Category Archives: Debra Herbenick

Hot Air

The World Is Wrong

I have refrained thus far from pontificating on the World Cup, the big shindig down in Brazil that the entire universe is watching.

Soccer probably is more boring and interminable than the existential nothingness of death. I use the qualifier probably only because I imagine death to be boring and interminable, considering I haven’t died yet and I can’t speak authoritatively on its attributes, but I know soccer is boring and interminable.

So give me credit: I didn’t want to kill anybody’s buzz. Bloomington has its own Viewtopia, a non-stop match-watching party on the grounds of the Tyler & Dave Ferguson Estate. Everybody’s cheering for this country and that one as if there’s yet another World War going on. To give you an idea of how profound my loathing is for the sport, if you put a gun to my head and tell me I have a choice between experiencing the horrors of another World War or those of watching the various World Cup matches, I’d say, “Do me a favor and pull the trigger, wouldja?”

Lazy Dog

Even Dogs Have Enough Sense To Be Bored By Soccer

Now, you may bleat, “But Big Mike, it’s the most popular sport in the entire world!” To which I’d reply, “So? Celine Dion, Garth Brooks, and Taylor Swift are among the top selling recording artists of all time — in the world.”

Clearly, the world’s opinion blows.

Anyway, I can’t hold back any longer. I have to call out the madness (albeit spectacularly unexciting madness) that is this whole World Cup thing. The USA advanced in the tourney by losing yesterday.

Again, they lost.

They didn’t win.

The other team outscored them.

They didn’t score any goals (not that that’s terribly unusual in soccer.)

What am I missing here? I’d always thought sports entailed the defeat of the other team. Players in the world’s various athletic contests knock each other into unconsciousness, clip their opponents’ legs so they suffer debilitating knee trauma, hit their foes with the force of small cars ramming into a wall at 20 mph, inject themselves with substances that shrink their testicles and turn their skulls into medium-sized watermelons, and otherwise bend the rules of their respective sports and those of civilization itself merely to score a single point more than the other guy.

But in soccer, the most popular sport in the world — have I mentioned that? — the team representing the USA won even though they lost.

Man, the world is stupid.

Take My Wife, Please

So, scads of same sex couples got hitched the last couple of days outside the Monroe County Courthouse. Starry-eyed pairs descended upon the venerable old edifice moments after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that Indiana’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The Herald Times tells us the number of couples applying for marriage licenses set a record Tuesday — and it was promptly broken the next day.


From Sodahead

I’m told any number of happy pairs showed up for their impromptu ceremonies in such a state of haste that they wore baggy T-shirts, sweats, and flips.

It’s been a long time coming.

Lesbian and gay proponents of same sex marriage have fought a long, hard battle to get homosexual love recognized by the government. They’ve been vilified, spat upon, insulted, shunned, libeled and slandered, fired, and disowned simply because they wanted to share their lives with their soulmates.

Now comes the hard part: Staying married.

Cookies Can Be Better Than Sex

Indiana University sex research maven Debby Herbenick posted a recipe from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis on Facebook the other day. Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Leman Glaze.

Just saying them name of them gives me a frisson.

So, I tried making them Wednesday in honor of The Loved One’s b-day.

The verdict? The taste is fab (you can never go wrong with either lemon or ricotta). They could do with less glaze than Giada calls for. And they’ll never, ever, ever turn out as neat and symmetrical as Giada’s photo shows them. Overall, I’d give them an 82 out of 100.

Here are some of mine:

MG Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Cookies With Lemon Glaze

And here’s the recipe:



    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
    • zest of 1 lemon


    • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
    • zest of 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Natch, I found it impossible to wait the two hours and 20 minutes before I could taste them. Honestly, I like them a tad better when they’re still warm.

Steamy Hot Air


Way to go, Illinois! Legislators in my old home state yesterday passed a same-sex marriage bill. Huzzah!

Chicago Tribune Photo

Chicagoans Celebrate

The scoreboard now stands at 15 states allowing same-sex marriage and 35 not. So, the New Civil Rights Movement is approaching the one-third landmark in this holy land. That would seem to be a tipping point after which same-sex marriage would fast become, under the law at least, just another norm.

Of course, many, many, many folks in those 35 states (as well as holdouts in the enlightened 15) feel we’re no longer a holy land because we’re allowing men to marry men, women to marry women, and, next thing you know, 60-year-old lechers to legally molest kiddies and wacky old crones to hitch up with their cats.

Image from Forbes

Man, some people sure have scary imaginations.

I’ve been around lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered people, and those questioning their own identities all my life; that is, until I got to Bloomington which seems oddly bereft of such folk. I would have figured that this burgh, being one of the last outposts of the former Soviet Union and, even worse, a college town, would be a haven for what society has heretofore considered sexual outlaws.

