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Sex And Sensibility: The Thinking Parents Guide To Talking Sense About Sex

Sex And Sensibility: The Thinking Parents Guide To Talking Sense About Sex

4.5 2
by Deborah Roffman

With a rare directness and clarity about sex and reproduction, sexual values, and cultural influences on sexuality, Deborah Roffman challenges and teaches readers how to develop a blueprint for opening the lines of communication with children of all ages. Sex and Sensibility introduces the five core parenting skills that parents need to confidently interpret and


With a rare directness and clarity about sex and reproduction, sexual values, and cultural influences on sexuality, Deborah Roffman challenges and teaches readers how to develop a blueprint for opening the lines of communication with children of all ages. Sex and Sensibility introduces the five core parenting skills that parents need to confidently interpret and comfortably respond to virtually any question a child might pose or any situation that arises. Powerfully instructive and thought provoking, it should be required reading for parents; it will inspire honest talk about sex and sexuality, helping all of us be better parents for the effort.

Editorial Reviews

Our Review
My three-year-old knows there are certain words that are inappropriate for him to use, words like "stupid" and "idiot." Whenever he hears them, he is proud to proclaim, "That is not a nice word." The other day, however, he overheard a conversation about the sex of a baby and promptly informed the speaker that "sex" wasn't a nice word. Since we have certainly never discussed "sex" with him, we had to wonder where a three-year-old, without older siblings or playmates, picks up an idea like that! What should we, as parents, do about it? We wouldn't want our child to grow up thinking that sex was inherently bad, but isn't age three a little young for the birds and the bees? Deborah Roffman, a certified sexuality and family life educator, addresses this and countless other issues of pressing concern to parents who want to raise sexually healthy children.

The book is built upon a set of six basic beliefs:

  • Sexual knowledge is good for our children.
  • Too little sexual knowledge too late should be our concern, not too much too soon.
  • Sex means more than just intercourse.
  • Values education is at the heart of sexual education.
  • Sexuality means more than just sex.
  • Parents and schools have a moral responsibility to educate children about sexuality.
The author writes about each of these issues persuasively and with precision. As she does so, she emphasizes the practical steps parents can take and the simple conversations parents can have that will help steer our children toward healthy sexual development.

Throughout the book, Roffman emphasizes the power language has to influence and mold our thinking, and she offers language to help readers rethink sexuality. For example, to use the word "sex" to mean only intercourse implies that the same responsibilities do not necessarily apply to the whole range of other sexual behavior -- a topic quite relevant even to presidential politics in the '90s. She points out that "sexuality" involves more than just a broad view of "sex" and includes health, values, intimacy, sensuality, gender, and development. Although the emphasis on exactly which words to use may seem trivial to some parents, the author's discussions of why particular words and phrases are unhelpful contain very practical information and advice for the parent or teacher struggling over what to say and how to say it.

Despite the serious and potentially uncomfortable topic, Roffman uses an efficient, conversational tone that gets to the heart of the issues and takes time for a laugh or two. As she explains that she never set out to be in the field of sex education, she writes, "In one recurring nightmare, I run into an old boyfriend from college. When he learns what I do for a living, he can be heard laughing uncontrollably. They finally have to sedate him to get him to stop."

This is not an encyclopedia of facts about sexuality -- the reader will not find out how long it takes to get a 100 percent accurate result from an HIV test. Instead, Sex and Sensibility attempts to help us reshape the ways in which we deal with our children, from toddlers to 20-year-olds, with respect to sex and sexuality. It offers ways to see, ways to listen, and ways to talk and behave so that our children learn how to make wise and happy choices about all things sexual.

--Kate Montgomery

Los Angeles Times
A wonderful book. It untangles the knotted ball of yarn that we have made of the subject [of sex]. It is also a clearheaded script for talking to your children about sex.
Michael Gurian
A remarkably wise book. It offers a new way of thinking about sex and sexuality.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is a very thorough and thought-provoking book about sex education. The author, however, has very strong opinions about what children need to know. She is not an "abstinence only" sex educator, so parents will need to examine their own values and be open to Deborah Roffman's experience and information. She provides many insights and observations about children's perceptions, gained as a result of teaching sex education for many years. She tackles tough topics such as gender identification, AIDS, sexually-transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy. I think parents who are very conservative will have some issues with Mrs. Roffman's approach, but other parents will find the directness and honesty helpful. 2001, Perseus Books, $26.00. Ages Adult. Reviewer: S. Latson SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Library Journal
This highly intellectual primer will appeal to parents who want to know the theoretical as well as the practical "whys" and "hows" of talking to children about sex. Roffman, a certified sex educator for 30 years, addresses definitions of sex and discusses age appropriateness and values, "doing" vs. "being," gender, and family/school partnerships, relating them to young people's needs for affirmation, information, values, limits, and guidance. Her insights and tips are outstanding, e.g., when she discusses dealing with sex in the media and forming alliances with other parents. How to listen and how to present viewpoints to spark dialog, not conflict, are also well handled. Yet the intellectualism and writing style that will appeal to college-educated and "idea"-type parents make Roffman's message inaccessible to readers more accustomed to sound bites and the simple prose of consumer magazines. Also, more and longer examples of parent-child dialogs would have improved this guide's usefulness. Highly recommended, but also suggest Mary Calderone and James Ramey's still-valuable Talking with Your Child About Sex (o.p.), which is over half sample dialogs. Martha Cornog, Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)

