What kind of sleepover rules should we establish for our bisexual teen?

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Photo by usestangerines, used under Creative Commons license.
A year-and-a-half ago our then fifteen-year-old daughter told me she was bisexual. This news came as no surprise to me, and I’ve always been honest with my kids about my own sexual exploits (giving them the PG-13 version, of course). When my daughter cornered me in the bath tub and confessed that she liked girls, not only was I not surprised — I was relieved. It’s hell trying to push down secret desires you feel ashamed of.

We don’t set rules in our house unless our kids show the need for them — for the most part, we talk to our kids about their discipline and they are involved in the formation of rules and consequences. This has so far worked well for us, but every so often it bites you in the ass.

My daughter attends an online high school, and recently joined Facebook. Since signing up, her social life has suddenly exploded — and she’s found young men and women she has expressed an interest in. She recently went to a friend’s house and in the course of the evening ended up kissing and cuddling with a girl — her first bisexual experience. She’s since chosen to date a boy, but now she’s asking if the girl in question can come over and spend the night — ostensibly as a friend.

Neither my husband or I had to talk about our decision. If there is the question of sex involved, they can’t spend the night. Sure, she can come over. Yes, you guys can go hang out at her house. But when it comes to an overnight with a girl you kissed the answer is a resounding NO. Much the same as it would be if she asked to let her boyfriend stay the night. But now I’m wondering about the wisdom of our choice: is it really that bad for her to experiment with a girl in a safe and clean environment like our home — especially when there isn’t a risk of pregnancy involved? On one hand I feel like I shouldn’t have a double standard when it comes to sex or gender just because one of them can’t get her pregnant: how have other parents of bisexual children parented in this situation when you have no hard and fast rules to fall back on? — Aubrey

Comments on What kind of sleepover rules should we establish for our bisexual teen?

  1. First I have to commend you on your open approach to parenting. I admire parent/child relationships such as yours because I hope to have that one day as well with my kids.

    With that said, I think you made the right decision in this situation. If the event had not happened beforehand, and she wanted to have her sleep over, then no problem. If the experimenting happened at your home during that sleepover, then it would have happened in a safe environment, as you said, and future visits would have to be limited to no overnights.

    I think in this case it is important to tell your daughter that while you very much support her in her decisions, this is one that you have to alter the rules because the situation was altered.

    I have no experience in this matter, so these are simply my own thoughts.

    • I think experimenting and a sleepover are differnet. I mean you can make out and experiment in other times then just during the night. But the whole night of sleepover just seems like trouble.

    • Thanks. That is exactly what her father and I came down to: she kissed her BEFORE she asked for her to sleep over.

      • But, is this going to keep her from telling you things like “I cuddled and kissed with __” in the future because she knows it will keep them from being able to stay the night?
        Good luck mama! I don’t have any kiddos yet. Just my thought. I was a sneaky teen once ;D

  2. The same ones you’d use with a straight teen. Friend sleeps on the couch, door must be open and three out of four feet must be present on the floor if there are hangouts in the bedroom.

  3. As a bisexual teen, she will just find ways to say that she wasn’t involved with the girl she wants to bring home, and they could still end up… well, you know. And it is a nasty double standard. Maybe you could have them both in different rooms come bedtime, or sleep in the same room as them if you don’t want to do that. But ultimately, I think you need to talk about safe and responsible sex, and make it clear she should wait for her first time when she feels ready and old enough to deal with the aftermath and complications. But please don’t limit yourself when it comes to sleep overs only allowing girls. Allow young men too, and they must sleep in the other room or everyone in a family area.

    • When I was a teen, my first true love lived about 45 minutes from me, so we pleaded for sleepovers. We got them, and we were to sleep in separate rooms at both houses. We did *sleep* in separate rooms, but that didn’t stop us from engaging in particular activities. Parents sleep and teens can often outlast them, just sayin’. Even if no sleepovers are allowed, teens will find a way. As much as it freaks me out, I think the best I can do is to inform my kid about safer sex with all genders. So many adults don’t even really understand STD’s and how they get transmitted- it’s scary! Most teens don’t want to have these talks with their parents, so I also think it’s important to give them books, pamphlets, and a list of reputable websites on safer sex.

