03:15:16 pm on
Friday 19 Jul 2024

Dr Debby Herbenick
dr george pollard


Sex, said Jim Morrison, singer for “The Doors,” is dishonest. “The body tries to tell the truth. It's usually too battered, with rules, to hear and bound, with pretences,” to move. “We cripple ourselves with lies.”

Dr Debby Herbenick, above, wants to correct what Morrison believed wrong. She’s co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research includes studies of penis size and corgasms, orgasms that occur during exercise, as well as the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour.  

“Sexual pleasure is a magic spell,” said Simone de Beauvoir. “It demands complete abandon. If words or movements oppose the magic of caresses, the spell breaks.”

Dr Debby agrees. In her books, “Definitely Because it Feels Good” and “Sex Made Easy Too,” she writes of mindfulness, fully focused concentration during sex. “It heightens sexual arousal for women,” she says.

“Men know they are sexual exiles,” says Camilla Paglia. “They wander the earth seeking satisfaction, craving and despising, never content.” Dr Debby disagrees. In the courses she teaches and the research she conducts, men report greater sexual satisfaction after finding love.

There’s a rampaging rumour that ten percent of Americans are gay. “Not exactly,” says Dr Debby. “That number came from old research by the Kinsey Institute; they asked if someone had ever had sex with a same-sex partner. Today, we find around five percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Roughly, fifteen percent of Americans have had sex, of some sort, with a same-sex partner, at least once in their life.”

“It’s so long since I had sex,” says comedian Joan Rivers, “I’ve forgotten who ties up whom.” Pop culture, says Dr Debby, “leads to the occasional blip in promoting healthy sex. After ‘Five Shades of Grey’ published, questions about BDSM increased for a while.”

“Litigation,” said author Gore Vidal, “takes the place of sex at middle-age.” Sexual behaviour, says Dr Debby, “begins to drop off in the late forties among women. For men, it’s in their early fifties.”

Sex health promotion aims at women. Progress, said Karl Marx, follows, exactly, the lead of women. A new HPV vaccine for men begins a new era, says Dr Debby.

“In America, sex is an obsession; in other parts of the world it's fact,” said actor Marlene Dietrich. “When sensationalised, by the Monica Lewinski affair or the television show, ‘Sex in the City, America openly talks about sex,” says Dr Debby. Talking about sex must be on going, not spurred only by events inflated in the media.

For all her seriousness, Dr Debby also writes books for children. “‘The I Love You More Book’ is for children, of all ages. I wrote it during college. I was too shy to show “Love You More” to anyone. Years later, I dusted it off, typed it, edited it and sent it to a publisher. Today, it’s in bookstores, everywhere.”

In this exclusive interview, Dr Debby talks about orgasms, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, promoting and studying sex and much more.

* * * * *

Grub Street (GS) You’re a sex researcher and teacher, a sex expert. How people react when they find out what you do?

Dr Debby Herbenick (DDH) Usually, they say, “That must be an interesting job” or “You must be fun at parties.” From there, people ask many questions. They like to talk about their own experiences. What they’re going through; a separation or divorce, celibacy. 

Mostly, I think, people want to gauge their own sex lives. Almost all questions come down to, “Am I normal? Is my sex life normal? Is what I do or want to do with my partner normal or okay?”

GS People you meet want to confide.

DDH Yes and this is great. I think I can make them more confident about their sex; assure them it is normal. I think everyone deserves to have somebody to talk to about sex; it’s not always going to be your parent or your partner, your clergy person or your physician. I’m happy to be the target of such questions and fulfil that need.

I have a friend who’s a sleep researcher. When I first met her, I said, “I’m going to do to you what everyone does to me.” I had many questions about napping and sleeping. It was ridiculous. Her insights were great. She helped me sleep much easier. Whom else could I ask about sleep?

GS Can you turn off the sex researcher in you.

DDH I can. I have a strangely good memory, but I don’t save, if you will, the personal experiences of other people. I didn’t do it purposely. Somehow, I learned to block out the professional side of my life, as necessary. Sometimes one friend or another reveals confidential information, but I forget what they said.

GS The doughnut maker can’t think about all the doughnuts she or he ever made.

DDH Yes, I deal with sex secrets every day. I can’t hold that information, all the time. I usually need to jog my memory. Someone will say, “Remember the advice you gave me a few years ago?” I’ll say, “I guess we talked about that.” They jog my memory. Then I can talk about it.

GS What attracted you to Indiana University, at Bloomington?

DDH The Kinsey Institute was my first interest. I came here, fourteen years ago, to work at the Institute and stayed for graduate school. After graduate school, I joined the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, in the School of Public Health at Indiana University, Bloomington. Today, I’m co-director of the Center.

GS You mentioned sexually transmitted infections, STIs. Do you work in that area?

DDH No, I don’t do much research on STIs. Some of my colleagues make a career of studying STIs; they do interesting work. One of our students, in the combined MD and PhD programme, did an interesting STI study, for her dissertation.

She looked at teenage males that received a vaccination for a genital infection, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

GS Isn’t that infection usually limited to young women.

DDH Usually, at least as far as public opinion goes, but that isn’t always the case. Public opinion does lead sexual health efforts, for HPV, which target women, mostly. The originally HPV vaccine was for women.

Only recently has HPV prevention targeted men. The vaccine for men is new. This doctoral student interviewed young men and their parents at clinics.

For her study, she wanted to understand more about how clinicians present HPV vaccine information and who received it. She wanted to learn about the beliefs, held by parents, about teenagers and sexuality as well as the vaccine. It’s a great study. 

Women have always felt birth control was their responsibility. Men agree, historically. I think it’s interesting that now we have something available for men to take. This might be the beginning of getting men to think and talk about sexual responsibility.

GS As I understand, too few young women get the HPV vaccine.

DDH Yes, I think it was needlessly controversial, at first. The media ran with reports that weren’t true; there wasn’t much fact checking. That’s not the case everywhere; in some countries, it has better uptake.

GS Is the rate of STIs increasing among seniors.

DDH STI data on elderly women and men is a tricky. The rates are increasing, yes, but maybe due to awareness. This is a group, which needs much attention and information about sexual health.

Fewer older women and men are having sex, for any number of reasons. In this sense, it’s not a high-risk group. An at risk group, for STIs, is men having sex with men, in Washington, DC, where the risk for HIV is high.

STI risk is as much about setting as it is about having sex. If elderly women and men are in assisted living centers there needs to be much talk about sex: it must be open, not hidden in dark corners or stairwells. If you’re an elderly woman that hasn’t had sex in a long time, you need to know about vaginal moisturiser and lubricants.

