Love Goddess in Paradise: Diana Steere Wiley ‘65, Ph.D.

by Anne Dullaghan

Hipper than Dr. Ruth, as knowledgeable as Masters and Johnson, and as uninhibited as they come, every Saturday morning, Scripps’ very own board-certified sex therapist, gerontologist, and psychotherapist, Diana Steere Wiley, Ph.D, freely dispenses her own brand of advice over the airwaves. On Diana’s popular radio show, “Wiley & Sage–Wise and Witty Journeys,” (broadcasting from the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu) she and her co-host, Bill Sage, discuss everything and anything relating to successful aging.

She describes the show as slightly wicked journeys through the thickets of aging. “I try to inform and to entertain,” she says. “Because a lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained. Particularly, when I talk about sexuality, some people feel uncomfortable. On the show, I get to explore with expert guests a range of issues–from the psychological and social to sexuality and health during midlife and beyond. At 50-plus, many of us are challenged by a sense of adventure, stimulated by wit and irony. We have perspective, life experience, and, i hope, confidence. These are the subjects I like to explore.”

Even when the experiences are extremely personal, such as the unexpected death of her husband, Charlie Pietcsch, in April 2000, Diana sees the events as an opportunity to help herself and her listeners learn and grow.

“We were only married for three years before he died,” she says. “We were just about to go to my 35th Scripps reunion. Charlie was very supportive of my work, and of Scripps. He was in the radio studio every Saturday, passing notes, sometimes holding my hand. Afterward, I took four weeks off and came back on the air with a grief counselor. I did two shows on healing grief and they were hard to do. But I received a lot of feedback from listeners. We don’t talk as much as we should in our culture about death, grieving and the healing process. Now I know that love, once known, never really dies.”

In addition to her no-holds-barred radio show, Diana continues to run a small, private therapy practice and is currently working on a book, titled Memoirs of a Sex Therapist. The book is the author’s personal journey as a student, teacher, and therapist against the backdrop of our culture. She explores the restrictions our culture places on our natural expression as human beings and investigates some of the most fascinating realms of human sexuality.

Moreover, Diana was appointed by President Bill Clinton as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. With urologist Dr. Cully Carson she has narrated two video volumes: A Couple’s Guide to Great Sex Over 40 (available to order on her website www.wileyandsage.com). Diana has also collaborated in various research projects on aging and sexuality with well-known geriatrician Walter Bortz, M.D.

One of Dr. Diana’s favorite phrases is, “You must use it or lose it.” Or more precisely: “An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away.” In pursuit of this goal, Diana has some successful againg and sexuality tips to offer her fellow Scripps alumnae.

“First learn to love your bodies,” she preaches. “A lot of women need to recognize that their bodies are changing and accept it. Because the less you love your body, the less you’ll want to share it with your lover. I believe you should be able to look in the mirror at any age and see yourself with smiling eyes. Of course, good health habits, including exercise are good sex habits. Don’ let food take the place of sex!”

“Secondly, if you’re having trouble with communication, have a session or two with a mental health professional. Often couples come in with sexual issues that are really communication issues. So check out your relationship. Good sex begins outside of the bedroom. We Scripps women are taught to research and learn–and there are so many books on sexuality available now. Read them.

“Finally, to have really good sex you have to be in the moment and surrender to the experience. Women–particulary those with young children–are terrific at multitasking. So instead of paying attention to how their senses fell, many women are thinking about what they have to do tomorrow. Make the bank deposit, do the shopping. All this derails pleasure. Women can have much better sex and enjoy their pleasure more when they’re focused on the moment.”

Looking back, when Diana Steere, psychology major, was a Scripps undergrad, she quoted William Blake’s “Exuberance is beauty” in her senior yearbook. “I’ve always been enthusiastic–and my life has been a huge adventure. Our time on this earth is short. To live it well, fill it with love. Make love in the fullest sense of those words. It is too bad Descartes did not write ‘Amo, ego sum–I love, therefore I am.’ For in the end, we are as we love.

“Keep love alive, keep sex alive. Life is then apt to be longer and the quality of life will be better. Many agree with St. Paul: “If we fail in love, we fail in all things else.”