Meet Dr. Ruth,
Author, teacher, sex guru
College Seminar: “The Family in Jewish Tradition”
Height: Four foot seven
QWhat do you think of Valentine’s Day?
AAs commercial as it is, I think it’s a great idea because it reminds people to be kind to each other … I don’t care if it’s a chocolate bar or a flower. But there is a more important message. All those people who don’t have a partner right now, I don’t want them to walk around with a long face on Valentine’s Day. I want them to make a Valentine’s Day resolution — like people make New Year’s resolutions — not to be upset and to say this is going to be the year that I’m going to make a relationship work.
QCan relationships work in college?
AOf course, but you have to learn how to communicate. So don’t walk around with your BlackBerry. Talk to each other. I see two people walking around, each one talking to someone else on the phone. That’s not good for a relationship.
So, if you’re on the same campus, you need to cultivate the relationship — not that you need to decide that that’s the person you’ll be with for the rest of your life. But respect each other and if you find a relationship on campus, you should be beaming that you’ve found someone to share your college life with. And if it’s a long-distance relationship, be sure to get on the phones.
QWhat were you taught about sex early in life? Did you have sex ed?
ANot really, because of my very orthodox background. But I do remember that an older girl had told me about menstruation and also told me some horror stories. My grandmother and mother wanted to tell me about the facts of life, and I told them I knew already! But I probably just knew myths.
QAre you surprised that some myths about sex persist even today?
AI think that people these days know more than even 10 years ago. I think part of it is because of the Internet and television. But the difference in the questions … the questions are the same, about relationships and cheating and sexual satisfaction. What’s different today is that the language is much more explicit. Nobody would say “she’s with child” when they want to say she’s pregnant.
QYou call yourself a “square,” but you speak very bluntly about sex …
AI do think of myself as a square, but even so I think that I speak graphically and what you call it — bluntly — because I believe that this is how we have to teach sexuality. When I say that I’m old-fashioned and a square, that has to do with my values. I do believe that if you have a friend, you shouldn’t cheat on her or him. And that you have to be truthful — not saying everything — but truthful.
QSo how many books have you written?
AThirty-two. Here is a book that I just did. [Holds up “Dr. Ruth’s Top 10 Secrets for Great Sex.”] Stupid! What 10 secrets do I have? I don’t have 10 secrets. But read on page 53! When I talk about the way in which you should savor and smell and touch wine, maybe that combination is new, but I don’t have 10 secrets. But the publisher wants to say 10 secrets — it’s fine with me. The next one is going to be about Genesis — a chapter I’ll write with Rabbi Ponet.
qWhy teach a seminar about Jewish family life? Why not just teach about sex?
ABecause if I would only talk about sex, I would get bored. And if I would get bored, you would know it. That’s why I’ve never given up my private practice and I’ve never given up lecturing and I’ve never given up talking about issues of the family. In this particular course, I talk about my own background and World War II. I have to because we talk about the Jewish family. When I give a talk about sex, I don’t talk about my background.
QDo Jews have the best sex?
A[Laughs.] How could you ask me in front of the Rabbi? Put there, in front of the Rabbi I would say of course. Anywhere else, I would say nonsense. Any partners who are really interested in each other — not just sexually — but interested in relationships and what they each do, are going to have good sex.