Real Talk Podcast: What Parents Need to Know About Today’s Teens and Sex

November 8, 2023

On this episode of Real Talk, Susan and Kristina are joined by Dr. Debby Herbenick to discuss their new book, Yes, Your Kid: What Parents Need to Know About Today’s Teens and Sex. Covering various aspects of sexuality and sexual education including the challenges of working with students in crisis situations, the evolving definitions of what constitutes “sex,” and the prevalence of rough sex practices, specifically choking, in contemporary sexual experiences. In this episode, they touch on the confusion and lack of comprehensive sexual education, and how the digital age and online media have further complicated these issues. The conversation highlights how different individuals may have varying definitions and perspectives on what constitutes sexual activity.

Pre-Order Our Book “Yes, Your Kid” Today!

Links Mentioned in the Show

Show Notes:

  • Book announcement (00:25)
  • Introduction of Dr. Debby Herbenick (1:50)
  • Book summary (3:10)
  • Why should parents buy this book? (4:10)
  • The different perspectives during the writing process (6:10)
  • How the research is different from the legal perspective (9:57)
  • How the types of cases change over time (13:30)
  • How sex changes (15:00)
  • How choking has grown in prevalence (18:10)
  • How well are students educated about sex (19:40)
  • How the internet changes student education (21:40)
  • How the definition of sex changes over time (22:20)
  • How different groups of people define sex (25:45)
  • The goal of being an “askable” parent “(27:50)
  • The importance of providing information to kids and students (30:00)
  • What was your favorite part of writing this book (32:05)
  • How sex on the spectrum is discussed (34:50)
  • Current trends of mental health in students (36:30)


Susan Stone: Welcome back to Real Talk with Susan Stone and Kristina Supler. We are full-time moms and attorneys bringing our student defense legal practice to life with real-handed conversation. So today, Kristina and I are going to share a little news with all our listeners out there. We have a book coming out!

Kristina Supler:  Yes! 

Susan Stone: Long work in progress.

Kristina Supler: Yeah, we started. Did we start 2019 or 2020?

Susan Stone: Oh my gosh I don’t even know. Our guest today is our co-author who we’re so happy to have join us, Dr. Debby Herbenick. Debby, before I read you some interesting background information, do you remember when we started to unpack the book?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: I think we started writing. It was in 2021, but we started dreaming about it before the pandemic. That’s what I thought it was right before the pandemic or like March of 2020.

Susan Stone: I know.

But, you know, now that it’s done and our book, which we’ll talk about, can be found. It’s on presale for Amazon. I didn’t know how long it actually took to write a book. And, Kristina, I am so grateful that I was ignorant about the process. 

Kristina Supler:  Oh, yeah. It sort of did it. Yeah, because otherwise, I don’t know that I would have. And our fine guest, Dr. Herbenick, has written many, many, many. So, very familiar with the process. And we were pushing things along in Urgent’s and Eager, let’s go, let’s go. And, Debby’s like, it’s going to be a little bit of a journey ladies

Susan Stone: No, I had no idea. So, without further ado, Kristina, why don’t we do the more formal introduction? So, everybody knows who we teamed up with.

Kristina Supler:  Yes. So, we are really happy to be joined today by Dr. Debby Herbenick, who is an internationally recognized sexual and reproductive health professor, researcher and educator. 

Susan Stone: Not bad for us, Hitchin, our wagon over there, huh?

Kristina Supler: I’d say that we found the pro in this field. Debby is a provost professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. And for more than 20 years now, Debby’s dedicated her efforts to understanding how people experience their bodies and sexual lives. And truly, it was such a pleasure working with you, Debby, and co-authoring this book with you.

Susan Stone: Right. We got to do a drum roll before you talk about the title of the book, right? And I don’t know if you guys can hear this. Oh, there you go. That was good. Now that you got a drum roll, introduce the book.

Kristina Supler: The book is Yes, Your Kid. So welcome, Debby. We’re so happy to have you.

Dr. Debby Herbenick:  Thank you for having me. It’s good to be here.

