On a whim, I bought two tickets to a documentary on Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
This was shortly after I signed up for a session of Baby Goat Yoga, so it’s probably safe to say there was a pattern developing of me doing things on a whim.
But that’s beside the point.
I thought for sure it would be easy to find a comrade for the Dr. Ruth documentary. I mean, come on, right?! It’s Dr. Ruth.
I randomly posted to my 1,023 friends on Facebook to see if someone would jump at the offer to go with me (I even suggested we would get drinks beforehand).
I was naively giddy that my message box would be blowing up within seconds of me posting. This kind of crazed optimism is probably a developing pattern as well, not gonna lie. But instead of people clamoring to go with me, my message box remained eerily quiet.
Crickets. Nada. No takers.
Fortunately, my friend Amy (who apparently missed my Facebook post), was beyond enthusiastic to go with me when I called her. She’s been my friend for 31 years, so she knows everything about me, including all the stuff I don’t even know about me. That girl has mad skills.
And I told her we could get craft beer beforehand, so what’s not to love about how our Sunday afternoon was panning out?!
I was fully expecting the documentary to be primarily about Dr. Ruth rising to fame in the 1980s as a radio host talking unabashedly about sex, but this film revealed so much more about her.
I absolutely loved this documentary. Loved. It.
As a Jew in Germany, she and her family faced what was looming painfully at the time. Her parents decided in 1939 to send her to an orphanage in Switzerland, thus saving her life. She was only 10 and would never see her beloved parents or grandmother again, all of whom died in the Holocaust.
She lost her virginity when she was 17 with a boy with whom she wanted a relationship, but he had no interest. She had regrets over that first sexual encounter. What resonated with me about this was how her experience so many years ago mirrors what countless young girls still experience. Longing to be desired by a boy, we think sex is the only pathway to his heart.
I lost my virginity when I was 19, and I imagine some of the same thoughts that were rolling around in Dr. Ruth’s head in the 1940s were not unlike the ones rolling around in my head in the late 1980s.
As a young adult, Dr. Ruth eventually emigrated to Israel, where she was trained as a sniper. (I know. Unbelievable). She suffered horrendous injuries to her feet in a bomb attack, but eventually healed. With a passion for learning, she moved to France and studied at the Sorbonne at the University of Paris. She continued her studies and teaching in the United States, including studying human sexuality with Helen Singer Kaplan.
Having been married three times, Dr. Ruth is refreshingly honest about the complexity of relationships and the sex within them. I found her candor encouraging. I found her journey to be a powerful reminder that every one of us is more than what others perceive about us. And every one of us has within our past an array of struggles, heartache, missteps, regrets, ups, downs, joys and revelations.
As for the radio show opportunity in the early 1980s, wow! When such an opportunity came, her show was pre-recorded because the station’s lawyers were so concerned about the backlash from the topic that they insisted on listening to each show before it aired. And even when it was aired, it was put on at midnight on Sunday to keep controversy about it at bay (station programmers figured very few people would actually be listening).
Well, as the old saying goes, the rest is history.
Her radio show became unbelievably popular, and she went on to be a regular guest on late night TV and daytime talk shows, and she even had her own TV show at one point. She wrote countless books on sex and still to this day is a sought-after speaker. (She turns 91 on June 4). She lives in the same modest New York apartment where she has lived for more than five decades.
I recognize she and I would disagree on a few things (respectfully, I believe). For example, she is pro-choice and I am pro-life. I think our common ground, though, would far outweigh any differences.
She undeniably has been a voice for more authentic and open dialogue about sex. She wants married couples enjoying passionate sexual intimacy, and she has spent decades speaking openly about that.
And she was one of the first in a mainstream sort of way to advocate for a woman’s sexual pleasure — that it matters just as much as a man’s sexual pleasure.
She is a warrior, in many regards. She has been brave to talk about sex when it hasn’t always been popular to do so. You don’t have to agree with her on every point to recognize that if she were sitting across her kitchen table from you, she would celebrate your intentionality about sex — and she would speak encouragement into your struggles. I have no doubt about that.
If you get a chance to see the documentary, I encourage you to do so. So glad I went. So glad my friend Amy stepped in as my comrade for the adventure. She’s not doing Baby Goat Yoga with me, though. But I did find another comrade for that whimsical decision!
Copyright 2019, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.