      • Parents get really worked up over boyfriends/girlfriends/people of interest spending the night, but really, if teens want to have sex, they will find a way and the best you can do is make sure they have the skills to make good decisions for themselves and carry them out safely.

        Do what seems reasonable to you, but I think that, if you let this girl spend the night (or let your daughter spend the night, for that matter), that you are not actually increasing the chances that they will have sex all that much.

        But having the kids sleep in the living room or something like that could give you daughter a good excuse not to engage in any activity she isn’t comfortable with, and that can be a good thing.

  4. Ah, suddenly I look back on my high school days with nostalgia. I had a long-term boyfriend back then and I’m so grateful my parents were open and communicative. My parents followed your method of parenting: let the situation dictate the rules, don’t make something a problem before it is one. My parents were all about allowing boys – and girls – sleep over, but there were a couple of caveats:

    -Guests sleep in the guest bedroom, doors closed. Male or female. This is just to ensure a good night’s rest.
    -Alternatively, if parents are comfortable and gave permission, they would camp out in the living room in sleeping bags with me and a younger sibling who tends to tattle when he notices public displays of affection. This is why siblings were created. To genitalia-block their older siblings.

    Their message was: “We want to give you freedom, and we trust you to do the right thing. Please don’t make us regret giving you this opportunity to connect with your boyfriend/girlfriend by sneaking around after dark.”

    I also dictated what my own comfort zones were as a teenager and renegotiated every once in a while. Since I was a part of the decision making I took more agency over my actions (aka, not sneaking around) because I knew they trusted me and gave me more freedom than other parents.

    • Wow, it sounds like you had some really good parents. I hope my daughter feels as good about her childhood as you seem to about yours!

      • I agree. The fact that your daughter told you that she is bisexual is a sign that she trusts you enough to tell you things and seek your advice and the fact that you are asking this question here instead of just making some unconsidered rule in knee-jerk reaction is a sign that that trust is deserved.

  5. If it was my situation, I’d want to make sure my daughter had a safe environment for something that she would otherwise sneak off and do behind my back… who knows where and with whom. It would be uncomfortable as hell, especially after a very strongly worded safe sex talk, but I’d at least know that I’d established a space where she can be safe, with whichever gender.. and hopefully helping to de-mystify the whole thing and make it matter of fact.

    I also want to say ‘well done!’ in regards to handling her coming out. Bravo!

    • But as a parent when we allow a sleep over we are now responsible for the other parents kid in our house! You may see it as creating a safe place for your child but they may see it as enabling their child or endangering based on there parenting style! You could really be stepping in a pile on that one! Would you be ok if her friends parents let her drink because there just creating a safe environment?

      In today’s climate of lawsuits and social media crucification on social media or the news I’d be very Leary about what I allowed someone else’s child to do! Not to mention the possibility of doing something illegal or that could end up with child services investigating your home!!

  6. I understand your instinct to limit the possibility of sexual activity with your teen. However, I worry that by saying that she can’t have a sleepover with someone she previously kissed/whatever with will set up a dynamic where she feels the need to keep things from you to have her friends stay over. You seem to have a wonderful, open relationship right now and it might be better to try to trust that and trust her. Let her know your concerns about sexual activity at her age with either gender. This is a tough call, and I respect your willingness to look at it from all angles.

    • I agree. I think she will be more likely to hedge a little about her relationships. However, my job as a parent is to talk to my kids and put up guidelines where I think they should be. At this point, I feel I have done the right things. Who knows, next month we may be having a slumber party. LOL

      • Adapting is the key. And talking. If my mother would have talked to me about sex and relationships, I would not have ran so wild. I was also a sneaky teen. Usually snuck my boyfriend (now husband) into OUR house. With an alarm AND a dog! But I also am bisexual and couldn’t tell my parents until very recently because I felt so uncomfortable. I love your approach to parenting and commend you for being so open with your daughter! She’s lucky to have you!