Susan Stone: Oh, and it’s good to see you. How would you describe our book to our listeners who probably don’t know a thing about it because actually it’s our first discussion, we’ve waited?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: You know, I often think of our book Yes, Your Kid as being a bit of a catch up, a sex education catch up for parents that addresses what sex is really like today for young people, whether young people are thinking about having sex, already having sex, hearing their friends talk about, you know, this world of dating and hookups and sexuality. But this book really addresses contemporary sex and what parents need to know in order to have more informed conversations with their kids. 

Kristina Supler: I have to ask and this is overtly a shameless plug.

Susan Stone: I love when you’re shameless people. You never get to see the shameless side of Kristina Supler So go for it.

Kristina Supler Thank you. Thank you. Now, that I have your blessing. Debby, why should parents buy this book? Why is this something that parents need? You know, on their bookshelf with a ton of other books? 

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Yeah, I really do think parents need Yes, Your Kid on their bookshelves for several reasons. I mean, one, again, even if they have great parenting sex ed books on their shelves and there are many on there, I think of Yes, Your Kid as being different because the other, most of these other books were written in what we, you know, think of as like the before times, right? Before the COVID pandemic, when young people started spending a lot more of their time online and all that entails before this rise in rough sex where rough sex became really mainstream, most schools and parents are not equipped for that. And so, you know, so really again dealing with sex as it is today. This book is also unique because it includes your voices, you know, in the book and, you know, something that I learned from you and I am sure we’ll talk about this today, but you too deal with realities of when sex goes wrong and lots of times sex and hookups go right and it’s fine or they go good enough, but sometimes they go really, really sideways and you too see a lot of that and something that I learned from working with you and why I had you come and talk with my college students too is, you know, all of these little details that happen where I actually think there’s opportunity for parents to step in and say, you know, hey, don’t do this thing, right? It often doesn’t go well or hey, this thing can be interpreted in that way and you need to know that. So it gives parents also these very real world scenarios and stories to talk with their teenagers and college students about so that they can help their kids navigate this really tricky terrain and hopefully safer better ways.

Susan Stone: This summer my daughter got married in June and I remarked after the wedding to Kristina that my daughter is 25. We never get the privilege of being around students who are happy, who are leading fulfilled, good relationships.

Kristina Supler: So true. I mean, and we talk about this a lot and Debby, we’ve had this discussion with you a bit at times as well. Our clients, our students who were helping support day in and day out generally are only with us because they’re experiencing some form of crisis. And so I love what I do. I’m passionate about my work and I know Susan you feel the same way, but unfortunately it’s a self-selecting population and that we’re not in the position to hear the good stories, the happy stories when things go well. And so of course it’s sort of, I don’t know, maybe it jades us a little or we certainly at a minimum bring that lens to how we have certain conversations about students and sexuality. But it’s something that these conversations, no matter what your personal view is, I think we always talk about Susan, these conversations need to be had with parents and families and in schools. .

Susan Stone: And we see things from the perspective as advocates and getting at people and trying to decide who’s credible, testing truth. And so we are fierce advocates for our clients, but I love what you said in that our voices are here and that we combined with you who had a very different voice at times.

Kristina Supler: At times.

Susan Stone: But looking back, what would you say the biggest challenge for you was working with people involved in both the Title IX process on campus and in the criminal justice system and in civil suits when sex goes bad?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Hmm, the biggest challenge?

Susan Stone: Or different? I think different, yes. I think that you know, again, you’re working with students on college campuses day in and

 day out and you probably, I’m guessing and correct me if I’m wrong, share with our listeners. You hear stories and have conversations that run the gamut of positive to negative, you know, unfortunate experiences, whereas weren’t generally hearing only the negative. And then we’re lawyers and it’s a lot of people don’t like how lawyers think.

Susan Stone: Well, we do think differently and I’m interested in your perspective and then I’d like to share what I thought during the process, which was so eye opening.

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Yeah, well, you can go first.

Susan Stone: Oh, I didn’t think so for me, it was that I come from a place where I listen to our clients and then what we try to do is poke holes in their case to build them up. We get them ready for their interviews. We get them ready for hearings. We put them through rigorous cross examination internally. So because of that, I don’t think I’m quite as willing to take things at face value. And I felt like it was a real learning experience to gain. You have a much more open posture than I think I do as a lawyer. I’m a little more jaded through the process. 

