When Anderson Cooper’s mother, the designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, reached her 91st birthday, they began a correspondence, breaking a wall of silence between them. This 2016 conversation covered life in the spotlight, suicide, money, and grieving for a parent and a child. Vanderbilt Died in June at age 95.
As a 10-year-old girl, Dr. Ruth Westheimer was put on a train to Switzerland from Germany. Her father had already been taken away by the Nazis. While in an orphanage in Switzerland, she would lose her entire family in the Holocaust. Following the war, she had no real home, no close family and no proper education. What she did have, she says, was a zest for life. Bouncing from Israel to France and eventually the U.S., Dr. Ruth found her true calling in a career she never would have imagined: Sex therapy. And more remarkably, when she reached her 50s, it made her a celebrity. She opens up on love, life and joie de vivre.
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer Sex therapist
Video: Dr. Ruth's Motto: Don't retire, rewire
Video: Dr. Ruth answers: How Can I Keep Love Alive?
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Dr. Ruth Westheimer collects turtles. She says it's because they stick their necks out a lot the way she does. It's an attitude that's worked well for the 86-year-old. Dr. Ruth has had to be tough. And orphan of the Holocaust, she managed to become the country's first celebrity sex therapist. She talks about this philosophy on life in her book, "The Doctor Is In." Dr. Ruth joins from the studio of NPR in New York City.
MS. DIANE REHMI know many of you are fans of hers. You can join our conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Dr. Ruth, how good to see you again.
DR. RUTH WESTHEIMERThank you so much. I promise you next time, Diane, I'm going to be in Washington. I'm going to be on your show. It's really an honor to be on your show.
REHMOh, thank you.
WESTHEIMERNext time you're in New York, I want to have coffee with you.
WESTHEIMEROr lunch, if you have time.
REHMWe'll do it. Absolutely. But the first thing I want to do is to in advance of June 4, which is your 87th birthday, I want to say, happy birthday.
WESTHEIMERWell, you are the first one. See that? Monday morning, my birthday's on Thursday, 87, and you are the first one to congratulate me.
REHMI'm so glad.
WESTHEIMERI love that. Thank you, Diane.
REHMI'm so glad. And you know what I love? You say you're motto is don't retire, rewire. What do you mean by that?
WESTHEIMEROkay. Diane, we have to give credit to Sherry Lansing from California. She coined that term. I didn't coin it. I use it every day. Not only this, Rabbi Schneier from New York actually told the Pope that Dr. Ruth said not to retire, but to rewire. And you, Diane, are a perfect example for that. Now, what I mean by that is, look, anybody who loves their job, when the time comes to say, okay, let me work a little less, that's what they should do.
WESTHEIMERBut they should not sit home in a rocking chair. They should find something else or continue, like I do, and you -- the two of us are perfect examples. You are much younger than me. I know your birthday, but we are perfect examples of loving what we are doing. When I woke up this morning, I said, oops, it's too bad I'm not in Washington. I'm in New York, but I'm going to see you.
WESTHEIMERThis is the first in my life that I'm using this machine.
REHMTechnique, yes. This Skype machine, yeah.
WESTHEIMERRight. And I see you very clearly.
REHMIt's perfect. It's perfect.
WESTHEIMERIt's amazing what technology can do. However, Diane, I want to tell you something. There is also a danger that's nothing to do with this book. I talk about that. There is also a danger. I'm very worried that people will lose the ability for conversation to be sitting in a coffeehouse and have coffee that they only will use the internet.
REHMBut you know everyone you see, even just walking down the street, their having that telephone to their ears. It's as though they don't take the time to sit down with that person and have, as you say, that conversation.
WESTHEIMERThat worries me. I did a book for Teacher's College, for parents, about the danger of the internet. But you see what you and I are doing, you and I are perfect examples that we are using the technology because I can see you and I can talk to you. So we'll have to talk another time about the danger of two loving people walking down the street on campus or wherever it is, each one holding the phone, holding hands, but they don't -- they could just walk with an ape or anybody.
REHMExactly, exactly. I want to take you back, Dr. Ruth, because there are perhaps a great many people who do not know that when you were 10 years old, you were put on a train to Switzerland to escape Nazi Germany. Tell us what you remember about that trip.
WESTHEIMEROkay. If you have 10 hours, I can talk 10 hours about that, but I'll make it very short.
WESTHEIMERI have to tell you. If my father had not been taken to a labor camp in 1938 when the Nazis started, I would not be alive because he told my mother, and my grandmother who lived with us, that I was given a seat on a train to a children's home, which then became an orphanage, to Switzerland, but I didn't want to leave. I had 13 dolls. I had a loving mother and grandmother.
WESTHEIMERHe said he couldn't come back to Frankfurt from the labor camp if I wouldn't join that (word?). Now, if the Allied, Diane, Americans, Australians, Canadians had not entered World War II, I would not be alive because Hitler would have taken Switzerland. So I am very fortunate. I'm very fortunate that they made that sacrifice to put their only child on that train not knowing when they would see me.
WESTHEIMERWhat they did not know, that I would never see them again.
REHMSo your grandmother -- neither your grandmother nor your mother went with you and you never saw any of them.
WESTHEIMERAnybody. Not even the grandparents on my mother's side. Now, what's very interesting, the children's home in Switzerland became an orphanage because all of us, there was only one was reunited in England with his parents, interesting. At the time, Diane, England took 10,000 German-Jewish children. Holland, Belgium, France and Switzerland took 300 each. I will never know how come I was on the list to Switzerland.
WESTHEIMERIf I had been on the list to Holland, Belgium or France, you and I could not have done that program and that's why I feel so strong that I have an obligation to repair the world, to make a dent in the world. It's interesting. I did a longitudinal study that all of us girls who were in the orphanage went into the helping profession, social workers, nurses, something to repair the world. I would not know that by doing from Switzerland to then, Palestine -- I was a sniper.
WESTHEIMERI just came back from Israel two days ago. I did not know that I would then go to Paris and study psychology at the Sorbonne and then come to this great country on a visit. And look what happened. I'm sitting with Diane, the famous Diane on NPR and I'm talking about a brand new book which I have to tell you, Amazon did a super job. If you open the cover -- I know people can't see it, but they can hear you and me.
WESTHEIMEROpen the cover. I discovered something. Take the cover off. And my name and the title, "Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie De Vivre" is there in gold.
WESTHEIMERIn gold. That's because I'm going to be 87 years old.
REHMIt's beautiful. And the photograph on the cover of the book, with you in a pink jacket and a pink background and a beautiful scarf, "Dr. Ruth On Love, Life, And Joie De Vivre." So clear.
WESTHEIMERYou say that very nicely, joie de vivre.
WESTHEIMERYou say it like the French.
REHMWell, you know, my husband's first language was French. He was born in Paris, stayed there for six years, learned French before he came to this country. They used to make fun of him because he couldn't speak English. So I picked up little bits from him.
WESTHEIMERSo I have to tell you something, that there is a play about me called "Becoming Dr. Ruth."
WESTHEIMERAnd Debra Jo Rupp, the wonderful actress from "That '70s Show," when I came to this country, Diane, they said you have to take speech lessons to lose your accent. I say, okay, one day I will. I never had money. I made $1 an hour. Debra Jo Rupp had to pay a speech therapist to learn my accent.
REHMExactly. Isn't that hilarious? Well...
WESTHEIMERSo that's really what's coming through in the book, that I believe that people have to make sure that they take the best out of life that they can. If they always go with people who are negative, who are depressed, they should send those people to therapists, but they shouldn't have lunch with them. But I'm going to have lunch with you.
REHMWe are going to have lunch together. You say in the book that the hardest part of the Holocaust for you was that it seemed to take place in slow motion. What do you mean?
WESTHEIMERWell, I would -- I did never know that I will never see my parents again. In Switzerland, we did not know -- we knew that there was a war. I could see the Allied throwing bombs on Germany towards the end of the war, but we never knew for six years what has happened to our families, which means two things. It means tremendous anxiety and it also means some hopelessness.
REHMDr. Ruth Westheimer. He brand new book is titled "The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth On Love, Life, And Joie De Vivre." We'll take a short break. Right back.
REHMAnd joining me from our NPR studios in New York, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She has a brand new book out. It's titled, "The Doctor is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie De Vivre." Now, here is a comment from a listener in Berlin, who says, "Greetings from an NPR Berlin listener. Dr. Ruth is also a big star in Germany."
