Dr. Ruth: Books Are Getting More Explicit
There's no question that books are getting more explicit. "Lady Chatterley's Lover," which once caused such a scandal is tame compared to what's on bookshelves now. I, of course, read "50 Shades of Grey," all three volumes, because if there's something that everyone is talking about having to do with sex then I have to make sure I know all about it. Was I shocked? No, in part because if there's a part of a book that I don't find appealing, I can skip it, and I tell people to do the same all the time.
What I find very important about "50 Shades of Grey" is that there are people who still don't believe that women can get aroused by reading a book or watching a movie and, of course, that's nonsense. The tremendous sales of "50 Shades of Grey" (I was particularly impressed that, when the Hebrew edition came out in Israel, it sold out in one day) proves that women were finding it arousing and by telling all their friends, the books spread like wildfire.
Women take longer to get aroused than men. If reading a few chapters of a book earlier in the evening helps a woman to become aroused and better enjoy sex with her partner later on, that's great. That an author can perform foreplay for her or his readers is something that writers should be proud of. And people have always fantasized about--if not the impossible--at least things that were out of reach, so I don't believe that many people feel their lives are somehow poorer by reading about the fictional lives of others that push the envelope a lot more than their own. You don't expect to peer into a book or an e-reader and actually see into people's bedrooms. Reading forces you to use your imagination and most people can tell the difference between fiction and real life.
Now that's not as true with erotic videos. That's been a problem even with movies that weren't all that graphic. People would watch couples under the sheets having sex in the missionary position and listen to them having orgasms and then assume that all women could have orgasms from having intercourse that way. Women who couldn't have orgasms in the missionary position would feel that there was something wrong with them. And while women have made progress in learning about their own sexuality, the lesson that intercourse doesn't offer sufficient clitoral stimulation for most women to have an orgasm is information I have to give out over and over again, so more women still need to hear this message.
Of course, with video porn so easily available via computers, you also have young men even more worried about the size of the penis, never thinking that the men chosen for these movies are “cast” by the size of their equipment. People also don't grasp that movies--unlike reading a book, when the reader's imagination fills in the details--have to make themselves bigger than real life, so that much of what goes on in films need not be part of everyone's bedroom activities.
I'm not saying that books don't also exaggerate when it comes to sex scenes, but the impact just isn't the same. Also, while I haven't done a scientific survey, I believe much more of the sex in books is aimed at a female audience. Men do react more to visual stimulation so they gravitate to pictures and video. Women like the softer images in their own heads and so they will be drawn to romance novels that include sex but aren't dominated by it. And books allow you to pick and choose which images to remember so much more than what you see on a screen, which can create indelible memories, sometimes horrible ones.
One more point about erotic and romantic books and women: Men can reach orgasm in a matter of minutes. That's not to say that men haven't used books to masturbate with, but I'd bet many skip to the “good” parts. Women, because they need more time, will find the slow pace of a book more enjoyable. A woman might spend an hour reading a book while masturbating, slowly becoming more and more excited until she finally reaches an orgasm.
If men wanted to be better lovers, I'd recommend that they act more like a book. They should take their time. They should stop being overtly sexual for a period, teasing her by not touching her breasts or her clitoris, and then go back to it. They should add some conversation--whisper those traditional sweet nothings (unless their partner finds it distracting, which some women do). They should create a sensuous drama for their partner, with hills and valleys, rather than think of sex as a movie car chase. Of course I don't want anyone to think I favor one sex over the other, so I'd also tell couples to alternate so that one time they make love as if they were in a romantic novel and the next time like an action adventure.
Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer is a psychosexual therapist who sprang to national attention in the early 80’s with her live radio program, Sexually Speaking. She went on to have her own TV program, appeared on the cover of People Magazine and TV Guide, and is the author of 37 books including her latest, "Dr. Ruth's Guide for the Alzheimer's Caregiver." Fans of all ages can find her at www.drruth.com, on Twitter @AskDrRuth, and at www.YouTube.com/drruth. A one-woman show about her life, “Dr. Ruth All The Way” opens in Hartford on June 8th. Dr. Ruth teaches at Columbia's Teachers College, lives in New York and has two children and four grandchildren.