Dispelling notions that grandmothers don’t talk about sex, Dr. Ruth Westheimer talked to Yalies Thursday about topics ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to fake orgasms at a packed Calhoun College Master’s Tea.
Though she spoke only briefly about things like long-distance relationships and premarital sex, Westheimer will likely give Yalies another dose of her expertise next semester, when she will teach a residential college seminar about the American family with Calhoun Master William Sledge and Dean Stephen Lassonde.
“It is going to be taught by a psychiatrist, a historian and me. It’s going to be lots of fun,” Westheimer said.
A practicing sex therapist, Dr. Ruth has written 24 books, although not all of them deal only with sex — she is also an advocate for education and the Israeli state. She has also taught at New York University and Princeton University and previously served as a kindergarten teacher and sniper in the Israeli army.
Although Westheimer repeatedly called herself “old-fashioned and square” Thursday, audience members said she impressed them with both her knowledge and humor.
She explained her policy on privacy of sexual discussions with instructions to the audience.
“I don’t want you to get on the phone later and ask your mother if she has orgasms or your father if he got it up last night,” she said.
But she said imagining her clients’ private lives helps her give better advice.
“A good sex therapist has to visualize what people do in the privacy of their homes,” she said.
To keep in touch with the ever-expanding world of sexual literacy, Westheimer said she buys every newspaper and magazine she can find about sex. She ordered HBO just so she could watch “Sex and the City.” Even so, she warned of the limits of the news and TV.
“Be careful of the media; that’s not what life is really about,” she said. “Realistically, women in New York do not have 20 guys lined up outside their doors.”
Gender roles in relationships came up frequently in the talk, even though the audience was predominantly female. One student asked a question based on a quote — that men put up with women to have sex as part of their lives and women put up with sex to have men as a part of their lives. Dr. Ruth suggested it was not entirely true.
The tea concluded with a question-and-answer period.
“I thought it was really helpful. She’s so funny — like everybody’s little Jewish grandmother,” Mollie Farber ’06 said.
Mary Elizabeth Rehm ’06 and many other students walked away clutching signed copies of Dr. Ruth’s book “Sex for Dummies.”
“When I talk about sex I want to make people smile,” Dr. Ruth said.