Dr. Ruth on Communicating Under the Covers and Above

Dr. Ruth
I’m Alan Alda and this is Clear and Vivid, conversations about connecting and communicating.
Dr Ruth: You and I sitting here, you’re smiling. Your attention to what I’m saying. That’s enough. Tell your wife not to worry, but that’s enough for building a good relationship because what you are doing right now, you are giving me your entire attention, and you’re asking me questions that I’m interested in. You’re not asking me about golf.
Her name is Ruth Westheimer, but we all know her as Dr. Ruth, the helpful lady who’s spoken to us for decades about sex… with insight – and in plain words. She still uses plain words, and we’re in for a few of them today, but we’re also going to hear about a new emphasis that she feels is urgent for the times we live in.
We visited Dr. Ruth in her apartment with a great view of the Hudson river. Over cookies and tea, we had a lively conversation which was warm and funny and so freewheeling, she even took phone calls.

Alan: I’m so glad to be talking with you today because this is a subject that you have devoted a lot of your life to that doesn’t get talked about much. It’s the first time we’ve talked about it on a show dedicated to relating and communicating the most intimate form of communication, which is sexual communication. That’s what you’ve devoted so much of your life to, I think.
Am I right? Do I see a little shift or is it just the public perception of you that hasn’t picked up on this? It seems that in the beginning, you talked more about sex, and now you talk about sex as the function of relating. You seem to be talking more about relating now. Is that true?
Dr Ruth: I don’t want to say much more, but you’re absolutely right. I am very concerned these days about people who are lonely, of all ages. Young people haven’t found a partner, widow, widowers, everybody. I’m very concerned about two aspects of life right now.
One is the issue of loneliness and the other one is the issue of expecting maybe too much, and that’s why so many young women postpone marriage because maybe there’s somebody better out there.
Alan: Yeah.
Dr Ruth: You are right. I do maybe emphasize more the danger for young people, and also older people, because of the iPhones, that the art of conversation is going to be lost.
Alan: I think I read in your book that you hinted or said that there was an epidemic of loneliness. Do you really think we’re in an epidemic of it?
Dr Ruth: Yeah, I don’t know if I would use the word epidemic because it sounds so medical. I would say there’s certainly, of all ages in our country right now, a tremendous problem about loneliness. I don’t talk about suicide because that’s not my expertise. I want to prevent that outcome, so I talk beforehand.
I say people with all of the possibilities, with all of the knowledge available, then I say also I’m not going to forget about sex, but before I talk about sexual issues, before I talk about problems in the sexual area, I first want you to have a partner.
Alan: That’s a good idea.
Dr Ruth: I do talk about masturbation, but that’s a topic aside.
Alan: Right.
Dr Ruth: I say to those people who are alone, “Please do masturbate.” I say to young people, “If you feel sexual arousal, masturbate, but not in public. Don’t.”
Alan: Try to hold off for a few minutes.
Dr Ruth: Before you go on a date so that you don’t sit at the dinner with a date thinking all the time, “Will I get sexual intercourse or not?” Very important. Still, I see the Boston guy laughing.
Alan: The Boston guy is our producer, Graham Chedd.
Dr Ruth: I’m very concerned about that. I think somebody like me, the reason, you are quite right, I do talk less about sexual functioning because I have done that. There are books out there, some of them mine. Not only mine, but other people. I don’t have to talk so much about women who don’t have orgasms, women who still believe that there’s a G-spot. Nonsense.
Alan: Oh, I didn’t know that disappeared. I thought …
Dr Ruth: Disappeared. Loud and clear.
Alan: It was hard to find in the first place, and now it’s not even there.
Dr Ruth: Alan, I’m not saying there is none because I didn’t do the scientifically validated study. When some people say, “But she does have a G-spot, I say, ‘Enjoy it. Use it.'” The danger is that I had women come to my office thinking …
Alan: Thinking they were lacking in something?
Dr Ruth: Yes. Thinking they’re not normal because they don’t have that G-spot. I wait for scientifically validated study from a university to find out if there’s such a thing. In meantime, I say stop worrying about that, and also stop worrying about the size of your genitalia because size does not matter. Size, the lovemaking …
Alan: You’re basically saying one size fits all?
Dr Ruth: I say the lovemaking has to do with the relationship with a smile, with having a good conversation.
Alan: You know about relationships, and this probably follows the shift in your thinking and writing now, there was a time, it seems to me, when people had a relationship and that led to sex. Now, the have sex and maybe that leads to a relationship, but not necessarily.
Dr Ruth: You’re right.
Alan: Like it’s reversed.
Dr Ruth: I tell you, Alan, why it worries me. First of all I’m worried about sexually transmitted diseases. Young people think they don’t have to worry about AIDS because there is medication available. That’s terrible. Older people think nothing’s going to happen to them. Terrible because we are going to see a rise in all of the sexually transmitted diseases, in Gonorrhea, in any of the sexual transmitted …
Alan: Do you get the sense from the people you talk … You still have patients, right?
Dr Ruth: I don’t see patients in my private practice anymore because I leave that up to young people. I want to be at night in the theater. I want to be at a concert. I want to be at a gala. I’m going tonight. I was just with a wonderful gala. I got into the … I have to send you something funny.
