How To Respond To Comments About Planned Parenthood’s Disposal of Fetal Parts

PlannedParenthoodLast night during dinner at my delightful in-laws home, the subject of Planned Parenthood and Fetal Part-gate came up. Their equally delightful neighbor was appalled at the cavalier manner in which Dr. Deborah Nucatola discussed the disposal and donation of fetal parts post abortion. She didn’t understand how this woman could be so blasé, candid and direct about something so emotionally and politically charged.

Not me. I totally get it. Here’s the deal: she was talking about a part of her normal, regular, workaday life and she thought she was with colleagues who also see fetal part donation as a normal, regular part of their workaday life.

Think about how you talk about your work with your family and friends. Now think about how to you talk about your work with your co-workers. My guess is you have inside jokes, complain about clients, and make comments you would NEVER make in front of someone who didn’t work with you or in your industry. You would not say these things to an outsider because they would be misconstrued, possibly offensive and could get you fired, right?

Here is what you can say to other adults about Fetal Part-gate:

It occurred to me that she thought she was talking to colleagues about something they had in common and her casual manner tells me that she thought they were on the same page and she didn’t need to screen her comments.

This is just like when you make jokes and say things to your co-workers that you would never, ever say in public or to people outside of your work.

Planned Parenthood does considerably more good in the world than they do “bad.” In fact, through their work, they prevent an average of 550,000 pregnancies each year.

So, kindly shut the fuck up about this and talk to your kids about sex and do whatever it takes to make sure they don’t have to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.

Well…maybe not that last part.

And here’s what you can say to  your kids:

Sometimes, after a woman has an abortion, the doctor’s office will give the fetus to a company that does scientific research to cure or understand different medical conditions. Planned Parenthood has done this for years and this doctor made a mistake and talked to some people who were pretending to be from one of these companies.

They lied to her and because she thought they agreed with this policy she was very direct and open with them. Now a lot of people think Planned Parenthood makes a lot of money from this and are very upset about it. I think…

Obviously, you may need to explain to your kiddos what abortion is and your values about it. Here’s some help with that.

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How to Clarify Your Values about Sex So You Can Brainwash Your Children

When I was pregnant, Kerry, my spouse, and I would joke that our baby would be a football-playing-conservative-born-again-Christian as God’s punishment for our liberal, non-believer ways. So far, so good. Milo seems to be an anti-sports-liberal-atheist, just like his mama and papa. I guess this means we’ll end up in hell together! Yay! Values blog - rings

I know for a fact you want your children to think and believe the same things you do. If not exactly the same things, then some close approximation. When it comes to sexuality I bet you’d like your children to believe much of what you do about this fundamental part of life.

But, because it’s sex and sex is complex and confusing and personal and political, you may be a bit out of your element when it comes to articulating your beliefs about it. In my last post I gave you my super secret sex talks formula – Facts + Values – so you can have easy and effective talks with your kids.

The “facts” part is easy. The “values” part, not so much. Here’s the deal, you MUST be clear about your sexual values because this is the one and only part of all the information about sexuality your children will get that you and only you can and should provide. Your values are what you believe to be right or true about something and your kids need to know what you believe.

When you know your sexual values and talk openly about them with your child, you will influence their thinking about sex. This means you will influence their decision making about sex. This means you will be IN THEIR HEADS when things get hot and heavy (the world’s biggest turn-off, I’d like to point out).

Let’s take “sex before marriage” as an example. Many, many, many people believe, really and truly believe, sex should only happen within heterosexual marriage. This is a very common value and one that only 5% of Americans manage to live.

But here’s the thing – saying you believe sex is for marriage isn’t good enough. You need to explain why it’s for marriage (and “god says so” isn’t an answer; it’s a cop out). What is it about marriage that is so special? What’s going on, in a marriage, that makes it the best time to do the deed?

I do not share this value. I happen to think it’s kind of nuts, but that’s just me and my values. I think sex, especially the first time a person has sex, should be with someone they love, are in a committed, exclusive relationship with, have protection and it’s a whole hearted YES! for both parties.

I also like it when the people who are considering having sex are over the age of 18. I rarely get my way on this one considering the average age of first intercourse is 17.

