“Let’s Talk About Sex!” With Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer

(Image from Huffington Post)

Red glasses. Blonde hair. 4'7. Blue floral print top. German accent. A huge smile. And an amazing story to tell.

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer. Teacher. Author. Holocaust survivor. Former freedom fighter. Sex therapist. Wait, what?

Yes, you heard right. Dr. Ruth “Karola” Westheimer, or better known as just “Dr. Ruth”, is a well-known sex therapist and all of the above. And she came to Montclair State University on Wednesday evening, November 9, to share her story.

The event took place at University Hall. “An Evening with Dr. Ruth” is written in red and projected on two white screens on both sides of the conference room. In the middle, is a podium and two green sofa chairs. In one sofa chair is sitting a professor at Montclair State University, and in the other, is a sex therapist.

Dr. Ruth began the evening by describing her background and childhood in Germany. Born on June 4, 1928 as an only child to Orthodox Jew parents, she grew up at the time of World War II. Losing both of her parents in the Holocaust, Dr. Ruth was sent to an orphanage in Switzerland. She lived there for six years along with 300 other children.

Seeing how much damage and loss the orphans had gone through at a young age, they were all determined to spend their adult lives helping others or as Dr. Ruth puts it, “to repair the bird.”

And so, many became doctors, nurses, and teachers. Dr. Ruth herself, wanted to pursue medicine at first, but decided to become a kindergarten teacher in Israel instead. She then went off to teach in Paris.

It wasn’t until she came to the United States to first visit her uncle (from her mother’s side) in New York, that she became intrigued with the subject and idea of sex.

Dr. Ruth first found it so strange just how sex-obsessed the United States was. “There is something wrong with these people…all they talk about is sex! Not the weather, how their day went, etc. But, sex!” she said.

However, it was not long until she caught on to the trend.

“Sex is the most interesting subject,” says Dr. Ruth.

Before moving to the United States and leaving her teaching career behind, she did not expect her life to take yet another turn. “When you lose your job, another place opens,” said Dr. Ruth.

And so, she began her career in this field in New York with Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan, also a well-known Austrian-American sex therapist. She worked with Kaplan for a total of seven years. The first two years as a sex therapist, and the other five years training others to become sex therapists. Dr. Ruth continues to train others and still advises clients herself. Her clients and their needs have changed, growing more complex and “modernizing” every year.

Dr. Ruth describes herself as “old-fashioned” and does not believe in “one-night stands” or “friends with benefits” and the “hook-up culture” that we are unfortunately growing up in.

She believes that, “There has to be a real relationship before you can be naked in bed.”

You must genuinely like the person and see yourself being in a serious relationship with them (that can possibly lead to marriage) before you do any bedroom activity.

And when the time does come, you must be safe. “If he won’t use it, say goodbye,” she says.

Besides that, “I want people to have good sex! The best kind of relationship,” Dr. Ruth says smiling. “It’s an obligation for men and women to make sure their sex flourishes,” she adds.

Speaking of deal breakers in relationships…Phones! “I saw two people holding hands and in the other hand, they are holding a phone,” said Dr. Ruth with a worried look on her face. This is because although technological advancements have made it easier than ever to connect with and meet people, and gather information, they have distanced us in person from making real-life interactions because we are constantly looking at our screens.

What Dr. Ruth advises is for us to “pay attention” and to “take risks.” If you like someone, do not be afraid to approach them or show some sort of a sign that you are interested. You don’t have to do it through a screen. Dr. Ruth describes how in the Victorian times, women would drop their handkerchief near men, and would wait for someone to pick it up for them. If the man picked it up, that meant that they were interested in them too. Even though this is not a commonly used tactic anymore, and we have evolved to “Bend and Snap’s” (with the help of Elle Woods) or other forms of showing interest, the bottom line is, have courage, put down your phone, and just do it.

Overall, the event was both entertaining and informative. It felt casual and not uncomfortable, almost like talking to your grandmother, except it does not involve her telling you to eat more of her cookies, but hearing her advice on relationships and sex.

Samantha Castro, senior, and one of the many students that went to this event said, “I thought that it was interesting that she went through the Holocaust, and ended up in a career in [sex] therapy. She had a tough life but now she is helping others.”

Which is true, and shows that the young orphan in Switzerland kept her word of helping others. And she did so by educating people on one of the most important aspects in a relationship. Dr. Ruth has also written 41 books, appeared in five documentaries, and has a Broadway show based on her life, “Becoming Dr. Ruth.”

But despite all of this, her greatest achievement has been “being a mother to two children and four grandchildren.” Oh, the stories and advice she will be telling those grandkids!