Beyond Birds and Bees

Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality


By Bonnie J. Rough

Formats and Prices




$22.99 CAD


  1. Trade Paperback $17.99 $22.99 CAD
  2. ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD
  3. Audiobook Download (Unabridged)

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 21, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A provocative inquiry into how we teach our children about bodies, sex, relationships and equality — with revelatory, practical takeaways from the author’s research and eye-opening observations from the world-famous Dutch approach

Award-winning author Bonnie J. Rough never expected to write a book about sex, but life handed her a revelation too vital to ignore. As an American parent grappling with concerns about raising children in a society steeped in stereotypes and sexual shame, she couldn’t quite picture how to teach the facts of life with a fearless, easygoing, positive attitude. Then a job change relocated her family to Amsterdam, where she soon witnessed the relaxed and egalitarian sexual attitudes of the Dutch. There, she discovered, children learn from babyhood that bodies are normal, the world’s best sex ed begins in kindergarten, cooties are a foreign concept, puberty is no big surprise, and questions about sex are welcome at the dinner table.

In Beyond Birds and Bees, Rough reveals how although normalizing human sexuality may sound risky, doing so actually prevents unintended consequences, leads to better health and success for our children, and lays the foundation for a future of gender equality. Exploring how the Dutch example translates to American life, Rough highlights a growing wave of ambitious American parents, educators, and influencers poised to transform sex ed — and our society — for the better, and shows how families everywhere can give a modern lift to the birds and bees.

Down to earth and up to the minute with our profound new cultural conversations about gender, sex, power, autonomy, diversity, and consent, Rough’s careful research and engaging storytelling illuminate a forward path for a groundbreaking generation of Americans who want clear examples and actionable steps for how to support children’s sexual development — and overall wellbeing — from birth onward at home, in schools, and across our evolving culture.



I was never likely to write a book about sex. I grew up Catholic in a middle-class American suburb where I babysat often, wrote long frilly nature poems, and always waited thirty minutes after eating before jumping into the pool. Despite commendable efforts by my parents and teachers, I was expecting a punctuation mark for my first period, and I thought my breast buds were tumors. By the time I rolled a condom onto a banana in my high school health class, I knew I wouldn’t be repeating the exercise anytime soon. My parents had told me they waited until marriage to have sex, and judging by the slinky cat costume in my mom’s pajama drawer, their love life hadn’t suffered. My inexperience didn’t stop me from having boyfriends in high school, but my one earnest attempt at fellatio sent my beau into convulsions of laughter rather than throes of ecstasy. (I’d been thinking corn on the cob, not popsicle.) Certainly nobody on the yearbook committee nominated me Dr. Ruth’s protégé. Maybe more like her cat sitter. And that made me perfectly happy. But as I got older, my naïveté kept me from questioning the lopsided culture I cheerfully called my own.

I met my future husband in college, where it never crossed my mind to enroll in a women’s studies class or to join in Take Back the Night marches. It failed to strike me as odd that he got to know my anatomy better than I did. As we signed our marriage license, I took his surname without a second thought. I rather liked that Dan took care of lawn mowing, gutter cleaning, and snow shoveling. I figured he was happy I oversaw flower gardens and everything kitchen-related. (We took turns brushing the cat.) Eventually we had a baby, and that’s when the inequity of traditional gender roles began to sink in for me. You might think years of street harassment and condescension at work would have clued me in, but for a long time those dynamics hid in plain sight, too normal to notice. Yet how come, in a modern marriage of equals, Dan and I never discussed how having kids would affect my career—or how my default child care role as a mother meant becoming a father would not affect his? Now and then I vaguely wondered what my daughter, by virtue of being born female, was in for. Four years later, our second daughter was born. And some time after that, it finally occurred to me to look up the answer to a pesky little question: What is the difference between a vulva and a vagina?