    • I was going to say something like this, but Wendy put it very well.

      From the prospective of someone who WAS a bisexual teen (Actually, as a teen I identified as a lesbian. Bisexual really came later), and for whom this issue came up, I wanted to say: Try not to make your daughter sorry she told you about her interest in girls.

      My experience was that when my best-friend-turned-girlfriend and I told people that we were a couple and they started not letting us do the things (like share a room or a tent) that we’d already been doing for years, we got really upset and angry and (possibly irrationally) scared and felt like something important was being taken away from us and wished that we’d kept our mouths shut.

      I realize that it may not be possible to completely avoid this, but I guess my advice, from that prospective would be: Change a little as you can and still feel like you are keeping your daughter reasonably safe.

  7. I think it’s unrealistic to think that just because you don’t want your teenager to have sex, they won’t have it. If they’re not ready for it they generally won’t, and if they are they’ll likely find a way. She clearly has shown she can find time to cuddle and kiss her female friend outside of the house, so simply saying they can’t do it at your house (at night during a sleepover) is already looking like it won’t have much effect. And if she’s going to explore her sexuality, what better place to do so than in an environment where she feels comfortable and safe? It is orders of magnitude less likely that she’ll have a really negative experience if she can experience these things at her own home with people she trust present at least somewhere nearby. Plus, I feel like showing you trust your teen to make responsible decisions about their sex life is one of the best votes of confidence you can give their burgeoning independence, and will likely increase the level of trust between you significantly.

    *Edited to add:* I don’t really believe in making explicit boundaries around sexual behavior with sleepovers, either. First of all, there’s really nothing bad or problematic about sex when it’s done safely in a safe environment, so why act like it shouldn’t happen? You’re inadvertently sending a message that there’s something not okay about it.

    • well you look at the age of the teens involved there ARE problematic issues with even safe sex. I don’t know about the other states, but here in GA the age of consent is 16, and that’s only if both partners are under the age of 18. So if under-age sex is occurring and parents w/ different feelings on the matter find out there are genuine legal repercussions. It’s an unfortunate reality (there have been a couple of cases in GA of teens having consenting sex w/ their SO only to wind up with sex offender charges that haunt them the rest of their lives!).

      All that said, I love what other people have said her. Having a dialogue is a great thing, and really the best thing you can do. Let your child know that sex is not something to be taken lightly. I think it’s perfectly fine to let them know you are not convinced they’re ready, but at the end of the day it’s their decision with real life consequences. That said I think allowing sleepovers in a living room or other open community space is a great idea. If sex is going to happen then your teen will find a way, but it doesn’t mean you have to light the scented candles for them.

      • In cases where there are legal repercussions it may be a different situation, although the point remains that you can’t stop the underage teen from having sex if they’re dedicated enough.

        Pushing it underground is only going to make matters less safe for everyone involved, and we really should promote as much transparency about these situations as possible.

        Now, age of consent exists for a reason (to protect minors); but there are a significant number of situations where these laws err on the side of being too cautious. In that case it’s especially important to have an open conversation about it to make sure all parents are on the same page. If they’re not okay with the idea of their child having an (underage) sleepover, they should tell their child they can’t do it. But you can’t know that unless you talk to people.

      • When I was in Junior High, I used to have sleepover parties with several girlfriends and one guy friend. We’d all just camp out in sleeping bags in the living room all night. There wasn’t really any likelihood whatsoever that any of us in that group were going to hook up with each other, but I would imagine that sleeping in the living room (where Mom and Dad could potentially check on you at any moment) could make a sexual encounter seem less appealing.

        Also, when I was 17, my long-term boyfriend lived with my family for a summer (he had a lot of family issues and spent a lot of time living with other people). He slept in a separate bedroom from me on a completely different floor of the house. Not that this completely kept us from ever making out, having sex, etc…. but it did make it harder to just “accidentally” do something we might regret later in the heat of the moment.

