As they sit in a quiet corner of a mid-Manhattan restaurant, Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., and Zane look for all the world like two suburban moms in the city for the day to see a show and catch up over lunch. But looks can be deceiving. Though she’s a soft-spoken southern girl, 40-year-old Dr. Hil is the ESSENCE sexual-health columnist and the author of What Your Mother Never Told You About S-E-X. And Zane, who’s wearing a sensible “every mom” dress with a pulled-back perm, is the thirtysomething best-selling author of the supererotic novels Addicted and The Sex Chronicles.

No doubt nearby diners pricked up their ears when the conversation with asha bandele, ESSENCE features editor, went beyond car pools and bake sales. Here were two “nice” girls, two mothers, two churchgoers, two wives, discussing some reasons why even nice girls ought to get a chance to be naughty.

asha bandele: Are Black women more sexually inhibited than other women?

Dr. Hil: Yes. In fact, a study done in 1999 at the University of Chicago found that 43 percent of women nationwide suffered from some form of sexual dysfunction. But when researchers broke it down by race, they were surprised to find that Black women were more sexually inhibited than other groups. We have this reputation of being open and always ready for sex, but compared with other races we’re more inhibited.

Zane: Judging from the E-mails I get, many Black women feel that there’s something wrong with them for having certain kinds of sexual desires.

asha: Where does that sense of shame come from?

Dr. Hil: Where I grew up, in Tuskegee, Alabama, there was a heavy emphasis on religion. And religion often teaches that sex is only okay if it’s with your husband, and then only if you’re trying to procreate. I think that kind of religious instruction has probably been the main influence on how many of us view our sexuality.

Zane: I’m a minister’s daughter, and I totally agree. And many of us worry about how our mates will judge us. Many men say they want a woman who’s sexually uninhibited, but when they find one they’re busy worrying about how the sister learned to do all these things. Then they get insecure, and that affects us as well. We’ve all heard it said: Men may want to have sex with a freak, but nobody wants to marry one.