And if you think it’s wrong to share your values with your child because you “want them to make their own decisions” I would like you to consider what would happen if you left them to their own devices for every meal they eat. They would make shitty choices 90% of the time.

Just like you don’t share every value your parents ever crammed down your throat, your  kids will develop their own values and beliefs anyway. If you talk about your sexual values chances are merely higher they will make better decisions about sex than you ever did.

I wrote a whole book about this very topic – clarifying your beliefs about sex, love and relationships. You can purchase the Kindle version here.

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How to Make a Sex Talk Super Simple and Effective

It’s really easy! Just use my magic formula: Facts + Values.

Fact = What it is. Effective talk blog - tampon
Value = What you believe about it.

Here’s what it looks like in action.

Boy: Mom, what’s a blow job?

Mom: Excellent question! A blow job is slang for oral sex on a guy. Oral sex is when one person puts their mouth on another person’s penis or vulva.

I believe oral sex isn’t something kids do because sex isn’t for kids.

It’s part of a committed sexual relationship, and not something done casually or in exchange for something else. It’s not something you EVER have to do.

Or, if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and consistently starting sex talks, it looks like this:

Mom: Hey, boy-child, what do you know about tampons?

Boy: Gross, mom. Something with periods…?

Mom: Right! A tampon fits inside a girl or woman’s body and it captures the blood from her period. I believe tampons are one of the top five inventions of the 20th century.

See how easy this is? This strategy is one of the simplest ways to get a sex talk started.

And lucky you, I just gave you two scripts you can put to work!

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How to Talk To Preschool and Elementary Children About Sexual Abuse

Here you go – the magic words you need so you can talk to your kids about this shitty part of life. These scripts are just to get you started as this is an ongoing conversation you need to have with your youngsters.

A note of caution: if you were sexually abused as a child please do not revel this to your children until they are older (17+) and can handle the information. I believe children do not want or need to hear about our childhood traumas. They need to see us as whole and healthy and when you talk about your childhood trauma it can be very scary and upsetting to them because they do not have the emotional or mental capacity to handle this information.


If your child does not know about sex, then don’t say “sexual abuse” just skip it.

Early Childhood

Sometimes adults and even other kids will try to touch kids in their private areas to make themselves feel good. This is called sexual abuse. The adults who do this know it’s wrong and sometimes the kids do too, but not always. These are tricky people who will try to get kids to do things that are against our family rules.

Please tell me or another safe adult if someone tries to touch you this way. You won’t be in trouble and we will find help for the other person.

If sexual abuse ever happens to you, it’s important to know that it isn’t your fault. It’s never the kids’ fault and if you tell someone, they will make sure the person who is doing the abuse gets help. If that person doesn’t believe you, keep telling until someone does.

Please let me know if anyone wants you to keep a secret from me. We don’t keep secrets in our family. Surprises are okay, like a birthday present or special treat. Never keep a secret that feels sad, scary or bad.


In addition to the scripts above:

Sexual abuse can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s really important to talk about it. I want you to be safe and need to know if something like this happens to you or to one of your friends.

If a situation feels uncomfortable, wrong or even just a tiny bit strange to you, please tell me. It’s better to follow up on those feelings than to ignore them. You might get an “uh-oh!” feeling in your belly. Pay attention to this when it happens. It’s your intuition telling you something isn’t right.

Can you think of a time you were doing something and you had this kind of “uh-oh” feeling? I remember one time when…[tell a tale of when you ignored your intuition].

For more information about sexual behavior in children, child sexual abuse and red flags in adults and kids, check out

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How To Talk To Your Children about Caitlyn nee Bruce Jenner and Being Transgender

If you’ve been under a rock for the last several months, you may have missed that Olympian and reality TV star Bruce Jenner has come out as transgender. Her new name is Caitlyn and she is finally living her life as nature intended – as a woman.

The idea of “gender” is confusing and “transgender” even more, so you need to get a little learning under your belt and talk about this with your children.

Here’s my handy-dandy and simplistic guide to explaining gender. goldfish-32441_1280

SEX is about biology and physiology. Are you male or female? Think about this in terms of fish. Do we talk about “women” and “men” fish? Nope, because that’s gender.  We say male and female. See, biology or physiology.