Kristina Supler: What do you think, Debby?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: So I think that, and I work with a number of lawyers because I also do a lot of expert witness work. And so, but I’m not a lawyer. In my role as a researcher, however, a lot of what we do are interviews with people about their sexual lives. And I wouldn’t say that we take things at face value because the job of a researcher is to interrogate. And that’s not in a bad way. I mean, it’s really to kind of, I think of it as like turning around people’s ideas and memories and feelings and thoughts. And what I love about interviewing people, we interview people of all ages depending on the project and other projects are just young people specific, for example. But I love it because it’s a process together. And maybe a thing that’s different, like you know, you’re talking about like practicing cross examination for a very specific outcome and you clearly want certain perspective shown for cross examination and for, you know, these types of cases. And that’s not the situation where we’re interviewing. We’re just trying to understand like, what was this experience for somebody? What was it like? And often in a 60 to 90 minute interview, which is kind of a common length for research interviews, maybe two hours, even when somebody first presents to you, they can have these really fascinating insights within the course of a period of time, right? So for example, it’s not unusual for somebody to say, yeah, you know, this thing that happened like it was fine, it was consensual. And as you talk through and you sort of, you know, ask them what they thought about something and maybe have them walk through what like the communication process was like. And it might be that coming slider, they say, I mean, it was consensual, but it didn’t feel right. And here’s why, right? And then I mean, it might have been so we, our job is never to lead anyone in a certain place because we do want to hear their perspective. But in asking certain questions about like sort of walk me through, you know, your thought process or walk me through the interaction, it’s really common for people to have like their own insights into their experiences. So they are certainly different processes of interacting with people, but it’s something I love about research is this opportunity that I have to, to, if the interviews going well, they’re essentially inviting the interviewer in to understand their perspective and their experience. So I get to try on lots of different experiences and perspectives to see things that maybe I would not have thought of that way. And that’s a, that’s a real joy in the research.

Kristina Supler: It makes me think this, this discussion we’re having about our different roles in the process is making me think about some, some trends of cases that we’ve encountered. And working with you helped me sort of recognize again, something that I was, uh, incorrect in my thinking about. And that was, I always think of Susan and myself working with students around the front lines of the issues that are, you know, rumbling through college campuses in terms of Title IX consent, sexual experiences. And we noticed through the years really of working with you some issues that were newer to us. I’m like, oh my gosh, we’re having cases about this issue or that issue. And who knew? And you’re like, my students have been talking about this for a couple years now. And it seems like at times there was sort of, I don’t want to say a lag, but some of what you’re hearing about day in and day out from your students in your lectures and class and, I imagine papers and essays they’re writing, some of that information, and I guess, I don’t know if trends is the right word, but.

Susan Stone: No, I think it’s a funnel, Kristina If you think about it, Debby’s going to hear about it first. And it isn’t until something is perceived as a conflict or something that’s reportable and then people find us as advisors. 

Kristina Supler: Or maybe just students learning about the, in our world, the Title IX process that seemed foreign or in applicable and through a discussion.

Susan Stone: But even so, if you look at our cases, how many cases do we get where the actual incident occurred? Maybe a year ago. Many years ago.

Kristina Supler: Many, many.

Susan Stone: So it’s natural that Debby would be the first line of information and then when we get a scenario, there’s definitely going to be what I call a funnel approach. What do you think, Debby, about that?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: You know, I wish I was the first line of information, but I’m not.

Susan Stone: Whoa!

Dr. Debby Herbenick: They are, right? I mean, enough of them.