        I think a sleepover could be fine as long as you all approach it in a smart way and set appropriate boundaries. 🙂

        (As a side note, I consider myself 100% hetero… but I definitely experimented with female friends during sleepovers when I was younger. Being bisexual/gay/straight doesn’t necessarily guarantee that someone is or isn’t going to hook up with any given guy/girl. Such is the nature of hormones).

    • I think this is why I have struggled so much with this issue. When I caught my daughter having phone sex with her now ex-boyfriend, I didn’t freak and told her as long as she didn’t feel pressured, and she was enjoying herself it was ok. The same with ‘sexting’. I think a great deal of this stems from my own insecurities about sex and I truly appreciate everyone’s honest and forthright feedback.

      • I’d be concerned about sexting because once those texts are out there she has no idea who will see them. I’m an adult and I don’t sext because I have no way of knowing that the intended sextee won’t show them to others.

  8. I grew up in America. My husband grew up in Europe. He and his sister were allowed sexy overnight guests as teenagers and I was not.

    We both had plenty of teenage sex.

    Lesson: be awesome and give your kid a safe space to try shit out. Gettin’ busy (and interrupted) in parks, construction sites, golf courses, beaches, and under a bridge that one time did precisely ZERO to discourage me. It did make Him like and respect his parents a little more, though.

    #IMMV

    • I agree with this. I really think you (Aubrey) should consider letting your daughter have sleepovers with both sexes, knowing that it might involve sex.

      There are some great articles out there about the cultural differences: http://www.salon.com/2010/09/08/netherlands_teen_sex/, http://www.mothertalkers.com/2009/11/10/6539/a-new-twist-on-sleepovers/, http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/the-teen-sex-sleepover-why-so-squeamish-mom-and-dad/article599721?service=mobile, for example.

    • Yes, I absolutely agree here. It’s a huge difference between the cultures. I’m American, and my husband is Dutch. We live in the Netherlands now and are raising our two girls here. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t allowed to have sleepovers with my boyfriend, and even though my mother had always told me it was okay for me to have sex when I was ready and she just wanted me to be safe, she totally freaked when I came to her and told her that I had. After that she did literally everything in her power to keep me from seeing him. While this is a bit of an extreme example, it’s certainly not an uncommon attitude in the States and I know more than a few parents back home who feel that a “not under my roof” policy is the way to go. Americans view sex as dangerous and (depending on your belief system) immoral and something to hide. The majority of Dutch parents, however, recognize that sex isn’t something to fear, and that teenagers WILL do it when they’re ready. There is no focus on preventing it, only on making it safe and enjoyable for both partners. Vibrators and condoms (including flavored ones) are sold in every supermarket and drugstore next to the vitamins or the toothpaste. Sleepovers with a partner are common in high school and not seen as immoral or shameful. Sex isn’t seen here as something with the potential to harm, it’s viewed instead as a natural expression of the affection between two people. In 2009, the rate of teenage birth in the U.S. was 39 per 1000 births; in the Netherlands, it was 4 per 1000. My advice – take a page from the Dutch. Be as open and transparent as possible, and give her the space to do whatever she’s ready to do, when she’s ready to do it. It IS natural, and she will do it anyway. Make sure you’re not left out of the loop when she does.

      • I’m Dutch, so it’s possible that has something to do with my attitude towards it. I do think it’s a very practical, effective, AND respectful way to treat a teenager. The other part to the statistic you mentioned (teenage births) is that in the Netherlands, the rate of abortion among teens is also much, much lower than here. It’s not simply a matter of saying: oh, well, in the Netherlands fewer teens actually give birth to the baby. There’s just much less pregnancies because kids are more informed and know what they are getting themselves in to.

  9. This conversation came up a while ago on a fb page I follow, though teen in question wasn’t bisexual it all came to the same.
    Teenagers if they want to have sex are going to have sex the question ends up being do you want that to be in a back ally or the back seat of their Boy friend/girl friends car or within the safe walls of your home where you can make sure there are plenty of condoms?