Some people’s sex isn’t so clearly defined and we used to call those folks “hermaphrodite.” Times and language change and the preferred word is now “intersex.”

GENDER is social, cultural and emotional and there are two parts: identity (how you feel and connect to the gender role available to you) and expression (how you dress, talk or behave).

The words we use to describe someone’s gender are woman and girl; man and boy.

TRANSGENDER is when someone, like Caitlyn, is born in the wrong physical body for their gender identity. How they feel on the inside (like a boy or girl) doesn’t align with their sex (male or female).

CISGENDER is when someone’s gender is aligned with their sex. Like me, for example. I am in a female body and I feel like a woman on the inside and I related to and connect to the things most women and girls like and do in our culture.

Now, I have simplified things here to one degree or another because this is a complex issue that has many facets and intersecting ideas.

If you think that being transgender or something other than the typical genders most of us are familiar with, is wrong or bad, it is imperative you find a way to talk about this with your kids that isn’t negatively biased. Children who are out of “norm” with regard to any aspect of their sexuality, generally have a tough time. They have an even tougher time when their parents are assholes about it, whatever it may be. Don’t be an asshole.

Part of the reason I know what I do about this, is because of this great infographic, The Genderbread Person 3.0.

Here’s what to say:

Early Childhood – under age 8

“Sometimes, when people are born, their bodies don’t match how they feel on the inside. They might have a boy body, but feel like a girl on the inside. This is called transgender. It can be super hard and confusing for the person if they feel this way.

 Most people feel comfortable in their body and are happy to be a boy or a girl.”

 Tween – 9 and older

“Have you heard about Bruce Jenner? How he changed his name to Caitlyn? He actually changed a ton more. Here’s the deal.

Your “sex” is whether you are male or female. Your “gender” is how you feel on the inside – like a boy or a girl. Gender also has to do with social roles and our culture, like women wear dresses and there is work that people still think are better for men or for women.

When someone is transgender, like Caitlyn, …(insert script from above).

What do you think about this?”

 Be sure to talk about your values about this as well.

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Lena Dunham vs. Josh Duggar: Which One Sexually Abused Their Sister?

Gee whiz! Was it just last November that I was talking about Lena Duhnam’s inappropriate sexual behavior with her sister? And here we are again!

It’s been revealed that Josh Duggar, the firstborn child from the TV show 19 Kids And Counting, sexually molested his sisters when he was 14. He too, engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, but it was with with five younger girls instead of one.

I talked to my colleague and sexual abuse expert, Kim Estes with Savvy Parents Safe Kids  about Josh. She said he is a “opportunist molester” which means what it sounds like: he has the opportunity, he molests. Kim says that because he molested multiple girls, multiple time, his behavior is definitely sexually abusive.

According to Kim, people who sexually abuse generally do not “recover.” Much like recovered alcoholics, they can learn to manage their problem with the proper support, but it’s always there. Whatever “praying the molester away” sort of “treatment” Josh received could not possibly provide the tools he needs to control his behavior. In her mind, he’s still a risk to young girls.

When I asked her about the girls he abused, who don’t appear to be particularly traumatized by these events, she said, “The girls are still very young and because their parents, church and culture probably told them ‘boys sometimes do these things because they can’t help it and he made a mistake and was really sorry’ they minimized his behavior. She also most likely told the girls that they are just fine, and it’s not a big deal.”

Because the parents and other adults did not treat this with the seriousness it requires, these poor girls may suffer life-long problems related to their molestation. Brushing this under the rug only serves to support the molester and the “picture perfect” life the Duggar’s pretend to lead.

Back to who’s the worst offender, Lena or Josh. I think it’s probably clear who wins that title but I thought it would be a great teachable moment to compare Lena and Josh’s situations, so you can learn a thing or two about sexual

Here’s what’s similar:

– They were older, bigger, smarter and more powerful than their sisters.
– The behavior was non-consensual, meaning the girls did not agree to it.

Here’s what’s not:

1. Josh was a 14 year-old adolescent; Lena was a 7 year-old girl.
2. Josh was in puberty and feeling full-on sexual feelings; Lena was not in puberty, therefore she had no hormonal powerhouse encouraging her behavior.
3. Josh repeated sexual behavior with multiple girls; Lena did not.
4. Josh knew what he was doing was wrong; Lena did not.
5. Josh was secretive about his behavior; Lena was playful and open about her behavior.
6. Josh grew up in a sexually repressive culture; Lena did not (I am assuming this because she knew the word vagina at 7).

