A (very, very) candid interview with Dr Ruth

Dr Ruth is an absolute hoot! SAJR’s non-executive director, Howard Sackstein, interviewed her late on Monday night SA time over Skype. Ant Katz was on hand to record the event – except when he was laughing too raucously to type and had to refer to the recording afterwards. Read this frank interview with the world’s ‘sexpert’ who will visit SA shores later this month! This has to be the read of the week!
by ANT KATZ | Jun 11, 2014

Howard reacquainted himself with Dr Ruth whom he had met at the President’s Conference in Israel last year.

“I am going to Israel after South Africa,” she told Howard, and she thought President Perez was making a mistake not to hold the conference again this year. Of course, the fact is that his Presidential term has just expired.

Howie interviews Doc Ruth

“I hope you are going to tell him that when you see him,” said Howard. Dr Ruth replied with what one can only describe as a schoolgirl giggle. “I had such a good time at the Conference,” she said. “I am giving two lectures and visiting friends in Tel Aviv.”

Dr Ruth 3“Happy birthday for last week,” said Howard. “Thank you, thank you,” said Dr Ruth, “because I have a new book called ‘Myths of Love’ – all Greek and Roman stories, and I am going to bring one of those to SA because the God of wine, Bachus, I am going to try and send you a picture of the cover. Bachus is looking loving up at the Gods and he is praying for an erection!” Howard laughs.

Howard: “Tell me, at your birthday party on Wednesday, will naked men jump out of the (birthday) cake?”

Dr Ruth: “I wish, from my point of view they could spring out of the cake, but I don’t think so because there are a lot of academics – and it will also be on Park Avenue!”

Dr Ruth asks if she will be seeing Howard in SA. “You definitely will,” responds Howie, “in fact I am going to be running your Q&A session at the brunch.”

Dr Ruth: “You can ask me good questions and also involve the audience.” Howie explains he will be giving the audience three opportunities: to hand in a card with a question, or with a microphone, or to tweet questions.


Tell them to say “a friend of mine…”

Dr Ruth: “Tell them that when they ask a question they can say ‘A friend of mine in Joburg has a question about sex’! They never have to say I…”

Dr Ruth asks about the audience. Howie tells her to expect around 350 people. She then asks: “So, tell me a little about who these people are?” Howard: “My guess is that you will find the audience a little old, 50s, 60s, 70s, in that generation.” Dr Ruth: “No problem.”

Howard goes on to say he knows that a lot of younger people are coming so she can expect diversity in the audience.

Dr Ruth wanted to know if Howard would be introducing her. “Of course,” he said. She would then be given 20 to 30 minutes to tell her life story and thereafter it would be a Q&A interview session and audience participation. Dr Ruth: “Wonderful. And tell them that we met in Jerusalem last year.”


I’ll talk about sex in the Jewish tradition

DR RUTH HOMEHowie: “Can I ask you some questions so that Ant can put something in the paper this week.” Dr Ruth: “Sure, but one thing I want you to know is that I am going to talk a little about sexuality in the Jewish tradition. I wrote a book called ‘Heavenly Sex’ and I am going to prove my belief that my being so Jewish has allowed me to be so sexually explicit in my talks – because for us Jews, sex has never been a sin. Sex has always been an obligation between a husband and a wife.

“And also, for example, even after menopause, a man is still obligated to provide sexual satisfaction to his wife. So if sex were only be only for procreation, why would we have to continue after menopause. I can prove, therefore, that sex is also supposed to be for recreation.”

Said Dr Ruth: “And then I tell some funny stories. In the Jewish tradition it says: ‘a lesson taught with humour is a lesson well taught retained’ – and I don’t mean jokes.

Howie: “Do Jews have more hang-ups about sex than other people?” Dr Ruth: “NO!” she says emphatically. “Definitely not! The only thing is that we need to learn to be sexually literate Jews. As Jews we need more people to do sex education. Among Orthodox Jews, we need more Rabbis and Rebbetzens to know how talk to engaged couples on what to expect in order to make sure that sex is an important part of their lives, is enjoyable and is not boring.”


