Learning About Dr. Ruth, Sex Therapy Icon

Unless you have been living on the moon, you’ve probably heard of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist of radio, TV and book fame.

Now 91, “Dr. Ruth” has been sharing straight talk about sex since she first went on the air with Sexually Speaking in 1980.

The essence of her advice is the importance of family and relationships. “Everything else can be taught,” she says. Here are some of Dr. Ruth’s tips for good sex:

  1. Keep it Fresh

Dr. Ruth is big on trying different things to keep your sex life interesting: different positions (with your partner’s permission, of course), different places, anything to enhance your fantasy life. In a Men’s Health interview, she discussed having sex on top of the washing machine while doing laundry. In the same article, she talked about a great place to meet someone: the Laundromat.

  1. Have Sex First

If you are already in a committed relationship, Dr. Ruth suggests having sex before a big night out. That way the tension of “are we going to have sex later?” is gone and you can relax and have more interesting dinner conversation. But don’t try this on a first date, she warns.

  1. Take Responsibility

Dr. Ruth taught women to take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction. That includes helping men find your clitoris.

Her book Sex after 50 dispelled the myth that sex is over for women after menopause. Her philosophy is that people can enjoy sex into their nineties, and if sex is uncomfortable, more sex will help. Sex in the morning is most satisfactory for older adults.

  1. Rule out Causes of Erectile Dysfunction Before Taking Pills

Dr. Ruth suggests men to rule out physical and psychological causes before turning to drugs for ED. She notes that men with an unhealthy body image, performance anxiety, and/or low energy should discuss these issues with their partner.

She helped men understand that low testosterone could have the same impact on them as it does on women: hot flashes, irritability, bone loss, inability to concentrate, depression, and a diminished sex drive.

  1. Try Therapy Before Giving Up

While a proponent of couples therapy when hope and trouble are both part of the equation, Dr. Ruth does have some guidelines for calling it quits. If you are bored, as in, you don’t look forward to going home from work to see your spouse; your primary activity is fighting; or you don’t talk at all, there may not be much of a marriage to save.

If your problem is different preferences in the bedroom, the relationship can probably be salvaged, she says, if you can have a conversation about sex. Talk when you can be upbeat, and keep your comments positive.

Dr. Ruth’s Story

At age 10 in 1938, German-born Ruth Westheimer was sent to a Swiss children’s home, which became an orphanage for German Jews put there to escape the Holocaust. Her parents had already been taken to a concentration camp; she never heard from them again.

Ruth was a sniper in the Israeli Defense Force as a teenager (she never killed anyone, but was badly wounded once), then immigrated to the US in 1956. She earned a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School of Social Research, and in 1970, received a Doctorate of Education in the Interdisciplinary Study of the Family from Columbia University. Her interest in human sexuality grew while she was working at Planned Parenthood.

A fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, Dr. Ruth runs a private practice, and often lectures at universities. She has been named “College Lecturer of the Year” two times. Planned Parenthood awarded her the Margaret Sanger Award for her “lifelong commitment to empowering women and men to talk openly and honestly about sex and sexual health.”

She has two children and four grandchildren, and lives in New York City, in the same Washington Heights apartment overlooking the Hudson River where she has lived since the late 1960s.