BOOK BRIEFS

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - BY NORA KRUG nora.krug@wash­post.com

At 87, Ruth Wes­theimer is still talk­ing about sex.

In­her new mem­oir— her sec­ond— called “The Doc­tor Is In,” Wes­theimer shares a bit about herown ro­man­tic en­tan­gle­ments. Her first boyfriend was nick­named Putz, she tells us, and she lost her vir­gin­ity on a kib­butz (not to Putz).

A few other de­tails you might not know about Dr. Ruth: At age 10, Wes­theimer wa staken on a kin­der trans­port from Ger­many to an or­phan­age in Switzer­land. Her fam­ily per­ished in the Holo­caust. Later, she trained to be a sniper in the para­mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tion Ha­ganah.

Dr. Ruth— twice di­vorced and a widow— teaches at Columbia, has a strong pres­ence on so­cial me­dia (her @AskDrRuth Twit­ter ac­count has more than 85,000 fol­low­ers), and in the sum­mer will pub­lish, with her co-writer, Pierre Lehu, a chil­dren’s book, “Leopold,” about a tur­tle that over­comes its fears. In a phone in­ter­view from her of­fice in New York, she talked about her books, her phi­los­o­phy and (a bit) about her per­sonal life.

How have peo­ple’s prob­lems changed since you be­gan of­fer­ing sex ad­vice in the early 1980s?

Peo­ple are more knowl­edge­able. Women in this great coun­try have learned that they must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion. Even if they love the guy, he can’t guess what she needs. Yet I get a lot of the same ques­tions. Sex is bor­ing. The re­la­tion­ship is not good. Peo­ple bring­ing their wor­ries into the bed­room. I say leave the wor­ries out­side the bed­room door.

Why do you say you’re old-fash­ioned?

I don’t be­lieve in hook­ing up. I don’t be­lieve in sex on the first date. I want peo­ple to have a re­la­tion­ship be­fore they have sex. I can’t say how long be­fore. Also, you don’t have to share your fan­tasies. If you have sex with your part­ner, and the woman thinks about a whole foot­ball team in bed with her, that’s okay, but keep your mouth shut about it.

What do you think of E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey”?

I read all three books. I didn’t see the film. It proves my point: Women do get aroused by sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­rial. It’s not re­quired read­ing. I tell peo­ple to make sure you turn the page if you read some­thing you don’t like. It’s the same with “Lady Chat­ter­ley’s Lover” or “Fear of Fly­ing.”

Howhas the In­ter­net changed our re­la­tion­ships?

I am­wor­ried about the In­ter­net be­cause young peo­ple think they can re­trieve what they put up— like naked pic­tures— but you can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. The other thing that wor­ries me: I see cou­ples walk­ing hold­ing hands and in the other they are hold­ing a phone. We are go­ing to lose the abil­ity to have a good con­ver­sa­tion.

Ques­tions have been raised about your com­ments on “The Diane Rehm Show” about when it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for a woman to say no to a man. Can you elab­o­rate?

Loud and clear: In the Jewish tra­di­tion, it says that if that part of the male anatomy is aroused, the brain flies out of the head. It also says a man doesn’t have enough blood for two heads. What does it mean? If a man and a woman— or two men and two women— are naked in bed to­gether, there is no way that, in the mid­dle, he or she can say, “I changed my mind” and leave. I think peo­ple have to take the re­spon­si­bil­ity that if they are in bed to­gether, they are will­ing to have some kind of sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ence. She has no busi­ness in bed with him, and he has no busi­ness in bed with her if they don’t have an un­der­stand­ing that they will have sex.

How­did you learn about the birds and the bees?

I do re­mem­ber as a girl in Frank furt— so I was less than 10— a girl ex­plained to me she was men­stru­at­ing. And I do re­mem­ber a book at my par­ents’ house, “The Ideal Mar­riage.” I went up ona lad­der to look at that book; they were hid­ing it. I saw some pic­tures of peo­ple hav­ing sex.

Peo­ple must ask about your sex life. What do you tell them?

Next ques­tion!

In your book you write, “As far as I’m con­cerned, I’m still be­com­ing Dr. Ruth.” What­more can you be?

I mean I am still very cu­ri­ous to learn. I am still teach­ing. I taught at Yale and Prince ton. I go to lec­tures. I am­not sat­is­fied by stand­ing still. I still wantto learn. I go to con­certs. It’s very nice tobe Dr. Ruth. I am now a widow for more than 16 years. If I could find an in­ter­est­ing older gen­tle­man who can still walk and talk, that would be very nice. I would be very happy.

AMA­ZON PUB­LISH­ING

Dr. Ruth at 87: “I am not sat­is­fied by stand­ing still. I still want to learn.”

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