Last week, I go to a lot of fundraisers. I went to a gala of Lang Lang, who has a wonderful program of musical education in this country and all over the world. My habit, they finally outed me, my habit is from any gala, I take the flowers from the table home because I found out they can’t give it to a hospital.
Alan: I thought they did.
Dr Ruth: They throw it out.
Alan: They throw it out? Is it because it’s not good for the patients?
Dr Ruth: Right. They can’t give it to any hospital, so tonight I come home with flowers.
Alan: Yeah.
Dr Ruth: The flowers that you see here I took from Lang Lang’s gala, and the New York Post, page six, outed me.
Alan: They saw picking them up.
Dr Ruth: Do you know what they said? “Frugal, Dr. Ruth took the flowers from her table home.” I love it.
Alan: Do you bring a little bag with you to take the flowers home?
Dr Ruth: No, I don’t. Bring a bag for food.
Alan: No. You just walk out with the flowers bare.
Dr Ruth: I tell you how. I call a good-looking waiter. I say, “Do me a favor. If you want to have good sex for the rest of your life, pack up those flowers for me.” It works. It does work. They’re finally holding up in that little item, in the New York Post page six. I was mentioned twice. Not bad for a little 90-year-old, 4’7″ grandma.
Alan: You are 90. You’re working harder than I am, I think. I’m a couple of years younger, but …
Dr Ruth: You’re younger. I tell you what, I’m very fortunate. First of all, I’m fortunate that I’m in the same apartment that I raised my two children with my late husband. I’m very fortunate that I’m healthy. I’m fortunate that I don’t let anybody call me before 10:00 in the morning.
Alan: That’s great.
Dr Ruth: I now can go until midnight. I don’t take a selfie anymore. I do take a car service. I know where to keep my energies, and I do the things that I am very fond of.
Alan: What do you think, in talking about relationships, it really interests me to hear from you, what do you think is fundamental to a good relationship?
Dr Ruth: I tell you what’s fundamental. You and I sitting here, you’re smiling. Your attention to what I’m saying. That’s enough. Tell your wife not to worry, but that’s enough for building a good relationship because what you are doing right now, you are giving me your entire attention, and you’re asking me questions that I’m interested in.
Alan: Yes.
Dr Ruth: You’re not asking me about golf. I used to be a super good skier, but I don’t want to talk about skiing anymore because it would make me sad that I don’t ski anymore. What you are doing is to ask me those questions that are foremost on my mind. That gives me the energy to do the things that I’m doing.
Alan: It connects us.
Dr Ruth: It does. It connects us.
Alan: It makes something happen between us because when I look at you, you look at me back. It’s funny, my wife, after we go to a dinner party where there are people at the table who we don’t know, and very often I’ll say, “How was that guy you were sitting next to?” She said, “Well, I asked him questions about himself. He never asked me a single question about myself.”
Dr Ruth: Big mistake.
Alan: People love to talk about themselves, but they miss this thing of curiosity about the other person. I see that all the time. It’s so wonderful to be curious about somebody and get stuff out of them.
Dr Ruth: Yeah. Not only that, Alan, sometimes you leave a dinner party, and I leave a dinner party and I say, “That was a waste of my time.” For example, if I’m at a dinner party and somebody talks about diet, I’m not interested. I don’t have to talk about diet, so I try very hard not just to talk about sex, but to talk about something that might be of interest to that person.
Alan: If you talked even a little about sex, wouldn’t that start a vast conversation that would go on all night?
Dr Ruth: I’m very fortunate because these days, very often somebody says to me, “I have to ask you a question.” I go to a corner of a restaurant …
Alan: Oh really?
Dr Ruth: I say, “Don’t say I, say a friend of mine has a question.” I try to answer it. What you said before is true. I do not get as many questions anymore, for example, from men. I used to get many questions about premature ejaculation, about ejaculating before they wanted to. I don’t get that anymore.
Alan: Has something changed in the men?
Dr Ruth: No, nothing has changed, but there’s more information available.
Alan: Oh, so they don’t need to ask a secret question?
Dr Ruth: Right. Then I get less questions from women who don’t know how to achieve an orgasm. I still talk about sex because there’s a lot of aspects of sexuality that needs exploring. For example, there are many women and men who don’t know that when they have sex, and the woman is aroused, before her orgasmic response there is a moment where nothing happens. In French it’s called [inaudible 00:12:25], little dead.
Alan: Little death, yeah.
Dr Ruth: I don’t really like that sentence, but I use it. I don’t have a better one. Women and men have to know to continue stimulating so that she can have an orgasm. Very often, the woman then said to herself, “Oh, it’s not going to happen today. Maybe another day.” Big mistake.
The other big mistake is I do tell some people if they go out on a date, if they are sexually aroused, I don’t know if anybody on your program ever talked about that, I tell them to masturbate before they go out for dinner. Don’t at the restaurant. Not in public, but at home so that they don’t sit …
Alan: In case the other person’s late, it gives you something to do.
Dr Ruth: No, so that they don’t sit there the whole time saying, “Will I get sex? Will I not get sex?” Same I’m telling women.
Alan: You know what that’s like, they advise you not to shop in a supermarket if you’re hungry.
Dr Ruth: That’s very true.
Alan: Because you just buy everything in sight.
Dr Ruth: There was a study like that by a sociologist who studied men who went into the supermarket, and you could see the eyes getting bigger, and they bought three times as much as what they needed. You’re right.
Alan: Is it because they were hungry, or they were sexually starved?
Dr Ruth: No, they were hungry.