  10. Think long and hard about your reasons for not wanting your daughter to have sex. Is it only that you are afraid she might get pregnant or get a disease? If so, have a long safe sex talk, buy her some condoms, put her on birth control, and tell her that she can make the decision whenever SHE is ready. And don’t let it affect sleep overs at all.

    Is it just that you’re uncomfortable with the idea of knowing about it or it possibly happening while you’re around? It can seem silly, but tell her that. “I’m uncomfortable about you having a potential sexual interest spend the night because I might hear you guys doing stuff. Admit it, that would be weird, right?” Then trust that you raised a respectful enough person that she’ll always let you have the plausible deniability you desire, and leave rules out of it.

    However, if you think there is something morally wrong with a 16 year old having sex, or sexual encounters, then think long and hard about why. Have you taught these morals to your daughter? Do you think your rules will actually prevent her from having sex? Do you think it’s important for you to not condone it, even if she’s going to do it anyway?

    What exactly are your goals with the rules you are creating (no sex? no teenage pregnancy? what?) and why do you think those goals are worth achieving? Once you have isolated your actual goals and concerns outside of just “teenagers shouldn’t have sex” it will be a lot easier to create rules that address the real issues.

    • Thank you for this. While I am nowhere near having to deal with this in my own life, my husband and I have discussed our thoughts on teenage sex and we have different comfort levels with it probably because he had sex as a teen and I didn’t.

      Your statement about figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish with your rules is really good as it can be very easy to have a vague sense of something as being a problem without getting to the bottom of it.

      It struck me that what I would be trying to achieve is not to prevent my child from having sex, but to try to prevent them from regretting having sex and to ensure that the choices they make regarding sex are based on their own authenticity rather than any external pressures or bogus ideas about sex (thanks, pop culture).

      So I guess I get there through lifelong messages on body ownership, confidence, empowerment to make your own decisions and a general promotion of being true to yourself.

      • I this this is a really good point and important questioning to be doing. i teach sexuality education at university and research in New Zealand (where i am from) shows that most teens dont practice safe sex and have sex early because their reality as sexual beings is denied. This means that because their realities are ignored by parents and teachers they ignore what they are taught by them. However in Sweden where sex education starts really early and young people are treated as sexual beings teenagers put off their first ‘sexual’ experience till much later. This is because they are supported (through talk and education) to understand the emotional and physical aspects of sexual intimacy with others and the need to be emotional ready for such things. But ultimately it is their decision when this is the case. Its really hard to draw a line about what is ok sexual behavior and what is not. Is kissing ok and is penetrative sex not? and why not? and what about all the possibilities in between? It is useful for young people to discuss all of this with people they trust so they can feel empowered to define their boundaries with potential partners.However what is certain is that any experimentation is best done in a safe environment and that talking is really important.

        • This is so interesting, and definitely fits with my experience. My mom never really talked to me about sex, probably because of the high school I went to and my choices there. All 10th graders took a yearlong health class, of which a third was a very comprehensive unit on sexuality and sexual health. The message was “abstinence is the only surefire way to avoid the potential negative consequences of sexual activity, and here’s what those potential consequences are in extremely graphic detail, but sex is also a great and healthy part of life so we hope you enjoy it when you’re ready and here are a range options available to you to help lessen the risk of negative consequences”. Then, as a junior in high school I got involved in a peer-counseling group on campus that, and one of the major areas we received training to deal with was about sexuality and safer-sex. We were the only people who could pass out condoms/dental dams and did a comprehensive training at planned parenthood each year. Because i lived near PP, i once volunteered to pick up the paper grocery sack of donated condoms for our stash that year, which i brought to school on the bus. my mother knew about this. 🙂 I guess my mom figured that with all of that, she didn’t need to have any embarrassing conversations with me (which I was fine with).

          Nevertheless, when I started my first real relationship as a senior with a boy who lived two hours away, we slept in separate rooms at my house and his house. That didn’t stop us from a lot of very quiet experimenting after parents went to bed, but I knew enough at that point to be in touch with what made sense to me and what didn’t. As a result, those experiences are still some of the best sexual memories I have, perhaps because of the sweetness and newness of it all, and because of the trust and freedom I felt with him. Also, we waited over a year, until after my first year of college when I was almost 19, for penis-vagina penetration simply because that was what made sense to us. Again, it’s a wonderful memory.

