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Dr. Ruth Still Has Something to Say

The iconic sex therapist and educator is a new honorary Ambassador in New York. But in this role, Dr. Ruth's focus will not be on sex. She will address the epidemic loneliness that is affecting old and young alike. Though Dr. Ruth might have seemed like an unlikely celebrity when she first emerged on the scene, the PhD became famous in the 80s, and her topic of choice was sex.

To some, it seemed out of place for a diminutive (4'7") motherly type, a German Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, to be so blatantly direct about intimate matters. No one else was talking about sex — which was a taboo conversation in some circles. But the good doctor did a public service by unwrapping misperceptions about sexuality. 

Dr. Ruth wanted people not to be embarrassed to talk about sexuality. She shared information on how to cut down on sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies — and not be uptight about intimacy. Dr. Ruth Westheimer is qualified to talk about sex. She holds five doctoral degrees, one in family and sex counseling, and has written over 37 books.

No reservations the doctor had about openly discussing sex would dissuade her. She built a successful radio and TV career that spanned four decades and accumulated significant wealth. Perhaps being trained as a sniper in 1947, in what was the Israel Defense Forces, was a factor in making Dr. Ruth as tough and resilient as she is. 

The psychosexual therapist has always entertained on radio and TV appearances — delivering the goods in a very frank manner with a heavy accent. She was a natural performer, although her main goal was to provide accurate information more than to promote herself.

Dr. Ruth did not consider herself 'political,' although teaching about sex is controversial. Some parents do not support current sex education in the public school system, especially in grade school. Nevertheless, Dr. Ruth saw the need for sex education in schools from her involvement with Planned Parenthood.

And still, Dr. Ruth does not view herself as political. The charismatic educator famously said, "I have stayed away from politics because I talk about sex from morning to night."

Yet her statement is an oxymoron because the subject of sex can be polarizing to disparate political persuasions. The now 95-year-old has a YouTube Channel with nearly three and a half million subscribers called 'Love and Dating Advice with Dr. Ruth.'

Dr. Ruth is not showing any signs of slowing down. She continues to be a sex educator. Her new venture is becoming the first honorary 'loneliness ambassador' in New York State. Last week, on Nov. 9, Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed the title to Dr. Ruth. It was the first time anyone had been in such a role. It is another first for the psychologist.

No one had ever done what she did as a therapist. Now Dr. Ruth will tackle the subject of loneliness. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited social isolation, or loneliness, as a public health crisis linked to physical and mental health issues like cardiovascular problems, depression, dementia and even suicide.

One in four adults over 65 experience profound loneliness. This problem impacts all ages. Gov. Hochul saw a need to address social isolation, which increased during the restrictions imposed at the onset of the pandemic. 

In some ways, the technical age encourages isolation. We all connect through Zoom meetings, Facetime or WhatsApp. Many conduct all their work remotely. Although working from home has benefits, it has a component that may not be healthy; not having human contact. Living in a virtual world can never replace the human touch.

On her new appointment, Dr. Ruth wrote in a news release, “Hallelujah! I am deeply honored and promised the Governor that I will work day and night to help New Yorkers feel less lonely." A headline read "Dr. Ruth saved people's sex lives. Now she wants to cure loneliness," a worthy new venture for an extraordinary woman.

Dr. Ruth's input could not come at a better time.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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