WESTHEIMERGuess what, what? It is so interesting. For years I used to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair. It's the biggest book fair. That's where I have to go. It was always difficult for me because I do remember that I was sent out of Frankfurt from that railroad station, never to see my family. But I went. Because if you do books, you have to stand behind them and talk about them.
WESTHEIMERWhat's very interesting, I tell you a secret, this book, which really pleases me no end, was just bought by a publisher in Germany...
WESTHEIMER...the publisher -- the publisher's name is Herter, H-E-R-T-E-R -- Diane, I'll tell you a secret, but you can share it with Berlin for more money than my advance.
REHMOh, my goodness.
WESTHEIMERSo I am delighted. I'm going in October. You can go with me, Diane. I'm going in October to Germany. I'll be in Berlin, I'll be all over, telling people, despite the fact that the Nazis robbed me of my childhood and my whole family, I never accuse anybody who is younger than me. They were -- they were not around then. I'm saying, never to forget, but to learn from history.
WESTHEIMERSo that history should never repeat itself.
WESTHEIMERSo I'm going to go. You can go with me, Diane. We'll go to Berlin and we'll meet that -- we'll meet that listener of yours in Berlin.
REHMWouldn't that be wonderful. I want to know how you got to the United States and then went to work for Planned Parenthood.
WESTHEIMERYeah. I see you did your homework.
REHMI did my homework.
WESTHEIMERI like that. And Rebecca talked to me. I like that too. So, when I finished at the Sorbonne, I was ready to go back to then Israel, because that was my homeland. I go to Israel every year. I was badly wounded in the Haganah, in the underground. That's not why I'm short. I was wounded on both legs but I would have been short anyway. I decided that I must visit the United States. I will never have money to go from Israel to the United States. I had only one uncle in Israel and then I had one uncle, the brother of my mother, who went from Germany to Shanghai and then to San Francisco.
WESTHEIMERSo he survived. I wanted to check out if he's as short as me because I didn't have any family. I was an only child. So I came to New York so I could get a scholarship for a Master's. Today there is a Ruth Westheimer Fellowship at the New School for Social Research, a teachers college where I am now teaching, because they lent me money for my Doctorate. And what has happened to me, Diane, with this accent that you hear, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, France, the United States -- what has happened to me in terms of the radios -- you are an expert in radio, could only have happened in New York. Because New Yorkers are very generous with foreigners and with accents.
WESTHEIMERSo I was lucky. I worked for Planned Parenthood. I thought, Diane, something is wrong with these people. They talk about sex all day long.
WESTHEIMERThey don't talk about literature. They don't talk about the weather...
WESTHEIMER...or not about politics. Only about sex. Twenty-four hours later, I said, whoops, that's an interesting subject matter. So I did my Doctorate on that data from Planned Parenthood and worked. And I'm very, very concerned about all of the things that Planned Parenthood stands for.
REHMYou are concerned about Planned Parenthood?
WESTHEIMERYes. I'm concerned about that we still have people who are not understanding that contraception has to be available. Diane, we still have people who don't understand that there are contraceptive failures that will happen, so abortion must remain legal, a public health issue. But since I talk about sex from morning to night, I don't talk about politics. I never -- I vote, of course. Every American has to vote. But I don't do politics. Politics I leave to the politicians that you talk to and I talk about issues of public health and good sex.
REHMBut now, here's what I want to know. Did you meet the uncle in San Francisco and is he taller than you?
WESTHEIMERIt took me a year to get to San Francisco.
WESTHEIMERBecause, in the meantime, I got the scholarship, I got to San Francisco. The Uncle Max, not alive anymore, a little taller than me, not much.
WESTHEIMERBut it was wonderful to meet him, to have some kind of connection with family. You see, one of the things, in addition to talking about sex from morning to night, is the importance of family for me, the importance of relationships, the importance of -- if it is gay marriage or not gay marriage -- of people having somebody that smiles when you, Diane, walk into the room, that has a relationship. That's why you and I just talked about those phones that are not going to permit people to have good conversations. So I went to see that uncle. And then we were on good terms -- he didn't have children -- until he passed away.
REHMAh. Well, I'm so glad you had a chance to meet him. Here is an email for you, Dr. Ruth. And this could literally take hours to answer. She says, "How do you keep love alive?"