Condoms must be available to the elderly, as well. Men as well as women must know about condom use. Many 70-year-old men never used a condom: maybe they only ever had sex with their spouse, who passed away, recently.

There are different challenges for different groups. I remind women and men, always, that you can be older and sexual. Yet, sexually active seniors are rare.

Our national studies don’t show huge number of women and men, over sixty, having sex with a partner. For women, the big drop off begins in their forties. Among men, the big drop off is in their fifties. Again, many qualifiers attach to these findings, such as the percentage of men and women, over fifty, with partners.

GS What do you ask to get these results?

DH Usually, I ask, “Have you had vaginal sex in the past year.” Women and men under thirty-five, for example, are most likely to have partners; that’s the most active phase. These years are when men and women are most healthy; hormonally in good shape; want children.

Again, everyone is different. Someone, at age fifty-five, may leave a bad marriage, with no sex for a decade or more; he or she remarries and the sex skyrockets, in frequency and quality. There are many such cases.

GS The Center for Sexual Health Promotion (CSHP) has a prolific research agenda and you’re involved in much of it.

DDH Yes, I do much research related to sex. My first job is as a researcher, at Indiana University (IU). I’m a sexual help educator at the Kinsey Institute. I write books about sex. I write columns, occasionally, about sex, mostly, these days, for “Kinsey Confidential,” published by the Kinsey Institute.

I do creative projects around sexuality issues, the vagina and vulva. I teach human sexuality, at IU, sometimes.

GS Can we talk your research projects?

DDH Yes, my research includes female sexuality, orgasms, opinions of female genitalia and so forth. I research penis size and sexual experiences, love between men, how it affects sexual behaviour. Today, condom use, opinions of athletes as it affects their personal relations and sexual behaviour are of great interest to me.

GS You’re an expert on the vulva, vagina and penis.

DDH Yes and through the CSHP, I do surveys, mostly, asking women and men about their sex lives. Occasionally, I do focus groups. Researchers at CSHP do some laboratory research related to sexual behaviour or experience.

GS The CSHP does the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour (NSSHB).

DDH Yes, these days, the NSSHB is our focus. The national survey is huge and includes a random national sample of four thousand adults 18-to-90 years-of-age. CSHP did the 2009 NSSHB, but I wasn’t part of that study. Recently, we finished data gathering for the 2010 study. We’re combing through the data now.

GS What are the goals of the National Survey?

DDH We want to understand Americans, sexually. How many people have engaged in vaginal or anal intercourse and oral sex, recently? How views of love fit into sexual experiences.

We can look at different questions, such as predictors of orgasms or who might experience pain during sex. We try to link sexual experiences to other parts of life, such as gender, education, occupation and so forth. We ask questions about every part of life and sex we believe are important and related.

GS This is a random national sample of how many.

DDH In 2009, the sample size was about six thousand adult men and women. The current study is a bit smaller. The 2012 sample is about four thousand, with over-sampling of those who self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual (GLB).

As in any national study, we have a representative sample. If fourteen percent of Americans are 18-to-24 years-of-age, our sample has fourteen percent, give or take a small difference. What we have, for 2012, is a solid random national sample, plus over sampling, that is, more respondents in some areas of interest, such as LGBs.

GS I think 1990 was the first year CSHP conducted the National Survey.

DDH Yes, that was before “Sex in the City,” before many new different types of birth control. We had the pill in the early 1990s, but we didn’t have as many types of the pill. We didn’t have the choices there are today.

The 1990 study was also before the federally focused abstinence-until-marriage, sex-education programme. We felt that much had changed, quickly, in America. The time was right to update the 2009 study.

GS Has the federally funded abstinence programme ended.

DDH No, it’s withering. President Clinton gave the programme a huge boost in support. Funding and support gained under George W. Bush. I’m not sure how much support it had before Clinton.

The programme keeps some federal funding, today, but it shrunk, drastically. There’s funding of diverse alternatives for sex education. During the late Bush era, many states were declining such funding, as the evidence was iffy and the local effects were questionable.

GS Back to the NSSHB study.

SB Yes, in 2009, we conducted the first NSSHB, using a nationally representative survey, in twenty years. That’s why it was a huge event. There was so much media attention when the results released.

People always wonder about the sex lives of Americans. Good, recent data were lacking. The 1990 study was before the Internet. It was before the Lewinsky affair, before “Sex and the City.” It was before a great many events that led people to assume America was different, sexually.

GS Is this study the source of a favourite media word, “corgasm.”

DDH No, corgasm refers to orgasm caused by exercising. I look at corgasm in another study. We want to understand how exercise leads to orgasm, in some women and men, sometimes.

GS Where are you with the 2012 NSSHB data?

DDH The 2012 date is under analysis, now. At this point, we’re going through it, starting to write the first papers. The first two papers are about use and opinions of lubricants by women and men; those data are interesting. We expect another four papers, at least, soon.

Analyse derives from data. I can’t say overstate the quality of the 2012 sample. Due to changing patterns in sexuality and attitudes about sex, we over-sampled respondents that identified as LGB. In 1990 and 2009, not many respondents identified as LGB; the percentage was low.

In a sample of six thousand respondents, if, say, two or three percent identify as gay, we didn’t know about the representativeness of these respondents. Statistically, there isn’t much to say about, say, two hundred respondents in a sample of six thousand. Description is possible.

Some idea about sexuality and attitudes about sex among that two hundred is possible. Yet, a richer picture, as deserved and needed, wasn’t possible in 1990 and 2009. In 2012, that picture is readily available to us.

In 2012, we over sampled those identifying as LGB. We met the needs of the larger study and gathered enough data to analyse, fully, the smaller groups. A special part of the survey allows us to paint a more definitive picture of LGB sexual experiences. That’s exciting.

GS What can you reveal?

DDH Not too much, these first papers are mostly, as you might expect, descriptive and speculative. The next set of papers examines American sexual behaviour. These papers will produce much interest.

GS Is the long-standing belief one-in-ten Americans are LGB confirmed by your study.

DDH That’s not a true number. It’s a misunderstanding from the original research by Alfred Kinsey. The Kinsey team collected data in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Their focus was sexual behaviour.

That number, ten percent, was the count of men who reported any same-sex experience, oral, anal, frottage, say, over many years. Kinsey didn’t ask about self-identification. He tried to measure behaviour by asking, directly, how many times you do engage in one sex act or another, with whom and so forth. That’s the source of the ten percent myth.