3 pieces of advice to keep sex alive

Howie: “Let’s talk about that ‘not boring’ – if you were to give three pieces of advice to people on how to keep sex alive and interesting in their relationship, what would those lessons be?”

Dr RuthDr Ruth: “The first one is that the relationship has to be a good one – otherwise any of my advice does not work.

“Secondly, to make sure to keep time for sex – like for older people to know not to engage in sex at night when they are tired, not to engage in sex when they have had too much to drink, but rather to engage in sex after breakfast.” (Howard interjects: “Is that why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Dr Ruth: “No, a dinner with candlelight can be very enjoyable, but afterwards go to sleep! Don’t try to make love with a full stomach”) “Men have to enjoy it – even if the orgasmic response is not as good as it was when they were young.”

Finally, advises Dr Ruth, sexual partners “should be sure to take time for caressing and foreplay, and mainly to enjoy it. To tell themselves: ‘thank G-d I have a partner in my life’.”


A starry night & a haystack on a kibbutz

Howard: “So, Dr Ruth, tell me your story about a starry night and haystack on a kibbutz in Israel.” Dr Ruth: “In my autobiography and in the play about me. ‘Becoming Dr Ruth,’ I say that my first experience was wonderful and was on a haystack on a kibbutz.”

How: “So tell me, do you think you were you more dangerous with a gun (she was a sniper in the Haganah in the Forties) or as Dr Ruth, sexologist, now?” Dr Ruth cackles: “I never killed anyone. But I would have been able to kill if I had to. So I think I was probably more dangerous back then!”

Howard: “Do you still find people in this day and age embarrassed to talk about sex?” Dr Ruth: “Yes. But with me - now I am 86 – they always ask me the most intimate questions. So it’s nice to be Dr Ruth because people can ask me the most intimate questions that they wouldn’t even ask their doctor.”


What’s the most ridiculous question asked of you?

How: “What’s the most ridiculous question anyone has ever asked you?” Dr Ruth: “There are no ridiculous questions. But if you ask me about animals, I will say I am not a vet. And if I am asked about S&M, I will send you to a psychiatrist.”

Howie: “Have you read ‘50 Shades of Grey’?” Dr Ruth: “Of course, but I don’t think it is required literature.”

Howard: “Do men and women ask different questions?” Dr Ruth: “I was at a very fancy wedding last night at the most expensive hotel in the world. Next to me was an Orthodox gentleman. And he asked me some very specific and sexually explicit, intimate questions. And then, sometimes, I see a couple and I say: I look at you and I can see you will never need a sex therapist. That makes them laugh and go away.”

Howard: “Do u think pornography on the internet has changed sexual dynamics?” Dr Ruth: “Yes – people do more and they also expect more. But sometimes they don’t realise that the internet exaggerates and nobody can have an erection all the time. But, from my point of view we have also learned a lot.”


What! Polygamy is legal in SA?

Howie: “In SA polygamy is legal…” Dr Ruth: “What! It is legal in SA?” Howard: “Yes, our President has four wives.” Dr Ruth: “If both (wives) agree, and they share the household and chores, I suppose it can work. But in the US it won’t work – one or the other will get jealous.”

Howard: What was it like watching the play ‘Becoming Dr Ruth’?” Dr Ruth: “I loved it. I laughed a lot. But it is also sad for me. I was in an orphanage from the age of *ten. It is interesting that the current actress has been nominated for 3 awards and she won one of them.

“What is also interesting is that when I came to the US (from Israel) I was told that I would never be able to work here. I had to take speech lessons. Now the actress (who plays the part of Dr Ruth) had to take on a speech coach to learn my accent!”

How: “Did it surprise you when you became a celebrity superstar in 1980?” Dr Ruth: “Yes. But you know what surprises me even more? I have just turned 86 and I am now getting a brand new MTV show. It’s amazing.”