Alan: What about a couple, a loving couple, communicating about sex in bed? It seems to me that an awful lot of communication is non-verbal, but sometimes I think I felt from some of the things I’ve heard you say over the years, that you encourage verbalizing communication sometimes, right?
Dr Ruth: If they so desire. Now, very important, I did a book called Sex After 50. Very important to teach.
Alan: The pages are not all blank, I hope.
Dr Ruth: No. Very important to teach older people that they need a lot of hugging, and kissing, and touching.
Alan: Yeah.
Dr Ruth: I tell older people not to have sex at night. It’s not true the women only want to have sex when the stars twinkle.
Alan: I’ve never heard that stereotype.
Dr Ruth: To have sex in the morning when the testosterone level for the men is highest, and it’s not true that women don’t like to have sex in the morning. Get up, have a breakfast, go back into bed. Hang the phone off the hook. Today you don’t have a phone on the hook, so close your iPhone.
Very important, I tell you something, in the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says that a husband is still obligated to provide sexual satisfaction to his wife even after menopause. Very interesting because you could have said that they wanted people to have babies, so have sex even after menopause, and that’s important for us today because people live longer.
Alan: The affectionate touch seems to me to be really important.
Dr Ruth: Yes.
Alan: Not just a touch, but with meaning behind it, with a reassurance, connection that kind of thing.
Dr Ruth: And to take the time to caress. Not just touch the left breast and touch the right breast, and then [inaudible 00:15:59].
Alan: Oh, oh, touch both?
Dr Ruth: The big problem is that so many older people, older men, worry that their erection will disappear.
Alan: Oh I see.
Dr Ruth: We have to teach both of them that the penis, I speak very explicitly, penis has to be touched in order for an older man to obtain and maintain an erection.
Alan: Some men may go through that petit mort, that little death, as well.
Dr Ruth: That’s true, and give up.
Alan: And give up.
Dr Ruth: And say, “Okay, next time.”
Alan: I always wonder when I see a Cialis commercial, where they say, “You might be having that special moment, and you don’t want to let it pass by, and you’ll have the chemical in your body all the time so that you can act on it without waiting.”
I wonder about, did they ever hear of an appointment? Why can’t you say, “I’ll see you in an hour when …” Not even, “I’ll see you,” you can spend that hour doing romantic things, getting ready for a real experience. What is this fear of passing by some non-verbal thing that happens between you, but not being able to talk about it?
Dr Ruth: Here’s the answer. When Viagra came on the market, here is a gentleman, that my message was always, “Don’t ever borrow that pill from a friend.” You have to have the doctor’s permission. Here’s a gentleman in this country going to the doctor. He says you can take Viagra. He comes home. He now has an erection, he took Viagra, from the floor to the ceiling. He’s very worried that …
Alan: Wait, the erection goes from the floor to the ceiling?
Dr Ruth: Yeah. He’s very worried.
Alan: What’s he doing on the floor?
Dr Ruth: He’s worried that that will be the last erection of his life, so he says to his wife, “Hop into bed.” What we were talking about before about relationships, this gentleman forgot her birthday. He forgot Valentine’s Day, and in our culture in this country, if there’s a sports event on television, he hasn’t talked to her in three days.
Alan: Just because he took the pill he thinks it’s important for her to cooperate?
Dr Ruth: You and I know what that wife tells her husband what to do with that erection. Your Boston producer laughs. Am I right?
Alan: He’s shaking with laughter. He’s afraid to make a noise.
Dr Ruth: Am I right?
Alan: So she takes out the mashed potatoes and there you go.
Dr Ruth: It’s very important to make sure, that has to do with what we were talking about relationships, that it has to be … Good sex has to be within a good relationship.