All I can say is that gender equality wasn’t something I’d spent much time thinking about, and the birds and the bees just weren’t my focus. As a youngster I had gotten by, and as a parent, I figured those details would somehow sort themselves out for my kids—perhaps with a nice pamphlet on a day when I planned to be out of town. I never set out to be a champion of the facts of life.

So what sparked my curiosity? How did I become passionate about exploring attitudes toward sexuality and especially the way we teach our kids about this still largely taboo subject?

Looking back now, I can see that the journey began with my first pregnancy. I felt deep in my body that I knew how to carry, give birth to, and nurture a child, and I was surprised how many controlling (and conflicting) messages came my way about how to behave and look while pregnant, how to give birth in the best possible way, and how to be a good parent. Once my daughter was born, trying to be a perfect mother—even by standards I hand-picked myself—made me stressed and miserable. The other parents I knew in our Minneapolis neighborhood—especially the mothers—seemed just as frustrated and overwhelmed. Our babies were fine (if maybe a tad demanding), but we, their caretakers, were barely hanging on.

When Caroline was almost two, Dan’s airline job relocated to the Netherlands, and we moved to the heart of Amsterdam—a city world famous for its openness and tolerance. It was uncanny, but almost as soon as we arrived there, something felt better. As a parent, I felt expected to be human, not superhuman. As a woman, I no longer felt examined and judged—and therefore I soon became newly comfortable in my own skin. I marveled—and sometimes puzzled—at the openness and pragmatism with which Dutch families raised their kids. At first I couldn’t put my finger on why things felt so different. But as I eventually learned, this was simply how it felt to live in one of the world’s most gender-equal societies.

Shortly after we moved back to the United States, this time to our hometown of Seattle, Caroline’s little sister, Libby, was born. No longer angsty about how to take good care of babies, Dan and I now found ourselves worrying about how to raise two happy, healthy daughters as we perceived American gender norms with fresh eyes: pink and blue toy and clothing aisles, early and even earlier sexualization (baby bikinis? “chick magnet” onesies?), and a ubiquitous, withering male gaze. It had always been there—that constant sense of being watched and appraised that every American girl finds a way of living with—but after we’d spent a year and a half without it, the gaze and its wounding power were much more obvious now.

More than anything, I wanted my daughters to grow up without shame. I wanted them to be at home in their bodies and to always speak their needs, desires, and ambitions (except at bedtime, when I just wanted them to go to sleep). I wanted them to always love and be loved in healthy, secure relationships. It turned out that my friends raising sons had analogous concerns as they, too, tried to teach their children to honorably navigate a culture that objectifies bodies, normalizes rape, and rewards a cramped idea of masculinity.

It took time to figure out my next move, but eventually I understood that I needed to relearn how to think about sexuality. I needed to dramatically change my approach when it came to bodies, relationships, and love—urgently, while my children were still young. And once I became aware that raising happy, healthy children would mean acknowledging sex in a whole new way—and might mean dealing in unfamiliar ways with my own uncertainties about intimacy and pleasure—it only took a few conversations with friends to confirm that I wasn’t alone in asking questions at the edge of my comfort zone and hoping to find fresh, modern, and realistic answers. Clearly, it was time to bring the birds and the bees into the twenty-first century.

But how?

I had lived in the Netherlands long enough to notice what my Dutch friends and their children experienced: super-low teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection (STI), and abortion rates; more positive, consensual sexual encounters; better parent-teen relationships; and far more respect and cooperation among genders. But now I wanted to grasp how they accomplished all that.

So I decided to take a closer look at what actually goes into raising children to be familiar, comfortable, reverent, and responsible with their bodies—children whose sexual lives are acknowledged, accepted, safe, and not so warped by shame. What had the Dutch been teaching that I was on the verge of leaving out? How, as a parent, could I balance my children’s need for health and safety with their right to freedom and pleasure?

