If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.
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The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.
The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.
“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.
“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.
What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.
Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”
Dr. Ruth then answered questions previously submitted by the audience. Can a penis be too small? Why do men fantasize about threesomes? This was Dr.Ruth talking, with her trademark mix of humour and total professionalism, so there was plenty of laughter, clapping, and also some sniggering, from the audience.
The ongoing conflict resurfaced in the first question: “What is the appropriate best position for sex in a miklat?” the Hebrew world for bomb shelter.
“I would say never in the miklat if there are other people,” she said. If there is a private miklat, however, and “if you are one of those people” who can get an erection or reach orgasm during a siren, “have a great time.”
Dr. Ruth is no stranger to war, herself, and last week, when Operation Protective Edge began, she tweeted: “Life goes on here in Israel despite the rockets raining on us. Of course I was seriously wounded in ‘48 ignoring air raid siren.”
She was referring to a shell that left her unable to walk for months. She also told her Twitter followers: “Things here in Israel are a little bit dicey but as former sniper for the Haganah nothing that makes me very nervous.”
On Wednesday, her overall message to the audience was one of resilience and respect. One borderline offensive question received a particularly loud round of applause — “If Hamas focused on getting laid now instead of after they die, would there be less war?” Dr. Ruth replied, “I am never embarrassed to say I don’t know.”
To a question from a Jew dating an Arab who said the current tensions were straining their relationship, she answered: “This is an example of something I can’t give an answer to here; come and talk to me in my office. I can’t speculate just like that; I need to know what the whole picture is.” This also received a warm round of applause.
In any case, at a time like this, do people’s sexual appetites increase?
“Not necessarily,” Dr. Ruth told Haaretz after the talk as audience members flocked to the stage to get their personal piece of advice from the superstar. “Sometimes they go down; it really depends on the person.”