Alan: You mentioned Valentine’s Day. This show that, this conversation we’re having now is going to come online for the first time a couple of days before Valentine’s Day. It seems like such a mechanical date to me.
Dr Ruth: My late husband, Fred, used to think, “What a stupid American invention.” I’m saying, “No.” I’m saying, “People should stop for a split second, go out and buy flowers. Do something, I don’t care if it’s mechanical or not, do something to keep that relationship going.” You can’t expect good sex without having a good relationship. For me, Valentine’s Day, it’s fine.
Even in the Jewish calendar, there is something like a Valentine’s Day where young women, listen you young women, went out to dance, and that was the day that they would like young men to look at them, and then to ask for their number. There was no phone yet, but to ask how can I get in touch with you.
Alan: This is one day a year they do this?
Dr Ruth: Yeah, right. It’s like a Valentine’s Day in the Jewish tradition. I’m all for Valentine’s Day. Go and make a card, or buy a card, or buy a flower. If you don’t have money, go some place in a meadow and pick up some flowers.
Alan: Oh, that’s nice. The idea, I would imagine, to make it … Excuse me. I would imagine to make it a little less mechanical, it would be a good idea to use some imagination, right, to make some real connection?
Dr Ruth: It would be nice if you tell your wife two days before, “Go out and buy a new dress. I’ll pay for it.” Then, let her buy the new dress, and then on Valentine’s Day, make a reservation at a restaurant where it’s quiet. Not one where it’s loud. Young people want this loudness. That’s terrible.
Alan: I read in the paper that restaurants deliberately make restaurants … The restaurant owners make the restaurants loud so that the young people will be able to come in and take your table. They want the older people to get out sooner. The young people come in, take your place, and buy more liquor.
Dr Ruth: That’s terrible. Alan, that’s very cynical.
Alan: It’s manipulative, if it’s true. It’s amazing.
Dr Ruth: It might be true. It might be true, but very important not to let the media or the restaurant owner dictate your private relationship. That’s what’s important.
Alan: Right. What else? Making contact, asking questions about the person that you think you care about, to actually care about them enough to find them. Do you find this to be true? As I got older, I realized that my interest in my wife, which was real, was not expressed so much in the questions I asked her. I’d ask her a question, she’d tell me something, and I wouldn’t follow-up on it. That follow-up question seems to be the one that really matters the most.
Dr Ruth: That’s very interesting because first of all, I hear that you have some insight. Maybe your wife told you, “Why don’t you ask me the follow-up question?”
Alan: You know, she did tell me once, and I’ve tried to live by it. She said, “If I ask you, ‘Where’s the can opener?'”, it’s not sufficient for you to say, ‘I don’t know.'”
Dr Ruth: Get up, and go in the kitchen, and find it for her.
Alan: Think of some places where it might be. The way we work is I use the think method. I stand in the middle of the living room, and I think, “Where could she have put her purse?” It’s always an unconventional place, otherwise you’d find it right away.
Dr Ruth: Right.
Alan: Actually putting some effort into it, to explore further.
Dr Ruth: That’s what’s important. What you just said. The word effort. Not just to continue reading your newspaper, but to put it aside and say, “I am ready to help you to find your purse.” It’s just, “I am ready to do that.” That’s what’s important. I’m very fortunate. I have, now that I’m a widow for over 20 years, I have [inaudible 00:23:53] twice a week. Today she came extra because you are here, because you are famous, so I wanted her to [inaudible 00:24:00].
Alan: She made me some nice coffee too. It was nice.
Dr Ruth: I can say, “[inaudible 00:24:04], where did I put my purse?” She finds it. There’s something important in here because it shows that you are listening to the partner of she has put her purse someplace. Most of the time, it will be found, but most of the time, when you just sit there and continue reading your newspaper or watching the sports on television, that’s not going to lead to a good hugging, and kissing, and touching the next morning. I purposely say the next morning. I didn’t say that night.
Alan: Right. Right. You remind me of a story I tell in my book about communication where a husband passes by the sink late at night. His wife’s already asleep, and he sees this big pile of dishes in the sink, and he thinks, “I ought to do something about that.” I wonder what the chances are of his doing something, but if he imagines what she’ll feel like in the morning when she looks at the pile of dishes, and feels what she’ll feel, he might act on his impulse to do something about the dishes.
Dr Ruth: Tell that husband to stop calculating in his mind, and to stop obsessing what to do. Tell him, “Go and do the dishes.” Say it, or buy a dishwasher, and fill the dishwasher.
Alan: That’s why I think many men have found that doing the dishes is foreplay.
Dr Ruth: It’s true. I like that. I like that. I’m going to use that. I’ll say doing the dishes if foreplay. What it really means, and you are right, doing something for your partner is conducive to that relationship being cemented.
Alan: When you use the word partner, it’s interesting, it’s become a designation now of a relationship, but it doesn’t carry with it what partnership usually carries with it. A business partner, for instance, if they’re full partners, they discuss things before one of them makes a decision and takes action. They listen to one another. They respect one another’s experience and opinion. That doesn’t always happen in a relationship.
Dr Ruth: That’s true. I do some work sometimes for Forbes. I do some mock therapy sessions. I did it in Boston, in Tel Aviv.
Alan: What do you find them in an audience? You have somebody come up?
Dr Ruth: Yes, people volunteer, and I do like a mock therapy session because business partners, two brothers, a father and a son who are in business together, have the same problems like a couple, in terms of communication, in terms of the things you were just talking about. I do like mock therapy session, and it’s the same principal that you have in a relationship.
Alan: So how do you do that? You bring two people, now you have two men up there for maybe colleagues in business, and they’re not going to make love later, they’re going to make a business decision. How do you translate what you’ve learned about relationships and communicating in bed to the business experience?
Dr Ruth: Exactly what you said before of that communication. The skill of communication applies to business people too. That you have to listen to each other, what you said before, that you have to respond to each other while you listen to each other. Don’t think of your golf game that comes in a few hours, put it aside. Really do an active listening to that partner, and then you can solve the business questions.
Alan: If you have an idea that you think is really going to make this business program work, and the other person doesn’t quite get it, how do you relate to that person, get your idea across, without dominating the business partnership relationship?
Dr Ruth: Alan, there is a German proverb that says, “Dear God, give me patience-immediately.” I would teach those people you have to be patient. You can’t just think about your golf game after lunch. You have to give that other partner your full attention. Even if you don’t come to a conclusion, but at least you gave the full attention. That’s like you and I talking right now. You are not doing anything else. I’m not doing anything else. I’m listening very carefully to what you’re asking.
Alan: You notice I came in and opened up a piece of paper with 10 things on it that I was interested to …
Dr Ruth: I didn’t look. I didn’t see you looking at it at all.
Alan: I never looked at it once. I know it because I’m getting my questions from what you’re saying.
Dr Ruth: Right, that means that you did some active listening to what I was saying. You are going to get an award for your podcast for this interview. Did you hear me?
Alan: What is that?
Dr Ruth: That’s my phone. I just want to say, “I can’t talk.”
Speaker 3: Bring up the [inaudible 00:29:34], and the loneliness issue.
Dr Ruth: Hello?
Speaker 3: We start off [crosstalk 00:29:41], so I can [inaudible 00:29:42].
Dr Ruth: Yeah, Mack?
Alan: Right, I got that.
Dr Ruth: Where can I call you in a little while? I’m doing an interview for a podcast with famous Alan. Famous Alan Alda is sitting in my living room. I want you to be jealous.
Alan: We should use this.
Dr Ruth: That’s what I want you to be.
Alan: We should use this.
Dr Ruth: [inaudible 00:30:04] where can I call you in an hour? The same number, fine. Talk to you … Yeah, because I just have to tell you something, okay? All right, bye. Bye.
He has the Jewish broadcasting program, and I do like segments that I tape, little advice segments once a week or so.

We’ll take a break so Ruth can finish her phone call. When we come back… we’ll hear her thoughts on those moments when relationships actually begin: Dr. Ruth’s rules for dating…

This is Clear and Vivid, and now back to my conversation with Dr. Ruth

Alan: Oh good. That’s great. Let me ask you about dating because your book, From You to Two, Dr. Ruth’s Rules For Real Relationships contains a lot of advice about dating because a lot of people now begin their relationships on first dates that are prompted by dating sites. They’re brought together by kind of superficial things. Do you like this kind of music too, and then that somehow is supposed to be the beginning of their relationship.
Dr Ruth: I am not against using anything in the social media to make connections because as I say all the time, I’m so worried about loneliness. I’m not discounting anything. However, I’m saying to people, “Don’t be stupid. If you date online, which is fine, you have to do that, when you first meet that person, in a public place. In the lobby of a hotel, not in a secluded place.” Also, if you had a good conversation, and then he doesn’t respond for the next four weeks, drop him. Say, “Goodbye. You don’t know what you are missing,” and go to the next one.
Don’t sit there and say, “I had such a good conversation. How come he doesn’t call back?” First of all, he might have somebody. Second, there might be something that he was not interested in, so I’m telling men and women, “Give it a certain time.” I can’t tell exactly the time. Somebody says, “I’m now going on a business trip. You have to wait.”
Alan: The woman waits for the man, is that what you’re saying?
Dr Ruth: I think that these days, a woman can call again, but not 10 times.
Alan: Right. Right.
Dr Ruth: Once or twice. Are you interested in the relationship, yes or no? Period. Very firm, in a nice way.
Alan: Very firm, but nice. I see you suggest not engaging in sex on the first date.
Dr Ruth: Absolutely not.
Alan: Why is that?
Dr Ruth: First of all, it’s dangerous. You do not know. If he has sex with her on the first date, he had sex last week with somebody else, and you do not know what kind of sexually transmitted disease he’s bringing you. I’m saying not to have sex on the first date until you know that person, until you know a little bit more about their background, and until you really feel you are going to have a relationship with that person.
Just to have sex, even if it’s the best sex possible, without a relationship is not productive. You’re going to be afterwards saying, “I had such a good time. I had 10 orgasms. How come he doesn’t call back?” It’s very important to first …
Alan: Wait, only 10, is that like it?
Dr Ruth: See how careful you listen? Very important not to have sex. That’s why I very often say, “You’re sexually aroused? Bring yourself to orgasm before you go on that date.”
Alan: Hoping for the best anyway. That’s interesting too. That’s the other big point I think I see in what you write lately is that if you’re looking for a relationship, the date is going to probably be more productive than if you’re just looking to see what might happen in the short term.
Dr Ruth: Absolutely. Now, I get lots of questions these days about threesome.
Alan: About what?
Dr Ruth: Threesome, you know three …
Alan: Oh, three. You get lots of questions about threesomes?
Dr Ruth: Threesome. I say in our culture it’s not going to work. I’m not talking about [inaudible 00:34:32], or any other studies of anthropology.
Alan: Did she talk about threesomes too?
Dr Ruth: She says you can have sex with everybody. Not so in our culture.
Alan: Right. What happens?
Dr Ruth: I’ll tell you what happens.
Alan: Yeah.
Dr Ruth: If there is a threesome, let’s suppose two women and one man. Let’s say two men and one woman, it doesn’t matter. One of them is going to be a better lover. One of them has that little bit of a better touch, and then there’s going to be a lot of jealousy. In our culture, in general, it does not work.
Alan: This is a threesome that lasts for a while, right? I mean several times.
Dr Ruth: Maybe three times. I think in our culture, I would like people to find a significant other. Somebody who is in your life whom you really care about, and then you can fantasize. Tell your listeners, “It’s okay to fantasize, but keep your mouth shut.” Don’t fantasize about a neighbor because …
Alan: Oh, tell about that. That’s interesting.
Dr Ruth: Don’t fantasize about a neighbor because that’s too near to reality. Then you see that neighbor in the hallway, and who knows what could happen.
Alan: Right.
Dr Ruth: Fantasize about someone … I have to tell you something. The book, Fifty Shades of Gray, not great literature, even so, it’s British. Even so, she made a lot of money. I read all three books because God forbid somebody should ask me, “Did you read the book?” Not great literature, however it proves a point that I’ve been making all these years.
Not true that women don’t get aroused by sexual fantasies, or by reading about it, or by watching it on porno films, or on television. From that, to say that that’s reality is a different issue. Read it, get aroused, and then find your partner, and have great sex. Also, in that sexual encounter, be careful. Don’t tell him that your last partner had a bigger penis than you. He will never forget that.
Alan: Do women actually say that?
Dr Ruth: Some do. Stupid. Guys, and women don’t say that … I mean guys don’t say that you really like woman with breasts if you are in bed with somebody who is not so endowed. You have to be careful. You have to really know what you are saying. Use fantasies. Use what you read. Use something that you saw on television.
Alan: No, you’re okay. You said something just now that made me think about the stereotypical difference between men and women. I’m wondering if it’s a stereotype of if it’s true that men seem to be more aroused by visual encounters than women do, but you’re saying that women have the same capacity?
Dr Ruth: I think that women have the same capacity, but I think that maybe traditionally, maybe men are more easily aroused because that part of their anatomy is outside the body, and maybe easier to be stimulated. I am saying that women can use fantasies, films, any sexually explicit material, books, explicit movies in order to get themselves in the mood.
Alan: I really wondered in the last year or two, when we get these accounts in the newspapers about people in high places, people with power, not just men on the subway or allies with raincoats, who seem to think it’s stimulating to a woman to expose themselves. I’m wondering where they get that idea?
Dr Ruth: I’ll tell you where the idea comes from. I don’t know, but in my way of thinking, these people need help. They need to go to see a psychologist, a therapist, a psychiatrist to get help because in our culture, it’s not acceptable. In our culture, it’s not acceptable. You know, Alan, that’s why I’m talking about parents having to be askable parents. They have to teach their little kids it’s okay to masturbate, but in privacy.
Not in the living room, because your mother-in-law could walk in, but in your bedroom or in the bathroom. It’s all right to touch yourself, but don’t let anybody else touch you in places that is not appropriate.
Alan: At what age do you talk to kids about this?
Dr Ruth: I would say that you have to talk, in today’s world, because of the media, you have to talk to them by four. Four years of age, you have to be like an askable parent, by saying, “Do not let anybody touch you in your private areas.”
Alan: Did you say askable parent?
Dr Ruth: Yeah, you have to be an askable parent.
Alan: A parent that you can ask questions of?
Dr Ruth: Yes, so that the child knows this is somebody who knows, and somebody whom I can ask questions. Whoever it is, that askable relatives, it can be an aunt.
Alan: Do you get the impression that parents are still uncomfortable talking about sex with their children?
Dr Ruth: Yes. The other day, I always give that example that a five-year-old walked in when the parents had sex in the living room. That happens all the time. Of course, he loses the erection right away and then he went behind the couch. I gave her the advice that the next day, talk to your child, a girl, and say, “When mommy and daddy have sex, we love each other. When you hear moaning and groaning, that it does not hurt mommy, it just feels good.
Then I told the woman, “Tell your husband to come back out from behind the couch.” What it means is to be open to use what is called a teachable moment. If something like this happens, use that moment to talk about those issues that is difficult to talk about.

