Hey! You know who’s still alive? Tiny little Dr. Ruth, talking about having sex after the age of 50. I remember her from when I was a kid, maybe 13 years old, listening to interviews with her on the radio in the car, when she appeared and became a sensation, because she was actually talking about sex, live and in person. Doing it! In the butt! In the shower! What happens when you’re not doing it! What you should be doing, when you’re doing it! It. She was one of the first people to actually, publicly talk about sex, and everyone was talking about her–so much that even I knew her name, and what she did. Morning DJs made fun of her accent and her shocking new frankness, and even as a dumb kid, I got the joke.
Dr. Ruth was a tiny older lady who was not sexy at all, and talked about sex in a way that made it seem safe, and totally normal. Watching her on television, late at night (instead of being asleep in bed where you belonged) was kind of like listening to your mom giving you the sex talk, saying “vagina” and “penis” all clinical-like. Except your mom described the whole act in clockwork terms: stage one a man and a woman (it was always a man and a woman, as far as my mom was concerned); stage two, a man and a woman, very close together. Kind of like poorly done, Hanna-Barbera-style animation, so many frames missing in between, or a flipbook with half the pages torn out.
Dr. Ruth is not your mom, though. She took those words and she ran with
them. They didn’t seem to embarrass her–she didn’t pause over them,
look uncomfortable, rush through them. Dr. Ruth grabbed them by the
throat and threw them out there and ran them through all their
permutations and left nothing at all to the imagination. She talked
about doing things and trying things and saying things. She talked
about how important sex is. That is what I remember most about Dr.
Ruth–that she said sex was important, and everyone deserves good sex,
satisfying sex, and that seemed so important and interesting and vital
She was implying, you see, that she had good sex, and she
was satisfied. She seemed strange and terribly old to me at that age
and the idea of her being naked didn’t seem actually possible. But she
had good sex! Someone wanted to be with her and do things with her and
I didn’t want to think about it too much, because it worried me, the
way thinking about my parents having sex worried me a lot. But I loved
her for it, the fact that she was this little imperfect lady, being
loud, being enthusiastic, being an advocate of not just pleasure, but
of real happiness, of the satisfaction that comes from
self-assertiveness, and that is wonderful.
I think she is one of
my heroes, and I am so glad she’s still around, still talking about
sex, for everyone, everywhere, at every age and body type, amen; She’s
79 years old, and I bet she’s probably doing it right now, even as we