'Hysteria' Movie Paints Vibrator as Medical Device

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Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Thanks in part to TV shows like HBO's "Sex and the City," conversations about sex, masturbation and other ins and outs of intimacy are much more common. But not all women are as comfortable with the subject matter as Samantha Jones.

"Sex is funny because in some ways it's nice to never need to talk about it," said Heitler. "It's mysterious, kind of like prayer. It's a very personal experience and when you try to put it into words the concreteness feel uncomfortable and maybe even takes away some of the mystique."

Although sex is more out in the open than ever before, it's still considered a private act -- as it should be, Heitler said.

"On the one hand, ours is a society that talks about it all the time," said Heitler, alluding to the myriad songs about sex and love. "But both sex and love have an element of the mystery about them. And there's something appropriate about keeping them in a separate realm from discussions like, 'Gee, what should we do about the economy?"

Sex benefits from a sense of privacy, Heitler said. "But privacy is different from secrecy." Like mental health, sexual health is gaining attention as being an important aspect of overall well-being. And as such, women are opening up more about perceived problems.

"I think it's important for woman to feel comfortable talking to somebody, whether it's their physician or their counselor about sexuality issues," said Dr. Diane Harper, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and family medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. "Certainly, it's helped a lot that the proportion of women in OB/GYN exceeds 50 percent."

Unlike the male doctors of Victorian days who draped women in sheets to avoid seeing their intimate areas, today's health professionals aim to answer women's sexual health questions directly and without judgment.

"I think that's probably the bigger help we can provide to women," said Harper, adding that many such questions have answers, or at least options. "They're just totally relieved and so thankful that someone is able to tell them that they're not alone and that what they're experiencing isn't freaky."

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