Dr. Rachael Ross, better known as Dr. Rachael, offers up practical, professional advice as a medical doctor and a sexologist, but in a way that makes you feel like your girlfriend is talking to you. Her medical degree, her PhD, her friendly bedside manner and her fantastic sense of style all contribute to her current status as America’s go-to sex expert. She is a regular on the Emmy Award-winning show, The Doctors, she has a robust website full of advice and information and she travels all over the country in collaboration with OraQuick,the company that produces the first in-home HIV/AIDS test, to raise awareness of the viruses and to provide advice for general safer sex practices.
The Gary, Indiana native comes from a family of doctors (her father and all of her siblings have medical degrees), and though she now lives in Chicago, she still maintains a practice with her family in her hometown. EBONY chatted with the HBCU graduate about her career, her best safe sex tips and how well she follows her own advice in her personal life.
EBONY: You’re a very well-known national sex expert. Why have you kept the Gary medical practice?
Dr. Rachael Ross: My dad is a physician and my mom was the office manager for his practice. It taught my siblings and [me] all about community responsibility. We’re about providing services for people. My sisters and my dad and I all graduated from Meharry Medical College. There’s this idea of when you grow up in the 'hood, you don’t spend time getting an education “just” to go back. Well, I want to help build and help my community. There’s nothing like an 11-12-year-old girl who sees her doctor on television then comes in to see me and is like “Wow, my doctor is on TV and here she is seeing me.” She’s able to further understand that she is important and she matters.
EBONY: Why sexology and what is that exactly?
RR: Great question! Sexology is the study of sex and any and everything that has to do with it. Why is this person attracted to that person? It helps to answer questions like that. I’ve always been interested in sex and sexuality. We (Black people) get HIV from sex, especially Black women. Not IV drug use, but sex. It became part of my mission to make an impact in our community and make sure we have all the resources, knowledge and professional help that we need.
EBONY: What is your relationship with OraQuick?
RR: OraQuick approached me to talk about sex and relationships. HIV and AIDS have become an epidemic in our community. My prevention strategy is three pronged. One, it’s about getting as many people tested as possible so that they know their status. Two, knowing your partner’s status is key and three incorporating safer sex practices is also important.
The thing about OraQuick that I like is that if you’ve been trying to get tested and you’re busy, it’s safe at-home testing and it only takes 20 minutes. When you do the home testing kit though, you still have more work to do. If someone contracted HIV in the past 3-6 months, the test won’t show it. So, it’s important to do a second test about six months after your first test.
Partner sharing is a big part of the problem in our community and condom-less sex practices haven’t changed. We have to raise awareness. People will get in a relationship and then 5-6 weeks into it, they get comfortable and stop using condoms. That has to stop.
EBONY: It’s awkward to bring up the whole STD conversation, how do you broach the topic of testing with a potential sexual partner.
RR: People don’t understand how an important of a question it is. It’s more important than marriage status. You have to ask about one-night stands, testing and STD status. We have to ask. People will lie to get what they want. STDs are no different. We lie not to be malicious, but sometimes just to get what we want or to save face. Our vision of ourselves in our brain doesn’t always match up to reality.
EBONY: Do you recommend that people should get tested together?
RR: Absolutely! Do it together. Get kits. Make it part of date night. Take the test and then go have dinner or watch a movie. Come back to the results later.
EBONY: What’s a common question you get from viewers and patients?
RR: Squirting. Women often want to know if it’s real and if they can do it. They see these pornographic movies and they want to know if it’s really possible or if that’s movie magic.
EBONY: Soooo, what’s the answer?
RR: Ha! Yes and no. Yes, squirting is real, but some of those squirting shots in adult movies are enhanced. Squirting happens during vaginal penetration at certain angles because the roof of the vagina is being massaged where your g-spot is. So there can be projection of some fluids there and there’s often a little urine. People can go to my website for more information on that.
EBONY: What’s a simple piece of advice you like to offer?
RR: Keep the lights on, especially during those first sexual encounters. We like to keep the lights off to hide stretch marks or a fleshy belly or other little things, but seeing the genitals is an important safe sex strategy. You want to be able to see anything irregular like bumps or redness or swelling. Safer sex starts with looking at it.
EBONY: Do you sometimes find it difficult to follow your own advice?
RR: Of course. I know what it feels like to not want to use a condom. I’ve been in the heat of the moment and not wanting to stop. This last new relationship I was in, we were at the point where we were interested in having sex, but we were having trouble going to the doctor because of our schedules and I’ve seen too much stuff. I know people can hop on a computer and print out phony test results that look real. We needed to go together. As an initial step, we did the OraQuick tests and just like I advise my patients, I made it a part of date night.
EBONY: Have you found it challenging in the dating department because you are on television and a known sex expert?
RR: So, as a sexologist who speaks on a wide variety of issues about sex and guys might have certain expectations when it’s time for clothes to come off. I definitely had performance anxiety sometimes. I like anxiety over that. Some guys are intimidated by what they’ve seen and heard me talk about until we actually get to know each other. But yes, I definitely felt like I needed to keep my skills sharp!
EBONY: Indeed. With such a busy schedule and regular television appearances on top of that, how do you manage to stay put-together and healthy?
RR: I travel from Chicago to LA. often We tape The Doctors twice a week four weeks in a row and then we get a week off. So I make sure I get, exercise, water, T25 workouts, cucumbers, staying hydrated is very important. I’m not good at sleeping on planes, but I’ve gotten much better with getting the proper amount of sleep and rest. I’ve learned how to enjoy the moment. Once you slow down, you feel better. Just be still and be in the moment.
Demetria Irwin is a New York City-based (Detroit born) freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.