Normally, we love us some Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The sex therapist, who turns 87 tomorrow, pioneered conversations about sex positivity and women's pleasure when those conversations were barely just whispers. But we're deeply disappointed by comments she made this week regarding sexual consent. On Monday, while plugging her new book The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie de Vivre on The Diane Rehm Show, Dr. Ruth sounded off on campus sexual assault: "I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man — or two men or two women, but I talk right now about women and men — can be in bed together," she said, "and at one time, naked, and at one time he or she, most of the time they think she, can say 'I changed my mind.'" "No such thing is possible," she continued. "In the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says when that part of the male anatomy is aroused and there’s an erection, the brain flies out of that, and we have to take that very seriously, so I don’t agree with that." Sigh. Where to begin? With the fact that nudity doesn't equal consent? That everyone has the right to change their mind about sexual activity at any time and be heard and respected? Or maybe that engaging in certain sex acts doesn't imply consent to others? In the bedroom of Dr. Ruth's imagination, once two people are in bed, conversation and communication bow to the unassailable demands of the almighty penis, which surely trump the integrity of both the person to which it's attached and the person it may likely enter. Dr. Ruth later clarified her statements with two tweets that unfortunately dug her into a deeper hole:
Rapists, then, are like drivers who hit careless pedestrians: They may receive prison time, but the onus of their actions is on their victims. The cultural epidemic of victim-blaming strikes again. We figured out a while ago that "thinking with your dick" translates to "being a disrespectful asshole," and we would have hoped that Dr. Ruth had gotten the same memo. Yes, let's remember that she is 87 years old, and (clearly) out of touch with the fact that no means no and yes means yes — but we're still disheartened by the fact that a woman who retains a prominent platform for speaking about sex and intimacy is so wrong about something this important.