Alan: It just occurs to me, and it doesn’t occur to me from anything we just said, but one of the most interesting things to me, that I read about your early life, was that you were nearly killed in an explosion.
Dr Ruth: I certainly was.
Alan: Tell me about that.
Dr Ruth: First of all, I was fortunate that I got out of Germany. It’s in my book, in the graphic novel. I got out because I went … They tried to save German [inaudible 00:41:54], which failed miserably, but they said, “Let’s at least save the children.” They took 10,000 children to England, and they took 300 Holland, Belgium, and France, and Switzerland. I didn’t want to leave on foot. I was an only child.
I had a mother, a father, grandmother living with me, but my father had been taken after the night of broken glass, after November 10th he had been taken to a labor camp, and he wrote a card that I have to join the group of children who went to Switzerland, so that he could come back from the labor camp, on foot, so I had no choice. I didn’t want to leave my mother and grandmother.
Alan: You were how old?
Dr Ruth: I was 10. When I was 10 1/2 exactly, on January 5, 1939, I saw my mother and grandmother the last time because they took me to the railroad station in Frankfort. My father had been taken already to a labor camp. He did come back, but I never saw either one again.
Then, I was fortunate, if I had been to [inaudible 00:43:07], France, I would not have been alive because these children did not make it. The Nazis took them. In Switzerland, I was in a children’s home that became an orphanage. I then went to Palestine.
Alan: At what age?
Dr Ruth: I was 17, and I decided that Palestine, that’s now Israel, Jews need a country of their own. I told the British, “Go home,” and the British Ambassador, the other day at a dinner, told me, “And we listened.” Then I belonged to the Haguenau, that was the underground group of the [inaudible 00:43:51] defense forces. When Israel was declared, they were the Arab countries attacking it, but I was trained to be a sniper, so Alan, be careful. I can still put five bullets in the red circle, and I know how to throw hand grenades.
Alan: Oh my God.
Dr Ruth: We just showed that part of my life in the documentary that was just done by me right now, which is submitted to Sundance. Say a prayer on your program that it gets accepted.
Alan: I hope it does, but how did you get in an explosion?
Dr Ruth: All right, I’ll tell you how. I was a little stupid. It was my birthday. It was my 20th birthday, June 4, 1948, and I came back from being on the rooftops watching incoming communication, the Israeli soldiers checking the Arab cars from the Arab countries.
Hello? Hello?
Speaker 4: Hi, is this Dr. Ruth?
Dr Ruth: Yeah, I can’t talk right now. Call me in half an hour.
Speaker 3: [crosstalk 00:45:06].
Dr Ruth: Or an hour. Who’s that?
Speaker 4: This is Christina [inaudible 00:45:10].
Dr Ruth: Wait, wait, wait. I need you right now, even so I’m busy. Tell Jordan I love him.
Speaker 4: I will definitely.
Dr Ruth: Tell him that my daughter-in-law will never forget that we saw [inaudible 00:45:26], and my son will never forget.
Speaker 4: That’s fabulous.
Dr Ruth: All right. Tell him that the show was wonderful. The seats were superb, and one of these days I want to talk to him myself.
Speaker 4: Wonderful. I will absolutely relay the message.
Dr Ruth: Thank you.
Speaker 4: Thank you.
Dr Ruth: Bye bye. Bye bye. That was important. You see you have to say thank you. Oop, oop, come here. Back to Israel.
I came back from watching over the rooftops …
Speaker 3: Just start that again.
Dr Ruth: I came back in 1948 on June 4, 1948, my 20th birthday, and I came back to the girls residence from watching over the rooftops, the Israeli soldiers checking the cars that came from the Arab sides for weapons. When I got back to the girls residence, the alarms sounded. I knew what it meant. Go down to the cellar. Go to a shelter.
I had been given a book for my birthday that morning. I said, “Let me go up, get the book.” Who knows how long I have to sit in that shelter. Big mistake. I went to the shelter, I went then to the shelter, and I came up. There was a second explosion, and a cannonball exploded. Killed two girls next to me, and wounded me very badly on both legs.
I could have lost my legs. I was fortunate because there was a brilliant surgeon trained in Germany, Jewish surgeon, who fixed me. I can ski. I was a Black Diamond skier, and Alan, if I find somebody, I can still dance the whole night.
Alan: If I can find somebody.
Dr Ruth: I had to learn how to walk again, and that was that expense. It wasn’t heroic on my part because all of us participated in some kind of resistance in creating that Jewish state. I feel very strongly. I didn’t think I would live in America. I thought my whole life I would be in Israel.
Alan: What made you change your mind?
Dr Ruth: Okay, first I finished at the [inaudible 00:47:44] psychology. I came to visit here. I opened a German Jewish newspaper the Aufbau, means reconstruction. I saw that the New School for Social Research has a scholarship for Nazi victims. I went down there. I couldn’t speak English very well, but I spoke, by now, German, and Hebrew, and French.
I found Professors that spoke that language. I got the scholarship. I got a Master’s in Sociology. Then I found Fred Westheimer. I had been married twice before. This was just legalized love affairs. Then, I had a little girl, Miriam, and then I found Fred Westheimer, you seem him here, and I decided that’s the guy I’m going to marry.
I tell you how. I went skiing, and I went with a tall guy, taller than you, Alan, on a T-bar. You know what a T-bar is? It pushes you up the mountain.
Alan: Yes.
Dr Ruth: It was uncomfortable. When it was on my behind, it was on his leg. When it was on his behind, it was on my neck. Impossible. Somebody introduced me to Manfred Westheimer, also from Germany, but he was fortunate his parents went to Portugal, and then they sent him to study here.
I decided that’s the guy I’m going to go up the mountain because he was short. Then I found out he was 35, not married, and an engineer, and German Jewish, and he played the harmonica. I thought, “That’s for me.” Look at that.
Alan: He fit all the criteria.
Dr Ruth: I was married almost 20 years.
Alan: How did he die?
Dr Ruth: Then we had Joel. He also adopted my daughter Miriam. He had a very, very bad stroke. He would not have like to live without a brain.

Alan: Do you get the sense from the people you talk … You still have patients, right?
Dr Ruth: I don’t see patients in my private practice anymore because I leave that up to young people. I want to be at night in the theater. I want to be at a concert. I want to be at a gala. I’m going tonight. I was just with a wonderful gala. I got into the … I have to send you something funny.
Last week, I go to a lot of fundraisers. I went to a gala of Lang Lang, who has a wonderful program of musical education in this country and all over the world. My habit, they finally outed me, my habit is from any gala, I take the flowers from the table home because I found out they can’t give it to a hospital.
Alan: I thought they did.
Dr Ruth: They throw it out.
Alan: They throw it out? Is it because it’s not good for the patients?
Dr Ruth: Right. They can’t give it to any hospital, so tonight I come home with flowers.
Alan: Yeah.
Dr Ruth: The flowers that you see here I took from Lang Lang’s gala, and the New York Post, page six, outed me.
Alan: They saw picking them up.
Dr Ruth: Do you know what they said? “Frugal, Dr. Ruth took the flowers from her table home.” I love it.
Alan: Do you bring a little bag with you to take the flowers home?
Dr Ruth: No, I don’t. Bring a bag for food.
Alan: No. You just walk out with the flowers bare.
Dr Ruth: I tell you how. I call a good-looking waiter. I say, “Do me a favor. If you want to have good sex for the rest of your life, pack up those flowers for me.” It works. It does work. They’re finally holding up in that little item, in the New York Post page six. I was mentioned twice. Not bad for a little 90-year-old, 4’7″ grandma.
Alan: You are 90. You’re working harder than I am, I think. I’m a couple of years younger, but …
Dr Ruth: You’re younger. I tell you what, I’m very fortunate. First of all, I’m fortunate that I’m in the same apartment that I raised my two children with my late husband. I’m very fortunate that I’m healthy. I’m fortunate that I don’t let anybody call me before 10:00 in the morning.
Alan: That’s great.
Dr Ruth: I now can go until midnight. I don’t take a selfie anymore. I do take a car service. I know where to keep my energies, and I do the things that I am very fond of.

