Let's Tweet About Sex: Dr. Ruth, Twitter Maven


Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes for an unlikely Twitter maven. Yet the 86-year-old sex therapist is a popular presence in the Twittersphere, with nearly 85,000 following her @AskDrRuth, and is active online with a robust YouTube channel and website. Not so surprising: Dr. Ruth's topical, frisky and frank tweets mostly come down to sex.

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Dangers of Social Media Overuse

Westheimer doesn't use email and dictates her tweets to her longtime co-writer and publicist Pierre A. Lehu. "I talk, and use humor so people will remember what I say," explains Westheimer, who came to fame in 1980 with her candid and playful Sexually Speaking radio spot on WYNY, which started as a 15-minute call-in segment, then evolved into a two-hour show that ran for 10 years. She now hosts a weekly TV program, The Wisdom of Dr. Ruth, on the Jewish Broadcasting Service. The author of 33 books, Dr. Ruth says she co-wrote her most recent, Myths of Love: Echoes of Ancient Mythology in the Modern Romantic Imagination (Quill, 2014), as a way to introduce Internet-gen to classic stories and art--and to the concept of fantasy beyond the screen.

The sexpert says she is proud of her "tremendous number of followers" and to be, at her age, "a part of this new generation," but admits she is worried about the impact of social media overuse. While acknowledging the power of social media to increase access to sex education and to combat misogyny, she is especially concerned about social media addiction--in particular, Millennials' texting habits overriding their ability to engage in conversation.


Westheimer says she was struck by the research findings in Stephen Marche's controversial "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely" article for The Atlantic, and is addressing her shared views in her curriculum for a course on families and media she is currently teaching at Columbia's Teacher's College.

Social Media Dos and Don'ts

For online audiences, Dr. Ruth has three big dos and don'ts to share:

On Social Media: Don't just hold hands while looking at your phone.

"I have nothing against people using social media; however, I think a dependence on it will make people lose the ability to have a relationship, and will also make them more lonely," cautions Westheimer, noting how restaurant patrons, sitting alone or in groups, are glued to their smartphones.

"In relationships, be careful not to lose the ability to talk to each other. Don't just hold hands while looking at your telephones."

On Sexting: Don't use it to complain that you don't have enough sex.

Sexting's okay--as long as it's positive. "It only works, for example, if you were to tell your significant other that you'd like to try a new sexual position or 'I'm waiting for you tonight.' If it adds something," says Westheimer. "But don't use it to criticize or to complain that you don't have enough sex or that you're not satisfied. That's to be talked about in person."

On Online Porn: Do anything to get 'boredom out of the bedroom.'

Dr. Ruth is no prude. The thrice-married grandmother is a fan of pornography and sexually explicit films and material, from Fifty Shades of Grey to Lady Chatterley's Lover, and has no qualms about the endless array of online porn options, "as long as they don't involve children or violence."

"Pornography and sexually explicit movies watched by a couple, heterosexual or homosexual, it doesn't matter, can enrich their sex lives," says Westheimer. "I'm supportive of anything that a couple does to arouse each other and get 'boredom out of the bedroom'."

But, she urges: