yes your kid

Hand-picked by IOSS: Yes, Your Kid. What Parents Need to Know About Today’s Teens and Sex, by Debby Herbenick

Too often, parents wear blinders when it comes to the sex lives of their children. They hear the statistics—how 80% of college students have engaged in rough sex or choking, how 44% have shared nude or suggestive photos via text—and think, “Not my kid.”

Dr. Debby Herbenick – a sexuality researcher, educator, and Professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health – has a new book out titled “Yes Your Kid: What Parents Need to Know About Today’s Teens and Sex”. The book includes contributions from Kristina Supler and Susan Stone, attorneys who have led numerous sexual misconduct and sexual assault cases throughout the United States, including at many college campuses.

Yes, Your Kid is the reality check parents need about what sex is like today—so they can better educate and support their tweens, teens, and college students. In our opinion, this book is also much needed for healthcare professionals who are looking for an authoritative, sex-positive, and facts-forward tool to help their young clients and their families navigate today’s sexual landscape safely.

Combining insights from cutting-edge research, dozens of conversations with college students, and on-the-ground legal experience, Yes, Your Kid provides:

  • An overview of key topics in sexuality, from communication and consent to pornography and rough sex, describing how things have changed;
  • Real-world legal stories illustrating today’s consensual sex pitfalls—and how to help children avoid them;
  • Age-appropriate tools to not only talk to tweens, teens, and college-aged kids about sex and consent but also build a healthy foundation with younger children;
  • Concrete advice parents can share directly with their children so that—if and when their children become sexually active with partners—they are more likely to have safer, consensual sex;
  • A chapter focused on the consent, communication, and relationship education needs of young people on the autism spectrum.

At IOSS, we directly asked Debby Herbenick to introduce her book and what makes a difference compared to others.

Why did you decide to write this book?
First – as a parent myself, I know how often kids surprise us with questions about bodies, relationships, and sexuality. Also, things come up in our kids’ lives – maybe in their friend group or at school– and sometimes we find ourselves addressing topics years before we ever thought we would. I wanted to write a book that helped parents navigate these conversations with more comfort and confidence.

Second – from both my own research on the mainstreaming of rough sex among young people and from talking with Kristina and Susan about what they see in their legal cases – it’s clear that sex has changed substantially over the past decade and we need to talk about it. As parents, we need to be informed so we can support our kids.

What’s behind the title – “Yes Your Kid”? 
The title “Yes Your Kid” reflects an experience that so many sexuality educators have had, which involves sharing information with parents of teenagers about what sex is like today and being met with not quite disbelief, but some sense that their own child would never engage in those behaviors. Whether it’s sending a nude image (“sexting”), pressuring a peer for a nude image, watching pornography, or exploring rough sex, too many parents think their child would never do something like that. The title “Yes Your Kid” is meant to invite parents to step into the conversation, to accept that – whether or not their own child is doing a particular thing – that their child will be helped by open, frank, fact-based conversations with their parents. 

What kinds of topics does Yes Your Kid cover?
Yes Your Kid provides parents with numerous tools to have ongoing conversations with their kids about bodies and sexuality. There’s an entire chapter on how to become a more askable, approachable parent. Whether readers are gearing up for conversations about how babies are made, puberty, condoms, birth control, sex and technology, pornography, or various forms of sexual behavior that are common today, Yes Your Kid has something to offer.

How is Yes Your Kid different from other sex education books for parents? 
Let me be clear: there are many terrific books for parents about how to talk with their kids about sex. That said, most were written in the “before times” – before the widespread access to online pornography, before the COVID pandemic when kids and teens began living even more of their lives online, before most kids had access to smartphones, and before rough sex (like choking, slapping, and smothering) became normalized among teenagers. Parents need updated information to talk with their kids about the realities of sex today. Throughout the book, readers will also find examples from Kristina and Susan’s legal cases, which provide real-world insights into the kinds of things that can and do go wrong – whether among middle school students, high school students, or college students – and what parents and their kids can learn from these situations.

There’s also a chapter on sexuality education for those with autism spectrum disorder, right? 
Yes, we decided to include an entire chapter dedicated to sexuality topics for autistic teens and young adults, especially given how often I get questions from parents of autistic teenagers and young adults on this topic. As background, for many years I worked with children on the autism spectrum and their families. Also, as a college professor, I regularly have autistic students who have taught me a great deal about what more inclusive sexuality education can and should look like for them. Readers will find information about how to approach topics like puberty, reproduction, sexual and gender diversity, sensory needs, and much more in this chapter.

Anything else you want to add?
Yes, that talking about sex (and even some of the more complicated topics like sexting and pornography) may be awkward at first, but it’s also completely doable. Learning to talk openly about sensitive topics is a gift – especially when these conversations can be critical to our children’s safety and to their ability to develop healthy, connecting intimate relationships as they grow older.


ABOUT the authors

Debby Herbenick, PhD, is an award-winning, internationally recognized sexuality researcher and an AASECT-certified sexuality educator. She is a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health and the author of five bestselling books about human sexuality. Dr.Herbenick has been published in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Men’s Health magazine and has provided expert opinions about sex on television shows such as Tyra, Katie, The Doctors, and The Tamron Hall Show.

Kristina Supler, Esq. advocates for students of all ages during the most difficult periods in their lives. Her experience is regularly enlisted for cases involving reports of sexual assault, and her services are particularly sought after to navigate complex Title IX cases with a parallel criminal investigation.

Susan Stone, Esq. is a co-chair of the Student & Athlete Defense group at KJK law firm in Cleveland, OH, and handles special education issues, student disciplinary matters, and Title IX investigations.