“When it comes to sex, the most important six inches is between the ears.”
“Sex toys are a wonderful thing. At the same time, you shouldn’t get used to vibrators because no penis is capable of doing what a vibrator can do.”
“Fellatio is pretty easy to learn if you practice on a banana or a popsicle.”
These are just a few words of wisdom from the German-born American sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, which she announced over the course of her 64-year career.
Her success came late, only at the age of 52. The pop culture icon, who celebrates her 95th birthday on June 4th, hosted the radio show “Sexually Speaking”.
For fans she is: “Grandma Freud”
During her ten years as a radio presenter, she developed a large fan base – including numerous women’s rights activists and people from the LGBTQ community. They were all interested in her outspoken approach and advice on issues such as the female orgasm, masturbation, contraception, and even abortion.
She sealed her status as a specialist who not only knew her craft but also had the courage and sensitivity to speak out on homosexuality, safe sex and AIDS prevention. In doing so, she broke a taboo in the 1980s.
Her appeal lay in addressing her audience not like a therapist but more like a trusted aunt. This is how she got nicknames like “Grandma Freud” and “Sister Wendy of Sexuality”.
With her height of only 1 meter 40, her cheerful charisma and an accent – which she once characterized as “a mishmash of German, Hebrew, Swiss and French” – she presented her own TV talk show in 1985: “The Dr. Ruth Show”. She has also appeared in films, commercials, television game shows and sitcoms. She has also hosted a series of Playboy educational videos called Making Love and has written more than 40 books, including her bestselling book Sex for Dummies.
“Hitler lost and I won”
But Dr. Ruth’s zest for life and tireless urge to create belies the tragic losses and grief she had to experience in her childhood.
Born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928 in Wiesenfeld, Germany, she lived with her Jewish Orthodox parents in Frankfurt am Main for her 10th birthday. The year 1933 changed her life. Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany and brought terror, war of extermination and genocide into the world.
On January 5, 1939, her mother and grandmother put Ruth on a train at Frankfurt Central Station bound for an orphanage in Heiden, Switzerland.
The action was part of a Kindertransport program, an organized rescue operation that brought thousands of Jewish children to safe foreign countries before the start of World War II. “[Sie] waved goodbye. And that was the last time I saw her.” In the end she was the only survivor; the rest of her family was probably killed in the Nazi concentration camps.
After the war, 17-year-old Ruth emigrated to what was then British-controlled Palestine and became a member of an underground Zionist paramilitary organization, the Haganah, where she trained as a sniper and “learned to shoot by imagining Hitler as a target,” she said in an interview with the British magazine The Observer once.
In 1950 she moved to Paris to study psychology at Sorbonne University and later to do a master’s degree in sociology at New York’s New School. To support her tuition, she worked as a maid for $75 cents an hour.
After working as a teacher in the 1960s and opening her own sex therapy practice, Ruth received her doctorate in 1970 at the age of 42 from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Ruth Westheimer was married three times. She married her third and last husband, the engineer and also a Jewish refugee, Manfred Westheimer, in 1961.
The mother of two, widowed in 1997 and grandmother of four, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, “When I look at my four grandchildren, I said: Hitler lost and I won.”
God is the ultimate sex therapist
In 1995 she co-authored the book “Heavenly Lust. Love and Sex in Jewish Culture” with Jonathan Mark. In it she writes, for example: “The great Rabbi Simeon ben-Halfta called the penis the great peacemaker of the house.”
Speaking to The New York Times in 1995 about this book, she said: “I grew up in Nazi Germany. And the only thing I learned there is that you have to stand up for what you believe. That’s why I wrote this book. I hope it will be read by Jews and non-Jews alike, and anyone interested in family life and the idea of ’shalom bayit’ or ‘peace in the home’.”
She added that she had long wondered why she could speak so openly and freely about sex: “For us Jews, sex was never a sin.” However, she acknowledged that the marriage of sex and sacred books is not for everyone.
The New York Times noted that in the book Heavenly Lust, it cites, among other things, explicit passages from the Torah, Talmud, and other religious sources to support the thesis that “God is the ultimate sex therapist” and that the Bible is the ” wisest guide to sex ever written”.
Ruth Westheimer has always insisted that she doesn’t talk about sex “to shock, but to educate”. The only question that ever stunned her was about sex with animals, to which she replied, “I’m not a vet.”
“Get it” and other important thoughts
dr Ruth is also famous for her “get some” slogan. Long before “Sex and the City,” she put the subject of sex at the center of public discourse, as she happily puts it in a video on her YouTube channel.
Over the decades, she has addressed sexual issues with her signature combination of in-depth knowledge, humor and empathy, which has resulted in some memorable phrases. There is no such thing as “normal” sex in their world. “Anything two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom or on the kitchen floor is perfectly fine. She also believes that pornography – which she prefers to describe as ‘sexually explicit content’ – is kosher, “except when it involves violence or children goes”.
Also controversial opinions
However, some of her views might not resonate well with 21st-century audiences when viewed through the #metoo lens. “This idea that when you’re aroused and you’ve already started the act and you’re like, ‘Can I touch your left breast or your right breast?’ is absolute nonsense,” she said in a 2019 interview with The Observer. You shouldn’t get into bed naked with each other – whether two men, two women or a man and a woman – if you haven’t decided to have sex.
In an interview with People magazine last year, she underlined the importance of sex in old age. You have to make sure that you don’t put off your sex life, “not even in old age. That’s when you have to try to keep it alive.”
In the same interview, she also spoke about loneliness and relationship problems that emerged after the COVID pandemic: “If you are lucky enough to be in good health, you should thank God or whoever you believe in for good health”, she said. And a word of advice for those addicted to technology and social media: “Log out of Zoom, put your phone down, and have sex!”
This article has been translated from English.