Perhaps I’m wrong. If so, my pals Carol Fischer and Helen Harrell over at WFHB‘s bloomingOUT radio show for the LGBTQ gang can set me straight on that matter (pardon the pun).

Speaking Of Sex

Sex geek extraordinaire Debby Herbenick put in an appearance at the Book Corner yesterday.

Photo by Kevin Donahue

Research Scientist Debra Herbenick

No, she wasn’t doing a signing or reading; the BC doesn’t go in for that kind of thing (and least not yet). Herbenick simply was looking to buy a book. Naturally, she walked out of the place with a half dozen.

Doc Herbenick told the Pencil she just scored a deal for is working on yet another book. I’m telling you, this dame can find more ways to ponder sex than the average 14-year-old boy. Only her pondering elevates the science of bonking. She is, for all my non-Bloomington readers, one of the most acclaimed sex researchers on this happy planet.

Here’s a short list of Herbenick’s previous publications:

Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered—For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex

Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction

Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva

Go check out her advice page on the Kinsey Confidential website. She helps jes’ plain folk come to grips (you’ll pardon the expression) with their sex dilemmas and misunderstandings. For instance, one of her recent posts answered the question: My penis is slightly curved; will this affect intimacy?


Honestly, this poor chap’s idiosyncrasy probably vexes him more than all the philosophical disputes conjured by women and men since the beginning of time. Me? I would respond to his plaint thusly: That all depends on which way it’s curved.

Which, of course, is why a noted professional like Debby Herbenick should help guide him through the thicket of penile geometry rather than some snot like me.

Then again, after a careful reading of the good doctor’s response, it turns out I was right! Sheesh.

Anyway, Herbenick’s looking forward to hunkering down and writing the new book. “It should be fun,” she said.

I’ll bet.

I Feel Love

The Pencil Today:


“Sex is like bridge; if you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” — Mae West


Perhaps the best story I’ve ever read in the Indiana Daily Student appeared Friday. The story, I tell you, makes living in a college town all the more worthwhile.

It’s here, after all, that people actually investigate things like the origin of the universe, the inner workings of the cell, the psychological underpinnings of economics, and — even more intellectually compelling than those topics — the human orgasm.

Debra Herbenick — who, I’ve since learned, is a semi-regular visitor to Soma Coffee — is a research scientist and a director of IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion. She has released a study indicating that a significant percentage of women who work out at your local gym actually experience orgasm while they’re panting.


One of the Boys of Soma, Real Estate John, works part-time at the Monroe County YMCA. He usually pulls the Friday night shift. I pointed out the story to him. He read it with great interest. He turned to another Soma Boy who regularly works out at the Y on Friday nights and who also read the piece. Real Estate John said, “I have the perfect candidate.” he mentioned the name of a woman they both were acquainted with.

“Oh yeah!” the other guy said. “No wonder she always has an ecstatic look on her face.”

The woman, the fellows explained, is generally attached to the spinning bike.

That device, according to Herbenick, is one of the exercise machines that lends itself nicely to stimulating certain locales of the female anatomy. “[W]omen,” Herbenick told the IDS, “are moving their genitals in the bike seat.”

Spinning classes are awfully popular with women. Now I may know why. It occurs to me I’ve not met many men who take spinning classes. I wonder if this study will inspire more men to get into that regimen.

“Phew. I Need A Cigarette.”

Anyway, Herbenick said her study, which indicated that a shade more than one third of women canvassed have experienced the Big O while working out, “reminds people how interesting orgasm is.”

Can’t argue with that.


Most of what I learned early on about sex came from a fellow named Dr. David Reuben.

He wrote a gigantic bestseller in 1969 entitled “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask).” It’s estimated some 150 million inquiring minds have read it.

At the age of 14, mine was the most inquiring of minds. Especially about sex.

The book had somehow found its way into our house. I know I didn’t buy it; if I had, it would have been safely stashed in my room somewhere. Under the bed, next to the old liver sausage sandwich, probably — it’s true, for several months there was a liver sausage sandwich under my bed. I recall having made it late one night and, after bringing it back to my room, had promptly fallen asleep without eating it. It wound up under the bed.

Hey, I was 14 — leaving sandwiches under the bed and devouring all printed material pertaining to sex were defining characteristics of the age.

I know Dad didn’t bring the book into the house. My sisters had flown the coop ten years before and my brother was away at college so it couldn’t have been them. Process of elimination left Ma as the likely culprit.

Makes sense.

The women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution were in full swing. Now, Ma wasn’t a practicing libber, nor did she sample the pleasures afforded by the newly relaxed attitudes toward sex. She was Ma, after all.

She was, though, eager to be seen as “up on things.” If either Gloria Steinem or Xaviera Hollander, for instance, was to appear on, say, Dick Cavett’s show on a given night, you can bet Ma’d be parked on the sofa, watching. She bought bestsellers like “Love Story,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” and, I assume, Dr. Reuben’s book.

