Jewish law), about spilling or wasting of seed – which only applies to male masturbation – when we use the term ‘masturbation’ we need to remember that it can also be applied to the self-pleasuring of women. It is not just about those sacred sperm.

We can talk about whether an unwavering expectation that the biblical prohibition against male masturbation will be kept (especially by young men) is either fair or right, but that’s a discussion for another time… and maybe a discussion for the film. What I would like to know is whether the film gives as much consideration to the drives, concerns and knowledge of women – young and not so young – or whether it lumps male and female sexuality together which, by doing so, will inevitably lead to neglect of the female perspective. It is interesting to know whether those who can step over the taboo of talking about male sexuality are also capable of taking the next step to talk about female sexuality. It’s a lot of steps.

I can’t wait to see the film. If you have seen it please let me know what you think and how it addresses some of these issues. I would love to know.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you compare some of the discussions in ‘Sacred Sperm’ with the conversations happening in the ‘Joy of Text’ it is clear that in some places there is an enormous difference between views held at the progressive and conservative ends of the Orthodox world. These differences in the interpretation and implementation of halacha (Jewish law) can be significant – and that’s even without stepping outside of Orthodoxy into the progressive Jewish movements (Conservative, Reform Judaism etc). I love that the Jewish world is so diverse!

In the meantime, here are some more clips about the film that you may find interesting…

Oh, and I forgot to mention:

  1. I love Ori Gruder’s energy – so gentle, so positive.
  2. The film has been exciting a lot of interest and has been included in this year’s Raindance Film Festival line up.

You may also be interested to read the Daily Mail article on the movie…

Enjoy!

Shosha xx

Talking about the sex lives of religious Jews

Let’s talk about frum sex…

If you follow me on Twitter you might remember just how excited I got about a new podcast called ‘The Joy of Text‘. The monthly podcast features New York-based sexual health therapist Dr Bat Sheva Marcus – who entered my universe in the past month (via the New York Times) and now she is constantly flashing on my radar – and Rabbi Dov Linzer who is Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei in Riverdale, New York. The podcast, moderated by Ramie Smith, is sponsored by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) and Dr Marcus, Rabbi Linzer and Ms Smith seem to be coming from a progressive Orthodox perspective – not a lot of chumras going on here!

The point of all this is that I am a quite simply delighted that the dialogue about sex in the Orthodox Jewish community appears to be opening up. I’ll admit that most of the conversation is happening in the more liberal edges of the religious world (Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist), but at least it’s happening. I am optimistic about a ripple effect. Who knows? Maybe one day these conversations will eventually reach to the furthest, blackest corners of the community.

So, here are the first two episodes of the ‘Joy of Text‘ if you would like to listen for yourself. The first I found full of interesting and useful information. The conversation was lengthy and in-depth and covered a good amount of material. I listened while preparing for a large Shabbat meal and by the end of the program I found myself hoping my husband would be home soon (!). (Unfortunately, as of writing this, the first episode does not seem to be enabled to be embedded, so here is the link again for you to listen.)

The second podcast was interesting but disappointingly short – although the discussion on condom use in pre-marital sex surprised me. I hope their usual practice will be to have longer programs. Perhaps we can all help by sending in questions for them to consider and discuss. I’ve started drawing up my list already…

Coincidently, you can also WATCH a Huffington Post Live interview from this week with Dr Marcus, Rabbi Linzer and Dr David Ribner (Chairman of the Sex Therapy Training Program at Bar-Ilan University and co-author of ‘The Newlywed Guide to Physical Intimacy‘) for a segment entitled: ‘Deep Dive: Ooohhh G-d! Orthodox Jewish Sex‘:

It seems you don’t have to be Jewish to want to talk about frum sex.

If you are visiting my website and reading this post then it’s probably no secret to you that there’s lots to talk (and think) about in the realm of kosher sex.

I can’t wait for the conversation to evolve…

One book published – more to come soon…

My first collection of short stories, I Will Watch You, was published in the last week of January, but that just means the work is now really about to start…

It was wonderful  to have the short stories finally published. The process took time, largely because I was learning my way around what’s involved in producing good-quality (which I hope it is!) self-published work.

With much of that learning curve behind me, my focus is returning to Tamar, the central character in my novella, the first draft of which is already completed. Tamar is divorced, a woman in her mid thirties who is looking for love and bursting with her own welling sexuality. How she manages to navigate the former while exploring the latter is the subject of the story. I look forward to it taking life.

In the meantime, expect a new piece of frum erotica to be published soon on Jewrotica. This one’s raunchy, so brace yourselves!

Finally, a special request: it makes a big difference to the Shosha Pearl project if you read, buy and REVIEW my stories. If you like them and have ten minutes spare, please drop a rating at your local Amazon or at Goodreads (the book will be listed from tomorrow). If you want to read them but don’t want to pay, you can always sign up to my mailing list.

Happy reading!