Meeting Dr. Ruth Again

Dr. Ruth Westheimer (left) and Dr. Debby Herbenick (right) look through Read My Lips and Sex Made Easy.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer (left) and Dr. Debby Herbenick (right) look through Read My Lips and Sex Made Easy.

Last week I was so honored to give a talk at the Center for Sex Education’s National Sex Ed Conference, held in Meadowlands, New Jersey. The Sex Ed Conference is the brainchild of sex educator Bill Taverner, who has long been something of a hero and mentor to me. So when he asked me to come give a talk at his meeting, the only possible answer was “absolutely!”

Imagine my surprise and delight when, in the months that followed after Bill’s invitation, I learned who else would be there: Jane Fonda also gave a keynote talk related to her book Being a Teen and her years of work in adolescent reproductive health; Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher won an award; as did Dr. Ruth Westheimer. I could go on and on about the wonderful women and men who gave talks at the CSE conference, but really you should see for yourself. I met people working from all over the place, in communities large and small, some who worked with LGBT youth or with teen parents and others who worked with the elderly or in clinics or in schools. Hundreds of dedicated sexuality educators came to learn and to be inspired and to network. I felt incredibly fortunate to be there.

My mom came to the conference, too. I don’t normally bring her along to talks I give (it is, after all, like taking one’s mom to work!) but I thought she would enjoy seeing Jane Fonda and Dr. Ruth give their talks (she did). It was pretty neat to watch my mom and Dr. Ruth talk and their grown children and younger grandchildren. And my mom – who was raised in a traditional, Catholic home in which sexuality information was rarely given – felt inspired and energized by the wonderful people she met who were out in the world teaching others about sex, intimacy, and their bodies.

After my book signing was done, Dr. Ruth was escorted to the table to take my place and start her book signing, which is when the above photo was taken. We had a chance to talk for 10 minutes or so before her book signing began. I reminded her that we had met several years ago in Chicago when we did a joint book signing after my first book came out (as you can imagine, the line to meet Dr. Ruth was far, far longer than the line to meet me, and she was very nice about it). And I couldn’t resist getting my photo taken with her again and showing her two of the books I had written since the last time our paths crossed: Read My Lips and Sex Made Easy. I bought copies of her books and asked her to sign them, some for me and others as gifts. I also bought a few copies of Robie Harris’ wonderful children’s books, which I highly recommend.

I really wanted to tell Dr. Ruth about my next book, The Coregasm Workout (Seal Press), but she was chitter-chattering away about the other books in her hands and just generally being a nice person that I forgot. I’d be curious to hear her thoughts on the coregasm phenomenon which no doubt, given her many years of working as a sex educator, she has probably heard about before. Perhaps there will be another time… And in another post, perhaps I’ll share the story of asking Jane Fonda about coregasms. She was a phenomenal speaker, by the way: smart, well-read, honest, funny, and incredibly personable.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at