Kristina Supler: Sure. Well, your ahead of us

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Yeah, I’m early because I, like you said, I do get to hear their questions in class and read their essays. And that’s one of many reasons I love teaching because I’m learning all the time from my students. Sex does change. And so when, you know, it’s really only hearing from them that I get to understand their questions and then, and then sometimes I say, you know, this is kind of new and we need to learn about this. I can’t really help them as a professor if we don’t actually do some of this research to figure it out. And that’s how that came up with choking. I mean, I was hearing about choking from students and other colleagues were hearing about it. And then back in, you know, 2019, we decided, well, actually, we did our first study that included choking in 2016. But then really started focusing on it and research that started a little bit before the pandemic. And it’s taken over our line of research. I mean, everyone calls it choking for listeners who haven’t heard of it before. It’s technically strangulation. It involves using one or both hands to press or squeeze against the neck, sometimes forearm, sometimes ligatures. And, you know, and I think this is right. Again, we’re some of it like we saw some different, we had different experiences with working with young people because when I first heard about this, I mean, I was pretty shocked that this was becoming really normative. And I thought there’s no way many people, especially young women want this to be happening to them. And then we did the surveys and we interviewed and we just found like massive numbers of people wanting it to be done to them. And that was, that was a big surprise, right? But, but it’s what the data has consistently shown us. Now, that also means though that, you know, it doesn’t mean that everyone wants it to happen to them as we talk about in the book, as we talk about it in Yes, Your Kid. And it doesn’t mean that it always goes well because even though it does go fine a lot of the time, and we can say what that means because fine, I mean in terms of consent, not in terms of health, right? There’s health risks even if it’s consensual. But, but sometimes, and I know this comes up in your cases too and we hear this pretty often in our research studies, somebody may seek out a partner to choke them or they may accept somebody else wanting to choke them, but it’s harder than they thought it was going to be, and it hurts them or it scares them or all of the above. And so, you know, this is one of the really significant changes that we’ve seen in contemporary sex because we’re now in a place where two thirds of young adult women in our college surveys report having ever been choked during sex. And that’s a massive number. So, you know, 15, 20 years ago, there was very little data on it, but the very little data that we had suggested probably just a few percent of adults were doing these types of, you know, choking or other kinds of breath play. And now it’s the norm.

Susan Stone: You took my question, Debby, because when we get choking cases, we used to call them choking cases, and now choking may or may not be one element of a case. And sometimes it’s not even the main element. So, would you call it more? It’s not that everybody in college enjoys it or wants it, but it is considered normal in that it can be part of the normal discussion. 

Dr. Debby Herbenick: It is, because it is very much considered normative. And so, yeah, there are these rough sex behaviors choking. And I probably focused the most on choking for two reasons. One, because it’s far away, one of the most common, like way more common than slapping, smothering, then consensual non-consent, then other forms of rough sex, probably the only other one that’s really, you know, around as high in terms of prevalence as spanking, but spanking is not nearly as consequential for health, right?

Susan Stone: Right.

Dr. Debby Herbenick: So, to be, to be choked is really different than to be spanked in terms of health and risk of injury or death. And so, yeah, I mean, these come in like constellations of rough sex behaviors and choking just happens to be one of the most common, but it’s also one of the most concerning in terms of risk of injury. And even though death is rare, it is a possible outcome and nobody can tell somebody that what you’re doing may or may not lead to someone’s death. Like it’s just, it’s always a possibility and people need to know about that.

Kristina Supler: Debby, in the book, Yes, Your Kid, we write about, you know, choking rough sex. There’s discussion about various forms of contraception. And Susan and I again, we hear all sorts of stories all the time that make us say, hmm, okay, interesting perspective, not quite accurate in terms of, you know, contraception and things like that, but it just sort of begs the question in your opinion, do you feel or find that students are more confused than ever about sex than in medically and scientifically accurate information? Or are they better informed and just struggling through complex issues?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: You know, I don’t think there’s ever been a time in our country when young adults have been very well informed about sex. And but there, but but sex has changed. So it’s different. You know, the things people are confused about now are different than they were 10 years  ago and that’s different than 20 or 30 years ago. But you know, for many people who are now like in their 70s and 80s, who have been involved in our studies many times and I’ve talked to just socially too, right? And some of those early misconceptions, many of that generation we’ll talk about are stories like, you know, I mean, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard things like, well, my parents told me never to kiss anyone because, you know, if you kiss somebody, then you wind up pregnant, so we did everything but kiss and we wound up pregnant, right? And so there’s like lots of these like older generation stories that like that was the misconception. A lot of things around pregnancy and certainly what women owed men in particular, like big issues around assault and like duty and obligation of somebody pays for your dinner and blah, blah, blah. So every generation has its misinformation and its misconceptions. But what we have now, what we have now is just this complete lack of sex education in many US states, not everywhere, but many places. But even the ones who really provide quite a bit of sex education, they’re not talking about rough sex, they’re not talking in detail about pornography and what young people need to know and figure out like what’s real, what’s not, a lot of what’s shown in pornography is not at all real. And young people today are also living out their lives, you know, with online media.

Kristina Supler: Online, yeah.

