In the Spring of 1999, Dennis Prager gave a series of four lectures on male sexuality at the University of Judaism. Here are some highlights:
I talked to other guys and I realized I was in the normal range of perversion…
Jean Calvin was astonished to not find an explicit reference to fornication (sex between the unmarried) among the sexual prohibitions of the Hebrew Bible.
The area of greatest divergence between Christianity and Judaism, aside from theology, is in sex. Fornication is mentioned repeatedly as a sin in the New Testament. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
In attitudes towards sex, we live in a Christian country. The dean of the Harvard Divinity School, on his computer was found pornographic images. It was so terrible that it was assumed he would have to resign. I suspect that if he were at Hebrew University, the Harvard of Israel, in a similar capacity, he would not have to resign. People would’ve said, it’s none of our business.
In Israel, which is permeated more by Judaism than the United States, prostitution is largely legal. In the United States, it is not…
There are times when a woman would have to say no. There are things that a woman has a right to say, ‘Honey, I love you but that is not something I can engage in.’ On the other hand, it depends on what it is. A woman has a perfect right to say, ‘I don’t want to be urinated on.’ If that’s his thing. If it’s her thing too, then it’s beshert. They have met their divine partner.
If she says, ‘Fellatio just grosses me out,’ that’s a problem. It should not gross you out to have oral sex…
I have read almost nothing intelligent on this subject [pornography]. It is so emotionally charged.
…Playboy is pornography. I subscribe. My father subscribed… Is it softer than Juggs? Yes!
The levels [of pornography] are fascinating to understand the power and meaning of sex. One level was pubic hair. Pubic hair was a major moment when Playboy began to allow pubic hair. Female genitalia is the dividing point between hard and soft porn. And pubic hair is not genitalia…
What is our aim with regard to men? Do we want to produce a man who doesn’t lust except after his wife? That’s the aim of traditional religion. That’s the aim of women… I don’t want to create men who only lust for their wife. That’s a saintly ideal I don’t hold for the real world. In Heaven, that’s the way men are. I’d like to create a man who leads an upright life, an honorable man, who’s responsible, good and faithful to his wife and to his family, and treats women as befits the treatment of fellow human beings made in God’s image…
I should dedicate this course to my father. He did a rare thing. He juggled a religious life, he’s been Orthodox his whole life, and subscribed to Playboy. I learned as a child that the two are not mutually exclusive — being decent, upright, monogamous and being lustful.
When it came to masturbation, my father said to me when I was nearing puberty, ‘Dennis, I don’t know if you’re masturbating. I don’t want to embarrass you. Let me just tell you, in my view it is morally equivalent to urinating.’ That was the end of the discussion. We never discussed the issue again.
I carried on this venerated Prager tradition of taking this attitude when I became a camp counselor at an Orthodox day camp. One summer I was the counselor to 13-year old boys, who were monsters. The first night of camp, I would give them a birds and bees talk. All of these kids went to yeshivas. I told them what I thought of masturbation. The effects were very powerful. I don’t mean the beds all started shaking.
The boys would come over to me, not knowing any other boy had, and told me how fraught with guilt they were because their rabbis had told them that this is a grievous sin. One Jewish text compares it to murder as though one could kill sperm.
One boy had the added burden of being the child of Holocaust survivors. He was unbelievably wracked with guilt and he did it frequently.
He wrote to me constantly. I was a junior that year and I went to England. He wrote to me about his struggles with this issue. He couldn’t stop writing to me about this. There was somebody he could talk to. The bigger sin in my book was what the rabbis told them, not what the boys did. I couldn’t understand who was hurt by the masturbation. Who’s the victim?
…I’m not going to make the case for pornography. We’re not a great world for having all these magazines on the newsstand. We’re also not a terrible world. There’s nobody in any religion who’d rather live in any of the societies that ban pornography than to live in this society. There’s a direct correlation between the banning of pornography and other human freedoms. You can’t pick and choose the freedoms you want to allow.
In one lecture in the series, Dennis read a list of about 40 different fetishes from a porn site. He defined “scat.”