In the News (2015-2020)

News about Deborah Roffman,
Publications and Other Activities


The Value of Childhood Crushes

Debbie was quoted in “The Value of Childhood Crushes,” by Bonnie Rough in The New York Times, Feb 13, 2009. [Crushes are] “a normal part of development, when kids start to see each other in ways that are a little bit different. I really do believe that they get a little zing in their heart.”


Ten Tips for Talking to Teenagers About Consent and Sexual Boundaries

Debbie’s article, “Ten Tips for Talking to Teenagers About Consent and Sexual Boundaries,” was published on The Kojo Nnamdi Show Blog, September 24, 2018. The Kojo Nnamdi Show is on American University Radio, 12 pm to 1 pm ET on Monday through Friday. An excerpt:

“The one constant in young people’s lives are their parents and guardians. Decades of research demonstrate that it’s open communication at home about sexual topics that is the most significant factor in keeping teens out of harm’s way. So regardless of the current public spectacle on our screens, or the prevailing cultural or social milieu, parents can be the consistent voice of reason and reality that helps kids make wise decisions.”

We Just Can’t Let Boys Be Boys

The New York Times published Debbie’s letter (New York Times, Oct 9, 2018) in response to Peggy Orenstein’s article “We Just Can’t Let Boys Be Boys,” New York Times, September 29, 2018).

Here is an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein’s article:

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to. 

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”

And here is an excerpt from Debbie’s comment:

Peggy Orenstein is right. Too many parents — and schools — abdicate responsibility for talking with boys about sexual ethics and emotional intimacy, in effect turning them over to the default options of peers, older boys and siblings, misogynistic locker room banter and digital street corners.

The “boys will be boys” stereotype certainly gives license for boys to disrespect, devalue and mistreat girls, but deeper analysis of it also reveals the fundamentally demeaning ways in which we think about boys.

Education Nation: Sex Education: More Than a “Talk”

Debbie was featured in a Twitter ToolkitTalk on July 19, 2018, a Twitter chat that happens every third Tuesday of the month and sponsored by ParentToolkit of NBC News Education Nation: Visit Sex Education: More Than a “Talk” for a complete transcript.


A Key To Appropriate Behavior: Self-Respect

Click to Enlarge

Following Debbie Roffman’s recent letter in the New York Times, Debbie was interviewed for the program On The Record, on WYPR, public radio for Baltimore and Maryland. The program was titled, “A Key To Appropriate Behavior: Self-Respect,” on December 7, 2017, and the audio is here:

“We talk with Deborah Roffman, author and human sexuality educator at the Park School of Baltimore, about eye-opening events in the past five years that changed attitudes about taking what you want versus getting permission. Roffman teaches boys and girls as young as 9–fourth graders–and says forming personal boundaries starts with building self-respect.”

“The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido”

Debbie Roffman has a letter in the New York Times responding to Stephen Marche’s Nov. 25, 2017, op-ed, “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido.”  See letters, “Let’s Talk About Male Sex Drive” 

“But this I do know: Before men are men, they are boys. Until we commit to intentionally raising both boys and girls with high expectations and a single standard of values based on empathy and fairness — with sex and gender being no exception — we won’t do much better than that.”

“Traditional gender roles, opposite and unequal by design in terms of power, privilege and status, are tools of oppression used deliberately for centuries to enable a small minority of men to oppress not only women but also the vast majority of other men in the world. Let’s examine and work on that kind of male brutality, and see what happens.”

“When a Student Says, ‘I’m Not a Boy or a Girl’

By ZOE GREENBERG, New York Times, OCT. 24, 2017

This is an excellent article on gender. From the article:

“At some schools, teaching for and about transgender people is a battle, epitomized by nationwide debates over “bathroom bills.” But at others, educators aren’t battling against trans students or their needs. Instead, schools like Puget Sound are altering their policies to include transgender kids and, more broadly, to make gender a deliberate part of the curriculum. Students are leading the way, driving schools to adopt more inclusive teaching methods.”

Debbie is quoted in the article:

“This is not about those kids,” said Deborah Roffman, a teacher at the Park School in Baltimore who has been teaching human sexuality for 40 years. “Everybody in this building has a gender identity, which exists along a continuum.”

“How to Talk to Kids About Sex”

Washington Post August 30, 2017.  On Parenting, by Phyllis Fagell.  The article quotes Debbie extensively and expands on her five core needs that children have regarding sexuality.

“Kids have five core needs when it comes to sexuality, Roffman explains. They need affirmation and unconditional love; information about healthy and unhealthy behaviors; clarity about values such as respect and integrity; appropriate boundaries and limits; and guidance about making responsible, safe choices. Within that framework, here are seven tips to help parents raise kids who know how to make well-considered decisions.

Talking to teens about sex, intimacy, and consent …

…in the hookup culture: What your teens need to know — whether they want to hear it or not. By Connie Matheson.  February 15, 2017. Great Schools! Debbie is quoted. Click for more.

“13 Good Ideas To Live By”

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Debbie has been interviewed and quoted in several articles by Patrick Coleman at

“When ‘Playing Doctor’ Requires a Diagnosis”

“5 Myths About Sex After Becoming a Parent”


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 2017 SEXUALITY EDUCATION AND ISSUES FULL-DAY SYMPOSIUM – In association with the NAIS 2017 Annual Conference in Baltimore

11:00AM12:15PM 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?


“On PornHub, Nobody Knows You’re a Kid,”

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.”

Center for Sex Education, Pennsylvania

Through a special grant, the Center for Sex Education is distributing 400 copies of Talk To Me First to educators across the state.

Peggy Orenstein, Commendation for Talk to Me First

New York Times contributing writer and author of Girls, tweeted a great commendation for Debbie’s Talk To Me First.

When Did Porn Become Sex Ed? 

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?”

Independent School Magazine Blog

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.”

 “Affirmative Consent: Flipping the Paradigm About Sexual Assault”

New post by Debbie is  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.”


“Teach Boys Self Respect”

Debbie’s article, “Teach Boys Self Respect”, was published in The Baltimore Sun, March 22, 2015

“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.

“Sex Ed Lesson: ‘ Yes Means Yes,’ but It’s Tricky”, in the article “How Parents and Youths Talk About Sex”

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 undermined constantly by the unhealthy and often mixed messages young people receive about sexuality and gender in our culture.”

“How to talk to your children, adolescents and young adults about their bodies – and sex!”

Debbie was interviewed by Jess Shatkin, MD (child psychiatrist) and Alexandra Barzvi, Ph.D., (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.

“Fifty Shades of Blush: Why Is It So Hard to Talk to Kids About Sex?”

Huffington Post‘s Parenting Blog, February 20, 2015.

“How Parents and Youths Talk About Sex.”

 Debbie’s letter to the New York Times editor was published October 21, 2015.

“Culture, Religion and Sex Education”

Debbie’s letter to the New York Times editor, responding to an article by Jonathon  Zimmerman, was published, March 16, 2015.

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