          I compare all this to my cousins, who grew up in the bible belt and went to schools with abstinence-only programs and who were horrified to hear that my school allowed us to pass out condoms, but who both had kids by age 20 (one when she was 17). I don’t say that in judgment, and their kids are great and they are great parents, but I do think they might have made some different choices about who, when, and how had they had a better sense of what choices the were making and of what the alternatives might have been.

          I hope I’m able to remember this when I have my own kids and have be the responsible parent on the other end, but at this point I firmly believe that giving kids access to an overwhelming amount of information about risks, consequences, and options, and giving them the encouragement and space to listen to their own “still small voices” when it comes to sexual matters is probably the best and most loving thing you can do.

      • You’d like to “ensure that the choices they make regarding sex are based on their own authenticity rather than any external pressures or bogus ideas about sex”. I think that’s an admirable goal.

        But in that case are you sure that you applying the “external pressure” of forbidding sex entirely is the best way to help your child achieve that healthily empowered, thoughtful and independent attitude? HIstorically, totally prohibition of sex doesn’t exactly encourage teenagers to have sex responsibly or safely in any sense. Have you considered instead arming your child with information, advice (including the advice that they should never feel pressured to do more than they want) and access to safer sex supplies, and then stepping away and allowing them to make their own informed – and hopefully authentic – choices? Also bear in mind that if they choose to have sex, you can’t truly stop them short of 24/7 chaperoning. But you can give them the tools they need to make more informed and independent choices.

        • Oh no arguments with that. Sex ed is a given. I got it and my children will get it. I’m also a big fan of ensuring that a child has a good relationship with either the family doctor or a doctor they trust so they have an independent, confidential source of health support – another thing I am grateful to my parents for doing.

          I’m not sure how my comment has been interpreted as a plan to forbid sex in my house. It is certainly not what I intended. I don’t actually know what I will do. We don’t have kids yet and have made no rules on the subject of sleepovers as a result.

          I was just noting that the previous commenter’s suggestion about determining what goals one has in mind when creating whatever rules one creates was useful for me in getting to the bottom of my own feelings which have always left me a little uneasy on the subject – possibly because I don’t have personal teenage sexual experience to draw on in understanding the situation.

          Analysing the why of it made me realize that what I really fear isn’t so much that this hypothetical teenager will have sex (and in my house) but that they will do it and wish they hadn’t, or do it when they weren’t emotionally ready because they felt like it was the “grown up” thing to do.

          And that led me to realize that if I really want to attempt to empower my children to have sex when and how they want – whenever and however that may be, rules about who sleeps where have no role in that.

          There may be other ways in which they have a role in my household, but not that.

      • It’s interesting that not having sex as a teenager has led you to worry about regrets, while it doesn’t sound like your husband has regrets about his actual experiences. Or maybe he does. I’ve always wondered why one should regret having had sex. Even my casual encounters have left me with experiences and lessons I value, rather than regrets.

        • I think that depends on your experience. I had a sexual partner with whom things didn’t work out, and even though I’m not with him now I’m grateful for the experience I had with him. But I also had one casual encounter that I will forever regret because of the way he treated me.

  11. I think seperate rooms is a good idea. If you dont allow her to have sleepovers at all it could make her feel unequal to her friends who can.

  12. As a 20 year old bisexual woman, I dated both genders in high school and always thought my parents had no idea that the girls who spent the night were my girlfriends but now I think that my mom did know, and I can say that I am incredibly grateful that my girlfriends were allowed to spend the night. It gave us a safe space as others have mentioned, and we were never loud or anything. It does seem to me that if you are going to allow one gender to spend the night then you should allow both. But I think the friend/significant other should definitely have proof from their parents that their parents know where they are.

