|Dr. Ruth Westheimer, age 83, 2011
Photo by Sally Dougan
What a treat I had last night – hearing the 83-year-old zesty, wise, and funny Dr. Ruth Westheimer hold forth on the topic of her 2005 book, Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50: Revving Up The Romance, Passion & Excitement! Her talk was presented by the New York City chapter of The Transition Network, a wonderful national organization for women over 50.
You can enjoy sex until you’re 99 years old! Dr. Ruth proclaimed. (“Why not 100?” I should have asked.) Just keep her words of wisdom in mind:
- Intercourse is not the whole story – you can achieve sexual satisfaction in other ways.
- Post-menopausal women: For intercourse, use a lubricant so that sex will not be painful. If you have pain despite this, see your gynecologist.
- Men: If you no longer have a psychogenic erection (one that comes with just thinking about sex), you need direct physical stimulation. Both you and your partner need to know this.
- Both sexes: Take advantage of morning erections to have the best sex – don’t wait for night-time. Instead, get a good night’s sleep, wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, turn off your phones, and hop back into bed. Men who don’t have morning erections: see a urologist.
- Men who tend to rush into intercourse and then fall asleep immediately afterwards: Remember that the arc of women’s arousal is slower than yours, and take time to bring her to readiness – and then afterwards, if you feel yourself getting sleepy, prick yourself a little with a pin to stay awake so you can hold her and cuddle.
- Women: Take responsibility for your own sexual satisfaction. Teach your partner what you need, not necessarily in words but in ways that make your desires clear.
- When about to embark on a new sexual relationship, use condoms – or agree with your partner that before sexual activity you will both be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Once you’re both given a good report, keep the relationship exclusive.
- Condoms: Men: practice putting one on in front of the mirror when you’re alone, and women: learn how to help him put it on.
- When to keep your mouth shut: When you’re having fantasies about other partners or remembering old lovers – your present partner does not need to hear about them.
- When to keep your mouth open: When you want to give oral sex, which can be done at a time when you don’t expect, plan, or need your own orgasm. Simultaneity is over-rated – you can take turns.
- In front of the mirror, pick out something you do like about your body. To enjoy sex you have to feel desirable, so don’t sabotage yourself by focusing on what you don’t like.
- In the Jewish tradition, married men have the obligation to provide sexual satisfaction to their wives, even after menopause, thus confirming that sex is not only for procreation – but also for recreation.
- If you have teenagers at home, don’t wait for them to go to sleep – teens never sleep. Instead, go out to a motel for a few hours where you can have total privacy.
Dr. Ruth has a turtle collection: A turtle is well protected in its shell, she says, as long as it stands still. But if it wants to move, it needs to stick its neck out, to take a risk. So that’s what moving ahead demands – sticking your neck out, taking a risk, and when things don’t work out, shrugging your shoulders and moving on.
So here’s to moving on!
Sally Wendkos Olds has written extensively about intimate relationships, personal growth, and developmental issues throughout the life cycle, and has won national awards for both her book and magazine writing. In addition to her classic, The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, first published in 1972 and revised for its fourth edition in 2010, she is the author of ten other books, including Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do with Your Grandkids. She is currently writing a book for people whose life partner died a year or more ago.