Gloria Steinem

Man, as soon as she finished that thing, I snapped it up and started memorizing it.

Reuben described female topography in terms I’d never heard before. He revealed techniques and practices I could only dream of trying out. My time wouldn’t come for another five or six years, though.

Until then, I considered myself the sexual theoretician of my circle. “It says in David Reuben’s book that a man should…,” I’d begin whenever some sexual topic had arisen.

My pals listened raptly. None of them had the slightest patience to read a book — even one about sex — but they still were curious about the purported expertise Reuben offered.

One day I told Tough Marc about Reuben’s assertion that women know secret methods of masturbation in public. Reuben reported that many women liked to cross their legs and squeeze their inner thigh muscles repeatedly, often bringing themselves to orgasm.

“Oh My God, Is She? Do You Think?”

Now, Tough Marc was a gearhead and he packed a punch that could have been confused with the blow from a sledgehammer, but he was smarter than the rest of my neighborhood pals. He’d confessed he was almost tempted to forgo his long-lasting embargo on books and buy Reuben’s.

Such a concession made him, among my peers, an intellectual. Still, he was able to resist the urge. Last I heard, Tough Marc owned a car wash on the northwest side of Chicago.

Anyway, Tough Marc was fascinated by the revelation that women had ways to stimulate themselves under the table, as it were.

They’d do this on the bus, in the office, in the movie theater, and even standing in line waiting for the next bank teller. The impartial observer, Reuben revealed, could tell when a woman was hard at work in this manner by the swinging of her leg (if she were sitting) and the dreamy look on her face. Tough Marc and I pledged to monitor the legs and face of every woman we might encounter.

In the summer of 1971 both Tough Marc and I found ourselves in summer school taking a make-up course in algebra.

One of our classmates was a girl named Kathy Masterton. We noticed on the first day of class that Kathy Masterton was a champion leg swinger. You couldn’t walk down her aisle for fear of getting kicked in the shin or knee.

Kathy Masterton, too, often stared off into space, her eyes glazed.

Tough Marc and I looked at each other and nodded. After class on that first day we compared notes.

Leg kicks — check. Dreamy look on her face — yup.

Yeah, we concluded, Kathy Masterton confirmed Dr. Reuben’s assertion.

A couple of days later, Tough Marc said he’d come up with a new name for our leg-swinging classmate. “Kathy Masturbant,” he proclaimed, triumphantly. I congratulated him profusely.

As the summer school semester passed, we became transfixed by Kathy Masturbant. We maintained surveillance of her from the bell that signaled the start of class to the one that ended it. She kept up a rhythm with her swinging leg that can only be described as heroic.

Miss Fritz, the algebra teacher, wrote formulas from one end of the blackboard to another but we took no notice of them. Pythagoras, balanced equations, polynomials — none of them meant anything to us. Our focus was on Kathy Masturbant.

“Huh? What? I Dunno.”

Kathy noticed us staring at her. I became concerned she might suspect we were on to her. Nevertheless, she kept swinging her leg.

Kathy smiled at me one day and I smiled back. Tough Marc and I conferred about this development immediately after class. It was decided I should chat her up and, if I was lucky, get the inside dope on this leg-swinging business. “Good luck,” Tough Marc said, solemnly.

It’s important to note that we didn’t hatch this plan just to embarrass her. Nor was our aim to somehow get sex from her. We were still too far away from that Holy Grail to consider it a reasonable possibility.

No, our goal was knowledge. We wanted to know if Dr. Reuben’s leg-swinging theory could be proved. Ours was a scientific quest.

Oh, on second thought, the idea of having sex with Kathy Masturbant must have crossed my mind. I can’t imagine being 15 and certain a girl I knew was masturbating in public and not think it conceivable she might have sex with me.

Then again, Kathy Masturbant was an exceedingly plain-looking girl, which is a nice way of saying she was a gargoyle. In fact, Tough Marc and I cursed our luck that the most likely public masturbator we’d yet found was so homely.

So, we gamely carried out our scientific pursuit.

The next day during class break, I approached Kathy Masturbant in the school parking lot. She was busy lighting one cigarette off another. We exchanged greetings and engaged in a bit of small talk. She seemed easy enough to talk to, although it must be admitted I was scared to ask her about her swinging leg.

“Go On, Man. Talk To Her.”

I glanced over at Tough Marc, who was eying us from several cars away. He could sense my resolve was fading. He mouthed the words “Ask her!” at me.

I screwed up my courage and spoke up. “So, uh, y’know, I see you’re always, like, swingin’ your leg. Know what I mean?”

“I do?” she said.

“Um, yeah. You do.”

“Oh,” she said.

“So, uh, what’s that all about?”

Kathy shrugged. “I dunno. I’m nervous I guess. What’s the big deal about it?”