You might be a little hung up on Lena’s taking advantage of her sister, but you need to know (actually if everyone knew this, the world would be a better place) that it is within the range of developmentally typical behavior for kids to do what she did. It happens all the time and all over the planet.

One of the main ways young children learn about sexuality and bodies is through their natural curiosity and play. While Lena’s behaviors pushed those boundaries, and were not okay or safe for her sister, they are not outside of the range of typical for a seven year old girl. This sort of sexual or body exploration can become problematic and because of this, should always be stopped. Sex and sexual touching isn’t for kids, right?

These days, the main way 14 year-old boys learn about sexuality and bodies is through the damned internet. Or, ideally, they learn about this when they have access to another human through consensual, same-age (2 +/- years) experimentation with kissing, fondling, touching and actual vaginal or oral sex.

Lena did not sexually abuse her sister. Her behavior wasn’t okay and should have been stopped, but compared to Josh, it was small potatoes.

Josh sexually molested and abused these girls. The good news is he told his parents what happened, which tells me he knew he needed help. I would feel better about him if he’d had the correct kind of therapy that would be more certain to help him but he did not. It’s never too late, however, and perhaps he will seek out some support as he goes through the media wringer.

My heart goes out to the girls Josh molested. Their families, church, and law enforcement clearly failed them. Perhaps all this attention will allow them to get the help they really need: counseling with a skilled and knowledgeable therapist.

For more information about sexual behavior in children, child sexual abuse and red flags in adults and kids, check out

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How To Explain Affairs and Cheating To Your Child

Gone are the days (well, they were never really here, actually) of monogamy being the one and only way to be in relationship. Ever since time began, people have had all kinds of arrangements and agreements within their relationships and for many different reasons – health, time, sexual tastes, etc. I believe monogamy is primarily a social construct and not a natural inclination.

th_editedI think it’s important to talk to your kids about different types of relationship structures because it is a nearly impossible and ridiculous idea to expect human beings to mate for life. We are just not wired that way. If we were our divorce/ breakup rate would be nominal; people would nearly always have crazy and totally satisfying sex lives with their one partner; and the only person we’d be turned on by would be our life-long mate.

If handled correctly, relationships that are non-monogamous have rules spelled out and are fully agreed to by all parties. Here are some different relationship structures for you to chat about with your kids.

Monogamy: Two people, fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and in bed. The agreement is that they have sex and a relationship only with each other and no one else.

Monogamish: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and with an agreement that each (or sometimes just one) partner may occasionally have sex with other people, but not a dating or boyfriend/ girlfriend type relationship.

Swinging: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life and with an agreement they both can have sex with other people on occasion. Usually the partners connect with other “swingers” at events or online or in other ways. Sometimes they swap partners. This is often something they do together and is about sex.

Polyamory: Two people fully committed to each other as primary partners in life who also have concurrent committed relationships with another person or people. This is different from swinging or being monogamish because the primary partners are allowed to have full committed relationships (not just sex) with their other partner or partners.

Cheating: Two people fully committed to each other in life and in bed and one (or both) partners have sex or relationships with other people without permission or agreement from their primary partner. The relationships are hidden. No agreement = cheating.

Your kids may ask you what kind of relationship you are in. The safest thing (and easiest) is to tell your kids you are 100% committed to your partner. Most kids don’t want to hear about their parents’ sex lives, so if you swing or are monogamish, they don’t need to know and they don’t want to know.

If you are polyamorous, they do need to know – but please don’t ask me what to say, because I’m bound to offend someone. Talk to your poly pals and find out how they handle it.

Full disclosure, since I am certain you are wondering, I am in a happy, long term monogamous relationship and so far (25 years in) it’s working pretty well for us. I, personally, find that one relationship is pretty much all I can handle. The thought of adding another personality (on any level) to the mix scares the shit out of me. Although I would be willing to give it a whirl for John Stamos.

Finally, a big old shout out to Dan Savage  for helping thousands and thousands of people understand this super-confusing stuff – including me.

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