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Totally different than 20 years ago. And so, and yes, in some ways, there’s a lot more information than there was before, but young people who we hear from like don’t know which sites to trust or which influencer to trust. There’s a lot of information, but unless you’re getting it from somebody who really has good information, then, you know, it doesn’t really do you any good.

Susan Stone: Can I share a new observation that just happened today?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Sure.

Susan Stone: This is crazy. So we’re representing involved in a lot of same sex couple, matters of allegations of sexual assault. And when I grew up, if you said the word sex, I am having sex, that meant to me that the person was engaging in penetration, penile, vaginal penetration. And if not to get graphic, but we are talking about sex and we’re talking about our book, Yes, Your Kid, everything leading up to that, including oral sex .

Kristina Supler: And digital penetration.

Susan Stone: Thank you. Was foreplay. What’s interesting is it occurred to me that what’s defined as sex is changing. And we have a client who defines sex as digital penetration. We had sex. And I had to stop and say, could you tell me what that means? Help me understand what is sex mean to you and sexual assault, of course, is any contact without consent, but the word rape was used in context of that case. And again, in a criminal setting, rape is defined as penetration. However, slight, it can be with a penis or an object or a finger, but there has to be penetration. And we’re seeing not just one case, but many cases now where students are using the sex much broader, the label, the label. And it can be very confusing for us because we need to parse you details. Have you seen a definitional change on what is sex?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Well, you know, it’s actually always varied. And so you’re right that I think that there are plenty of people who have a particular definition, but the most famous paper in our field about this came out in 1999. And it was called, Would You Say You Had Sex If? And it was a really controversial paper. It got picked up in tons of media. And the controversy around it was that even though the data had been collected in the early 1990s asking college students, like would they say that they had had sex if they had kissed somebody if they had had oral sex, if they had had penetration, if they had, you know, vaginal sex, anal sex, whatever. The controversy was that it was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the midst of the Clinton Lewinsky, you know, issue when around was oral sex considered sex. And it turned out that, you know, some college students considered it oral sex, but many didn’t. And since that time, there have been so many studies on this topic and my colleagues and I have published some of them years ago, involving same sex, you know, you know, couples and you know, people who identify in various ways of their sexual orientations. I was at a conference probably seven or eight years ago where some medical students sort of really think to see what physicians in training think of as sex. And it turns out that physicians in training largely think of things that could cause STIs to be considered sex, but other things aren’t sex to them. So you’re right. I mean, it varies by people, you know, by their gender identity, their sexual orientation identity.It can even vary based on, like, you know, again, like if somebody is like a medical provider or not. So there’s lots of variations in what people consider sex. And the research on that again, going back many years, even shows that it varies based on whether it’s like with somebody’s partner or not. So sometimes people might say, like, in cheating with somebody, well, that’s not sex because dot, dot, dot, you know, when I was doing a study, I was working as an assistant on somebody’s study a good 20 years ago in my graduate training. And I remember interviewing these teenage girls, you know, about their sexual partners. And we had to like go through and like, you know, how recently have you had this kind of sex, this kind of sex, whatever, all these different behaviors. And we would ask about different partners. And in the number of partners, and it turned out like, you know, she gave me a certain number, let’s say two partners. But as the interview went on, some, you know, later on, she mentioned this third guy who she hadn’t mentioned before. And I said, well, wait a minute, you know, like this, this person didn’t come up before you said there were two. But now you’re mentioning this third one. And she’s like, Oh, well, that wasn’t good. And we’re not talking anymore. So, you know, and like to her, what she considered a sexual partner was, was it any good, you know, to other people I interviewed, if it didn’t last long, if it was like 10 seconds and then the sex was over, it didn’t count.

Susan Stone: Oh my gosh, 

Dr. Debby Herbenick: So people, you know, and that is why it is so important. And as you’re saying, like, especially if the issues are really important around what did or didn’t happen, we actually have to ask really specifically because if we just say sex, people, they are, that word means so many different things to so many different people. The charm, many things, many people. 

Susan Stone: That’s a different one.

Kristina Supler: Debby, I’d like to switch gears a little bit.

And Yes, Your Kid, we talk about hopefully the goal of being an askable parent. And so meaning that you don’t necessarily always have the answer, but you sort of create a safe space for your kids can come to you. So in the spirit of being an askable parent, I mean, realistically, what do you think parents can offer their children in terms of partying and safe sex?

