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 affirmati