To find out, I embarked on a journey of observation, research, and reporting—all the while trying new things in my own household. I soon learned that Dutch parents ask the very same questions we do when it comes to kids and sex: Must I talk about it? When? How? What should they know? But they come up with markedly different answers: a range of actions and behaviors, often deceptively small, with the power to shape a more just and free society. I discovered how, from babyhood on, Dutch kids are taught by their parents about healthy sexuality as naturally as they’re reminded to eat fresh veggies and look both ways. In Dutch schools, I saw how world-class sexuality education begins with lessons for four-year-olds on body parts, knowing how you feel about being touched (on the arm!), and how to form sound relationships. I discovered the completely unexpected ways in which Dutch adults deal with preschoolers’ normal tendencies to put their hands in their pants and “play doctor” with friends. When I joined Dutch parents gathered in a bookshop to hear experts on dealing with puberty, I expected sex-talk sample scripts. To my surprise, the subject was how to keep parent-child relationships close and lines of communication open. Why? Because body changes and sexuality had always been out in the open, of course.

In these pages I write a good amount about what I have learned from watching and listening to Dutch experts, educators, and families. But this is not a book about them. It’s a book about us: Americans who sense that something’s amiss in our culture’s approach to sexuality—and who suspect that more openness might be part of the solution. This book is written not by an expat waving from afar but by an American parent right here at home who had her own reasons to go looking for solutions to suit the society she knows best. In fact, when my research led me beyond Dutch borders and back to different parts of the United States, I found that plenty of American parents are already doing things the “Dutch” way—but they often keep quiet about going against the norm, which can leave them feeling more alone than they really are.

Allow me to say here that as much as I love giant cheese wheels and bounteous vowels and consummate practicality, I don’t mean to argue that Holland is perfect. For one thing, it’s a great place for tourists to get run over by bikes. Beyond that, though, and more to the point, plenty of Dutch men and women are capable of being sexist, and they often adhere to old-fashioned gender roles. Despite the fact that schools in the Netherlands are required by law to teach about sexual health, including knowing boundaries and respecting diversity, some still don’t. The Netherlands may have been the world’s first nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and the city of Amsterdam may be a top LGBTQ+-friendly place to live and have 180 nationalities, half of whom identify as ethnic minorities, residing more or less peacefully in one place, but like Americans, the Dutch still do—and will probably always—deal with instances of discrimination. Even though the Netherlands perches in fine company at the tippy-top of world racial- and gender-equality charts, my Dutch friends would be the first to say that they’ve still got a long way to go toward full fairness. Dutch people are allergic to pompousness, so if they weren’t embarrassed to hear they’re leading the world in effective sexuality education and egalitarianism, they’d probably be surprised—or skeptical. Still, to me as an outsider, many tantalizing lessons of the Dutch approach stand out. I don’t want to cherry-pick, so in this book I explore social context wherever I can. But it’s my hope that also, sometimes, just knowing there is another way can offer a meaningful beginning.

Some readers may want to know why this book on teaching about sexuality focuses so much on the messages we send to children before they reach puberty. The answer is simple: even for caregivers and educators intent on raising well-rounded, capable children, sexuality is never more neglected than during the crucial foundational years. A child’s early stages of development are the best and easiest times to set a healthy, happy course—with no unlearning required later on. My friend Deb, an early childhood educator and the mother of a high school boy, put it this way: “You can’t learn self-esteem when you’re fifteen. It’s really hard to unlearn shame, even if somebody comes along and tells you that you’re entitled to your sexuality.”