    • this is funny – i also dated both boys and girls in high school. when i came out to my parents as an adult, they asked how long i had felt that way, who had i dated that they never knew about, etc. i mentioned some of the girls who spent the night and they were totally shocked. i definitely don’t think my folks were doing me favors.

      however i also really appreciated having that safe space. getting caught having sex with your boyfriend in a public place is embarrassing and possibly illegal, but getting caught having sex with your girlfriend could turn into, well, a more dangerous situation.

  13. How about only allowing group sleepovers? Unless teens have greatly changed since my day, I doubt that any orgies will be going on.

    • I don’t think it has to do with changing of the times so much as what the group of kids is like. I was in high school in 96 and there were no problems with people looking the other way or sometimes joining in.

  14. I think the biggest thing is consistency. If the rule of the house is no boyfriends (or even platonic boy friends) can spend the night, then it should be the same for girls. However, this could also mean taking into consideration a revision of the current rule as well with some of the above recommendations in mind. It’s just not fair to let her know it’s okay to “experiment” with a girl but not a boy in your home. Also, it’s very important for her to have access to and knowledge about protection between females. Although pregnancy is not a fear, STD’s definitely still are — I know too many young girls who contract them because they think girls are inherently “cleaner” than boys or that they can’t contract STD’s through “lesbian” sex. It’s so awesome that she’s open with you and I think she sounds mature enough to have this conversation with you — ask her how she feels about the rule, her take on what it means, discuss with her about double standards… it sounds like she can handle it and might give more insight into her behavior and choices.

    • I agree. Consistency and transparency are extremely important. Ideally, all of these potential concerns (STDs, pregnancy, whatever else you can think of) should be discussed long before it even comes up, so it’s entirely normal to talk about it for everyone involved. I think that having those conversations will also give you so much more insight into your teen’s mind, it should be a really positive experience for everyone involved.

    • I was about to post the same thing. I think it’s important to be consistent between sexes and genders. Yes, pregnancy is a big fear, but it’s not the only risk of sex (with either woman or men).

  15. When I came out to my parents as queer, they thought about disallowing sleepovers but eventually continued to let me have them. Yes, I had sex during some of those sleepovers. But not always, and I had fewer sleepovers after coming out because they led to too many questions from my parents about whether the invited guest was a date or not!! I just didn’t want to talk about that with my parents, so the max for any one girl coming over was one or two times, tops.
    Didn’t stop us from having sex like bunnies during the day at someone’s house or in a car, etc.
    My point is that communication is important. I would have felt isolated not getting to have any sleepovers, whether they were with people in whom I was interested or not, but having to talk with my parents about the possibilities of sex made it less likely I’d do anything at home anyway.

  16. Keep in mind also that people with more fluid sexuality sometimes have more fluid boundaries around what constitutes a sexual relationship — your daughter may have kissed her friend, but may still consider it to be a friendship and not a romantic entanglement. She may have a platonic friend over for a sleepover, and have it turn into a non-platonic relationship while the friend is there.

    I really think the best bet is to have a serious conversation with her about sexual health, and then another one about emotional health — how is she managing her relationships and taking care of the people she cares for? how are they taking care of her? — then make sure she has easy access to safer sex paraphernalia (for sex with both men and women), and decide about sleepovers on a case-by-case basis. (My husband would want me to tell you that if you let her female friend sleep over, you should let her boyfriend sleep over, but I think a case-by-case basis works best for most situations.)

    It sounds like you have an open, trusting relationship with your daughter, which is wonderful. Congratulations.

  17. This question has really made me think. Growing up my parents were quite clear that they preferred I did not fool around in their house, raising it as a respect issue both for them and for the parents that entrusted their kid to my parents. I still found time and opportunity to fool around and the rules slowly relaxed as I got older.

    I will say that my parents’ point about the other parents is a fair one. The arrangements you make at your house are impacting someone else’s kid. I am not a parent yet so in a case like this, I am not sure how I would handle that. Definitely talk with my own kid very clearly about my concerns, about pregnancy, STIs, and about emotional well-being. And about privacy because I totally agree that hearing my kid fooling around would be just as traumatic as my kid hearing me. I might consider having a discussion with the other parents although when we’re talking about teenagers, that seems a little invasive or just really awkward.