As for identity, about four-to-six percent of Americans identify as LGB. Still, far more Americans engage in sex acts commonly associated with LGB. In 2009, we speculated as many as fifteen percent of American women and men had oral sex, with a same-sex partner, at least once.

GS Do these rates vary by gender.

DDH We see interesting differences, which I think, change over time. In much older research, more women identified as lesbian than do now; more women identify as bisexual today. Among men, a larger group identify as gay than bisexual.

Identities change. Identity is more than sexual behaviour; someone may enjoy what some might think is gay or lesbian sex behaviour, but not have a gay or lesbian personality. We grapple with the fact women and men change identity, sexual and non-sexual, over a lifetime and are prone to identify one or another, at different life stages.

GS Does pop culture influence your findings about sexual identity.

DDH Yes, pop culture affects how people, at large, classify sexual identification. Fifty years ago, a male couldn’t safely identify as gay. Before Stonewall, on 28 June 1969, identifying as gay could cost a male his job.

GS Until the 1970s, newspapers often published names and, sometimes, addresses, of men charged as found-ins at gay clubs.

DDH Yes, but I think, today, it remains more acceptable, in the USA, for women to make out with other women, at parties or bars, than for men to make out with other men. It doesn’t mean men don’t have such feelings. There’s much more support for women expressing such sexuality whether, in fact, they have those feelings or not.

Some women find other women attractive and act on it. Other women may feel pressured in some way to engage in such behaviour. I don’t think, for example, as many college men have the same pressure to make out with a man at a party as might women.

GS Are the mythical LUGs, lesbian until graduation, an example of the greater pressure on women, in this sense, than on me.

DDH I think so.

GS You also study penis size.

DDH Yes, data, on that subject, come from an older study, done in 2004 and 2005. The study was for custom fitting condoms.

This product was on the market, at the time; it had Federal Drug Agency (FDA) clearance. The condoms came in fifty-five sizes. To find the right size, a man measured his erect penis, length and circumference. We ended with penis size data from roughly sixteen hundred men.

The first publications dealt with comfort, pleasure and confidence, when wearing the custom-fit condom. Did an almost custom-sized condom make a difference? Was a standard-sized condom enough?

More recently, we looked at the data in other ways. There isn’t much research on sexual experiences and penis size. A topic of interest, now, is profiling penis size.

GS Does size count.

DDH I don’t believe it’s fair to decide penis size doesn’t count, ever. Most men fall in a narrow range of penis sizes. The range, in fact, is about an inch. The truth, it seems, is sex partners aren’t too concerned with penis size.

GS What is the size range?

DDH Depending on the study, it’s roughly 5.1 to 5.8 inches, in length. There’s some variation, though. Across most studies, the range is from 4.5 to 6.5 inches.

I hear complaints from men on the lower end of the size range. Some men, at the lower end of the range, avoid dating for fear of eventually revealing that part of their body. Some men, at the upper range, find partners, female or male, reluctant to accept their penis, vaginally or anally.

That’s true for oral sex, too. Some men, of whom many would be envious, tell us finding a partner for oral sex is not easy. Some women, with an average sized male partner, experience pain and wish for a far smaller partner.

GS Mindfulness, skilfully attending to the moment, during sex, is a popular topic these days. 

DDH There are a few studies of mindfulness, even though some scientific research exists. I wrote about it in “Definitely Because it Feels Good” and “Sex Made Easy too.” I think there is much value in borrowing mindfulness, from other traditions, such as Buddhism, for sexual health.

The research, such as it is, on mindfulness, deals with attention-based self-regulation. The findings suggest mindfulness heightens sexual arousal for women. There are a several techniques, I some when I teach. These techniques help learning about the positive effects of mindfulness.

I bring strawberries or grape to class. I ask everyone to take either two strawberries or two grapes. One is to eat; the other is for a mindfulness exercise.

For the exercise, students eat the first berry; with the second one, each student rolls his or her tongue along the fruit. They put it in their mouth; roll it to each cheek and the top of their mouth. I want them to sense, fully, the texture of the fruit skin before chewing to taste it.

Afterward, we talk about how the two different berries or grapes tasted. Of course, people think the second one tastes a lot better. It’s the same fruit, a grape, say, but the second one feels different because of mindfulness.

That’s something you can do in all areas of your life. It’s easy to practice when you eat. There are other variations, too.

In some Buddhists traditions, they do walking meditations. You can practice this form of mindfulness when you walk. Most of us don’t feel our feet on the ground. If you do a walking meditation, you focus on how your feet feel when they touch the ground. You focus on how it smells outside. How the wind feels on your face and so forth.

When you’re mindful, everything feels different. It’s often a better walk. The sensory experience is much deeper.

You can take those same lessons to sex by noticing scent of a body or hair. When you notice your partner, sensuously, our research shows you also notice your physical experience more. Sex is thus more pleasurable, as you tap into your arousal more and more.

GS Is this edging on tantric sex.

DDH Yes, in some ways I think both traditions, yoga and tantric, borrow from traditions of mindfulness, connections, being present and co-present. I think the influence of tantric traditions helps focus on various levels of eye gazing. Some of the videos I’ve seen probably take it a little bit further than most comfort zones.

For many women and men, the idea of looking at each other, during sex, is revolutionary. Even if they could try for one or two seconds, they’d notice the difference in intensity. It would be a change for some people.

Apply mindfulness to life, not only sex. I borrow the tradition for my work. It’s something enjoyed by my students; watching them adapt it to own lives, then talking about how it’s made a part of life better for them.

GS You wrote about praying mantises.

DDH Yes, I was roaming, online, when I stumbled on some interesting material about praying mantises. I don’t study animals. Yet, I love learning about animals, their genitals, mating behaviours and courtship.

GS You made the point female praying mantises don’t always eat or kill their mates.

DDH Yes, we have many ideas about animals that are wrong, mostly because of a lack of good research. I think it’s interesting and fun to find out about animal sexuality. The other day, I found an article about alligator penises.

GS There’s research on alligator genitals.

DHH Yes, no one is sure how the alligator penis works. It doesn’t swell with blood, as does the human penis; nor is there a muscle pulling it erect. Seems the alligator penis is constantly erect, but not constantly available. The alligator pushes out the penis, as needed.

The point is there’s much untapped information. Some people may wonder why anyone needs to know about animal genital. The more that’s known, about any part of sexuality, non-human animal or human, the greater our ability to understand and, probably, help when a problem occurs.

