Ep 71: Talking about Boys and Sex with Peggy Orenstein

Ep 71: Talking about Boys and Sex with Peggy Orenstein

Have you ever had a “pinch me” moment when you can’t believe how things come together?

With two boys in my home, and one a teen already, I’ve wanted to interview New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein for the Mother’s Quest Podcast since the moment I first heard about her new book, Boys & Sex.

So, when Jill Daniel of Happy Women Dinners asked me if I’d like to co-produce a dinner and conversation with Peggy in the SF Bay Area, I said “yes” practically before she finished her sentence.

That I would have the opportunity to interview Peggy for the debut episode of the Mother’s Quest Podcast Season Five ahead of our in-person dinner was just the most incredible bonus.

Because Peggy’s work is truly transformational.

Peggy is the New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Waiting for Daisy, Flux, and Schoolgirls, an award-winning journalist, and internationally recognized speaker on gender issues, especially those related to teens, sex and relationships. She’s a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and has also been published in The Washington Post, Slate, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. She’s been featured on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, Morning Joe, NPR’s Fresh Air and The PBS News Hour. Her TED Talk, “What Young Women Believe About Their Own Sexual Pleasure,” has been viewed over 4.6 million times. 

The need to engage in conversations with our children about sex, even when they make us feel uncomfortable, was one of the biggest take-aways I had from my interview with Peggy. In this episode, we explore the insights she uncovered through her interviews with 100 teen boys and young men about their conceptions of masculinity and sexuality, including the early and pervasive experiences they have with porn, their understanding of consent, and the ways in which they feel unable to fully express themselves as emotional human beings. 

Where Peggy’s prior research revealed that girls are systematically disconnected from their bodies, boys she found are disconnected from their hearts.

As you listen, I invite you to think about how you could use something you learn in this episode to connect with your child. Be aware that while we don’t have explicit conversations about sex, we do mention topics such as porn. Please use your discretion in whether you want to play this episode around children. With older boys, you may purposefully choose, as Peggy jokingly suggests, to play this episode in their vicinity as a conversation starter.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share this interview with you. I appreciated Peggy’s openness to sharing about her own E.P.I.C. life, to her bravery in her work, her inclusion of the perspectives of transgender and gay boys and to the impact of race in our conceptions of sexuality, and her challenge to us to have conversations with our children about sex. It’s not just “one talk,” she says, but a series of ongoing ones that our times call for today. And we have to start somewhere.

Much appreciation,

P.S. Know someone who would love this conversation? Pay this forward to a friend who may be interested.


This Episode is Dedicated by:
Casey O’Roarty of Joyful Courage to Amy Lang of Birds & Bees & Kids

Casey O’Roarty, Med, is a facilitator of personal growth and development.  Her work encourages parents to discover the purpose of their journey, while also providing them with tools and a shift of mindset that allows them to deepen their relationships with themselves and their families. 

As a Positive Discipline Trainer since 2007 and certified coach, Casey has led countless groups through workshops and classes that have left them feeling empowered and excited about parenting. She also offers an engaging podcast, live and online classes, and individual coaching at www.joyfulcourage.com

Her first book, Joyful Courage: Calming the Drama and Taking Control of YOUR Parenting Journey launched May 20th, 2019. Casey lives in the Pacific Northwest with greatest teachers – her husband, and two teenage kids.

👉 Registration for Joyful Courage: Parenting Teens Academy


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Casey’s Social Media:


About Amy Lang:

Amy Lang is a sexual health educator for over 20 years, she helps parents of all beliefs talk with kids of any age about the birds and the bees. She’s the author of the award-winning book Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids – A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs About Sexuality, Love, and Relationships.

She started Birds & Bees & Kids with the mission to help every kid grow up to become healthy adults by helping their parents learn how they can engage and talk to their kids about their sex and sexuality.

You can learn more about Amy and her work here 👉 Amy Lang’s Birds & Bees & Kids


**Special thanks to  Jill Daniel of Happy Women Dinners for co-producing and hosting the event with Peggy Orenstein**

Happy Women Dinners is the brainchild of food writer, gourmet cook, and publicist Jill Daniel.  As a food writer, Jill wrote about food from one coast of the country to the other. She is the owner of Dinner-Licious, she serves up delicious organic dinners to families around the San Francisco Bay Area. 