What People are Saying About This

Michael Gurian
Sex and Sensibility is a remarkably wise book. It offers a new way of thinking about sex and sexuality and shows parents the way to best communicate that understanding to children of all ages. This is essential reading…it will help all of us be better parents.
—( Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys)
Tamara Kreinin
Deborah Roffman has skillfully taken the essentials from her sexuality education classes to help strengthen the dialogue between America's parents and their children. This is required reading for both parents and teachers on this important subject.
—( Tamara Kreinin, President and CEO, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS))
Barbara Kemp Huberman
Sex and Sensibility offers parents a concrete, practical and sensible road map to guide their sexual health parenting skills. Every parent needs this book to ensure their children grow up to be adults who are respectful, responsible, and are capable of healthy and safe intimate relationships.
—( Barbara Kemp Huberman, Director of Sexuality Education, Advocates for Youth)
Elliot N. Dorff
I frankly wish that my parents had had this book when they were raising me and that I had had it when I was raising my own children. It is a wonderfully warm, witty, and, especially, wise book about sex and sexuality that absolutely everyone should read. Finally we have a book that can help parents overcome their discomfort in discussing this topic with their children and give them the tools to know what to say when.
—( Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, Ph.D., author This Is My Beloved, This Is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Human Intimacy)
Michael Riera
Sex and Sensibility will make you reconsider what is age appropriate in your conversations with your children about sex and sexuality. Our kids, from an early age, are more curious and more knowledgeable than most of us dare to imagine, but fortunately Deborah Roffman has written this book to assist us in initiating and getting comfortable in these life-affirming discussions. By book's end, you might even find yourself looking forward to these conversations!
—( Michael Riera, co-author Field Guide to the American Teenager)
Joe DiPrisco
If you are a parent who is shy about having the so-called sex-talk with your children, or worried you have missed your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Deborah M. Roffman in Sex and Sensibility gives you everything you need to get over it. She gives you information, research, judgment, wisdom, and compassion. In lucid, generous prose she provides you the tools to shape a developmentally appropriate conversation, not to mention the encouragement to put this book down and knock on your child's door right now.
—(Joe DiPrisco, co-author, Field Guide to the American Teenager)

Meet the Author

Deborah M. Roffman, M.S., a nationally certified Sexuality and Family Life Educator, is an associate editor of the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy and the author of Sex and Sensibility. She has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Mom_of_Teen More than 1 year ago
I recently heard Deborah Roffman speak and was very impressed. As the mother of a teenager, I was desperate for help on the subject of talking to my daughter about sexuality. This book was extremely intelligent and practical. I only wish I had read it years ago so that I could have begun the important discussions that will help shape my daughter's life. I feel I am a much better parent for having read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although my kids are still very young (4 and 5), I bought this book to get myself prepared with the right answers and strategies when the time comes. I found an abundance of helpful information, especially in regards to dealing with the subjects of "sex" and "sexuality" with older children and other parents with similar concerns--such as how to open effective lines of communication that encourage two-way listening and dialog between parents (or teachers) and children--rather than arguing, threatening, and criticizing that often leads to misunderstandings, anger, disrespectful "attitude" and revenge. The author has a rather theoretical, more formal writing style which I think could have been complimented with more short, practical anecdotes, giving specific examples of the words to use with the kids. Also interspersing some clear bullet points throughout the text for those of us that are more comfortable with a more informal, simple format and tone would be welcomed. Therefore, if you have preschoolers like me, I also highly recommend "The Pocket Parent", a very practical, friendly A-Z troubleshooting guide written exclusively for parents and teachers of 2-5 year olds. There are a number of very helpful related issues addressed such as Sexuality, Friends, Listening, Lying, Television-Videos-Computers, and Potty Training. This pocketguide is not written in paragraphs, but rather hundreds of bullets of quick-read advice called "sanity savers". There are also many short, funny anecdotes and dialogs that demonstrate the exact words to use in your discussions. If you have young kids, consider both helpful books that compliment each other in style and subject matter for different ages.