At grand rounds, sex columnist comes armed with advice

Ruth Westheimer
Ruth Westheimer

In the 1960s, Masters and Johnson moved the study of sex away from the anecdotal and into the scientific realm: they observed sexual encounters in a laboratory, monitoring brain waves, heart rates and signs of arousal. “Everything that could be measured was measured,” Ruth Westheimer, Ed.D., said during Department of Psychiatry grand rounds in September. “You may be wondering how they were able to find subjects willing to perform on demand. ... Fortunately for all of us, there were medical students who needed money,” she said, to much laughter.

“Dr. Ruth,” who has for decades dispensed her advice on the radio, in newspaper columns and in books, said that medical schools should include sexuality in their curricula. “Many of you will be ‘significant others’ for your patients when it comes to information about sexuality,” she said, adding that students should also have the opportunity to consider their own feelings about sex. For example, “Doctors can get aroused examining their patients. If you do, go out and get a glass of water—there’s no time to take a shower!—or take a deep breath. … Be aware of it but don’t get upset. If you’re aware, you can go on and ask the next question.”