Susan Stone: So they’ll listen, drugs and alcohol, drinking, binge drinking, like what can you say that they’re not going to roll their eyes? 

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Well, I think so everybody’s starting from a different place. Right? So I think wherever you’re at as a parent, it’s important to know that you can take a step toward being more approachable and askable. And that’s going to look really different for lots of different people. And we had some of these conversations while writing, Yes, Your Kid, right?

Susan Stone: We Did

Dr. Debby Herbenick: For many parents, it’s since their kids were very young. It’s very comfortable to talk about what parents use for birth control. You know, like I have a, you know, colleague who’s a urologist and her husband’s a urologist. And when he had a vasectomy , they had a vasectomy me party for him with like, there are three kids. You know, and it’s like, that’s interesting. And they posted photos on Twitter and they were, it was so fun and it was sort of like, got the dad had like assured about like how he was retiring his swimmers with little pictures of sperm, right? That’s not going to be most families.

Kristina Supler: No.

Dr. Debby Herbenick: But, you know, as I sort of asked my parents, my friends who weren’t in the field, I said, you know, do your kids know what kind of birth control you’re on and stuff and have, has this ever come up?  And it turned out that most have had that come up, but some hadn’t. And the ways that came up were sometimes in the most typical ways, like, oh, well, I had to like pick up my thing in my prescription at CVS from my pill and then my kid asked, like well, what is that? So wherever you’re at, you know, there is, there is space to create a comfortable situation So you’re asking specifically about like, partying, like drugs and alcohol and sex. And you know, again, depending on what your kid is like on their, and what their age is, whether they’re 14 or 17 or 24, there’s going to be different conversations. But you know, a home base for many parents is, look, my job is to give you information to help keep you safe. And so it’s important to me that you hear blank, blank, blank, whatever that is for that, again, that age, that stage, that development. You know, I think wherever, wherever families are at too, I often say that it’s helpful and this has been helpful for me with my kids is, I’m not trying to keep you from having fun. I’m not trying to keep you from being independent. I want you to grow up and be more independent all the time. My job is to give you this information here. And I take that same approach with my college students, right? Like, it’s not my job to control their lives. It’s my, not my job to shame them, but it is my job to give them plenty of information so that they can make choices understanding what the potential consequences may be. And that there’s a lot of research and parenting in, like on research on drugs, research on parenting conversations around alcohol, and also research on parenting conversations with sex. And they all come to the same thing is that one of the most helpful approaches is that you are informational. So you provide lots of information. You make it clear that you’re there to support them, but you are not the only one making the rules, right? And every family is going to look different, but that you come together to figure out what your rules are for your family. And they’re going to look really different from family to family what those rules are, but that’s part of working together as a family and discussing sex and discussing values and discussing boundaries and safety.

Susan Stone: If I’m looking back on the book process, so I have something for both ladies, what was your favorite part of writing this book that you really want to share for our listeners to tune in on? What chapter? What thought? And if you were going to do another book, what would your next topic or focus be?

Kristina Supler: Oh, good question. Good question. Well, I would say for, I am a mother to two children and my children are a bit younger. And so I just really enjoyed the opening chapter on being an askable parent and sort of giving me some tips and food for thought in terms of how to, especially as my daughter gets older and it’s time that we need to have more, let’s just say sophisticated conversations about sex and life. I thought it was really, it was helpful. It resonated with me and I think that I’m grateful that we have that chapter in the book an I hope that many of our listeners buy the book and also sort of appreciate that chapter and it’s sort of an entree into having these tough conversations and homes around the country and hopefully around the world.  If I wrote about something else, I got to think about that one, Debby, what about you?

Dr. Debby Herbenick: I mean, I love the early chapters on askability too because I think they matter for parents of kids of all ages and stages because everybody is growing in some way and some of our later chapters, you know, around pornography and sex and technology and rough sex. Even for families who have talked about the basics, those might be newer for them. And so going back to some of those basics and thinking, how do I do this can really help. Our chapter on the rise of rough sex is personally really meaningful to me because my college students are grappling with that all the time and I know that most parents have no idea that that’s even a thing and so I really, really am excited to get Yes, Your Kid into parents hands so that they can be aware and think, how do I talk with my kids about their health, about their safety, about their partner’s health and safety and yeah, what help walk them through and navigate a really, really tricky terrain. As for books, as you mentioned, I’ve written several other books, I take one at a time.

