Authors: Debby Herbenick
Your awkward questions
for better, smarter,
By Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Philadelphia â¢ London
Â© 2012 by Debby Herbenick
Published by Running Press,
A member of the Perseus Books Group
All rights reserved under the Pan-American and International Copyright Conventions
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without written permission from the publisher.
Books published by Running Press are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011944640
E-book ISBN 978-0-7624-4496-0
9Â Â Â 8Â Â Â 7Â Â Â 6Â Â Â 5Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 1
Digit on the right indicates the number of this printing
Cover and interior design by Bill Jones
Interior illustrations by Josie Morway
Author photograph Â© Bernard Gordillo
Edited by Jennifer Kasius
Typography: Conduit, Minion, and French Script
Running Press Book Publishers
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
Visit us on the web!
This book is dedicated to all of the parents, best friends, partners, school teachers, nurses, doctors, journalists, sex educators, counselors, therapists, activists, spiritual leaders, and politicians who are trying in earnest and with heart to make people's sex lives easier and more enjoyable.
iding me in my efforts to make sex a little, if not a lot, easier for readers of this book, a number of people have made my work significantly easier and more pleasant. I am grateful to my editor, Jennifer Kasius, for her patience, direction, and vision and the thoughtful ways in which she helped me to articulate my message. I am thankful to my literary agent, Kate Lee, for believing in my work and for her encouragement and wisdom. The talented Josie Morway deserves praise for gracing these pages with her beautiful illustrations.
Many thousands of women and men inspired this book by trusting me with their sex-related secrets and questions. A number of these are readers of my sex columns and listeners of our
podcast series whom I have never met. However, not a day goes by that I don't hear from or think about them and the kinds of information that might make their sexual lives easier or more meaningful. Then there are the many women and men whom I've met, or taught at Indiana University, or who have sat in my officeâand sometimes cried in my officeâas they asked questions and sometimes shared their sexual difficulties with me. This is a kind of trust and intimacy that no schooling could have ever prepared me for and I am grateful to experience it so regularly. It inspires me to want to learn more, research the right questions, and share the answers I find with the people who need them.
I am fortunate, too, to work with a number of colleagues who have provided support, encouragement, laughterâand intellectual stimulation throughout the process of writingâas well as through my day-to-day work of conducting research and teaching about human sexuality. I count myself very lucky to work on a daily basis with Michael Reece, Vanessa Schick, and Brian Dodge; I hope never to take for granted their friendship and camaraderie. I am also indebted to our team of graduate students at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University (Alexis, Andreia, Caroline, Erika, Kristen, Margo, Nicole, Phil, Randy, and Sofia), all of whom
I'm confident will make the world a better place through their research and education efforts. Jennifer Bass, John Bancroft, Thomas Nord, and Jim Lenahan were among the first to put me in charge of answering readers' sex questions and I'm thankful that they believed in me. Additionally, many colleagues, mentors, and former studentsâwhether they know it or notâhave inspired and challenged my thinking in ways that I hope have made
Sex Made Easy
a more helpful book. These include Justin Anderson, Michael Bailey, Jada Barbry, Cara Berg, Lee Belz, Virginia Braun, Laura Castiglione, Meredith Chivers, Meredith Davis, Betty Dodson, Christopher Fisher, Dennis Fortenberry, Cindy Graham, Madeline Haller, Julia Heiman, Ariane Hollub, Jordan Humphrey, Natalie Ingraham, Catherine Johnson-Roehr, Jeana Jorgensen, Kristen Jozkowski, Holly Moyseenko Kossover, Wendy Likes, Kate McCombs, Carol McCord, Cindy Meston, Robin Milhausen, Charlene Muehlenhard, Brian Mustanski, Emily Nagoski, Lucia O'Sullivan, Carol Queen, June Reinisch, Heather Rupp, Tracy Rupp, Stephanie Sanders, Sonya Satinsky, Dan Savage, Michaela Schwartz, Samantha Seeger, Colleen Stockdale, Leonore Tiefer, and Yvette Trujillo (and many more).