In the end, I came away from my research with an up-to-date, wholly new, and utterly surprising sex education. Certainly fine sexual health, safety, and self-esteem emerge from good sex ed offered early, but so too do respectful relationships, broader opportunities, and gender equality itself. As I searched for a new philosophy, what really caught my interest was the unexpected, the counterintuitive: advice that seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and yet seemed better at the same time. In the end, the exciting part of this journey for me hasn’t so much been amassing handy data about different types of birth control and which comes first, wet dreams or whiskers, although I did learn plenty of things like that. What excited and scared me most—and still thrills me every day—is the challenge of wanting something different for my kids. Not only protection from unintended pregnancy and STIs, not only safety from sexual assault, but also total body autonomy, freedom from shame, an unquestioned right to pleasure, and relationships full of love and respect and intimacy and comfort and delight. In other words, I wanted to learn to accept and stop fearing my children’s sexuality—starting when they were still little. I wanted to see if I could learn to welcome that side of life with them. At least, I wanted to want those things. This is the book in which I try, and these are the lessons I learned in my better-late-than-never sex education: not the fourth-grade film strip, not the high school boyfriends, and not even the intimacy of coupledom and giving birth, but the new notions that I scrambled to gain when my kids needed a message that seemed to be missing.

Often when I tell someone I’m writing about how Americans teach about sexuality, they’ll snort and say, “I think you mean don’t teach.” And they do have a point. Although there have always been exceptions, we all know that a single, awkward birds-and-bees talk with a tongue-tied grown-up is practically an American rite of passage. But that is the past, and this book is about the future. It came about not because I’m a condom-flinging sexpert or an Alfred Kinsey acolyte or even much more adventurous in bed than a beached jellyfish. I wrote it because life handed me a revelation so big, so surprising, and so darn useful that I don’t dare keep it to myself. I hope this book can revolutionize—or at least advance—the ways we think, act, talk, and teach about sexuality in America. Because to my great surprise, that’s what we’re really talking about when we peek in the stroller—or drop off at college—and name those simplest of wishes for the future: health, happiness, security, equality, and love.





One cold Minneapolis morning when my daughter Caroline was not quite two, I stepped out of the shower to find her sitting on the bath mat. She’d toddled across the hall in striped footie pajamas from her little bed. Her short brown hair stood up at the back, tangled from a busy night’s sleep.

“Hi,” I said.

But she wasn’t looking for small talk. With great seriousness, she pointed up at my crotch.

“Daddy,” she said.

It took me a moment to realize she was drawing a similarity between my (rather free-range) pubic area and a nice hairy man we knew—my husband and her father, Dan, whose bright laugh and helpful soul and wiry black sprinklings always livened up our home. I seized the moment to explain about the body part she had just noticed—what it’s called, what it’s for. I made sure to relate it to her in a way she could understand; then I asked if she wanted to know more.

Just kidding! Nothing of the sort even remotely occurred to me. I only kept smiling and shaking my head in wonder at this funny little squirt of a kid as I toweled off and got on with my day. This parenthood thing—what a trip.

Funny, though, that moment in the bathroom stuck with me. It seemed both momentous—the very first time my child expressed curiosity about a reproductive body part—and totally unexpected: What was this tiny tot doing expressing curiosity about a reproductive body part? Later that day, I laughingly described the anecdote over the phone to my sister, a fifth-grade teacher, who laughed along with me. She also gently hinted that I couldn’t go on just smiling and shaking my head forever. At some point, I would need to turn those moments into conversations.

But as with everything else when it came to raising my first child, I figured I would eventually learn on the fly how to talk about those things—about bodies, about reproduction and sexuality, about self-esteem, relationships, and love. As for body parts, Caroline had several down already—nose, knee, belly button—but we were still dealing with some confusion about neck versus throat, and ankle just made no sense: leg or foot, fine, but ankle, sorry, no, absolutely nothing there. When it came to naming genitals, “bottom” would surely suffice for now. I just had to trust that Dan and I would figure out the rest in time. Given all of the other things we heard young toddlers needed to learn and do—puzzles! playdates! Mozart! baby class! skipping nap! feeding the ducks! jumping off steps! fighting bedtime!—we already had enough to keep up with. A few anatomical terms could certainly wait. Anyway, I had always heard that when it came to explaining things like where babies come from, parents could just wait until kids asked. And naming my mons pubis after a friendly fellow wasn’t exactly asking. Or was it?