“No big deal,” I said. “I’m just interested.”

Oops. Wrong choice of words. Kathy interpreted that to mean I was interested in her.

Which I wasn’t. I still had a teenaged boy’s arrogance that made me think she was not attractive enough for me.

Kathy became giddy. She started telling me all about her family and friends. She suggested we go to see the movie “Patton” someday soon. I let it slip that I was a Cubs fan and she jumped on that, saying we had to go to a game that weekend. Next thing I knew, she’d invited me over for dinner that coming Friday.

“Y’mean, Like A Date?”

I hadn’t the heart to turn her down. Plus, there was that little part of me that hoped she, the public masturbator, might let me have sex with her.

That Friday I showed up at her family’s apartment at dinner time. She and her mother had laid out a fancy spread. Clearly, my presence made the affair a special occasion.

After we ate, Kathy’s mother said, “You and your boyfriend go in the living room and watch TV. I’ll do the dishes.”

Boyfriend. My hair stood on end (yes, I had hair.)

We watched “The Brady Bunch” (which I loathed), “Nanny and the Professor” (not only bad, but boring), and “The Partridge Family” (now, that was a good show; Susan Dey inhabited every heterosexual boy’s nocturnal fantasies). For her part, Kathy loved “The Brady Bunch” and was in heaven when “Nanny” came on. “The Partridge Family,” she could take or leave.


Throughout the hour and a half, Kathy’s leg never stopped swinging. At eight-thirty, her Mom came into the living room and said we’d better call it a night. By that time, Kathy had scootched so close to me that I was squeezed into the corner of the sofa.

Kathy put her arm in mine and walked me to the door. I thanked her Mom for the delicious dinner and was about to say goodbye to Kathy when she ushered me onto the front porch and closed the door behind us. She launched into an itinerary that included “Patton” and the Cubs game and four or five other engagements for the two of us over the next couple of weeks. She held my hand as I leaned toward the front steps — swear to god, had she let go, I’d have fallen down the stairs.

Again, I didn’t have the heart to turn her down (nor did I wish to pass up the chance, however negligible, that she’d let me have sex with her.)

Funny thing was, we had a lot of fun over the next couple of weeks. The next Friday night when we walked home from the Tivoli Theater, we took our shoes off because we fancied ourselves sorta-but-not-quite hippies. When we went to the Cubs game, we sat in the very top row of the upper deck and looked out over the city and Lake Michigan and pointed out landmarks to each other. We went to hear Styx at the high school gym and danced until we were soaked in sweat.

C’mon, Go Easy On Me — I Was A Teenager, Okay?

One day in class, Kathy stopped swinging her leg long enough to inform me that her mother would be out that evening. I should come over, she suggested, so we could listen to her new “Shaft” album.

When I told Tough Marc about this, it was his turn to congratulate me profusely. And again, he said solemnly, “Good luck.”

“Shaft” was a double album — total running time, 68:50. Oh, the things we could do in that time frame!

I was beginning to like Kathy. And, truth be told, she wasn’t that bad looking really, as long as I ignored her horn-rimmed glasses and slight case of acne. Only now am I strong enough to admit she had to ignore the same things on me.

We were laying on the living room floor, kissing deeply, by the time Track 4, Side 1 came on. “Ellie’s Love Theme.” Kathy’d said, “I’ll show you how to French kiss.” I thought I might pass out.

John Shaft

By the time Side 2 fell onto the turntable, Kathy pushed me away. “Look here, buster,” she said. “We can do this all night long if you want.”

I nodded enthusiastically; unfortunately there was more.

“But I want to tell you something. I’m a virgin and I’m gonna stay that way! Capeesh?”

I’d never been so relieved in my life. I’d only just learned how to French kiss moments before. Despite reading Dr. David Reuben’s book from cover to cover several times over, I still had no idea what was expected of me had she said tonight’s the night.

Kathy’s Mom came home around 10:30. She looked at us suspiciously. Kathy said, “Mom, we didn’t do anything. We just listened to albums.”

Her Mom looked skeptical. “I don’t want anything going on around here,” she warned.

“Oh no!” I said quickly. “No, no, no, no. Nothing.”

With that I said good night to Kathy and told her Mom how very nice it was to see her again. She nodded but her eyes were narrowed.

Kathy and I lasted about another two weeks, which constituted a committed, long-term relationship at our age. A cosuin had introduced her to a boy who, Kathy told me apologetically, had bedroom eyes. The unspoken question being How could she not start dating him.

I began walking home certain I’d kill myself that night. By the time I’d hit the back door, though, I was over Kathy.

I never did find out if Kathy Masturbant was, well, masturbating when she swung her leg so heroically. In retrospect, I realize I was never cut out to be as accomplished a sex researcher as Debra Herbenick.


Any song off this double album still makes my legs weak.

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