GS You have a blog, MySexProfessor.com.

DDH Yes, in 2007, I was writing columns for several publications. I started the blog to improve contact with my readers. It seemed most useful to centralise my contact, make it more direct. I wanted to give all my readers a voice in the same place.

At first, I blogged about sexual health and behaviour as well as any topic readers wanted to discuss. In time, I decided to narrow the focus to sexual concerns and make the blog less personal. I added other bloggers to help.

The blog offers information and advice on sexual health, as does the Center for Sexual Health Promotion (CSHP). This extends my mentoring of graduate and some undergraduate students. The blog also allows me to translate some obtuse scholarship into everyday English for the benefit of the public.

GS Are you’re the editor. Does all blog content go through you?

DDH Not much any more, I’m more of the founding editor. At this point, Kate McCombs is the managing editor. The content goes through her.

I poke around a great deal; obviously, I love reading the blog. When I picked writers, I wanted them from different areas, with different views. I wanted writers I felt other people could learn from and I could learn from, too.

Dr Jeana Jorgenson, for example, has a PhD in folklore. She has a different perspective than do I on sexuality because of her training and scholarship. I find her work interesting.

Others come from therapy. Some focus on HIV. Some focus on gender and transgender. I like reading the blog, but I don’t have my hand in it as I once did.

GS How long have you been at Indiana University (IU)?

DDH I’ve been at IU for fourteen years, teaching for a decade.

GS What courses do you enjoy teaching, most.

DDH Human sexuality, by far, is my favourite class to teach. It’s an undergraduate course, an elective for most students. Those who enrol want to take it.

Given the age of students in my human sexuality course, they’re in the thick of figuring out their sexuality. Do they want to have sex or not? The kinds of sex they want to have. The relations they want. How they can enjoy safe sex and so forth. I like being a part of their lives.

GS Have the students changed, much, in the past decade.

DDH Student concerns, from a decade ago, aren’t much different from today. Do they want to have sex? Why can’t I have an orgasm? How do I give my girlfriend an orgasm? How do I last longer in bed?

A few new bumps come and go, such as sexting. The ubiquity of cell phones inevitably led to sending sexually direct text messages or photographs. Ten years ago, this concern didn’t exist.

GS Do you get questions about Internet pornography.

DDH The accessibility of pornography leads to many questions from students. At one point, there was a noticeable uptake in the number of questions about female ejaculation. For a while, this was a popular form of pornography, but not as much, any more, gauged by the questions I get.

GS Do students ask about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E L James.

DDH Yes, last time I taught human sexuality, the book led to many questions about bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). In fall 2012, I guested on “Katie,” hosted by Katie Couric, to talk about “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It fascinated me that we could talk about BDSM on a mainstream, daytime talk show. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is one of many blips that occur, over the years.

GS Years earlier, you broke mainstream daytime television ground on the “Tyra Banks Show.”

DDH Yes, I guested on her show in 2007. We talked a great deal about vulvas and vaginas. Many thought that topic was taboo for daytime television, at the time.

In 2007, it was a big deal to have a vulva puppet on a television show. Before Banks, the puppet appeared, with me, on a few cable shows. Each time, I presented delicately, nothing harsh.

I don’t think anything I did on any television show was especially or beyond the fringe. The producers wanted to do a show about the vulva and vagina. They wanted to educate their audience, which was mostly women, about those body parts and related health issues.

GS Did the producers tiptoe around the topic, when they approached you.

DDH Well, in a way, when they asked me to do these television shows, the producers thought the topic might put them in a difficult position. We decided a drawing or diagram wouldn’t work; certain photographs were unacceptable, too. Even the material, hanging on the office walls of gynaecologists, doesn’t show the vulva; usually it’s the vaginal canal going to the uterus.

I explained the idea of the vulva puppet, I use in class. This caught their attention. Now, there was little concern about the topic. We slipped by the taboo. I simply did what I do in class.

GS Where did the idea for the puppet originate?

DDH At the time, I was co-teaching human sexuality with a seasoned instructor; I learned a great deal from her. She presented, publicly, to groups of all ages, which I shadowed. Her presentations involved diagrams and photographs. 

When she showed male genitals, there was some snickering, but never a problem. When she showed female genitals, many people, many women, turned away or averted their gaze. Seemingly, it’s always that way.

There are greater taboos around female bodies. Even in a locker room, most women are not seeing the vulva. They’re seeing the pubic mound, the mons pubis area, unlike the genitals of men, which are clearly visible.

This was the experience of my more experienced colleague. The idea for a puppet arose from my contact with that more seasoned instructor.

I used the vulva puppet as often as possible. It was a great icebreaker for classes and television shows. What a great way to learn.

When I guested on the “Tyra Banks Show,” the topic was health. This involved anatomy and the puppet was a hit. Still, the producers asked me, directly, not to talk about sexual behaviour. They felt they were bold enough by allowing us to talk about the vulva and vagina.

I wished I could have talked, a bit, about sexual behaviour on Banks. Still, I was grateful for the chance to spread a little information about the vulva and vagina. That’s an area of interest in education and research for me.

GS Was there much fallout from your appearance on the Banks show.

DDH What surprised me was how quickly my appearance on Banks went viral. Thanks to Perez Hilton, the Hollywood gossip blogger, I had over a million YouTube views. My appearance ran on “The Soup,” too.

Guesting on the “Tyra Banks Show” created much talk, for which I was grateful. I was on the show only briefly. Yet, it opened a great many doors, for a great many people, mostly women, to talk about their bodies.

I guested on other television shows where there was much hesitancy when talking about sex. Couric and Banks could talk about sexuality in more normal, open ways. I suspect Couric and Banks are leading the way for more open talk about sexuality on daytime television; I hope so.

GS Do you foresee a time when talk about human sexuality will be more frank.

DDH In some ways, we talk more about sex, in public, on television, today, than ever before. In other ways not, I think Americans are more open about sex when it’s dramatic, such as the Monica Lewinski incident. This is not always helpful.

In truth, I don’t find much helpful conversation. There’s more talk about the vulva and vagina, but it’s largely descriptive. During the 2012 US Presidential election, transvaginal ultrasounds became a topic of much concern, but it wasn’t especially helpful. There was little talk of vaginal health or well-being, only the politics of a medical technique.

There was no talk of the vulva. No one mentioned health information or sexuality issues. Yes, some issues and concerns received needed attention, but not enough.

GS Has “Fifty Shades of Grey” had any effect.

