BY CORINA BELLESSIS
One night a month, there is an open discussion group in town called the Bloomington Sex Salon. If you attend, expect to hear blunt talk about such topics as sexual orientation, adolescent sexual development, and sexually transmitted infections.
“Before humans were walking upright or talking, we were having sex,” says Dr. Debby Herbenick, associate research scientist at the IU School of Public Health. “Unfortunately, a lot of people are still very uncomfortable talking about it.”
Better informing the public about sex is a passion of Herbenick’s, and as co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU, it’s also her job. For years, she has casually talked to other academics about their sexual research. Fascinated, she wanted to share the information with the community. The Center for Sexual Health Promotion backed the salon project, and Herbenick is hosting.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and, honestly, I’m excited to learn through these salons, too,” she says. “Sex researchers and community advocates discover a lot of great knowledge that begs to be shared, and we can always do a better job of creating those connections with the public.”
At the first salon, in February, Herbenick interviewed IU Associate Professor Dr. Bryant Paul in front of an audience of 80 men and women of all ages in a room at The Bishop bar. Paul talked about his work studying strip clubs and online pornography, then took audience questions for almost an hour.
“When you’re talking about sexually explicit media, you don’t know how that’s going to go over,” Herbenick says, “so looking out and seeing people smile and laugh and eager to ask questions was very exciting to me.”
The next salon will be held on May 12 at The Root Cellar, 7-9 pm, with Dr. Dennis Fortenberry of the IU School of Medicine. Attendees must be at least 21 years old.