With Happy Women Dinners, Jill has brought together fantastic food and speakers with a focus on women.  Happy Women Dinners events are held in intimate settings and limited to small groups of women.

Jill Daniel – LinkedIn
Happy Women Dinners

Instagram @jillconnection
Happy Women Dinners Facebook Page


In This Episode We Talk About:

  • How our conversation coincided with the four year anniversary of Peggy’s mother’s death, the impact her mother had on her, and how we carry our ancestors with us
  • The high school journalism assignment that set Peggy on her life purpose path of telling stories. 
  • The importance of being in ongoing conversations with our kids about sex
  • What Peggy believes sex is really about and her ultimate end-game in all of her work
  • What one transgender boy illuminated for Peggy about constructing masculinity
  • Ways that sex and gender are mediated by race and ethnicity
  • What has changed today about pornography and the ways that pornography today shapes our boys’ experience of sex 
  • How to know when to talk to our kids about sex and porn
  • The ways in which boys feel disconnected from their emotions
  • Talking to our boys about consent
  • What supports Peggy in staying grounded while doing this work
  • The importance of finding community among other parents as we navigate conversations about sex with our kids


This Week’s Challenge:

For this episode’s challenge, Peggy encourages us to start having conversations with our children about sex, beginning with just one. With your older boys, consider listening to this episode together. You can also visit her website for a list of resources that can support you in having conversations with children at any developmental stage. 


Learn More About Peggy Orenstein:

Peggy Orenstein is the author of the New York Times best-sellers Boys & Sex, Girls & SexCinderella Ate My Daughter and Waiting for Daisy as well as Don’t Call Me Princess, Flux, and the classic SchoolGirls:.

A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and AFAR, Peggy has also written for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, New York , The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered . She has been featured on, among other programs, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, Morning Joe, NPR’s Fresh Air and The PBS News Hour. Her TED Talk, “What Young Women Believe About Their Own Sexual Pleasure,” has been viewed over 4.6 million times.

The Columbia Journalism Review named Peggy one of its “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.” She has been recognized for her “Outstanding Coverage of Family Diversity,” by the Council on Contemporary Families and received Books For A Better Life Awards for both Girls & Sex and Waiting for Daisy. Her work has also been honored by the Commonwealth Club of California, the National Women’s Political Caucus of California and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Additionally, she has been awarded fellowships from the United States-Japan Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council and been a grateful resident at Mesa Refuge and the UCross Foundation.

Peggy’s Books:

Follow Peggy on Social Media:

Resources from Peggy:

Other Resources Mentioned:



Spark Your E.P.I.C. Year Workshop

Join me on one of my favorite things to facilitate, the Spark Your E.P.I.C. Year Workshop, where I will take you via zoom on a “virtual milestone hike” an opportunity for reflection and intention-setting as we officially close one chapter and begin another. At Mother’s Quest, we’ve decided that February is the new January, and truthfully it is always a good time to begin again with intention. Click the link in the show notes to join this experience live tomorrow or to request the replay and come along when the time is right for you. Hope to see you there! 

Join the Spark Your Epic Year Workshop by signing up here.

Want More Reflection in Your Life?
Book A Discovery Call

Some key themes that emerge from all my conversations, is the power of reflection and the power of being seen. These are elements that I bring, not only to every podcast interview, but to my one-one-one coaching and Mother’s Quest Circle facilitation. If you’re seeking more space for pause and reflection in your life, I encourage you to reach out to me for a discovery call to learn how we might work together.  Visit mothersquest.as.me/discoverysession to schedule a time to talk.

Click here to book a discovery call


A big THANK YOU to our “patrons” for helping to bring these conversations to myself and other mothers through financial and/or in-kind support:

Casey O’Roarty of Joyful Courage
Kathie Moehlig or TransFamily Support Services
Anne Ferguson of MamaFuel

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Mother’s Quest is a podcast for moms who are ready to live a truly E.P.I.C. life.

Join in for intimate conversations with a diverse group of inspiring mothers as they share how they are living an E.P.I.C. lifeEngaging mindfully with their children (E), Passionately and Purposefully making a difference beyond their family (P), Investing in themselves (I), and Connecting to a strong support network (C).

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