This is the first book in which I have discussed aspects of my personal sexual life. For this, I am grateful to age, wisdom, and experienceâand to those with whom I've been fortunate to fall in and out of like, love, lust, and crushes. The stories I've shared here are real, but identifying details have been omitted and sometimes changed in order to protect their privacy. They are good men I'm proud to have known and learned from, and with whom I enjoyed sharing parts of each other's lives.
I'm happy to have friends and family as sources of love and support. Ariane, Susie, Erica, Tom, Ben, Brooke, Brandon, Vanessa, Michael, Brian, Heather, Mike, David, Cathy, Mary, Susan, and Rick are among those whom I adore and whom I hope to always know (even if I don't see some of them nearly as much as I would like). My grandparents and parents provided a solid foundation for me that encouraged education and a sense of compassion and I will love them forever for that. I am grateful, too, to my sister Laura, my brother-in-law Tim, and my wonderful niece, who is a joy to be around and watch grow up into a bright, talented young woman. Finally, I
want to express my most heartfelt joy to James (and to Jezebel), whom I can always count on for hugs, kisses, and cuddles. I appreciate his understanding when I interrupt dinner to email someone back with a response to a question about how to have an orgasm or last longer in bed. In my world, this happens more than I can say, and he's more patient and understanding than I could have hoped for.
here is no such thing as a typical day of work for meâat least, not since I began working as a sex researcher, educator, and columnist at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Most days, I'm busy designing sex research studies (on topics such as women's orgasm, lubricant use, condom use, or sexual desire), analyzing data, writing research papers, grading students' exams or papers, writing sex columns, answering sex questions from journalists or television producers, or answering emails from students and colleagues. In my work as a sex columnist, I also read and answer emails from people who have questions about sex. Each month, I head into a recording studio on campus to tape a new batch of
audio podcasts. Occasionally, I'm sent products such as sex toys, lubricants, condoms, or arousal creams and am asked to provide input on their design, safety, or package instructions. With bookshelves lined with vulva puppets, vaginal dilators, sex toys, and books about sex, orgasm, and female ejaculation, it's not your normal officeâand I wouldn't have it any other way.
Then there are days like a recent Friday, when a young woman made an appointment to ask for suggestions about how to overcome the pain she experienced every time she tried to have sex. The week before, a man called to ask about his erection difficulties. I think, too, of the married couple who were feeling distressed and, I think, a little sad about the wife's difficulty experiencing orgasm during intercourse. And it's a common occurrence for a student to stay after class to ask how to find the G Spot, whether it's normal to experience orgasms while doing sit-ups, or how to overcome premature ejaculation. Like I said, for me, there is no such thing as a typical day at work.
Women's and men's sex questions follow me everywhere and I welcome them. It was my grandmother who, several years before she died, best communicated to me how important it is to teach people about sex, bodies, and reproduction. At the time, I was twenty-three and had only recently started
work at the Kinsey Institute. Knowing that she was quite religious and traditional, it took courage for me to tell her that I had started working at a place known for its pioneering research into human sexuality. Yet I didn't want to hide my job from her. When I finally took a deep breath and told her about my new job, she told me she thought it was important work and proceeded to tell me a story I had never heard before.
My grandmother told me that when she was pregnant with my mother, she didn't know how babies were delivered until she got to the hospital and was already going into labor. She had gone through her entire pregnancy assuming that her baby would eventually come out of her stomach because no oneânot her girlfriends, sisters, or doctor (her mother had died when she was a teenager)âhad told her otherwise. No one had mentioned anything about her baby being delivered through her vagina until the baby was ready to come out. Can you imagine the surprise, shock, and confusion that would cause? Because of that experience, my grandmother felt it was important that women and men be educated about their bodies and sexuality, and she was proud that I had accepted a research position at the Kinsey Institute, a place that had been central in opening up conversation and research about human sexuality. So here I am today, learning about sex and trying to make sure that rather than keep the information to myself, I share it with the world.