DDH The media viewed “Fifty Shades” as extraordinary. Some coverage was good. Mostly, it was difficult to find solid, worthwhile information in media coverage, which didn’t sensationalise the book.

GS Sex toys don’t get much media coverage.

DDH Five, six, seven years ago, it was difficult to get magazines to publish articles about sex toys. I thought we needed to talk about such toys because many people were using them. People, I thought, should know how to use toys in healthy and safe ways. Many media won’t touch the topic.

In the past three years, some media came around, a bit. “What’s the best toy to choose” is getting some attention, but there’s a little worthwhile information expressed in the simplistic coverage. I think it’s getting the ball rolling. Improving in quality may follow closely behind.

Some media cover issues such as “Clean your toys,” “Don’t share them with a partner, if you don’t know anything about their history.” Still, there isn’t much detail. Reporters or talking heads are only learning about the topic. I think we’re a long way from good, helpful information about sexuality, but road is widening and growing longer.

GS In a way, then, sex toys are gaining in acceptability.

DDH Maybe, this is what I think I’m seeing. I sense there is a lot more discussion of sex toys. You can say, “Vibrator,” in movies and on television shows more, today, than five years ago.

GS Is this a step forward or an alternative form of sensationalisation.

DHH My hope is that it’s step forward. I think there’s an inconsistency between my world and the rest of the world. In my world saying, “Vibrator,” is okay, but in the film and media world, it may be another ploy to attract attention to a movie, article or television show, which has little worthwhile content.

GS That’s a lovely baby step for some media to make.

DHH Yes, but there’s so much more we need to say about vibrators, as an example of sex toys. The use of vibrators, for example, needs discussion; partners need to talk about using this toy, when, how and why. I think many conversations, at different level, are necessary.

GS What’s the conversation you think everyone should have?

DDH If a sex toy threatens one partner, say, how does the couple move forward? What does that mean for the other partner? Why do you use sex toys?

I think it’s good to talk about the quality sex toys, but that has little to do with popularity. Sometimes, the public relations arm of a company that makes sex toys, drives media content and, eventually, public discussion. Every day, I receive e-mails from these companies, promoting one or another sex toy. 

Ten times a week, a reporter or public relations hack asks me for an expert comment. The promotional effort drives media interest. This makes it easier for the media gloss over serious content, once the headline catches reader or viewer attention.

This is frustrating. Heavily promoted products don’t always deserve the attention. Most attention to goes to high-profit items the maker wants to sell, as widely as possible. Sometimes, though, the heavily promoted product is also a good product.

I tell journalists I don’t want to talk about a particular product. The say, “This is the one my editor wants me to write about.” I may not know enough about the product. I may not like the product. Still, they want a comment, without care or concern for the facts.

Identifying and encouraging talk about sex toys is helpful. Some media content is on mark, suggesting ways to improve discussion between partners and so forth. The problem is there’s more to it than “Why do you want to use a sex toy.”

Toys are fun for many people, but how do you make those choices on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. When do you decide to use a vibrator and how? There’s no research on sex toy use during pregnancy, for example; occasionally, there’s an implied fact or suggestion, but it's never enough.

Physicians find this concern confusing, too. One might say, “If I tell my patients it is safe to have intercourse during pregnancy, which it is for most women, is it safe to use vibrators and other sex toys.” Another physician might say, “I’ve never seen a study on vibration near a uterus; I would never recommend that. I would tell my patients not to do it.”

Such studies, of pregnant women, wouldn’t pass, ethically. If enough pregnant women started talking about use of sex toys, we’d at least have anecdotal evidence. With such evidence, it might be possible to do devise an ethical formal study.

The media could help a great deal by doing responsible stories on pregnancy and sex toys. From there we could do formal studies. Then there’d be good, reliable evidence, for physicians and sex health workers, on which to basis advice.

GS Talk about sex toys and pregnancy exists on some websites, say, babycenter.com.

DDH Yes, but it’s not reliable. Who talks about this topic? Who doesn’t or won’t? 

GS Sure, blind comments could even be from men.

DDH In some ways, it goes back to my early research on sex and pregnancy. There wasn’t much research on that topic until I began. It was a taboo subject. Now that has changed, thankfully.

Studies reveal many pregnant women and their partners are having sex. It took a long time fully document this fact. Now, armed with anecdotal evidence, we can move forward.

There are only a handful of studies looking at positions and pregnancy. For so long, women avoided certain positions late in pregnancy; they heard a rumour about one position or another and their response was avoidance. Only in the last twenty or so years has the taboo eased; positional research may be possible, now.

Even physicians, who advise women, buy into the rumours. Today, there is research about what physicians should tell patients about sex and sex positions. This is a vast improvement.

Most physicians are in a bind. He or she hasn’t had a course in sexuality and most communities don’t have public sex education programmes. Whom do most people seek out when they have a question about sex: a physician?

GS It seems circular.

DDH In some ways, yes, and this concerns me a great deal. Often, I’m on panel and the audience is mostly physicians. Someone asks a question about sex.

Other physicians offer wildly different solutions. If you ask them to point to a study, which supports their solution, silence follows. Often, physicians don’t know about researched based evidence; often, they rely on rumour, customs or folkways.

GS In your book, “Sex Made Easy,” you discussed pet ownership and sex.

DDH Yes, we see pets as integral parts of our families, often, much as a child. I had a friend who spent several nights away from home, with her lover. When she came home, her cats had torn the toilet paper to shreds, for example.

I suggested she stay at her home, with her lover, more often. She said, “That’s hard, too, because I can’t have sex in front of the cats. I shut them out of the bedroom.”

I said, “Why can’t you have sex in front of them?”

She said, “They’re like my babies.”

She didn’t want the cats to watch her. When she shut them out of the bedroom, they scratched at the door and cried. Her pets disrupted her sex life, which improved when she moved it out of her house, into the home of her lover. This isn’t an unusual circumstance.

My friend spiked my curiosity. I surveyed two thousand pet owners to find out how pets affected romance and sex. The study showed some pet owners adjusted, as if the pet was a baby.

It’s common for the pet in the same bed as the owner. This means little or no sex, not only for the first few months, but also for the life of the pet, up to twenty years or more, sometimes. Human babies move into their own room after eight to twelve months.

GS Pets and sex are interesting.

DHH Sure, do you keep the pet in your bed. Do you kick it out then you have sex? Do you allow them to stay in your bedroom?

Some dogs bark when their owners kiss or hug. Some people tell stories of cats swiping at the scrotum of male partners. It was amusing, but serious, nonetheless.