I hardly had time to worry about it. Like all of the loving parents we knew in our family-filled neighborhood by Lake Harriet (and well beyond), Dan and I were busy figuring out how to raise our child to be safe, smart, happy, healthy, confident, and loved. We wanted her—particularly as a girl—to have a fair shake in life and to know that every child deserves the same good opportunities. But how to get there?

Dan and I had both inherited from our parents a deep belief in children’s capacity for independence. Over time we gained confidence that when lovingly given good knowledge, even tiny ones can make good choices. This was a good start. But unfortunately, like any parents, we had our blind spots. A big one—and the one this book is about—had to do in the simplest sense with those pesky unspoken body parts. At its most complex, it connected with our desire to raise a child who believed herself worthy of respect, love, and the biggest dreams she could dream. It was going to take living in another country to glimpse that missing piece, moving back to the United States to see why we needed to go beyond old-fashioned birds and bees, and a series of mind-blowing lessons to finally discover the joy of sex ed. Or at least the non-misery of it. Or at least the possibility of something like that.

Not long after Caroline dubbed my groin “Daddy,” our little trio of a family said good-bye to our house in Minneapolis and boarded a plane for the Netherlands, where Dan’s new job would begin. We had a new life to build in Amsterdam, where we would end up staying for the next year and a half.

We’d only had a couple of months to prepare for our move and very little time to ponder what to expect. But I had lived abroad before and traveled enough to know I could count on a honeymoon period followed by intense culture shock. Everything started out according to plan. We flew out of a stiff Midwestern winter and landed in sweet, supple springtime. We wandered the brick streets of our new city as indigo hyacinths and crimson tulips nodded from window boxes in perfect breezes. We learned our first Dutch words ordering fresh-squeezed orange juice for Caroline and milky koffie verkeerd (“wrong coffee” because proper is closer to black)—to go with our apple pannenkoeken. We gazed up at brick steeples piercing the bright blue sky and down into glossy wooden canal boats. We wandered blissfully into hordes of heavy black bikes, charmed by all the dinging bells and unaware they were meant for us. Let op! Out of the way, toeristen! Below our apartment windows on the broad, busy Prinsengracht, sooty gray coots squawked at swan families bossily airing their huge white wings. The swans parted to make way for long, glassed-in sightseeing boats flat enough to slide beneath low arched bridges that twinkled at night. Over and over Dan and I said to each other as we stared out the front windows, or wobbled through the park on our very own heavy black bikes, or just walked, pushing Caroline in her stroller: “Can you believe we live here?”

Our daily peregrinations soon went from car-seat-horror-screaming affairs to pleasant musical ones. Like everyone else in Amsterdam, we pedaled just about everywhere. Perched in a wooden box at the front of my secondhand bakfiets with her hair flying in the sun (or hood cinched in the rain), Caroline no longer fussed and certainly did not strain to escape. Jingle bells, jingle bells, she belted out everywhere we rode that first summer. “The wind gives me tears,” she sweetly sighed on a breezy day. I loved this little firecracker of a girl beyond description. I loved the certainty with which she made up her mind, and the challenge of knowing she would not change it. She ordered for herself in cafés, paid tips to buskers, and fiercely insisted upon using public restrooms on her own. And the imagination behind those sparkling eyes: the dollhouse dramas she brought to life in our living room, the birdlike dances she timed to banjo music, the figures of her grandparents she lovingly crayoned like gangly four-tentacled squid. I treasured the glittering curious eyes that seemed so rarely to close and the tangled squirrel’s nest we loosened from the back of her head each morning. That head: I loved it fiercely, desperately.

But I put no helmet on it.

“We believe helmets will make it more dangerous,” our bike salesman said after refusing to order one for Caroline. “If the people look too safe, the drivers will stop being careful.”

This is where I’m supposed to tell you that the honeymoon ended and a nasty bout of culture shock set in. But in reality, it just didn’t go like that. Certainly, frustrating paradoxes like the helmet problem abounded—although I confess, we easily got used to riding with our heads exposed.

