When a woman comes into her medical practice not knowing what an orgasm is, Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus can help her find a way to experience sexual pleasure.
Marcus, a sexual dysfunction specialist at the Medical Center For Female Sexuality, counsels women who are struggling with their sex lives. Many of her patients belong to Jewish Orthodox communities, and may follow sexual regulations that prohibit couples from touching each other before the wedding and [not] touching or sleeping together during the wife's period.
Marcus was featured in a Jan. 25 New York Times Magazine profile, where she spoke about her work with women in New York's Orthodox population. Her patients, many of whom are referred to her by their rabbis, have a vast spectrum of restrictions and needs. Her solutions for those feeling resistant to sex range from reading romantic novels and wearing lacy nightgowns to masturbation and purchasing a vibrator. Many patients will take a list of her suggestions to their rabbi, who will then approve or disapprove of the practices.
“We were amazed,” one rabbi said of the change Marcus' work has made in the lives of women she has treated. “We couldn’t believe the difference.”
In an interview on MSNBC's "Krystal Clear," Marcus explained how her own background has informed her work. Marcus, who was raised in an Orthodox family and is still strictly observant, felt that she was "kept in the dark" about sexual pleasure growing up.
"I felt really strongly that this was an issue that needed to be discussed," she told host Krystal Ball. "Sex can change your life."
Marcus said that her work with Orthodox women constantly reminds her of society's views about women and sex in general.
“We as a society are not great at saying to women, ‘You can go for pleasure, you can accept your body, you can love yourself, you can feel good, you can ask for what you need,” Marcus said.
Marcus told Ball that she finds her work overwhelmingly gratifying, but she can occasionally feel frustrated when rabbis are not open to working with her to help women find sexual satisfaction in their marriages. She stressed that her job with any patient, not just those in the Orthodox community, rests on her ability to respect each woman's values.
"My job is to work within these boundaries as much as I can," she said.