Dudley Danoff, MD: Advocate

Ruby’s Rap
by Ruby Comer

Dudley Danoff, MD

Sex is life’s cheapest luxury and should be fun and relaxing, a simple, natural pleasure that erases worries, tensions, and burdens…Using your penis for the purpose nature intended not only is one of life’s great pleasures but also is good for your health in general—for your cardiovascular health, your mood, and your psychological well-being”—Dr. Dudley Danoff in The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health: How to Stay Vital at Any Age

Photo courtesy D. Danoff

Straight talk about sex—finally! Dr. Danoff’s book is the best book I’ve read on the topic. He’s a pro and gives exacting advice. Any of you who care about your health need to read this tome. This is not just for men. The title of Chapter Eleven: “What Women Need To Know.”

Dr. Dudley is a urologist, author, oft-requested guest on radio and TV programs, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University and Yale University Medical School. For twenty-five years he’s taught on the clinical faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine and he is the founder and president of Cedars-Sinai Tower Urology Medical Group in Los Angeles. He’s also senior attending urologist at the Saban Los Angeles Free Clinic.

Though I was told early on in Catholic school not to “self-abuse” myself (yes, that’s what they termed it back then in the caveman days!), I’ve always felt masturbation was healthy. I never paid attention to anyone’s ridiculous belief that it’s a sin to play with yourself. It’s all irrational fear BS. C’mon, grow up!

…and what a safe way to play, huh?!

Dr. Dudley is quick to advise in his book, “…as a physician who has treated numerous AIDS

Illustration by Davidd Batalon

and HIV patients and who has seen many of them die, I’d be the last person to advise anyone to be carefree in his sexual life, but the tragic AIDS epidemic should not inhibit responsible adults who are aware of the risks involved in various practices and who understand how to use sound judgment and the necessary means of prevention.”

Dr. Danoff lives in Beverly Hills and his office is located at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. He agrees to a pithy lunch interview. I meet him at his office. With his distinguished looks, bespectacled face, and beaming snow-white ivories, Dr. Danoff has a gentle and friendly demeanor.

Ruby Comer: I really like your stance on masturbation. Hooray! It makes [I take a beat]…so much sense. Why in this crazy world doesn’t everyone see that?!
Dudley Danoff, MD:
I don’t know why everyone doesn’t see that, Ruby,…but they should. There’s no harm in masturbation. Masturbation is normal and should not cause any form of shame or embarrassment. For teens, it is an ordinary part of the sexual discovery process.

That has always been my belief. How has the epidemic affected you personally?
I have certainly lived through the epidemic and I am happy to report that progress has been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. I have lost patients, but in recent years I have lost fewer to the epidemic because of heightened awareness, education, and new treatment options.

Dr. Dudley has an emergency call and excuses himself. I rise and go to his crowded wall of awards and plaques. There’s also a framed large photograph of him shaking hands with a grateful King of Thailand after Danoff operated on him and removed his prostate in February 2002 in Thailand. Returning to my seat, I pause to look through his book.
Dr. Dudley hangs up, apologizes, and we forge on.

As you know, being a teen, hormones are raging. What is the most accurate way to reach kids, educating them about safe sex?
Education has to be tailored to the student, and the educator has to be able to communicate to the student in a way that the student understands and is reachable and would hopefully be comfortable to ask questions.

Excellent point. When do you think is a good time to start talking STIs to kids?
It’s never too soon. [Dudley tilts back in his desk chair.] The timing really depends on the child’s understanding of the world around him or her, and the parent has to make that judgment. For some, it could be twelve; for others, it could be as early as eight or nine years old.

As you know, many families do not discuss hot topics such as sex and STIs with their kids. What do you propose?
If parents feel uncomfortable talking about sex and STIs with their children, it could be that they lack knowledge themselves. [I nod passionately.] So first they need to educate themselves. If they still feel uncomfortable, they must find someone they all trust to discuss these topics with their child, such as the child’s doctor.

Super point. Or teachers, too?
Exactly——or trusted clergy members or coaches.

Say, what’s your opinion of PrEP? Should male teens go on it?
If a teen is sexually active and at risk for HIV, there’s no downside to being on PrEP. Unfortunately, however, the use of PrEP has led some people to lower their guard and engage in unsafe activity because they think they are protected against all STIs, when in fact, they’re not. As a consequence, I have seen an increase in STIs because of this false sense of security.

Dudley and his family

How about a concluding comment, Dr. Dudley?
While treatments and survival rates have certainly improved, we should never take this for granted and be unsafe. [He clears his throat] As Tarzan said to Jane, “It’s a jungle out there,” and many teens are not aware of what’s lurking in the dark.

Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].