WESTHEIMERMm-hmm. Very important question. You have to make sure that you have the relationship keeping alive. Sex can become boring if the relationship is not a good one. You have to find out what is it that two people who are together can do to make them smile when they get home...
WESTHEIMER...to leave the worries outside the bedroom door, in a package. Nobody is going to pick up the package. It stays there until the next morning. But to make sure that you are calculating, that you know that relationships are very important, especially in our lives. This live is so crazy, so busy, so much of things that we all have to do. We have to work at the relationship.
REHMTell me how you met your husband.
WESTHEIMERMm-hmm. Well, husband number three, we can't talk about the two before because we have little time.
WESTHEIMERHusband number three -- Diane, I went skiing with friends. We shared the cost of the gas because I was a student. I was very poor. And I love to ski. Skiers make the best lovers. Anybody who skis, they wiggle their behind, they take a risk. They make the best lovers. So I went skiing with three friends. And one of my friends was Dutch. He was very tall. And a t-bar that pushes you up the mountain...
WESTHEIMER...it was very uncomfortable.
WESTHEIMERWhen it was on his behind, it was on my ankle. When it was on my behind, it was on his ankle. It was awful. Somebody introduced me to Manfred Westheimer and said, "All of you are sharing the hotel with all of these Jewish student skiers." I look at Manfred Westheimer, good looking. I said to Hans, the Dutch, "Hans, I'm going up the mountain with that short one, then I'll meet you."
WESTHEIMERThe way, Diane, the way going up that mountain, I already decided -- it's in the book. I decided I'm going to marry him. He had never been married. He was 35. He was an engineer. He was German-Jewish. He was good looking. He had a sense of humor. And he played the harmonica. I mean, what else could I have wanted?
REHMAnd did he feel the same way as quickly as you?
WESTHEIMERIt took awhile. No. I had to work on it. I tell you what it cost me. He left his guitar with a former girlfriend. Over my dead body, I wasn't about to let him go and visit that girlfriend. I borrowed $35, I remember the amount, and bought him a new guitar. So I did what I'm talking about, joie de vivre and also taking a risk.
REHMAnd how long were you and he married?
WESTHEIMERAlmost 40 years.
WESTHEIMERHe passed away. He would not have wanted to live the way he would have had to live after the second stroke.
WESTHEIMERThe first stroke, he came back with it, everything three times a week, so happy. The second stroke, he would have had no brain. And Fred would not have wanted to live that way. So while it's so sad, I can smile, because he rejoiced in my success.
WESTHEIMERI made a big party for his 70th birthday, all of his old engineer cronies came. And we have a son together and he also adopted my little girl from a previous marriage. And they love each other. Now I have...
REHMWould you ever think of marrying again?
WESTHEIMERDiane, at the age of 87, I'm not saying that I wouldn't want a friendship. But he has to be able to walk and talk. Difficult to find. But I have to tell you that the two, my daughter and my son, each have a son and a daughter.
WESTHEIMERDiane, when I look at those pictures and I see them a lot, they -- I won, and Hitler lost. Because look what I have, four fantastic grandchildren. So I -- that's another reason of my always talking about everything. Stay positive. If you meet -- in the book I describe very well -- if you meet some people who are always pessimistic, who are always upset and always tear you down, tell them to go to a good therapist.
WESTHEIMERI have a whole list of good therapists. They don't have to come to me.
REHMWhen you first got on to the radio in New York...
REHM...were people uncomfortable with the kind of words you were using?
WESTHEIMERSee, in 1981, I made a presentation to radio broadcasters saying, we have the knowledge about sex education, about the Planned Parenthood. You have the power of the airwaves. You ought to have a program of sexuality education on the air. I didn't think I would do it. You hear my accent. I thought I would be a consultant to somebody who would do it. Within one week, Betty Elam, who was the head of community affairs -- within one week, she gave me 15 minutes, quarter after midnight. And I asked people, like you do, send me letters -- there was no email then -- and I answered the questions. I was very well trained. I was trained at Cornell Medical School by Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan, a most famous sex therapist.
WESTHEIMERShe's not alive anymore. So I had the knowledge of sexuality education.