Kristina Supler: It’s a journey, yeah. It’s a journey. Susan, what about you?

Susan Stone: Well, I have to say that I will always have a very special place in my heart when we talk about sex on the spectrum because so many parents who have neurodiverse children feel cut out of the sex conversation and they feel like their children will never get to be able to have. It’s like a luxury question that they’re not going to be part of when all the neurotypical parents are thinking about birth control and problems and dating and to be inclusive and to recognize that, you know, there are students on the spectrum with the same sexual needs for love, belonging and touch and there are some that don’t want to be touched and to really pay attention to that population was deeply meaningful to me and it’s a chapter just talking about it, I get very choked up about. 

Kristina Supler: I know you fought hard for that chapter as well and I’m glad you did. I think it really is important and meaningful and hopefully it shares information for a lot of families that are searching for information on these types of topics.

Susan Stone: Absolutely. And I know that I do think, as we joke, Kristina, would we ever do it again because writing a book is truly a commitment. And you know, I know that you could tell that you gave us a deadline, Debby, we were like, okay, we will be that deadline and that’s just how we work. We really try to be punctual and fit it into our law practice and our personal lives and it is such a labor of love and then I look at the book, the copies are on our desk and I still can’t believe it. But I, and I want to talk to you about this, Debby, because it’s something that’s growing in our practice. Is it we are seeing more students really struggling with mental health disorders and how that impacts their sex life and, you know, we’re seeing a rise of students with bipolar disorder and anxiety and depression and I think that if there was another chapter inside of me or another book to come, I’d really want to explore that. So I’ll give it away. That would be where I want to go next. 

Kristina Supler: I think that’s an excellent idea and certainly a space where particularly post pandemic, there’s so many struggles that students are navigating and let’s face it, sex is already kind of complicated and tricky to navigate and so you throw anything else into the mix, much less mental health struggles. It can sort of, it can get very difficult and certainly I think that we’re always a fan of providing accurate information to help support students. 

Susan Stone: And it’s really great that we were able to, by luck, meet up with you, Debby.

Kristina Supler: Absolutely.

Susan Stone: And I think that’s one of the things that makes our law practice different is that we don’tjust talk to lawyers all day, we talk to esteemed colleagues who are professors and writers and researchers and therapists and that’s what brings a sense of diversity in our own thought into our lives. So I just want to thank you for bringing us into your fold.

Kristina Supler:  Thank you, Debby. It really was such a treat engaging in this project with you and we’re really so appreciative of your knowledge and expertise and all the work that you do to educate not only students but also the world about sex.  So thank you.

Dr. Debby Herbenick: Well, I appreciate it and I learned so much from working with you both and I think for anyone listening who hasn’t had the pleasure of working with you both. I mean, some of the things that I also learned about how you work and respect so highly about how you work for your stories of not just stealing with the legal situation at hand, but all the other resources and support that you provide students and their families. You know, I can think of time to new talked about certain cases and yeah, I mean, for some of these students, we really need to help them with like time management skills and, you know, and like learning how to like function well and their executive function for others, for other clients, you know, you were, you know, masters at helping them to find resources around like social skill development or helping with substance use issues and all of these do intersect with relationships and sexuality. So none of these things happen in a vacuum. It’s like you said with mental health, they’re really interconnected and I really appreciate your strong advocacy and care for young people as whole human beings. And that really comes through in your work. So thank you for letting me have the chance to work with and learn from you as well.

Susan Stone: And everybody, the book can be found on pre sale on Amazon and many other booksellers as well everywhere books are sold everywhere books are sold. You will find Yes, Your Kid by our main author, Debby and my wonderful, fabulous co-author, Kristina Supler

Kristina Supler:  It was a pleasure working with both of you and Debby, thanks for joining us today. Thanks for listening to Real Talk with Susan and Kristina. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our show so you never miss an episode and leave us a review so other people can find the content we share here. You can follow us on Instagram, just search our handle @StoneSupler and for more resources, visit us online at Thank you so much for being a part of our Real Talk community. We’ll see you next time.