Reassuring Dr. Ruth has faith in love, with good sex

Family Matters

October 03, 2004|By SUSAN REIMER

JUST WHEN you think the human race has turned sex into some kind of carnal Match Game, with hook-ups, buddy sex and "friends with benefits," there is Dr. Ruth to cheer you up.

As tiny as a sparkplug and with just as much energy, the gently aging sex therapist is still talking as if sex is an act of love, humor, patience and communication between two people who are committed to each other.

"I am a grandmother, and I am still talking about sex," Westheimer told a packed auditorium of Johns Hopkins University students recently.

"Please don't call home and ask your mother if she has had an orgasm. And don't ask your father if he had an erection last night," she said. She rolled those notorious words out over her heavy, German `Rs,' the way she does on Letterman and Leno to the delight of their scandalized audiences.

"But we have to talk about these issues."

And talk she did.

On Viagra: "It is a fantastic pharmaceutical breakthrough. But it won't work if he didn't take out the garbage and he didn't bring flowers. What is needed also is an education process. It is not just him taking the pill and telling her to jump into bed."

On abstinence-only sex education: "It won't work. The libido is too strong. If you want to wait until your wedding night because of your religion or your beliefs, I say stick to it. But that doesn't mean you don't have to be sexually literate."

On abortion: "It must remain legal, not as contraception but when there is contraceptive failure."

On homosexuality: "We don't yet know the reason for homosexuality. We don't have an answer. But respect for homosexuals is not debatable."

Dr. Ruth, in her public appearances, talks about sex with such charming straightforwardness that you forget the news reports that sexually transmitted diseases are a virtual plague among our teens or that middle school children have turned oral sex into a party game or that our kids are so jaded about sex that they find anonymous hook-ups preferable to the emotional work required for relationships.

Dr. Ruth doesn't believe any of that stuff is true.

"It is what gets the headlines, but I don't know how much of that is happening. Some of this has to be the mass media.

"For me, it is a little sad. But I would never say who should be sexually active or when. It depends. I tell people, `Don't ever do it just because everyone says you should do it.' People should make that decision each for themselves."

But she added: "There is a difference between helping an adult with physical or psychological hang-ups and teaching kids the place for sex in their lives."

Dr. Ruth said a lot of things to the Hopkins students that night that still, after all her years of work, can't be written about in a family newspaper. And the students responded with frank questions and a standing ovation.

But the one phrase she kept repeating is the one we all should remember, whether we are talking about sex or the state of the world.

"If two people love each other, it is all right."

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