WESTHEIMERI also had the scientifically validated data about psychosexual therapy. So I answered those questions. I used language like orgasm, like penis, like premature ejaculation, like women who have difficulty having an orgasm. That was not used before. But you see, I was already 50. I wasn't somebody sitting -- later on television, I did 450 cable television shows -- I wasn't sitting in a short skirt or with a décolletage. But I had the knowledge. And the accent helped.
WESTHEIMERWhen people opened the radio and I talked, they knew it was me.
REHMThey knew it was you and they knew that what you were saying was not simply to be provocative sexually but rather to help them learn. And learning about sex is something still need to do. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have an email here -- no, a posting on Facebook -- you see how things are changing -- says, "Does it bother Dr. Ruth that there is so much hyper-sexualized dialog and innuendo on prime time television? And I can't understand how companies are allowed to run what amount to almost pornographic ads as early as 7:00 p.m. Kids are often becoming sexually active in their early teen years, children losing their innocence before they even reach puberty."
WESTHEIMERI absolutely agree. And if I had the power of censorship, these ads and this provocative kind of sexually arousing material would not be on during prime time. It can be on, on channels that adults can see. It can be on the Internet. I am very worried because you see, Diane, parents have to be askable parents. They have to be able to answer questions. We also have to know, girls menstruate at an earlier and earlier age. We don't know yet why. Some people say nutrition. We have to let boys and girls know about nocturnal emission, so that they don't get scared, the boys, when there is nocturnal emission, a wet dream, and think that there's something wrong with them.
WESTHEIMERBut what is happening right now is a little bit worrisome. Because I don't want children or adults to walk around sexually aroused all the time. The sexual arousal should be when it is appropriate, when it is in the bedroom, when they are older, when they know what they are doing, when they know about contraception. And I'll tell you something else, Diane, if I have time.
WESTHEIMERI'm, yeah, I'm very worried, and I know it's controversial, but for your program, I'm going to stand up and be counted and, like I do in the book, be very honest. I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man or two men or two women, but I talk right now about woman and man, can be in bed together, Diane, and at one time, naked, and at one time, he or she -- most of the time they think she can say, I changed my mind. No such thing is possible. In the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says when that part of the male anatomy is aroused, when there is an erection, the brain flies out of the head. And we have to take that very seriously. So I don't agree with that.
REHMAll right. Short break here and we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. With me in the studios of NPR in New York, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She is, of course, a psycho-sexual therapist and she's the author of a new book titled, "The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie De Vivre." She is the author of 37 books. She teaches at Columbia University's Teachers College and we're going to open the phones now. Your questions, comments. We were talking just before the break about what's happening in college campuses.
REHMBut here's a question about, perhaps, somewhat younger children from Scott in Houston, Texas. Scott, you're on the air.
SCOTTHi. I saw Dr. Ruth years and years ago on a talk show and she said something I've never forgotten. I believe someone on the show had a question about a child sort of bouncing on one's knee and becoming perhaps a bit too excited, but Dr. Ruth said the comment that we have to make genitals feel good. And in listening to her earlier comments, I'm thinking, I would like to ask her, do you ever see a day in which children will be more openly recognized as sexual human beings from birth? And what can we, as a society, do to sort of enable them or give them their own sexual rights or emancipation in a positive way?
WESTHEIMERI want to tell you something. I'm old fashioned and a square. Children can feel sexual, there's no question. Boys can have erections as babies, when they're touched or when their diapers are being changed. Girls, when they're touched, their clitoris can be aroused. But I'm old fashioned and a square. I say, wait until you are at least 18, and wait, in my way of thinking, until you are really in love, until you really have that feeling, because you will never forget your first sexual experience. I even talk about that in the book, "The Doctor Is In."
WESTHEIMERAnd it's a good question, but I am, all of these years, have been rather old fashioned and a square. I tell parents careful not to walk around naked when there are teenagers in your home. Because the father could feel some kind of erector, some kind of feeling, and get scared. How come he gets aroused when he sees his daughter naked? I'm not saying when somebody walks in, somebody takes a shower to make a big to do. But I believe in our culture, to make it separate and to be very careful, because that sexual drive, the sexual desire is a strong one.
REHMDr. Ruth, I want to go back to what you were talking about before the break. That is, young people on college campuses and the concern about at what moment, being in an aroused situation, and then hearing the young woman saying no. What you're saying is it's already gone too far.
