Sex in marriage does not need to be practiced with lights off; it can be "saucy, surprising and fantasy-packed" and at the same time without sin, says a monk in a book that has become a best seller in predominantly Catholic and conservative Poland.
In Sex As You Don't Know It: For Married Couples Who Love God, published in April, Franciscan Father Ksawery Knotz offers theological and practical advice for married couples who want to spice up their sex lives, all the while assuring them they are doing nothing wrong. (See TIME's Pictures of the Week.)
"There is still a penal codestyle mentality [toward sex]," Father Knotz said at a press conference promoting the book at the headquarters of the Polish Catholic Church Episcopate. "People ask me what is allowed and what is forbidden in bed. [That attitude] is ridiculous."
Father Knotz revealed that he found the inspiration for his sex guide in another popular pastime: "I compare sex to a football game," he said. "There are games of different leagues, great and wonderful as well as boring and hopeless."
The book, which has been dubbed the "Catholic Kama Sutra," has the backing of the Catholic Church in Poland and the national media even the ultraconservative Catholic daily Nasz Dziennik gave it a positive review. Bookstores around the country sold out of the first 5,000 copies within weeks. The St. Pawel publishing house has already ordered a reprint and is considering translations into English, Italian and Slovak. (See TIME's top 10 books of 2008.)
The book stays in line with Church teachings about the ban on birth control, but most of its content isn't the kind of things you learn in Sunday school. "Some people, when they hear about the holiness of married sex, immediately imagine that such sex has to be deprived of joy, frivolous play, fantasy and attractive positions," writes Father Knotz, who lives in a monastery of the Order of Friars outside Kraków in Stalowa Wola in southern Poland. "They think it has to be sad, like a traditional church hymn. But every act, caress or sexual position that has the goal of arousal is permitted and pleases God."
Still, says the author, there are certain rules in the bedroom, just as there are on a football field. Asked at the press conference whether it is a sin to use a whip during sex, Father Knotz stressed that he "does not talk about pathology but a normal behavior. We should not make a sex shop out of the Church."
When asked whether a celibate priest is qualified to write about sex, Father Knotz said that much of his book stems from questions he has encountered running a website that counsels married couples. The site, called A Chance to Meet, presents a sexual act "as a meeting that occurs not only between a husband and wife who love each other but also between the married couple and God," and offers advice in both Polish and English. (See pictures of famously unmarried couples.)
Father Daniel Luka of the St. Pawel publishing house told reporters, "We want to give answers to problems which have become a taboo in church problems with sex, which is a way to show affection but also a way to build a relationship between a married couple." Gives a whole new meaning to the missionary position.