Dr. Ruth: Teach your lover what you need

Did you hear Dr. Ruth Westheimer talking about “Sex, Humor and Happiness” on NPR’s Morning Edition April 24, 2007? If you missed it, you can listen to it here. Dr. Ruth’s latest book is Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50: Revving Up Your Romance, Passion & Excitement!
Dr. Ruth, age 78, says that despite the cultural changes in sexual awareness and knowledge, she still gets asked all the same questions, and she would like women to be more open about communicating their needs to a lover. “Even the best lover can’t bring a woman to orgasm if she doesn’t teach him what she needs,” she says.

That’s expecially true as we get older. Women who have been in long term, joyful, sexy relationships with partners who knew exactly how to please them sometimes tell me that they just aren’t responding the way they used to, even when a partner is doing exactly what used to send them into orbit. They worry that maybe they aren’t interested in sex any more, and perhaps they should settle into a comfortable but sexless love life.

That might be fine, if both partners would be happy with that (ah, there’s the rub!). But many women and men who talk me express that they really miss the heightened connection with their partner, the electrified responses they used to feel to his or her touch, and the crashing waves of release. And they miss the eager joy of anticipating sex. As one woman told me, “I want my sweet tooth back.”

So how do we get that back, if we’ve lost it? First, we need to learn what these new, aging bodies need. We need to let go of the old “this used to work!” and learn what works now, exploring both alone and with our partner. Then when we understand better what elicits our responses — what kind of touch, what kind of ambience, whatever it is for us — we need to communicate this clearly, kindly, and helpfully to our partner.

I know I’ve just brushed the surface of this topic. We’ll keep talking about this.


  1. Gratitude on April 30, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Dr. Ruth is one of the first people I ever heard talking openly about sex in the mass media. She was so frank, so direct! We used to go to work and giggle about what she said. But we took her seriously.

    You could tell, from the way she said “good sex” with such relish that she herself was having good sex. And from the smile on her face in this picture it looks like she’s still at it at 78.

    No one I know ever said, “Oh what is that old lady doing talking about sex?!” We’ve all respected her for years. And why shouldn’t we learn about sex from an older person? She’s had more experience.

    Sexy people over 50 are kind of in new territory where we have to teach each other because there’s not a lot written for and about us. No books entitled “How to Pleasure the Over 60 Woman” or “How to Love a Man Over 50” are going to hit you in the face when you go to the bookstore. I’ve had to dig for all the information I have.

    I discovered Joan’s book and website while looking on Amazon for books about women in midlife. I wanted to avoid the approach that implies we’re diseased and was looking for books which emphasized the positive aspects of being over 50 and at least had an encouraging chapter about sexuality.

    I think it’s good to have at least some of the “here’s what I like” talks apart from the time when you actually have sex. That way it can seem more spontaneous.

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