About Debbie Roffman
Named one of Time Magazine’s “Top Sixteen Parenting Experts for the 21st Century,” Debbie Roffman is a sexuality educator, consultant, and author based in Baltimore, Maryland, where she has taught sexuality education in grades 4-12 at the Park School for more than 35 years. Debbie’s most recent book, Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex, was published in 2013 by Perseus Books. In addition to her constant writing and teaching, she’s worked with parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, students, alumni, and trustees at more than 400 schools and organizations across the country, and she publishes widely throughout the national media. She’s referred to by her colleagues as the most articulate professional voice in the US on the need for broad-based human sexuality education. Her ability to find common ground by keeping the focus on young people and their universal needs around healthy sexual development is one of her gifts.
Peggy Orenstein, New York Times contributing writer and author of Girls, tweeted a great commendation for Debbie’s Talk To Me First.
Debbie’s article, “Teach Boys Self Respect”, was published in The Baltimore Sun, March 22, 2016
“I’d like to add another dimension to the discussion. Certainly, girls and women are devalued in our society, even to the extent of being portrayed as objects and, therefore, not fully human, but let’s also consider how deeply the culture demeans and dehumanizes boys.”
Debbie replied to The New York Times front page article “Sex Ed Lesson: ‘ Yes Means Yes,’ but It’s Tricky”, in the article “How Parents and Youths Talk About Sex”, October 21, 2015.
“It should not be at all surprising that high school students cannot easily integrate these kinds of conversations about sex into their social life or, for that matter, even imagine having them. The kind of clarity and directness, and the willingness to take ownership of one’s sexual decisions and behaviors, is undermined constantly by the unhealthy and often mixed messages young people receive about sexuality and gender in our culture.”
Debbie replied to the editor, New York Times, commenting on “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed? by Peggy Orenstein, March 20, 2016.
“We can’t shift the sex education paradigm until we acknowledge the monumental changes in American society and in young people’s physiology that have coalesced to create a 12-to-13-year gap between sexual and reproductive maturity and age at first marriage. In the absence of adult preparation and guidance, how surprised should we be that so many young people turn to pornography and hookup culture?”
Debbie was interviewed by Jess Shatkin, MD (child psychiatrist) and Alexandra Barzvi, PhD (child psychologist)…
…about “How to talk to your children, adolescents and young adults about their bodies – and sex!” on Sirius/XM Dr. Radio on October 23, 2015. The Child Psych & Parenting Show, “About Our Kids“,, broadcasts in conjunction with the New York University Child Study Center in New York.
Current News and Articles
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 2017 SEXUALITY EDUCATION AND ISSUES FULL-DAY SYMPOSIUM – In association with the NAIS 2017 Annual Conference in Baltimore
11:00AM – 12:15PM Broadening the Conversation: The Case for Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education DEBORAH ROFFMAN, THE PARK SCHOOL OF BALTIMORE (MD) Sexual assault and other deeply troubling behaviors are not just “problems.” They are also symptoms of a much more systemic problem in our schools—the absence of comprehensive PreK-12 sexuality education. Equipping students to manage their emerging sexuality in healthy, empathic, and ethical ways is an ongoing process in which independent schools, in partnership with parents, are uniquely positioned to engage. The questions are: Should we? Will we?
Here is the full schedule for the symposium.
On July 28, 2016, The New York Times published a letter by Debbie in response to “On PornHub, Nobody Knows You’re a Kid,” by Judith Shulevitz (Sunday Review, July 17).
“Labeling parents as conservative or liberal does a disservice to children. Political ideology is about adults and their worldview, not about children and their developmentally based needs.
“The purpose of parenting is to nurture children, who come into the world as helpless, totally dependent infants, to a state of near total independence as young adults. When we make parenting about politics we miss that point entirely. Parenting is a job, and if we’re really good at what we do, our children eventually fire us, which was the point all along.”
Through a special grant, the Center for Sex Education is distributing 400 copies of Talk To Me First to educators across the state.
New post by Debbie is up at NAIS “Independent Ideas” blog: “Affirmative Consent: Flipping the Paradigm About Sexual Assault” 4/13/2016. Here is an excerpt:
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Steubenville episode — followed in quick succession by a series of other high-profile cases — was transformative. It jump-started an ongoing, long overdue dialogue about sexual assault in the public arena and on high school and college campuses that has ultimately led to profound cultural change: The nation, finally, has begun to take the issue of sexual assault — and its victims, causes, perpetrators, and facilitators — seriously.
“Changing Language, Changing Expectations
“One of the most significant and hopeful outcomes of this intense scrutiny has been a powerful paradigm shift in how we now think and talk about sexual assault, and how we distinguish it from mutually consensual sexual behaviors.
“Increasingly, in the eyes of prosecutors, legislators, school personnel, and the general public, the “absence of no” is no longer an acceptable or sufficient standard for determining when mutual consent exists. In the new standard, known as “affirmative consent,” an individual must ask for and receive a direct, verbal “yes” from a potential partner before any kind of sexual contact can proceed.”
Debbie is now writing for the Independent school Magazine Blog published by NAIS. Most recent entry: “Common Sense (and Nonsense) about Sexuality Education for Young Children”, March 2, 2016.
“We know from decades of research that children and adolescents raised by adults who educate and converse with them about sexuality grow up in healthier ways than their peers. For example, while common nonsense might hold that “knowing leads to doing” or some other unwanted effect, just the opposite is true: Kids with this kind of guidance and support significantly postpone involvement in sexual behaviors as they mature. Keeping them in the dark, in other words, is the real danger here.”
‘Bottom line: The kind of readiness young children need to learn about their origins — or, really, about any other topic related to sexuality — is primarily cognitive readiness, not emotional readiness, as many adults, out of their own anxieties, project it to be.”
Go to News and Articles for much more news and writing by and about Deborah Roffman.
About Debbie Roffman’s most recent book, Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex
Nationally acclaimed – and named one of Time Magazine’s “Top Sixteen Parenting Experts for the 21st Century – educator and author of Sex and Sensibility, Deborah Roffman distills her more than thirty years of experience teaching kids—and their parents—into this indispensable guide, helping you to be your kids’ number one source for information and guidance on human sexuality. Roffman tackles everything from developmental stages to strategies for handling embarrassing or difficult conversations, offering the best ways to make sure you both keep talking (and listening).
Deborah Roffman’s work on childhood and teen sexuality has been featured in numerous publications, including the Washington Post and USA Today. A recipient of the Mary Lee Tatum Apple Award from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she has also been recognized by the National Federation of Republican Women. The mother of two grown sons, she lives with her husband in Baltimore, Maryland.
We live in a time when kids of all ages are bombarded with age-sensitive material wherever they turn; “sexting” and bullying are on the rise at an increasingly younger age, and teen moms are “celebrified.” What is a concerned–and embarrassed–parent to do? With wit, wisdom, and savvy, Deborah Roffman translates her experiences gleaned from decades of teaching kids and parents, and as a mom, into strategies to help parents navigate this tricky terrain. Talk to Me First is for any parent who wants to become and remain the most credible and influential resource about sexuality in their children’s lives.
– Adapted from the Publishers’ Weekly review.