A Tribute to Our Sex Professor, Debby Herbenick

In celebration of Mentorship week here at MSP, the other contributors and I have each written a small piece in appreciation for MSP’s founder, Debby Herbenick. She’s influenced all of our careers and we wanted to take the opportunity to express our gratitude for her contribution in a public (and surprise!) way.

Craig: There are two things I really admire about Debby. First, her posts strike the perfect balance of thoughtful personal sharing and not revealing too much information about her life. I’m thinking about this post on the messiness of relationships, this one on non-thing gift giving, or especially this one on being a conventionally attractive sex researcher. Second, she shows through her actions her dedication to her work, whether it’s taking an hour or two to talk to me about her research when I visited, or even spending a “lazy” Sunday perusing the scientific literature on communication about feelings (I mean, who does that?). Thanks for all your advice and help, Debby. You’re an inspiration to all of us.

Holly: Dr. Debby Herbenick has served as a mentor to me, most likely in ways she doesn’t even realize. Her writing and work has inspired me, pushed me to keep thinking and striving for greatness, and shown me that I can have a career that is dynamic, fun, and still able to help others. I love that Debby, for me, has merged academia and relatable ways of looking at human sexuality. Debby gave me a chance to be a writer for this site, and has always encouraged my work (even if it is something as simple as telling me to have fun at a conference).

Jeana: When I applied to write for MySexProfessor, it was as a gender and cultural theorist, not a sex educator or researcher. I didn’t necessarily expect to get the job, but Debby saw something in me and decided to nurture it. Because Debby believed in me, I’ve been able to find my voice as a blogger and write about issues that are important to me personally and to the world at large. I’m grateful for Debby’s enthusiastic mentorship, and I hope to continue to contribute to the dialogue about gender and sexuality for many years to come.

Madeline: When people think of Dr. Herbenick, I’m sure many associations come to mind (think: scientist, sex educator, author, etc.). But when I think of Debby, the first word that comes to mind is: lover. And although I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Debby for MSP and Men’s Health magazine, her love for equality, her life, her work—even nature—is what pops to mind when I hear her name.

Over the past three years, Debby has served as a mentor to me in numerous ways. But overall, I think her love for life and her appreciation of simple pleasures is what inspires me the most. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Just read a day’s worth of tweets from her personal account.) Her refreshing attitude reminds me each day to cherish the little things and never give up on my passions.

Michaela: Debby has proved to be an unintentional mentor for me. I doubt she’d call herself my mentor, yet she has inspired so much in me. Debby, unlike many other sexuality educators, has shown me that this field is a credible one. Thanks to her, I’m now pursuing my own path to become a professor of sexuality and do my own research. She’s the perfect combination of flashy and academic- she teaches classes and researches important questions in the field of sexuality studies, yet also goes on TV with a giant vulva puppet and blogs about genitals in the wild. Needless to say, she’s pretty much who I want to be when I “grow up.” Thanks, Debby, for being you!

Kate: When I reflect back to when I applied to write for MSP, I remember how nervous I felt. I had taught sex ed but had never written about sex and relationships professionally. Despite how nervous I felt – and how star-struck I was at applying for a job with Debby – I put together a few pieces and sent it away. To my delight, Debby believed in my abilities and invited me to join the MSP team. In 2012, she believed in me enough to offer me an editing role. The ways in which Debby’s trust in me has made my professional and personal life more awesome are numerous and I’ll always be grateful for the significant impact that she’s had on me.

Special thanks to Craig for getting the ball rolling on this!

About Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs, MPH is a NYC-based sex educator + blogger. She's the founder of Sex Geekdom, a global community for sex educators, researchers, and other folks who love having geeky conversations about sex.