WESTHEIMERYes. What I'm saying, Diane, you're putting it very well. I'm saying that people have to realize the sexual desire and drive, strong one. I'm not talking about people being drunk, because that's a different story and it's a catastrophe. Because when they are drunk and then she gets pregnant, then she thinks he will have to marry her. And, you know, all of those problems. I'm saying people who think about when they want to go and have a sexual experience, to make sure they are protected from sexually transmitted diseases.
WESTHEIMERAnd unintended pregnancies and that they cannot say at one time, at the height of arousal, just when he's very aroused, strong erection, when she's very aroused, either he or she cannot change their mind. I know it's controversial, but I have to stand up and believe for what I believe in. I know it has something to do with Title 9, with money that goes to universities. I'm very worried about that. And people like you and me, who have this power, especially you right now on NPR, of the airwaves, do have to talk about that.
REHMIndeed. I think that there is a great deal to what you say. Here's an email Dr. Ruth, from Judith in Ashton, Maryland. She says, what are your thoughts on the transgender phenomenon and how cultures are or are not accepting transgender individuals? How do you see this evolving over time?
WESTHEIMERYou see, Diane, in all my career, and I'm going to be 87, as you told everybody, I have never been ashamed or worried by saying I don't know. Anything of this whole issue, I'm not talking respect for gay people, respect is not debatable. But that whole issue of transgender, all of this is issues that make headlines. I just don't know. I don't have any scientifically validated data, so I have to say loud and clear, Dr. Ruth, the sex therapist, does not know.
REHMIt is a new phenomenon. You do...
WESTHEIMERTalked about. Right.
REHM...there's a lot to, there's a lot to learn.
WESTHEIMERWe have to find more research.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Cape Coral, Florida. James, you're on the air.
JAMESHi. How are you, Dr. Ruth?
JAMESSo, speaking of new trends, I'm a single guy. I have these internet dating apps and so on and so forth. And it seems like it's given single people the attention span of goldfish. And I don't know what you know about it, but I was just wondering what do you think the long term effects of these dating sites, like Tinder or Plenty of Fish or any of that. What do you think that has, you know, what the future holds for that?
WESTHEIMERI tell you, I don't know that particular one, Goldfish. However, I'm all for people -- I don't want people to be lonesome. I'm all for those dating sites, like let's have lunch, or any of these things. But careful. People can lie. People can say, I'm four foot seven. They can say, I'm six feet tall. And please people, never give your address. You don't know who is reading and once it's on the air, once it's on the computer, it will be there forever. So, while I don't want people to be lonely, use all of this match.com and all of these sites.
WESTHEIMERBut use it cleverly. Use it with your brain. Not just going on or on dates. But I don't want people to be lonely, so use it, but be careful.
REHMHere's an email that says, "my wife and I are in a difficult place. We love each other. She says she's attracted to me, but has no interest in being amorous with me, because she does not feel emotionally connected. I feel that being amorous with each other is one way to help rebuild the emotional connection. But I don't want to press the issue for fear of driving her away even further. Do you have any thoughts on how we can bridge this gap?"
WESTHEIMERDiane, wonderful that this gentleman is taking the courage to ask the question. You have to go and see a therapist. Maybe there is something, maybe the mother-in-law, has a role to play there. I'm just saying that, but maybe there's something that I could never know from a question like this. But he takes the courage. Bravo. Because he does not want this relationship to end. Go and find a good therapist. The therapist will first talk to the two of you. Then talk to each one alone. I did that a lot.
WESTHEIMERI talked each one alone, maybe for half an hour. I don't need a whole hour. But go and look for -- somebody who avoids sexual activity with excuse of emotional, needs a therapist.
REHMOn the other hand, if she says I don't want to see a therapist, he should go by himself, shouldn't he?
WESTHEIMERAbsolutely, Diane. Because people have to take the responsibility for their lives. That's why I did "The Doctor Is In." Take responsibility for your life, which he did already. The first step he did, because he called you. He called you on your show.
WESTHEIMERAnd go and see a therapist.
REHMAll right, and here is a posting on Facebook. What about the phenomenon of the "Fifty Shades of Gray" franchise? Where is the line between healthy and unhealthy in role playing and fantasy like the against my will fantasy, that's actually consensual? On the other hand, we are hyper-vigilant about criminal rape on campus and elsewhere. And on the other, we supposedly agree that power exchange role playing is a normal and exciting thing in sexuality.
