Did Dr. Ruth Use the Talmud to Justify Rape? by the Forward

Did Dr. Ruth Use the Talmud to Justify Rape?

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Famed sex therapist and beloved IDF sniper, Dr. Ruth Westheimer has been making the media rounds touting her new book, “The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Love, Life, and Joie de Vivre.” And a few recent interviews have revealed some she holds on sexual consent.

In an interview with Diane Rehm yesterday, the subject turned to sex on college campuses and the discussion currently taking place on what constitutes rape and how consent is given.

Westheimer admitted that her opinions were “controversial” but needed to be shared:

“I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman…and man, can be in bed together, Diane, 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. In the Talmud, in the Jewish tradition, it says when that part of the male anatomy is aroused, when there is an erection, the brain flies out of the head. And we have to take that very seriously. So I don’t agree with that.”

When Rehm followed up to clarify her statement, Westheimer doubled down:

“They cannot say at one time, at the height of arousal, just when he’s very aroused, strong erection, when she’s very aroused, either he or she cannot change their mind. I know it’s controversial, but I have to stand up and believe for what I believe in. I know it has something to do with Title 9, with money that goes to universities. I’m very worried about that. And people like you and me, who have this power, especially you right now on NPR, of the airwaves, do have to talk about that.”

Westheimer is not the only one to share that opinion. As campuses around the country create new rules for handling sexual assault claims and the Obama administration champions a “yes means yes” policy, some critics wonder if these new approaches are coming at the cost of men’s civil rights.

In March Westheimer shared similar sentiments with Haaretz, quoting the Talmud again and telling the interviewer, “I do not believe that when partners are naked they can say at any time ‘I changed my mind’…The idea of consent is nonsense. Except consent before they are naked in bed.”


Sarah Breger

Sarah Breger

Sarah Breger is a former editor of the Sisterhood blog. Follow her on Twitter at @sbreger.

Did Dr. Ruth Use the Talmud to Justify Rape?

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