This past Friday, Dr. Ruth Westheimer appeared in front of hundreds of army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“I got a standing ovation,” she told a crowd of 30 in the Calhoun College master’s house on Monday. “They told me not one student fell asleep, but that when President Obama talked, plenty of cadets were asleep.”
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No Yale students suffered such a fate as Westheimer, a 4-foot-7 Israeli-sharpshooter-turned-sex-therapist, did not shy away from controversial topics such as abortion and contraception during her Master’s Tea.
“Anyone asking questions from the floor,” she said to the audience of Yalies, “I promise you good sex for the rest of your lives.”
Westheimer, 81, is a Holocaust survivor who fought with the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization that existed from 1920 to 1948. The author of “Sex for Dummies,” she has established herself as an expert in the field — so much so that the magazine Good Housekeeping recently nominated her to be one of the 125 women who have changed the world.
“I’ve learned how to stand up and be counted for what I believe in,” Westheimer said.
For instance, she said she believes sexually active partners are sidelining important issues, such as AIDS.
She also said she is a fan of Viagra.
The enhancement drug has even helped her to provide counseling to all different kinds of patients, including a former priest who was struggling to overcome his sexual anxiety, she said. Still, Westheimer warned that Viagra does not fix all problems in a relationship; men have to be considerate to their partners, not just “hop into bed” after forgetting to take a significant other out for dinner, or forgetting a birthday or anniversary.
While Westheimer claimed she cannot crack jokes, she said there is a role for humor in sex education — at least so says the Jewish Talmud. Thus, when discussing masturbation to Harvard Law School students recently, she mentioned, as a joke, the urban myth that hair would grow on the palms of males who masturbate.
“Plenty of those attorneys looked at their hands!” she exclaimed.
Westheimer also recalled how she loved her time on national television; she made repeated appearances with hosts Johnny Carson and David Letterman. She once told Carson he was responsible for the problems Americans have in the bedroom — “because they stay up to watch you and are too tired!” she said.
Two audience members interviewed after the Tea said they appreciated Westheimer’s frankness.
“She’s old-fashioned but still pro-sex,” Molly Hayes ’13 said. “She’s adorable.”
Westheimer — who only managed to reach the belly button of Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway when the two stood side-by-side — ended the talk abruptly after an hour and 15 minutes, saying she was off to meet with the editors of Good Housekeeping. When she first told her son Joel about the nomination, she said, he thought she was joking.