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Dr. Ruth has been a trusted source of advice for generations of people hoping to figure out the infinite mysteries of love and life (and what a life—she escaped the Holocaust, joined the Israeli army and moved to Washington Heights in 1956, then became famous). You can catch the psychosexual therapist discussing her newest book, The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life and Joie de Vivre, in the Bryant Park Reading Room, but in the meantime, find out how the longtime New Yorker would navigate some dating situations that only happen in NYC (listen up, undateables!).
You just wrote your 37th book! What wisdom can be found within its pages?
It’s all about the thirst for life. Now that I’m 87, I wanted to talk about my history, when I became an orphan at age 10, my travels, my experience being a sniper—I never killed anybody, but I know how to shoot!—and how I keep my positive attitude and restful life.
Sex and love seems to be something humans just can’t figure out. What’s the question you’re asked the most?
The most common questions these days concern boredom. I still get a tremendous amount of questions about the inability to have an orgasm for women and premature ejaculation for men. There’s much more information available these days, so people should be aware, if there’s a problem, not to sweep it under the rug but to do something about it.
New Yorkers live in cramped conditions. When they’re having sex, how can they balance respecting roommates while still expressing themselves fully?
Either you give earplugs to the people who might hear you, or you try to have sex when they’re not around. Especially if it’s people who don’t have a partner—it would make them even more sad.
New Yorkers use a lot of dating apps—what do you think of digital dating?
I welcome any dating service if people are intelligent and careful and if you know that people can lie and say they’re six feet tall—even if they’re four-foot-seven like me.
What’s the best way to communicate you want something serious, not just a hookup?
You have to say, 'I’m at a time in my life I don’t want to date around, I want a serious relationship. If you’re on the same page, give me a call.' If they don’t move forward, you should say to yourself, I’m very lucky they were honest.
How do you feel about casual hookups?
I think most people want to have a relationship with somebody who is there for them, who has a smile when they walk into the room and who is willing to work on problems in the relationship. Even though more people engage in casual sex, I don’t think in the long run that this is as satisfying as a relationship with a good sex life.
New Yorkers tend to postpone marriage and kids. Are we delaying adulthood?
To some extent, to postpone until careers are more settled or until people are more mature and ready for responsibilities I would welcome. But to postpone too long is a big problem for women [who want to have children].
In an age of more sexual freedom for women than ever, do men really have a stronger sex drive, as society would lead us to believe?
I don’t think that’s true—it’s just that if a man is aroused, the urgency to have an orgasm might be stronger, but women can be aroused for a longer time.
Any advice for people who like to go to sex clubs?
Have a good time. If you see a position you’ve never tried, try it, but not there. I’m very worried about the sex clubs—not about moral issues, but I know there would be more sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and more disappointments if there’s no relationship coupled with the sex.
Have you ever been stumped?
If anybody asks me about any sexual activity with animals, I say I’m not a veterinarian.