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- A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva -

Debby Herbenick, PhD & Vanessa Schick, PhD

1. Vulva—Popular works. 
2. Vagina—Popular works. 
3. Women— Health and hygiene—Popular works.

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Book Details
 578 p
 File Size 
 2,668 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 978-1-4422-0800-1 (pbk.)
 978-1-4422-0802-5 (electronic)
 2011 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc

About the Author
Debby Herbenick, PhD, is associate director and research scientist at the Center
for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University; the sexual health educator for
the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction; and a
widely read sex columnist for various newspapers and magazines. She is also the
author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and
Satisfaction (2009) and the forthcoming I Love You More Book (StoryPeople
Press). She has served as an expert on the vagina and vulva (and other sex
topics) for the Tyra Banks Show and The Doctors and writes about sex for, Psychology Today, WebMD, and Men’s Health magazine.
She is also a member of the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal
Disease, the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, and
the International Academy of Sex Research. As a widely cited sex expert, she
has been quoted in more than five hundred magazine and newspaper articles
including those in the New York Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle,
Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, 
Women’s Health, Men’s Health, and SELF.
Vanessa Schick, PhD, is a social psychologist and a research scientist at the
Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University. She has conducted a
variety of studies on the vulva that have been published in peer-reviewed
journals ranging from the changes in the portrayal of the vulva in sexually
explicit magazines to understanding how women’s concerns about their vulva
appearance impact them in the bedroom. She has presented her work to diverse
audiences, from the Kinsey Institute to students in the classroom to sex
researchers at the European Federation of Sexology conference in Rome, Italy.
She is also a member of the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal
Disease and the International Academy of Sex Research.
Dr. Herbenick and Dr. Schick are also two of the scientists behind the
National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB), the largest nationally
representative study of sexual behavior in the United States, which surveyed
individuals ages fourteen to ninety-four about their sexual lives.

It was a warm November evening as the sun set in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The
ocean crashed in the background as a light breeze swept through the air. If this
sounds like the makings of a magical night, it was indeed: this is the night that
we (Debby and Vanessa) first met. But this isn’t a love story—at least, not the
kind you might expect.

We were both in San Juan, Puerto Rico, attending the annual meeting of the
Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Although the field of sexuality
researchers is small, the number of people who study social and cultural issues
related to vaginas and vulvas is even smaller and was almost non-existent
several years ago. Therefore, we assumed that like other conferences, we would
probably be the only vulva researchers there. We were wrong. We had been at
the conference for just minutes when a colleague who was familiar with both of
our work introduced us. It took just one phrase to bond us instantaneously, and it
went something like this: “You two should meet— you both study vaginas.”
So yes, this is a love story about vulvas and vaginas.

Once we met, it wasn’t long before we realized how much we had in
common: we had both conducted our dissertation research on women’s genitals,
and we both have stuffed vulva puppets and books with titles like Cunt and The
V Book lining our office bookshelves. With these mutual interests, it was only a
matter of time—less than a year—before we found a way to work together,
thanks to Vanessa taking a position at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at
Indiana University, where Debby had been working for several years. Shortly
thereafter, the idea for Read My Lips was born, and after much work,
brainstorming over lunches, and 2 a.m. email exchanges, it’s now in your hands.
This book is for anyone who has a vulva, loves someone with a vulva, has
come from a vagina, or is just plain curious about these parts. Through our
research and education efforts, we try to better understand the diverse ways in
which women’s genitals are talked about (or not), and we try to help women and
men learn about this important part of the female body in terms of health, sex,
pleasure, culture, and art. In addition to working as scientific researchers, we
also feel passionately about spreading the word to others, which is why we
decided to write a book to share with the world. We like to refer to this as vagina
and vulva “outreach.”

What does this mean for you? It means that your journey will be filled with
the unusual combination of empirical scientific research, quirky humor, and
vulva crafts. In addition to assembling some of the most interesting scientific
research we could find, we also turned to more than one thousand other experts
on the topic of vulvas and vaginas: YOU! These pages are filled with funny,
heartwarming, eye-opening, and sometimes challenging stories from women and
men who live all over the world, ages eighteen to eighty. We chose stories that
we felt best represent the complexity of what it means to live life with these
body parts: to take in what parents and friends say to young girls about their
bodies, to witness how lovers respond to vulvas and vaginas, and to experience
the ways in which these parts change during menstruation, after giving birth, or as one ages.

We should note that even though women, vulvas, and vaginas almost always
go together, this isn’t always the case. Some women don’t have vulvas or
vaginas from the time they were formed in the womb (they may have what are
sometimes called a disorder of sex development or intersex condition) or
because they are male-to-female transgendered people who may identify as
women but who have not had surgery to change their genitals to female-typical
genitals. For similar reasons related to development or gender identity, some
people who have vulvas and vaginas are men, not women. Although we tried to
be sensitive to these issues in our book, we often use the phrases “women’s
genitals” and “female genitals” to refer to vulvas and vaginas even though these
are not always interchangeable. We did this for two reasons: (1) most of the time
they are interchangeable, and so this will make sense to most readers of our
book; and (2) to avoid overkill, we varied the terms we used. This is also why
we sometimes use genital slang such as “coochie,” “twat,” “snatch,” “v-parts,”
“down there,” “private parts,” “lady parts,” and other such words. Just because
we know the technical terms for the vulva and vagina doesn’t mean that we
always want to use them. Sometimes we like using fun words, too, just like the
one-thousand-plus women and men who completed our survey and told us about
the many words that they use for vulvas and vaginas.

We wrote Read My Lips because we wanted to write the kind of book that we
wish we had come across earlier in our lives. It has a little bit of everything,
including information about the parts of the vulva, health issues, sex, pubic
hairstyles, periods, smell, taste, appearance, GYN exams, genital self-image,
orgasms, feminine-hygiene products, and art. It also uses crafting, a traditionally
female form of expression, to engage in the somewhat subversive act of
celebrating and exploring issues related to the often contested territory of vulvas and vaginas.

We hope that you will enjoy and embrace our labor of v-love for what it is: a
celebration of and an education about the vulva and vagina. We hope that you
laugh while you read this book and also that you walk away from each chapter
feeling as though you’ve learned something new. We hope, too, that your reading
inspires you to love and respect your vulva and vagina (or those of a partner or
friend) as the beautiful, powerful, and sometimes magical places that they can be.

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