Must-Read Sex Secrets From Dr. Ruth

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Everybody's favorite sexpert, Dr. Ruth (or Ruth Westheimer, Ph.D, if you're curious about her full name) is out with a new book, Top Ten Secrets for Great Sex: How to Enjoy It, Share It and Love It Each and Every Time. In an interview with AOL Health, she reveals a few of her secrets and answers to some of her most frequently asked sex and relationship questions.

AOL Health: Most lovers appreciate foreplay, but your new book, Top 10 Secrets for Great Sex, addresses the equal importance of afterplay. Can you explain what it entails and why it's important?

Dr. Ruth: It's particularly important for both men and women to realize that the curve of sexual arousal after orgasm is a much slower one for women than for men. That's why it's so important for women to teach their partners that they need to be caressed, held and talked to after they have orgasm. This kind of afterplay is so important that it will actually be the foreplay for the next sexual encounter. When men say it's physiological that they have to go to sleep right after sexual intercourse, that's nonsense. That's just being sexually illiterate. They have to be taught that important aspect of the sexual encounter.

AOL Health: When you say that afterplay acts as foreplay for the next sexual encounter, could that be an hour later or even a week later?

Dr. Ruth: Or a week later, right. Because if that afterplay has been successful, there is a glow that can last a long time.

AOL Health: What's the most common question you're asked about sex?

Dr. Ruth: Well, they fall into the category of relationships and the category of specific sex issues. For relationships, communication is not the way he or she would like it, they are bored with each other or there are more serious issues -- like they are worried their partner is seeing someone else. And in terms of the sexual questions, I get very many about premature ejaculation. Despite all the books and all the talk about sex, there is still quite some ignorance about the issue of erectile difficulties like premature ejaculation or obtaining or maintaining an erection. Even though we have made progress -- we have less women who have not heard the message that the woman has to take the responsibility for her own sexuality and that even the best lover, even one trained by me, cannot bring her to orgasm if she does not teach him how she needs to be caressed -- we still have to do a lot of educating.

AOL Health: So when people come to you about erectile difficulties, what do you usually tell them?

Dr. Ruth: Well, for premature ejaculation, usually there's a method, but you cannot address that over the air. You have to have that couple in front of you in most cases. But sometimes it is enough to tell them … The premature ejaculator, if he has a partner, if she stimulates him to an erection and he feels that he's just at the moment before the point of no return, the moment before the ejaculation, then he stops and loses a bit of erection. He does that a few times. In a couple of weeks, he can learn to recognize that moment so that he doesn't ejaculate without wanting to.

AOL Health: Is good health important for good sex?

Dr. Ruth: People who have health issues have to discuss with their health-care providers how they can best deal with them. There are many, many issues that are private, but they have to be discussed with a medical professional. In general, you can say that good health, a good outlook on life, optimism, a joie de vivre -- which means a zest for life -- certainly helps for good sexual functioning.

AOL Health: Is good sex important in a relationship?

Dr. Ruth: I don't think it's everything. There's companionship, there's raising children, there is enjoying each other's company. But I would say sex is an important part of it, and that's also why people have to be sexually literate. For example, for older people, [it's important] not to engage in sex when they are tired. Or a woman after menopause, [it's important to] make sure she uses a lubricant, so that sex does not become painful. And men and women have to know that at a certain age a man doesn't have what is called a psychogenic erection -- he doesn't have an erection by just thinking about sex, he needs physical stimulation in order to obtain and maintain the erection.

AOL Health: What else is an issue when addressing aging-related sex?

Dr. Ruth: [It's important] not to give up. It's very important that their self image should be kept alive. [It's important] not to stand in front of the mirror and say, "I now have a belly, and I don't look the way I looked when I was 25." That's all true and real, but they should never, ever give up on sex.

AOL Health: What if when the person is saying, "I now have a belly..." and they're thinking -- my partner thinks that?

Dr. Ruth: Then they have to say, "Both of us are getting older, and both of us are fortunate to be alive. Let's make the best of it."

AOL Health: Is frequent sex necessary for a relationship?

Dr. Ruth: I could never answer that. For some people it may not be important at all. For some people it might be once every other week, and that's enough. So each couple has to really work out what works best for them.

AOL Health: How important is communicating, either in words or sounds, during sex?

Dr. Ruth: Super important. Not necessarily during sex. For example, a woman very often has to concentrate on that moment before the orgasm because there is a moment that is dead, where nothing happens, but if she gives up, if she doesn't know that she has to continue to be stimulated, continue in an emotion, then she's not going to have an orgasm. But that communication doesn't have to be during sex. It can be before or after.

AOL Health: How can a person say politely that something is not working?

Dr. Ruth: Not in bed. Keep your mouth shut tight and discuss it while you walk in the park. Do have the courage to say, "Your caresses are too light" or "Your caresses are too hot," or whatever is not working.

AOL Health: What happens if the person takes the constructive criticism personally?

Dr. Ruth: They have to take it personally. It's a personal matter. But if he or she gets offended, then that's the end of the relationship. And then I tell them to say goodbye. Start a new relationship, because sometimes it is better to end a relationship. I would say first, try and see a therapist, of course. But if someone takes it so personal that there is no way that they can listen to anything being said, then there is no hope for the relationship. But people come to me, and in my therapy sessions, right away I have to say to them, "Look this is something productive that we are discussing here." If you get offended, are not willing to learn, then there is nothing a therapist can help you with.

AOL Health: Is too much masturbation a bad thing for a relationship?

Dr. Ruth: Yes. If they masturbate instead of going out for dinner, or to a movie, or ice skating, or a walk in the park, then that's the end of that relationship. In general, there is no rule, it depends on each person and each couple. Some couples like to masturbate each other. Anything that two couples do in the privacy of their kitchen floor, living room couch or bedroom is perfectly all right.

AOL Health: There's so much emphasis on getting "creative." Can couples who stick with their routine or don't try out-of-the-ordinary positions or use props have great sex, too?

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Dr. Ruth: Of course. It really does depend on that couple and on their joy in each other. It does not depend on either vibrators or sex toys or other things. If they want to add some sex toys -- I have nothing against it.

AOL Health: What if one member of the couple wants to and the other doesn't?

Dr. Ruth: You have to negotiate. You have to see if you can convince. Sometimes you have to leave it alone.

AOL Health: Have you heard any trends about how the recession is -- or isn't -- affecting people's sex lives?

Dr. Ruth: There is no question that when people have worries, they have to make sure that they try to put the worries aside. They can't ignore them. No one can ignore worries about a job. I don't have any particular research data. I'm sure it does have an affect, because when people are worrying they don't feel so much inclined to have sex. Except that in a good relationship, they really should know that continuing their sexual activity is going to be of help psychologically.

AOL Health: Why is that?

Dr. Ruth: They should try to put the worries outside the bedroom. And they should rejoice that they have a partner that they can be intimate with. They have to right away hope that things will get better.

AOL Health: If they aren't in the mood for having sex, because of financial worries or job stress, is there anything they can do to remedy that?

Dr. Ruth: No, I don't have any magic for that. Let some time pass and hope for the best.

AOL Health: There are a lot of relationship books and guides out there, what does yours offer that others don't?

Dr. Ruth: It's a big world. I would never say that mine answers something that others might not. I'm just saying it's wonderful to be Dr. Ruth. In Top 10 Secrets for Great Sex there is a wonderful description of how I believe sex should be engaged in, like drinking a good glass of wine, and looking at it, smelling it and engaging in it. Not rushing it down. I love the book, because it's short, it's simple and you can read it in one hour, and put it aside and have great sex.

Written by Mary Kearl for AOL Health