Masturbation was a whole other ball game. Many people were comfortable having a pet in the room while having sex with a partner. While masturbating, far more people shut the pet out of the room.

I’m not sure how some people make this distinction. Is that there’s another being present? Do they sense the pet, especially cats, might take interest in sex toys and might break a paw on a vibrator?

It’s an interesting study. I had fun gathering the data. There’s much more to come on this topic.

GS You mentioned generational differences with masturbation.

DDH There are always group differences in sexual behaviour and health; generations are one group. An 80-year-old grew up in a different world than did a 20-year-old, today. These differences are sometimes hard to study, but do exist.

If you interview the same people at different points in their lives, it’s possible to find some insight to the effects of life. It’s easy to underestimate how life events change sexual behaviour. Attitudes about sex, even among the most incredibly open-minded, educated and knowledgeable-about-sex women and men, can and do change.

Maybe she or he develops a carpal tunnel injury, which makes it painful to masturbate. Maybe she or he grieves the loss of a loved one. Maybe there’s too much stress in her or his life. Maybe there’s illness. There are so many maybes to consider.

I always want to get as much life event information from respondents as I can. Often, it reveals otherwise hidden reasons for doing or not doing something. Life events are influential.

Reasons for doing or not doing some form of sex vary from person to person and over time. I ask questions, such as, “Have you had vaginal sex in the past year,” which calls for a yes or no answer. I also ask open-ended questions, such as, “Why have you not had vaginal sex in the past year.”

The open-ended questions allow for information not obtainable from yes or no questions. For example, “My partner no longer sees me as sexual” or “I’m always too stressed-out from my job to have sex.” It’s nearly impossible for me to anticipate all the specific answers I get to open-ended questions. These data are an outstanding source of insight.

GS Do you recruit respondents and participants for your studies, locally? 

DDH We do work with local groups. We have in the past. We continue to work locally.

Whenever we have a new idea, we figure out the best way to go about gathering data. If you’re looking at something that may not happen often, such as exercise-induced orgasm, the best way to go about gathering data is to cast a net over the web. Other research topics might call for a more specific or confidential way to gather data.

For the corgasm research, we need a first group of about one hundred women to tell us about their experiences. Those anecdotes provided enough clues to move on to a larger, more formal study. Once we published the early findings, other people, women and men, voluntarily told us about the corgasms they experienced.

Now that we have a better sense of corgasms, we do laboratory research, locally. It always depends on the topic. I think funding is the principal limit we face. Most of the time, we’re adequately funded, but never in excess. 

I would love to do the pregnancy and vibrator study, one day. We’re so over-booked on research, though, it’s not among the top five studies I have in mind. If somebody else does the study, that’s great because it might help answer our questions. It doesn’t have to be me.

GS How might someone find out about your studies, say, to volunteer as a participant?

DH Unless one of the major media, say, CNN, noticed a study we’re doing, it’s unlikely anyone would find out. Also, it depends on the needs of the study. Often, representative samples from a population are necessary; volunteers would throw off the sample. We usually work with a polling company that gathers the data we need.

Some studies don’t call for a representative sample, say, the pilot study on exercise-induced orgasm. What we needed for such studies are stories about experiences. Thus, sometimes self-selection bias is not a concern because we need stories about bodies.

Similarly, a study of opinions of vibrators isn’t for Internet users. The data, I strongly suspect, would look different if I recruited respondents from a couponing website or from a site targeting women and men interested in BDSM. We exercise much caution when recruiting respondents for studies. Hit or miss, accept whatever we can get is not good respondent recruitment practice.

Researchers must satisfy themselves: is data for their study trustworthy. Only then, can they offer the results, publicly, with confidence. Besides, if the results aren’t trustworthy, we may go off in the wrong direction on the next study. Any one study is not the end, but only a point on an endless journey.

This is a concern for all research, not only sex studies. Every time I see survey results, in a magazine, say, I think, “Who are the respondents? What are their biases?” Everyone should dig deep; question the techniques, before deciding if study results are trustworthy.

GS You mentioned corgasm earlier.

DDH Yes, corgasm is an orgasm caused by exercising. We did that study two years ago. It was exploratory. It was the first study, on the topic, and found clues to warrant research that is more formal.

DDH You hear about corgasms in locker rooms.

DDH It’s not studied. The pilot study CSHP conducted, on-line, asked women if they ever had an orgasm while exercising, such as doing sit-ups or biking. If they answer yes, we asked questions that elicited much more detail.

They told us stories about how corgasms happened. What they were doing, what form of exercise, when they had a corgasm. Was it accidental or intentional? What happened in their bodies?

We wanted all the details they recalled. The details were hints to what we might study, on a larger scale, in the future. As I said, this was a pilot study, on-line, intended to guide us to more research.

Several women reported having orgasms while exercising. Others said they hadn’t reached orgasm, but felt much sexual pleasure while exercising. Obviously, for some women, corgasms were a fact of exercising.

When the study results published, the media went on a feeding frenzy. The frenzy was on par with the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour (NSSHB), in 2009. I couldn’t believe the response from journalists in several countries, speaking various languages.

One of the great findings, a fall out, in a good way, was voluntary information from men. We asked for comments from women only. We didn’t know corgasm happened to men. We hadn’t seen reports of it happening in men.

Many men reached out to us, as did many more women. We heard from roughly seventy men, in five or six countries. They said, “This happens to me too and here is how it happens.”

Reports from men were similar. Mostly the same exercises, such as squats, resulted in a corgasm. Women reported corgasms occurred during a wider range of exercises than did men. Such differences are the case for men and women in most parts of life.

Corgasms, in a way, are similar to masturbation. Men first masturbate and have an orgasm within a year or two of puberty. Women start masturbating or have a first orgasm at any age, even seventy.

To some extent, how you exercise, doing sit-ups, biking and so forth, plays a role. Corgasms seem more frequent when someone is doing core-demanding exercises, such as dead lifts or squats, which are a little different for men than for women. Women have a weaker core and many more exercises are thus core-demanding than is the case for males.

Men report corgasms as young as seven-to-twelve years old, always related to a climbing exercise. Friction is not the cause. The cause seems the demand on the core.

Kinesiologists point to the different core strength of women and men. A typical sit-up is not as core-demanding exercise for men as women, whereas men find climbing a pole demanding. Women often find sit-ups demanding.

Most females, as one of my colleagues pointed out, cannot do a simple pull up, a chin up, without training or unless she happens to be naturally strong. Men do pull-ups easily. Again, this related to core strength.