WESTHEIMEROkay, first of all, "Fifty Shades of Gray." Of course I read it. I'm not going to let Diane and all her show ask me, did you read it? And I say no. However, it is not required literature, not required reading. People read some passages they don't like, turn the page. But it proves a point that I've been making for many years. Women do get aroused by sexually explicit material. Because they want to see some movies, but they want to see a story. They might not be aroused by anything that has to do with power. Leave it alone.
WESTHEIMERBut they have to learn like "Lady Chatterley's Lover," many years ago, like fear of flying, many years ago, women do get aroused and they have to permit themselves to get aroused. But any of the pages that are not to your liking, not required reading. Move the page. Interesting, in Israel, when "Fifty Shades of Gray" came on the market, in one day, sold out. So, I of course read it. All three volumes. I haven't seen the film yet. Just didn't get a chance yet.
WESTHEIMERHowever, anybody who is turned off by any of this power, by any of these weird sexual practices, throw the book out. It's a paperback. It's not so expensive.
REHMThrow the book out and if a partner says, why don't we do some of this stuff and you, as a woman, say, sorry, I'm not interested, that's where it ought to stop. Right then and there.
WESTHEIMERAbsolutely. Diane, if she says, not interested. Or if he says not interested.
WESTHEIMERThen in terms of their relationship, you have to know to stop, like you say, to stop right then and there.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Caroline, you're on the air.
CAROLINEHi. Yes, I wanted to first thank Dr. Ruth, because as I was coming of age, she was on a lot of the talk shows and in the news a lot, and gave me a different perspective on being able to explore and to ask questions about and not feel ashamed about questioning different things. But also, I wondered what her opinion was on the, especially with millennials, but with each successive generation, the disconnect from intimate acts and emotional bonds. That there's quite a bit of not just one night stands, but one event relationships.
WESTHEIMERI -- wonderful question. I am old fashioned and a square. I do not believe in one night stands. Even if a couple would say, well, we both agree to one night stands. It doesn't work. The O'Neil's old book, "Open Marriage," by the time the book was published, they were divorced. So, in our culture, I believe that most people want to have that kind of relationship that they can rely on the other person. I also don't want to see more sexually transmitted diseases, if it's different partners. So I'm old fashioned and a square and one of the reasons I love doing this radio with Diane is because I can see that she agrees with me.
REHMI am old fashioned and a square, as well. Let's go, finally, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Frank, you're on the air. Quickly, please.
FRANKOkay, hi. Dr. Ruth, hi Diane, and Dr. Ruth, you're amazing. I wanted to thank you, as well. I listened to your radio show at night when I was in 10th and 11th grade and I think it helped me through my adolescence.
FRANKBut I did have a question for you. I know you met Howard Stern recently. Maybe a year or two ago, and, you know, he is certainly kind of a force out there in the media world. But you know, by talking about sexuality and his small penis, to be specific, do you think he's doing a good thing for the world of sexuality and men, in particular?
WESTHEIMERSo, I'm not going to comment on Howard Stern, but I'm going to go on again, if he plugs my book, "The Doctor Is In." And he is a showman. He knows what people want to hear. I never talk about his private life and I wish him well. And with me, he did something last time that he has never done before. He actually, he actually got up from his chair and said hello to my friends. The other thing he did, he wanted to talk about something I didn't want to talk about.
WESTHEIMERAbout a relationship of my father with me. I wasn't interested. This is not a therapy session. So I said, Howard, I'm leaving, unless you plug my book. Guess what, he plugged my book. So, he's a terrific showman.
REHMAnd finally, I'm going to plug your book. Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Her new book is "The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie De Vivre."
WESTHEIMERAnd Diane, I did it with Pierre A. Lehu.
REHMI know you did.
WESTHEIMERBecause I have done, maybe 15 books now with him. I talk, he puts it on the computer. Thank you.
REHMGood for you. Thank you so much.
WESTHEIMERThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd I hope we can have that lunch soon.
REHMLots of love and thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
How the remote island became one of the world's most important laboratories for understanding climate change.
Democratic presidential hopefuls take the stage for two nights of debate. Winners, losers and what we learned about the state of the race.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a writer for New York Times Magazine, has a new book called "Fleishman Is In Trouble."