Couples Chemistry Talks With Dr. Debby Herbenick

How does one become a sex scientist?

Dr. Debby Herbenick After studying childhood development in college, I took a job at The Kinsey Institute on a study related to childhood and adolescent sexual development. I found there were many unanswered questions about sex over the lifespan and knew that this would be an interesting career path for me. I went back to school to earn a Master's of Public Health and PhD in Health Behavior from Indiana University (IU), which is also home to The Kinsey Institute. Today, I'm a researcher at IU's School of Public Health-Bloomington and a sexual educator at the Institute. I conduct scientific research in the areas of sexual health, behavior and attitudes, including the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, a nationally representative study of sex in America.

What is one of the biggest challenges couples face?

Losing the excitement and intimacy that brought them together. Communication is a big part of that. Either couples don't put forth the effort or they are uncomfortable or shy about bringing up the relationship, their needs and desires. I see it in my classroom everyday; students don't have experience talking about sexuality and it carries through to the adult years.

Are there other hurdles couples need to overcome to achieve intimacy?

Fear is a big one. Couples of all ages and sexual orientations are sometimes afraid to be vulnerable and risk sharing their emotional and sexual needs. Overcoming this fear is an important step in achieving connection and true intimacy.

How did you get involved with Couples Chemistry?

We met at The Kinsey Institute. After some initial conversations, I was invited to serve as an advisor. In that role, I've worked with Couples Chemistry to review the Quiz and various content and select items for the Love Kits.

The Intimacy Kits include reproductions from The Kinsey Institute's extensive collection of erotic art. Why?

Two reasons. First, The Institute's collection of erotic art is incredible. It demonstrates in very beautiful, human ways that sexuality and its expression are universal. Seeing art that depicts love, intimacy, and sexual expression lets people know their fantasies are normal and connecting with another is very natural.

Second, we're inundated with fake bodies in media: super thin women and muscular men. Art depicts real bodies, bodies that men and women can relate to. It's very beautiful and non-threatening. It says that the pleasure enjoyed by two people does not require the false perfection we see in modern media.

What do you like about Couples Chemistry?

Remember what I said about communication being at the core of relationships? Couples Chemistry is about getting couples talking, laughing and exploring, whether it's about the Quiz, the shared desires identified by the Quiz, or the items in the Love Kit. The Love Kits themselves are wonderful. Everything is beautifully presented and there are a number of products, which give couples options on where they want to start. I also like that it's up to the couple to explore together. There are some real conversation starters in them!