GS Does a weaker core lead to more corgasms.

DDH I don’t know. That’s one of our questions. I know some women find, as they strengthen their core, corgasms become easier to experience.

Some respondents, in our study, said they had to increase exercising, say, from thirty to two hundred sit-ups, every day, to continue having corgasms. I can’t explain this fact, yet. We don’t know enough about corgasms, yet.

GS Were corgasms intentional or accidental?

DDH There’s a mix. Some men and women have it happen. Others make it happen; they figure out how and can control it.

A few seem unable to control corgasms. They avoid a particular exercise, say, sit-ups, if they don’t want it to happen. Alternatively, it’s a pleasant surprise if they have a corgasm.

GS Is it always a result of friction-based exercise, say, lifting the knees?

DDH I don’t know if friction is necessarily part of a corgasm, sometimes, perhaps. We’re hoping to find out more in the next stage of the research. To me, biking corgasms aren’t dominate-muscle focused; the friction of genitals and the seat is a more likely reason.

At this point, I’m only sure corgasms occur. The source may be friction, core-exercises, mental or something else. Different corgasms may occur for different reasons.

For the next phase, of our research, we move into much more detail. I’m working with colleagues in Kinesiology. They study biomechanics and muscle movements. They will help lead us to a fuller understanding of corgasms.

A side effect of this study involves contacts with faculty and researchers at other universities, especially in other countries. They find corgasms intriguing. These contacts are mostly in other disciplines, so the perspective widens when different researchers look at corgasms from different angles; this leads to the fullest understanding.

GS Do you have any sense about the frequency of corgasms?

DDH No, we haven’t moved that far, either. We expect a small number to have corgasms in a regular, predictable way. Others may have a corgasm occasionally, once or never.

Many respondents reported only one corgasm, ever. Others report frequent corgasms. Still, I would guess about ten percent of the population, women and men, have had at least one corgasm.

I think, though, sex isn’t necessarily part of corgasms. Sexual excitement grabs the women and men, but they don’t report fantasising, say. Nor is there a partner involved. They don’t report touching their genitals or anyone else. We need to know more. 

GS When do you expect to publish more on corgasms? 

DDH Scholarship is a slow grind. Although web-based journals hasten publishing, it can still take up to a year. We must also wait for comments from other researchers on our latest findings before moving forward.

We’re moving, slowly, into the next phase of corgasm research. The comments, so far, are informative. To this day, more than a year after the first results published, I get e-mails about the study.

Every little bit helps. For an area that’s not studied, every e-mail possibly contains a new clue. Exploratory research is about clues.

Sometimes, e-mails are from men and women with some training in physiology or anatomy. Obviously, their information is most helpful, as they can provide more specific information than can members of the public. It helps shape our current and future thinking, but we’re not dependent on it.

GS Does the anecdotal evidence find its way into your studies.

DDH Occasionally, yes. We never include anyone’s identity, of course. In fact, we strip names and addresses from the e-mails we receive; gender and age, if we know this information, are the only identifier for the e-mails.

Eventually, we’ll publish a paper on what men experience when having a corgasm, an exercise-induced orgasm.

GS You deal with both the clinical and emotive sides of sex.

DDH Yes, I think I do both. I think there are times when I specifically focus on the physical or emotional sides. These are two sides of the same coin and aren’t effectively separate

GS Is it possible for sex as purely emotional or purely physical experience.

DDH Yes, different people have different experiences. One of the most striking results for me, teaching human sexuality, is hearing about the sexual lives of men. I grew up, as do most young women, burdened with many stereotypes about men.

My girlfriends and I always talked about men and sex, but from the perspective of an outsider. When I started teaching human sexuality, men would write in their papers about their experiences, their sex lives. What I found were more likenesses than differences between women and men.

There are key differences between males and females, sexually. Yet, many men, in my classes, write about the start of their sex lives, when they were trying to hookup. It didn’t necessarily matter with whom they had sex as long as they had sex with a partner.

This isn’t true for all men, but for many men. They thought it great fun and had a good time. Then they found a special person and fell in love.

Once that happened, once they fell in love, most reported they couldn’t go back to their old ways: having sex with anyone. It doesn’t mean they never do; some do, successfully. Now, when they return to the old ways, they’re looking to fall in love, again.

Falling in love made sex so much better. I find it interesting. I find it under explored, especially among men.

Women offer similar comments, although we usually expect it more from men. The benefits of falling in love often surprises men; they don’t share those feelings with male friends, not often anyway. They write about it in school essays, which offer a more personal, confidential release. 

A few men have said, “If you don’t use my name, you can quote from my paper, in class. I want the girls to know men have these feelings too.” This interests me.

These men, of course, are young, university students. It’s different from a man married to the same woman for twenty or thirty years, even five years. The older man might say, “Sometimes it’s fun to have sex that’s a little physical.”

That’s the complexity of human sexuality. We interview women in longer-term arrangements, say more than five years. They talk about the beauty and loving nature of their sex lives. Sometimes they add, “I think about forms of sex I had, in the past, and wish I could do this or that, again.”

GS The longer the marriage, say, the wilder the post-break up rampage.

DDH Right, you miss what you haven’t had or haven’t had enough of for a long time. Again, I think we have different sexual and emotional needs at different times.

GS Do you believe Monica Lewinski or “Sex in the City” act as benchmarks in sexual awareness or health, in America.

DDH “Sex and the City was a huge benchmark. I think “Fifty Shades of Grey” may turn out a benchmark in sexual health. I suspect the new show, “Girls,” on HBO may well be a benchmark, too.

I love “Girls.” I encourage my students to watch it. Not everyone likes it, of course.

Today, many young women, in their twenties or thirties, see themselves on screen, in movies or television show, in a way their mothers did not. I do.

On “Sex in the City,” the characters were much older than was I. I thus identified with some parts and not others. The characters lived a different life than did my friends and I. We were in college. Samantha and her friends were living large in New York City.

Media access has expanded dramatically in the past fifteen years. Today, you can choose to watch a wide range of shows when and where you want. Watch on an iPad, smartphone, Internet or television.

Increasingly, programmes appeal to narrower interests. Once, all shows had wide appeal, there was something, in the show, for everyone. Now, narrowcasting replaces broadcasting.

Sexual depictions will surely narrow, too, to more fully and tellingly fit the target audience. Shows aimed at twenty-something singles will focus on some issues. Shows aimed at late middle-agers will depict sexual health in a different way.