By and large, living in the Netherlands made life easier, not harder. Here, a relaxed but affectionate parenting style was the norm. Instead of hovering over their little climbers and sliders at the playground, Dutch parents opted to sit in the sun reading or chatting with friends, enjoying coffee (okay, or Prosecco and cigarettes). They were quick with hugs but unwilling to overreact to a skinned knee or a bumped nose. Yet they weren’t teaching indifference, I realized after watching for a few months, and my horror shifted to admiration; they were teaching independence. Nobody appeared to think Dan and I were daredevils anymore when we let Caroline ride her scooter ahead to the street corners or climb a jungle gym out of arm’s reach or walk into an ice cream shop to order for herself and pay “the monies” for her own scoop.

In a city as international as Amsterdam, the families we got to know certainly weren’t all Dutch, but most seemed to embrace a typically Dutch mentality when it came to child rearing. Regularity, cleanliness, and plenty of time to play—not too much stress—were the goals of parents there, who wouldn’t necessarily hesitate to leave a napping baby at home to run off to school to pick up a kindergartener. A little older, and kids walked or biked home on their own.

I didn’t know it at the time, but social scientists and researchers, too, were finding things to love about Dutch social life. While we lived there in 2009 and 2010, Dutch children topped the charts as the happiest, healthiest, and best-educated kids on earth. Their parents, too, ranked as the most satisfied and least stressed anywhere. And the Netherlands consistently stood as one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Living among them, I saw Dutch families thriving in ways that made me want to pay close attention and learn.

After a while, I assumed I had the Dutch secret sussed: these people were thriving on plenty of fresh air, exercise, nourishment, security, and opportunity. Their social safety net was strong. Universal health care, subsidized day care, flexible parental leave, and quality public education were biggies, but direct deposits from the government for things such as baby supplies, family vacations, school materials, and the general expense of raising kids were no small things either. And then there was this thing called gezelligheid, a uniquely Dutch concept of cozy-cute togetherness. Gezellig was an impromptu children’s puppet show in the park, two old sailors cry-laughing over biertjes in a candlelit café, or the sight, when we glanced out the window on our way up to bed, of an open boat full of friends sharing woolen blankets and pouring wine beneath the stars. Biking, walking, talking, laughing, fresh air, flowers, balance, boats, and a bit of booze: I thought I knew the magic recipe, and I resolved to bring it home with me when, after a swift eighteen months, our time in the Netherlands came to an end. But I was still missing a crucial ingredient.

Libby arrived a few months after our return to the United States. It was early April 2011, and yellow Seattle sunlight flooded through the bedroom window. Libby and I reclined in bed, breastfeeding and sleeping. Just outside, the bright, inchworm-green leaves of an apple tree hid robins, raccoons, chickadees, and our neighborhood hummingbird, whose tin-can-telephone babble made a constant sweet comfort. Caroline came and went from the park smelling of wind and bark and clay. Newly glued to both of my daughters, I felt a bodily joy like I had never known.

But at night in the dark, I crashed. In my dreams I saw skydivers with tangled parachutes plummeting to their deaths. I clung to my daughters in the backseat of a van with no brakes, going downhill fast. I watched a jumbo jet take off over the ocean at night only to tilt and groan, a fatally injured colossus, into the ink-black sea. In the mornings my jaw was sore from clenching.

After the first few delicious postpartum days morphed into these surreal and scary nights, I had a new dream. Now I was pedaling quietly through the streets in Amsterdam, sometimes alone and sometimes with my daughters. The streets weren’t real ones I could name, but the bricks, the gables, the bridges, the bike paths, and the canals told me where I was: underway, under my own power, and safe.