Alan: Let me ask you, that reminds me, what else should young people think about when they’re dating? For instance, you mentioned how to tell if somebody’s lying. It’s kind of important to know if the person you’re talking to on a first date, or a blind date, if they’re really representing themselves correctly because you could get into a relationship with somebody who you don’t want to be in a relationship with. What should you do? How do you handle it?
Dr Ruth: You have to intently, you have to very intently listen. Then, after a while, you will get the skill of knowing is that person saying the truth or not. That holds true for women and men. You will know that if you learn how to listen intently. How to not think of other things when you talk to that person.
Alan: Is it possible that we tend, sometimes, to make allowances for what they’re saying? For instance, I found if I was in a position to hire somebody for a job, I was surprised when I really listened carefully to realize that in the first 10 minutes of our conversation, they told me almost everything about themselves, including the things that are not in their interest to tell me.
In a way, revealing what they would be like on the job. Like I pay enormous attention to detail. Detail matters to me more than anything. I think this person’s going to get lost in the details.
Dr Ruth: But you know what? It’s tricky because you are famous, and if I would apply for a job with you, I would also want to try to exaggerate a little bit my success.
Alan: Right, but what if they have success at something I don’t need, then I want to know that.
Dr Ruth: Good point. People actually should practice interviewing.
Alan: Oh, that’s interesting. How would you do that?
Dr Ruth: You would do it with a friend. You would put a friend there. Make believe you are Alan. Make believe you listen to me intently like you do, and to practice, and then that person can say, “Don’t talk about your previous love affairs. That’s of no interest for that job.” It’s of no interest.
Alan: What else would you be … Let’s say you and I were on a first date.
Dr Ruth: Wait, did you tell your wife first? I’m not going with married men. Now, let’s make believe.
Alan: What about that? What about women who decide well, what will it hurt? I heard one woman say once, “You can’t break up a happy marriage.”
Dr Ruth: No, I’ll tell you something that’s very tricky for both, because if you tell a person that you meet at a conference, let’s suppose at a professional conference, and that person, man or woman, you have a conversation at dinner, and then you say, “My wife or my husband really don’t understand me,” or “We don’t have any intimacy anymore in our life.” Very, very tricky because some people, mem and women, use that in order to see if they can get a new relationship.
Very often it doesn’t work. Very often the old relationship, if there are children or no children, are very strong. You have to be very careful. It’s not easy in today’s world to find a new relationship.
Alan: Let’s say I was not married, and you and I are on a date.
Dr Ruth: All right. I don’t do that on your program. I know what I would do with you. If you were not married, I’m going to send out your crew right now, [inaudible 00:53:37] leave, and you stay here. Finished.
Alan: Well, you got me with the cookies you put out. That’s the first step.
Dr Ruth: And coffee.
Alan: Cookies and coffee, I’m in.
Dr Ruth: See her laughing, her laughing.
Alan: Even the British guy is laughing.
Dr Ruth: Even the British guy is laughing.
Alan: This has been wonderful talking with you. I have had such a good time. Let me ask you, we usually end our conversations with seven quick questions, hoping to get seven quick answers. Just spontaneous things. They’re not embarrassing or anything. Are you game for that?
Dr Ruth: Of course.
Alan: Okay.
Dr Ruth: With you.
Alan: With me?
Dr Ruth: Not with anybody.
Alan: The first question is what do you wish you really understood?
Dr Ruth: Very interesting. I think I understand a lot about human relations, but I don’t think I understand it all. I really wish, in today’s world, I wish that I would have more scientifically validated data about young people, about what they think, what they hope, how they operate.
Alan: Second question, what do you wish other people understood about you?
Dr Ruth: The first thing I wish they would understand about me, that I don’t talk about my sex life. Put that down there. Ever. The second thing I wish they would understand that I’m now 90, and I have no intention to retire. Do you hear all of you on Alan’s program? I’m not retiring? Sherry Lansing coined a term. “Not to retire, but to rewire.”
Alan: Oh good.
Dr Ruth: I use that every day.
Alan: Yeah, that’s good.
Dr Ruth: I give her credit. She coined it.
Alan: Sherry Lansing did?
Dr Ruth: Yeah.
Alan: Yeah, great. What’s the strangest question someone has ever asked you?
Dr Ruth: Alan, you’re going to be disappointed because that question I get from everybody, and I have no answer except to say somebody once said something about having sex with an animal, and I said on the radio, I’m not a [veteretarian 00:55:56]. I’m not a veteretarian.
Alan: Not a vegetarian.
Dr Ruth: Not vegetarian, veteretarian.
Alan: A vetera-
Dr Ruth: Veteretarian. I’m not a doctor for animals. Next question.
Alan: I didn’t ask you how the animals felt about it. Okay. How do you stop a compulsive talker?
Dr Ruth: Look, if it’s a compulsive talker, if it’s interesting talk, I might now want to stop him. If it’s somebody who just keeps on talking in order to fill the air waves, I say, “I have to run. I have another appointment. Goodbye.”
Alan: Is there anyone for whom you just can’t feel empathy?
Dr Ruth: That’s a very important question. I’ve never been asked that. You have to know, with my background of Nazi Germany, where my parents, and grandparents, and everybody in my family were killed in [inaudible 00:57:01], a very difficult question to answer except to tell you, I have no problem. I have taught in Heidelberg at the university.
I’ve been going to Germany every year for the Frankfort Book Fair. Always came back with a new project. I have no problem with young people. People who are older than me, I don’t want to know where they were during World War II, but I have no problem with young people because they were not around. Older people I do have problems.
Alan: Next question, how do you like to deliver bad news, in person, on the phone, or by carrier pigeon?
Dr Ruth: None of the above.
Alan: You don’t like to deliver bad news at all?
Dr Ruth: Absolutely not.
Alan: Do you turn it into good news somehow?
Dr Ruth: Yeah, you can’t always turn it into good news if somebody passes away. You have to put it into the proper kind of thinking about … Here’s a good answer. I told a young son of a friend of mine who just passed away in Switzerland, I said, “I just want you to know that your mother loved you.” It was a very important sentence. He said, “That feels very good.”
I didn’t say how sad I am that she passed away, and how terrible, nothing of that sort. I thought of him as the surviving son, and I thought, and I told him, “Your mother loved you,” despite the fact they had some fights that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
Alan: It’s so interesting, very often when we talk to somebody who has had a loss like that, we talk about our feelings.
Dr Ruth: It’s very true.
Alan: We imagine what the other person’s feelings might be. None of which is …
Dr Ruth: Relevant.
Alan: … the person’s own state of mind.
Dr Ruth: Right.
Alan: You talked to him about what would support him.
Dr Ruth: I bet you that this sentence of mine is going to stay with him for a long time. That despite the fact that you had disagreements with your mother, I know all about that, your mother loved you. That’s all I said.
Alan: Last quick question, what, if anything, would make you end a friendship?
Dr Ruth: Betrayer. If I would tell you, Alan, something that I haven’t told anybody else, or something that is really, really bothering me, or something that is like a secret in my life, and if I would hear that you told anybody, I would say, “Goodbye, Alan. Nice to have met you.”
Alan: Well, it has been great to have met you again. I’ve had such a good time with you.
Dr Ruth: Thank you. Okay, let’s stay in touch.
Alan: Okay, great.
Dr Ruth: Tell them that. Producer, do you hear that? He doesn’t talk.
Speaker 3: I got it.
Dr Ruth: You got it?
Alan: Thanks, Ruth.
This has been Clear + Vivid, at least I hope so.

My thanks the sponsors of this episode. All the income from the ads you hear go to the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Just by listening to this podcast, you’re contributing to the better communication of science. So, thank you.

At 91, Ruth Westheimer is an inspiration. She’s tweeting, writing, lecturing, and doing TV commercials.

In 2009, Vanity Fair named Dr. Ruth one of “12 Women Who Changed How We Look at Sex.” Dr. Ruth has made sex easier to talk about and has probably helped millions of people have better marriages and partnerships.

I lost count of the number of books she has written. They include the wonderfully titled, “Sex for Dummies” and: “The Doctor is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie de Vivre” – you can find it online and at most retailers. And, you can follow the doctor on Twitter at: @AskDrRuth

This episode was produced by Graham Chedd with help from our associate producer, Sarah Chase. Our sound engineer is Dan Dzula, our Tech Guru is Allison Coston, our publicist is Sarah Hill.

You can subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

For more details about Clear + Vivid, and to sign up for my newsletter, please visit alanalada.com.

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram at “Clear and Vivid” and I’m on Twitter @alanalda.

Thanks for listening. Bye bye!