Tackling the Taboo: Let's Talk About Sex
Dr. Libby Bennett grew up as the daughter of missionaries and spent most of her childhood and adolescent years in Kenya. Today she’s a clinical psychologist who specializes in sex therapy. Her life as a missionary kid actually helped her excel at what she does today.
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Photo by Edward Biamonte
Depending on who you are, that line may be a little uncomfortable. Even just reading it could make you feel awkward. And if you were to say it to Dr. Libby Bennett 30 years ago, she may have found it uncomfortable and awkward, too.
Growing up as the daughter of missionaries, Libby was raised in a very conservative way. She can still quickly recite some rules of her childhood: no drinking, no smoking, no cursing, no sex before marriage and no dancing.
Now, fast-forward 30 years, and she’s a clinical psychologist who specializes in sex therapy. She talks about men’s and women’s sexual response cycles at marriage workshops. She teaches human sexuality at the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. She recently became part of Dr. Cal LeMon’s faculty for corporate educational programs, execenrichment.com. She’s even the co-author of a book with Ginger Holczer, titled Finding and Revealing Your Sexual Self: A Guide to Communicating about Sex. We talked to Dr. Libby Bennett to learn about her life and how she went from being a missionary kid in Kenya to the quirky, fun-loving psychologist, professor and public speaker she is today.
The Younger Years
Bennett was born in 1958 to a couple of Southern Baptist missionaries. She lived in California, Bangladesh and Missouri all before age 5, which is when her family moved to Kenya. She attended grades one through four in Kenya, and then came back to Bolivar for fifth grade. She spent sixth and seventh grades in Kenya, then eighth-grade back in Bolivar again.
Libby was tall for her age. At age 12, she had straight brown hair, and she almost always had a tan. Freckles speckled her skin and her smiling face. This was the age she began to question her family’s lifestyle. “I would ask my parents, ‘Why are we doing this?,’” she says.
Her family moved back to Kenya, and she attended Rift Valley Academy boarding school for ninth through eleventh grades. “I lived in a dorm, I had to wear a uniform every day, and we had inspections every morning,” Libby says. And she wasn’t a fan of all the rules. “It was very, very strict, and I didn’t like it very much,” she says. “It was a good school and I did fine, but by my senior year I wanted to leave.”
Libby at age 16 after a lion hunt in Kenya.
So she left. Bennett spent her senior year living with a family in Nairobi and attending the International School of Kenya. “It was much more like an American high school,” she says. And her favorite part was the freedom: She used to leave every weekend and visit her parents, who were living on a 19,000-acre cattle ranch owned by a man named Mr. Wilson.
As a teenager, Libby was still tall, tan and thin, but she had fewer freckles now. Her hair was still long, straight and brown, but now she crafted it into two low-hanging braids. She was fun loving and had an adventurous spirit. Her weekends were usually spent hanging out with any or all of Mr. Wilson’s four sons. “We’d ride horses, go hunting, go fishing,” she says. And she even went on a lion hunt. “There was a lion that was killing cows,” she says. She went with Graeme, one of Mr. Wilson’s son’s, on a hunt for it, and they were successful. “He shot the lion,” she says.