Written By: Jess Mocci
Hilarious, wise, and entrancing are adjectives that could be used to describe sex therapist, Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, after her presentation at Montclair State University on November 9th.
Dr. Ruth made her fame in the 80’s, ushering in the new age of freer, franker talk about sex on radio and television. She is the author to 41 books including; “Sex For Dummies” and “The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie de Vivre”.
The Seminar began with a sit down one on one interview. The audience sat and listened in silence as Ruth educated them about her background. Westheimer was born Karola Ruth Siegel in Wiesenfeld, Germany hence the K in her middle name. She was the only child of two Orthodox Jewish parents which had resulted in her being sent to Switzerland by her mother and grandmother as part of the Kindertransport after her father had been taken by the Nazis. She then became an orphan of the Holocaust after her parents were killed in 1945. This caused Ruth to be more off the cuff, especially when it came to her career in sex therapy since it was very scandalous to talk sex openly at the time. Discussing her background is also something that is essential to her mainly because it shows the strength that she had developed. Other children in the orphanage she was moved to in Switzerland became doctors and lawyers and this was in a way what she says a “F-u to Hitler and the other Nazi’s”. Dr.Ruth is not afraid to express the way she feels about certain subjects even if she feels that she can be too “square’.
After this tragedy, Ruth decided to move to Palestine and from there she moved to Jerusalem, France and then the United States. In between her moves she became a certified sniper in the Haganah and was seriously injured. She thought about wanting to become a doctor but knew she did not have the financial needs so she became a kindergarten teacher. Westheimer earned an M.A. degree in sociology from The New School in and an Ed.D. degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. She completed post-doctoral work in human sexuality at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, training with pioneer sex therapist Helen Singer Kaplan, someone she explained to be a large influence and the paver of her career in sex therapy.
After that brief introduction, more sex education questions were asked like “What has changed about sexuality over the years?” Dr. Ruth began to explain that sexuality has changed in the way of not only having more knowledge, but we can study it as well.
“Sex is the most interesting subject,” Westheimer said, “but we still need more people on family life and public health because there is a whole body of knowledge that needs to be explored, we need more courses and more people to get certified as sex therapists.” She also began to bury some very common myths about sex, like the myth that involved Sigmund Freud. Ruth states that Freud was “sexually ignorant. Not having a orgasm during intercourse is not immature, actually there is no such thing as a difference in a vaginal and clitorious orgasm.” She also discussed AIDS and homosexual and heterosexual couples. “If the man or woman tells me that they have a pain during intocourse I immediatly send them to a doctor and make sure that they get checked. Isnt it amazing that we live in a world where everyone can marry? But we need to make sure that these same sex couples are able to maintain their relationships as well as heterosexual couples”. To end the interview portion she discussed taking risks in life and relationships. She states what worries her the most is that she sees two men holding hands and in the other hand they are holding a cell phone. Communication and flirting are going away and she says we need to be aware of the dangers of technology. Ruth said it is great in some ways but we need to go back to the roots of dating.
Finally the segment concluded with a Q&A. Dr. Ruth discussed safe sex with the audience after the question, “Do you have any safe sex tips for college students and people that are sexually involved with their partner?” was asked. She said “Men think that wearing a condom is like taking a shower with a raincoat, put a condom on your finger and touch it, it will feel different! But it is better than an unintended pregnancy.” Westheimer then tells the audience that “if your man tells you he does not want to wear a condom you tell them goodbye”. Another question was “Do you work with special needs and disabled people to have sex?” Ruth responded that she had only done this once with a paraplegic man where they watched a film and she said to him ‘see what this man can do, he is like you and he can have sex, you need to try this,’ and guess what?! It worked.” She also discussed “Yes I know, I am old fashion and a square but I do not think that people should be having sex unless they are in a relationship, things get too messy. What is that thing called? Benefits for friends? Well that almost never works.”
Walking into this seminar, many young freshman were skeptical “What would a 88 year old women know about sex especially in today’s world where there are so many different aspects of it?” asked Freshman Danielle Arnold. But when I interviewed her after the segment ended she told me that she felt truly “Surprised and enlightened, Dr.Ruth really knows her stuff, though she is older she still makes sure that she is educated enough that she can answer every question to the fullest potential when it gets thrown her way”. The night concluded with the selling of her books at the back of the room and a book signing. Freshman Michelle Squillace said that “This has been a really amazingly successful night! So many people that loved Dr. Ruth now have the privilege to not just hear her speak but meet her as well. I think that she touched upon really great points and I have really learned a lot when it comes to sex and relationships.”