March 14, 2014

Dr. Ruth is Coming to Cornell: Here’s Why You Should Go

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Some of you may have seen some hot pink posters circulating campus, advertising a lecture by Dr. Ruth next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. There are a few logical questions to ask after seeing these posters. How old is that lady? What shade of pink is that? And who is Dr. Ruth, anyway?

To answer those questions honestly: 85 years old, I don’t have the slightest idea but it looks like fuchsia and finally — and most importantly — she is one bad-ass lady. An expert on sexuality, who made her name hosting a sex advice show in the 1980s, Ruth Westheimer pioneered a frank, scientific approach to talking about sex that wasn’t common at the time. In fact, Dr. Joyce Brothers ’47 — who went to Cornell back when the College of Home Economics was a thing — paved the path for Dr. Ruth, as a psychologist with a similar approach to sex.

To say Dr. Ruth’s path to being a sex icon was circuitous is an understatement. Born an Orthodox Jew in Germany, Ruth’s family was tragically killed during the Holocaust in Auschwitz. She lived in Palestine for a time, serving in the forerunner of the Israeli Defense Forces, where she was trained as a sniper. For a time, she lived in France, where she taught psychology, and ended up making her way to the United States. That notorious 1980s radio show that gave her the nickname “Dr. Ruth” was called “Sexually Speaking” and answered listeners questions about sex and relationships. The show became popular among listeners, was expanded in length and ended up being just the prelude to a series of books — she’s written about 40 — about sex.

For a preview of what will likely be a hilarious and eye-opening talk Wednesday (thanks, Cornell Hillel!), a passage from Dr. Ruth’s 2009 book, Dr. Ruth’s Top Ten Secrets for Great Sex, because what college students don’t love wine and sex?

“Let me give you an illustration from another arena altogether to help me explain this point: drinking alcohol. Anyone can drink enough wine to get tipsy. You can drink the cheapest, most awful tasting wine and still get quite drunk. But when you drink the cheap stuff, maybe holding your nose so that you don’t taste it as much, you certainly don’t appreciate all the other qualities that wine has to offer. However, if you drink a fine wine, after having learned to appreciate its subtleties, while you may wind up feeling the effects of the alcohol, you’ll also enjoy the taste, aroma, and the overall sensory experience that drinking fine wine entails. So the wine connoisseur enjoys his wine fully, even intimately. And he, or she, doesn’t just gulp down the wine but, instead, swirls it in a glass to release its aroma, smells it, sips rather than gulps the wine in order to savor the many flavors before swallowing, and usually makes sure that any food that accompanies the wine complements it.

Having intimate sex is like drinking fine wine. You may have orgasms with or without intimacy, but you’ll get a lot more out of a sexual liaison if intimacy is part of the experience. I can’t say that immature sex is one-dimensional, but you’ll experience many added dimensions when you have sex as an intimate couple. So that’s why I want you to slow down sex so that you can appreciate all it has to offer and thus make it so much more intimate an experience.”