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 www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

Recent posts

New Study on Exercise and Sex: Our 30 Day Core Challenge

Researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Public Health in Bloomington, Indiana are recruiting women and men to participate in a 30 Day Core Challenge, which is a study of exercise and sexual feelings (such as arousal and orgasm). In order to be eligible you must be at least 18 years old. You must be able to engage in physical exercise (such as squats and abdominal exercises, like crunches). In addition, you need to be willing to go online every day for up to 30 days to complete a short questionnaire about the exercises you did that day (if you did any) and any sexual feelings, such as arousal or orgasm, that you experienced. To learn more about the study or participate, visit the study website at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/corechallengestudy 

Thank you. Continue Reading →

Thanksgiving: Sex Things to be Thankful For

In addition to family, friends, good health, and an enchanting world to live in, here are some things I am thankful for about sexuality and bodies and maybe you are too:

1) Vaginal tenting: The process by which sexual excitation causes the vagina to expand in length and width makes for more comfortable, pleasurable vaginal intercourse and vaginal penetration and that makes these types of sex better for many people the world over. 2) Lubrication: Here I mean both vaginal lubrication and store-bought lubricant, as each can make different types of sex and sex play more comfortable and pleasurable. Spending enough time doing exciting foreplay/sex play things in ways that enhance vaginal lubrication can also help to reduce the risk of vaginal discomfort, pain, and/or tearing. So much to be grateful for! 3) Erections: I hope to never lose wonder over the magic of erections. Continue Reading →

My Favorite Facebook Status Updates about the SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Rulings

Today, SCOTUS changed life for many Americans in its rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. When I heard the news, via Twitter, I was walking into my lab space to interview a woman about orgasms (that’s the life of this research scientist). When the study participant arrived, she and I took a few minutes to acknowledge and talk about the monumental news of the day. Much of the day, I’ve felt on the verge of (happy) tears. I celebrated with a friend over lunch on an outdoor patio. Continue Reading →

How We Profile Women and Men: Or, Are Women Moms and Cooks First, Scientists Second?

Recent discussion on Twitter and various websites has focused on how women scientists are portrayed in the media. The discussion stems from a recent New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill who died at 88 and was introduced first, in the obituary, (for more, see this Salon article), with this sentence:

“She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.” Later on, they got to the whole “rocket scientist” part (enormously impressive in any era, but especially for the era in which she worked when few women would have been able to demonstrate such skill). The opening was later changed to read:

“She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. Continue Reading →

What Do You Do to Make Sex Normal?

In response to a pretty tough 2012 election season in which I felt depressingly and repeatedly reminded how little information and comfort there is about sexuality and reproductive health issues, I kept wondering what I could do. It hit me that sex is so compartmentalized that it’s often difficult for people to talk about sex in the regular everyday ways we talk about driver’s safety, hand washing, love, and other issues related to health and humanity. A phrase kept coming to me, which is that we need to “Make Sex Normal”, a project I’ve recently launched at http://www.MakeSexNormal.tumblr.com

I hope that you will consider sharing what *you* are doing to Make Sex Normal – and by “sex”, I’m referring to the big umbrella of things like sex, gender, reproduction, puberty, genitals, etc. My hope is that the more people can learn about concrete, everyday ways that they can make sex normal, then sex will just become normal and something we can talk and teach about. How can you participate? Continue Reading →

Lubricant vs. Vaginal Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

Because someone asked me yesterday (and I often forget that many people don’t receive this kind of information from doctors, nurses, family, or friends):

Lubricants are typically for use during various types of sex (e.g., masturbation alone, partnered masturbation, hand jobs, sex toy play, vaginal intercourse, and most definitely anal intercourse). Women and men of diverse ages use lubricant during sexual activities. Think of lube as something one uses “in the moment” (e.g., during sexual activities). Lube is widely available in drug stores, retail chains, adult bookstores, and online. Vaginal moisturizers are more about keeping the vagina moist and pliable even when not “in use” for sex. Continue Reading →

Having The ‘What Are We?” Talk: Friends Who Have Sex? Dating? Relationship?

Liking/loving other people has always been tricky; this isn’t specific to modern times, online dating, hookup culture, or texting. Earlier this week I was being interviewed by a woman in her 50s for a book. She asked me about friends with benefits and I relayed a conversation I once had with a certain feminist icon who, years ago, had said to me how silly it was that the media framed friends with benefits as anything new. “We were having sex with our friends in the ‘60s and 70s!”, she said to me. “We just didn’t call it that.” The interviewer left “interviewer mode” for a moment and laughed, telling me just how true that was of her experience, too. Continue Reading →

Would You Say You Had Sex If… He Came In Your Thigh Crease?


The phrase “having sex” means different things to different people. Most people agree that penile-vaginal intercourse counts as sex and that if you’ve had penile-vaginal intercourse with a person then you’ve “had sex” with them and that the person counts as a sexual partner. However, what counts as sex isn’t always so cut and dry (and can vary by age, gender, and self-identified sexual orientation among other factors). When I first began working at The Kinsey Institute in 1999, a study that one of my mentors – Dr. Stephanie Sanders – conducted with her colleague, Dr. June Reinisch, that had examined college students’ meanings of having “had sex” was newly published. The study made waves in large part because it came at a time when Americans and politicians in particular were debating whether oral sex was sex, and thus whether President Bill Clinton was being truthful when he said he had not “had sex with that woman”. Continue Reading →

Praying Mantis Sex: How Often Do the Females Eat the Males?



You may have heard that the female praying mantis eats its mate post-copulation. Fortunately for the male praying mantis, this doesn’t seem to be the case – at least in every instance:
“By most estimates, sexual cannibalism by praying mantis females occurs less than 30% of the time outside the lab. Those are pretty good odds for the fellows. Praying mantis sex, it turns out, is really a rather romantic series of courtship rituals that typically ends satisfactorily and safely for both parties involved.” (Source: Insects.About.com)
Follow Debby on Twitter at @DebbyHerbenick or follow MSP at @MySexProfessor Continue Reading →