I’ll get up early to watch lions doing it

Dr Ruth: “I am going to have a great time in South Africa. Make sure I see how lions make babies, even if I have to get up early.” (Dr Ruth’s agent had told Howard when scheduling the interview that she famously sleeps late every morning. The interview was conducted after 9pm SA time).

Howard explains that lions have incredible stamina and can go on for days. Clearly, Dr Ruth knew that: “I know, that’s why I want to see lions having sex. Maybe I can learn something!” she replies.

Howard: “Tell me about your attachment to Israel?”: Dr Ruth: I just love being a Zionist – I participate in the Israel Day Parade (in New York where she lives) every year, on a golf cart, up and down Fifth Avenue for four hours. I go back to Israel every year. I have just one cousin whom I visit and a lot of friends. And I give lectures. I will be going there straight after South Africa and will give a lecture for new immigrants and one for assisted living.”

She also does some interesting TV shows in Hebrew

How: “When you go to Israel and you see (President) Shimon Perez, does he think of you  as too young for him?” Dr Ruth: (laughs) Last year he kissed me and I loved it. But I think I am too old for him!”


Are religious Orthodox oppressed sexually?

Howie: “To what do you attribute this incredible energy and vitality that (Perez) has?” Dr Ruth: “He takes good care of himself, like me - I get a massage every week, I think I must take a massage when I am in South Africa. Last night I was at a wedding and danced the Hora. Tonight I am going to the 50th anniversary performance of Fiddler on the Roof.”

Howard: “Do you believe that the religious Orthodox community is too oppressed sexually.” Dr Ruth (emphatically): “Definitely not! They have an obligation to have sex every single Friday (except if she is menstruating) – and, the husband is obligated to provide sexual satisfaction to his wife. And, guess what else, it says in the tradition if he brings her to orgasm before he ejaculates she is going to have a son – I will talk more about this when I am in SA.”

How: “In America the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage has changed so suddenly over a very short time, what do you think it is that has moved this acceptance so quickly?”

Doc R: “Now, you have to step out of the Jewish tradition. Because in the Jewish tradition it says that if a man sleeps with another man – not so with a woman - he has to be killed. Here’s how we get out of that problem: The sages and I don’t know the reason for homosexuality.” She treats homosexual couples in the same way “and with the same respect as anybody else. Respect is not debatable,” says Dr Ruth, because research has yet to understand the underlying causes of homosexuality.


Playboy rated Dr R only 13th most important

Howard: “According to Playboy magazine, you are only the 13th most important in sex in the last 55 years. Who on earth is more important than you?”

Dr Ruth giggles like a little girl again. “I’ll tell you what, the person who trained me at Cornell Medical School – Dr Helen Singer-Kupler, she’s not alive anymore – without her training I couldn’t do what I do. I stand on the shoulders of giants who came before me!

“I would like to say how fortunate I am that every day I meet someone who says: You have changed my life?”

Howard: “Finally, would you ever retire?” Doc Ruth: “Never, never, never!” Dr Ruth says she uses a phrase every day that she didn’t coin herself: “Not to retire but to rewire!”

 BRUNCH with DR RUTH_gif animation_3x FRAMES_27May2014

*Dr Ruth believes that if Israel had existed before WWII “we wouldn’t have had the holocaust.” She was born in Germany from where her parents, seeing the writing on the wall in the late Thirties, sent her to Switzerland where she grew up in an orphanage. Her parents did not survive the camps and she herself went to Palestine at 17 where she was trained as a sniper in the Haganah. She is a public speaker, the author of many books, has a national radio show in the US (and soon a TV show), and she does private counselling. She is being brought to SA by the SAZF and will appear on 22 June in Johannesburg. She is a widow.


1 Comment

  1. 1 PTrick Dickson 14 Jun
    It would be marvellous to go to J'burg to listen to Dr. Ruth. Next weekend, I shall celebrate my 70th birthday, and friends and family are coming. I trust however, that there will be an appreciable audience, and that Ruth will enjoy her visit to SAfrica.


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