GS “Sex in the City” was okay, years ago, now it’s irritating.

DDH I share your view. “Sex and the City” was funny and entertaining. Some parts, sometimes, were educational, even for women. On one show, the Samantha character talked about the terrible taste of one of her boyfriend’s semen.

I think it was freeing, at the time, for many women to talk with their girlfriends about it; “Yes, some people don’t taste good. What do you do about that?” I think there were parts of the show that opened conversations for women.

Looking back now, being much older, I see how I was at a much different developmental stage, when I watched it. I watch it now and understand how much I’ve grown. What I needed when I was younger and what I need now is much different. The show doesn’t work for me now.

GS You wrote a book for children.

DDH Yes, "The I Love You More Book" is for children, of all ages, as the publisher describes it. Rosalie Orlando Hatch drew the pictures in the book. It is a book about love, in many ways for adults, but also for kids.

The story is about a bull and butterfly. They are madly in love, with each other. They play a game some people play: who loves the other more?

Some parents play the game with their children. Some partners play it, with each other. It’s a playful game about love.

I wrote, “The I Love You More Book,” when I was in college. I never showed the manuscript to anyone. I hid it in a box, in my basement.

Then one of my favourite artists, Brian Andreas, started a publishing house. He was looking for submissions. I found the manuscript in my basement, typed it up, edited it and thought, “Let me give it a shot. I’ll send it to Andreas.”

After a few months, he decided to publish the book. It was fun to do. Now, I always tell my students to save what they create, even if they don’t have the guts, right now, to do something with it. One day, they might.

I wrote another book for children. Again, I don’t have the nerve to show it to anyone, yet. At some point, I might send the manuscript to a publisher.

I write a great deal, mostly poems and stories. Some of my writing will always stay mine. Some of it I might send to a publisher, one day.

My poetry is fun. There’s no teenage angst. It’s not dramatic. I often write a fun poem for someone as a Christmas present. I write poetry mostly for friends and partners.

GS You created the Blooming Sex Salon.

DDH Yes, I started a monthly series, The Bloomington Sex Salon; it’s the first one, anywhere, as far as I know. I’m trying to make sex more open and normal for people. I’m trying to figure out a more active way to get messages about sex and bodies into normal spaces.

I invite experts to lead each session. The experts include sex researchers, educators, advocates and others with related expertise, to go to a community space. The first Salon was in the back room of The Bishop, a local bar, in Bloomington, that’s heavily involved in the community.

For the first half hour, I ask the expert about his or her studies and knowledge. How she or he found their way into sex-related research? What he or she does? What she or he found? What’s interesting?

For the second half hour, I open it up to an audience Q&A. This is a way to get people talking about sex. It’s creating good conversations about sex, in a sympathetic setting.

The first Salon was on the last Sunday in March 2013. The plan is to do Salon a month. The settings will change, from month to month.

Dr Bryant Paul led the first Salon. He’s an Associate Professor, in Telecommunications, at Indiana University. He studies the effects of sexually explicit media, such as pornography.

Dr Paul is engaging, accessible and fun. He talked about his research in a normal way so ordinary women and men understood, not only those trapped or isolated in the ivory tower. This is why I asked him to be the first Salon expert. He’s the best example of my goals for the monthly meetings.

My idea for the Bloomington Sex Salon was for everyone, expert and lay person, to sit around and talk about sex. Dr Paul studies topics I think many people have questions about, say, porn or sex addiction. People wonder if their partner will find them less attractive, if the partner watches porn. Who watches porn or certain types of porn and so forth?

What is interesting about this field, sex research, is sometimes lay people think we don’t know much about sex. This is why I wrote, “Sex Made Easy.” I found, whether it was my students, friends, friends of friends or people I met at parties, everyone had many questions about sex that we already answered.

The lack of awareness about what we know about sex underscores that researchers and experts have not effectively delivered needed information to the public. In, “Sex Made Easy,” I answered common questions to help people make choices. You can find out what you can fix, at home, by yourself, if you had a sex toy, some lubricant or a better conversation. 

Some problems call for a physician. If so, what medical speciality do you need? Do you need therapy? Again, what area of therapeutic speciality do you need? How do you find the right physician or therapist?

Some sexual problems, lack of orgasm, say, are fixable or often easier to fix. I have a high success rate, in my class, when I educate women, in certain ways, to learn to have an orgasm. Many sexual problems don’t call for medical or therapeutic intervention.

Other sexual concerns, such as delayed ejaculation, therapists confide are trickier to resolve on your own. In such cases, it’s advisable to seek medical or therapeutic intervention. At the Salons, experts and lay people openly talk about these and other issues related to sex.

GS The Salon seems a unique idea.

DDH I think so. I wanted to do it for many months. Finally, I decided it would happen. It’s a great success.

The Bishop has been encouraging; everyone has been encouraging. Our graduate students are pitching in as volunteers. So far, attendance has been great.

GS Bloomington is a liberal city, especially given its location in the heart of the American Mid-west.

DDH It is. I didn’t know much about Indiana before coming out here to work at the Kinsey Institute. I stayed at Indiana University, for graduate school.

I’m from Miami, Florida. I lived outside of Washington, DC, for a while. I spent much time Maine, too, as a child; Maine has a much different feel then does DC or Miami, a different outlook. I was East Coast, all the way

I didn’t know much about the Midwest. Bloomington is a wonderful town. It’s progressive. Many interesting people live in Bloomington.

GS It’s an island of liberal sanity. 

DDH It is. Bloomington is a college town. Thus, there are many people deeply passionate and interested about whatever it is they study. I think that adds a lot to the richness of the town, too.

GS The Bloomington Tourist Board reports the town is the third gayest place in America.

DDH I don’t know about how Bloomington rates for gay population, but the town is friendly toward gays, lesbians and bisexuals. This doesn’t mean we don’t have room to grow. We do. In general, many people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender find Bloomington a welcoming place to live and work.

GS Dr Debby, we asked for an hour and you gave us more than two. Thanks so much.


George Feuerstein (1998), “Tantra: the path to ecstasy,” published by Shambhala.

Dr. Shauna Shapiro and Chris White (2014) “Discipline: A Mindful Guide to a Raising Respectful, Responsible and Cooperative Child,” New Harbinger Publication.

Dr. Shauna Shapiro and Dr. Linda Carlson (2009), “The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions,” published by the American Psychological Association.


Click here for a list of all Grub Street Interviews

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Thanks to Corina Kellam.

dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.

More by dr george pollard:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.