It didn’t take a specialist in dream analysis to see: my fear had to do with raising daughters. The images in my dreams were telling me that despite arriving loaded with inherent potential, my children could very well become too hampered to take off, to fly, to soar, and to safely land. It was a pretty heavy metaphor, but I guess that’s what it took to get through to a woman who was still hoping anatomical terms would somehow teach themselves to her preschooler. Now I felt more urgency. How would I teach my children? What knowledge would protect them? Was there any approach that wouldn’t burn up their self-esteem? And why did the answer to my worries seem to reside in a place halfway across the globe?


  • "What a gift! Bonnie J. Rough offers a much-needed breath of fresh air in her wonderful new approach to discussing sex, love, and equality with our kids. Her smart, vigorously well-researched, and funny book is a great guide for families to read and discuss as their kids grow up."—Caroline Grant, Co-director, Sustainable Arts Foundation
  • "With care and clarity, Bonnie Rough breathes new life into our national non-conversation about sex. Taking her cues from other countries' sensible approaches, she guides us gently towards a saner and healthier future."—Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland, among other books
  • "Bonnie J. Rough has written a brilliant book about sex, gender, justice, and joy, and it's one that manages to be simultaneously sobering and buoyant. Her main ingredients for raising healthy kids--wonder, humor, and trust--constitute a kind of inspirational worldview, applicable to all aspects of parenting certainly, but even beyond that, to life itself. I'm so glad I read it."—Catherine Newman, author of Catastrophic Happiness and One Mixed-Up Night
  • "Filled with sweet, poignant, and laugh-out-loud stories, Beyond Birds and Bees is a most accessible and most informative book that will help parents and caring adults become more adept at talking to young people about healthy sexuality. Bonnie J. Rough offers practical advice, gentle encouragement, and is vulnerable enough to let us learn from her own failures and successes. If you're looking for a book that provides a heartfelt and common sense approach to raising sexually healthy children, you've found it!"—Al Vernacchio, MSEd, author of For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health
  • "With humor, humility, and gentleness, Bonnie J. Rough takes us on her journey of discovery and leaves us somewhere surprising and wonderful. Along the way, her practical tips add up to a transformative rethinking of what it means to teach our children about sex. This is a book that can help everybody: parents who know what they're doing, parents who worry they don't have a clue, and the rest of us, too, who never got the loving, tender teaching we deserved."

    Lisa Wade, bestselling author of American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus
  • "Finally: a parenting book that abandons preachiness for a joyful and thoughtful inquiry into how we might guide our kids, and grow with them, as they become healthy, happy young adults. Bonnie J. Rough's experience in the Netherlands and her wide-ranging research offer an inspiring and practical alternative to help children (and their parents) become more comfortable in their own skins."Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys
  • "Beyond Birds and Bees is a must-read for every parent. With humor and grace, Bonnie J. Rough invites readers to learn alongside her as she embarks on a journey to understand how we can create truly gender equal societies and raise happy and healthy children who celebrate their own bodies. I wish I'd read this book when my daughters were little, but I'm grateful for it now, because it is never too late to talk openly with our kids about sex, sexuality and our bodies. This book is validating, eye-opening and truly life-changing."—Kate Hopper, Author of Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers and Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood
  • "The conversation Rough starts about sexuality and gender equality in Beyond Birds & Bees is one we all need to be having-with our partners, our kids, our kids' teachers, our legislators-well: everybody. Read it. Start talking."—Jill Christman, author of Darkroom: A Family Exposure and Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood
  • "A warm, sane call to action for parents facing the daunting task of raising kids with a healthy, positive sexuality."—Salon

On Sale
Aug 21, 2018
Page Count
320 pages
Seal Press


Bonnie J. Rough

About the Author

Bonnie J. Rough is the author of Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and EqualityThe Girls, Alone, selected by Amazon as one of the Best Kindle Singles of 2015; and the memoir Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA, winner of a Minnesota Book Award. An acclaimed essayist and memoirist with an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa, Rough’s essays have appeared in numerous publications. She lives in Seattle.

Learn more about this author