UW Today

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October 22, 2009

A perfect match: UW sociologist Pepper Schwartz becomes AARP columnist

There aren’t many college professors who would (or could) write a column called The Naked Truth, but those who know Sociology Professor Pepper Schwartz won’t be surprised that she’s doing just that. The column is part of Schwartz’s new role as love and relationships expert for AARP.


AARP is the world’s leading organization for people 50 and older, and Schwartz’s job will be to guide its 40 million members through the emotional, physical and practical sides of love, romance and sexuality through the column, online chats, videos and other means.


“About a year ago someone from AARP called me and said the organization was going to do a new sex and relationships column and wanted an expert to head it up and would I be interested,” Schwartz said. “I just said, ‘Oh boy, would I!’ They said they would e-mail me the next day, and then I didn’t hear from them for eight months.”


Schwartz assumed someone else had gotten the job, but then she received a call telling her she’d been chosen. “I was delighted, and since then it’s been an intense collaboration,” she said.


“Dr. Schwartz has thrown her heart and soul into researching love and relationships for more than 35 years and knows exactly what our members are looking for,” Kevin Donnellan, AARP’s executive vice president and chief communications officer, said in making the announcement.


“Not only will she provide valuable information for those who are currently in relationships, but she’ll also help those who may be looking to get back into the dating pool and may be in need of guidance.”


Schwartz has been researching and writing about relationships since her second book, American Couples, co-authored with Philip Blumstein and published in 1983. (Her first was about the first year of coeducation at Yale.) She’s written 16 books in all, including one in which she chronicled her own dating and emotional history between ages 55 and 60. According to AARP officials, she was selected as their love and relationships expert not only because of her extensive background and expertise on the topic, but also for her ease in relating to the 50-and-up audience.


Schwartz said she has already written five or six columns on subjects such as aphrodisiacs (yes, some of them actually have an effect); balancing one’s work and one’s sex life, taking into consideration diurnal schedules; and what are the things in an interaction that are sexy without being crude.


She has also had a part in conceptualizing and analyzing the organization’s periodic sex survey — this time of people 45 and older — and will write columns on some of the more interesting results.


“Then they’re going to give me the data, so I can maybe get some students working on other aspects of it,” Schwartz said. “I’m excited about that.”


Schwartz will speak at AARP’s national meeting on Friday, Oct. 23, in Las Vegas. She said her column, which will appear on the organization’s Web site (www.aarp.org), will include some interaction with the community.


“I’ll do some online chats. People will have a blog opportunity to respond to things I’ve written, so it won’t all be me answering their questions,” she said. “I think it will be dynamic. We’re just feeling our way here; they’ve never done this before. But I think the vision is to have the interaction that’s made the Web so organic and immediate and real, so it’s not just pontification. It’s collaboration and discussion.”


And even though she already has plenty to do with her teaching and research, she’s looking forward to this new assignment. “It’s a great privilege to have such a huge potential audience,” she said.