Dr. Debra Herbenick, Kinsey Institute


Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.) is Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University where she is also a sexual health researcher and educator at The Kinsey Institute.

On This Soft Anvil

By Terry Marotta, NSNC Member
Exit Only Blog

I was saying yesterday how organizations change when there get to be more women than men in them and at first I thought that’s why my fellow columnists behaved so well when Dr. Debra Herbenick came to speak at our annual conference. I can tell you that back in ’95 when this membership visited an outfit that extracts and freezes bull semen, the tour-guide chastised two of our guys for laughing uncontrollably. But yesterday when Dr. Herbenick came to speak with us on her work with the Kinsey Institute not a soul laughed, even when she she showed explicit slides and held up stuffed toys resembling female body parts.

Maybe it’s because she has a manner as open and sunny as a farmhouse window. A dead ringer for the Charlotte character from Sex and the City, she seems so sweet and guileless only a cad or a moron would have laughed, and we had no such men among us this time.

She told us she speaks often to college students who take her class to get information on what practices (besides the most obvious one) can result in pregnancy.  She quoted former Indiana President Herman Wells, himself a firm supporter of the place where she works. “We have large faith in the value of knowledge and little faith in the value of ignorance,” he once said.

She had also let it be known earlier in the day that she would answer any anonymous sex-related questions we cared to pose and when the time came she did this. The questions were dead serious with the exception of the one that said, “Where DO babies come from anyway?”

She said she used to ask that question of little children at an earlier stage of her career and one child had an answer that she still remembers. The child’s little sibling began by saying that your babysitter the baby and she got it from the doctor who gave it to your mommy – only wait, maybe it was the other way around. It was then that the slightly older child spoke up and clued Debra in on what really happens, a process involving these things called ‘cells’ and your mother’s stomach where the baby grows.

“But then how does it get out of there?”  Debra asked.

“Well,” said the little girl, “it seems there’s this little door ….”

Indeed there is.

So let us close now with words by penned by an English earl in the 1600?s who said of this little door’s close neighbor the mons veneris, “On this soft anvil was mankind all made” – to which I now say Amen! and also Thank you, God, for the dandy design (!)

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Terry Marotta was among the 40 National Semi-Finalists in the long-mothballed Journalist-in-Space initiative.   During the day, she works as a Massage Therapist. She is the author of several books, has been a Public Radio commentator.  She has been writing this same observational column for 25 years. With her husband of 35 years, she has raised up nine children.

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