    I would caution about how birth control is offered. I had an exceedingly awkward conversation as a teen and came out of it feeling a little disrespected when it sounded like birth control pills were going to be forced on me. A more open conversation where condoms are just left in an available place and birth control options are raised (or a visit to a nurse or doctor for that purpose is supplied) might let your kid feel more in control of their choices.

    I do think that it is good that your daughter is open with you about her experimenting. I would maybe try asking the question of whether she thinks something might happen with this other friend during a subsequent sleepover. Take it from there. Maybe she feels strongly that she is dating a boy or boys and has set her limits. And maybe she doesn’t. You might get into other conversations about dating. But if you open the door to that conversation you can all find out what the story is. Does she want this friend to sleep over in the hopes that something will happen? Does she feel the friend really is exclusively a friend? Worth a discussion though.

    • I agree with many of the points you raise.

      I think at the end of the day, simply talking to your child’s friend, and their parents about the situation is best. You can’t know what their preferences and rules are otherwise, and it eliminates so many potential problems down the road where people feel slighted for not having been consulted. Maybe you won’t initially, or ever, see eye to eye on it, but at least you can work towards some mutually agreeable solution. I think at the end of the day the respectful thing to do is to talk to people, especially about sex.

      • I agree that communication is key, but I wanted to throw in a word of caution about discussing this with the friend’s parents. You don’t want to accidentally out your child’s friend to her parents. It’s possible that their daughter hasn’t told them she might like girls. She could not be out for many reasons (like she’s not sure what she likes or what language to use, or she just plain not ready etc), but it also could be that she is legitimately afraid of backlash from home. So if you’re not sure it’s better to air on the side of caution.

        • Good point! I was thinking it’s good to start just having a conversation with the teen first, as they probably know where their parents stand for the most part. If they are afraid of such reactions that alters the situation dramatically (and speaking personally, I’d be a lot more likely to allow them to sleep over if their own parents are very strongly against the teen liking girls, for example).

  18. I loved reading all of these comments, there are so many different views about the issue. What I find very interesting is the general shift in consciousness our culture (or maybe just the people commenting) has had about teens and sexuality. It’s a lot more open, and I know a lot of teens are appreciative of that. I certainly was.

    I was also one of those teens that managed to sneak around my parents and have sex when I wanted to. Just because they didn’t let a boy sleep over didn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen. What I wanted to bring up though, was that my first ever ‘real’ sexual experience (at 13 years old) was a really rotten one. Although I’ve accepted it, it still brings back awful feelings. I don’t want any young girl, bisexual or not, to have sexual experiences that can damage them.

    So, after I told my mom (not long after) that experience, her rules changed. I think she felt guilty about what happened to me, and she decided that it was okay to have ‘sleep overs’ with both genders. In her mind, at least she knew it was happening, when and where (for the most part) and that I was safe. I think for most parents its all about the safety of their children. I then knew it was safe, because (as awkward as it was) my mom was just downstairs.

    Moral of the story: like many others have said, it’s most likely going to happen. Might as well be in a safe place. Have a talk with your daughter, a real honest talk about your feelings, and hers. Safe sex with both genders. If anything, being more lax on that rule may offset some negative experiences.

    • Your post captures almost exactly my sentiment on the whole situation. I think experiences like you describe are not all that uncommon, and I think as a parent I should do everything I can to make sure that’s as unlikely to happen as is within my power.

      Most people who have less than awesome intentions and want to pressure someone else are much less likely to do so when there’s parents one or two rooms over. It completely changes the power dynamic, and gives the teen much more confidence to be themselves and set their own boundaries.

  19. Whoa, this is a tough one. I have to say I am shocked (in a good way) about all the mentions of allowing sleepovers with kids of both genders. There are communities that accept this? I guess it was my small town but when I was a teen a parent known to let their kid have opposite gender sleepovers were pretty much blacklisted and their kid labelled all kinds of nasty things.

    I think the openness discussed here is really great- I had so many non-romantic guy friends and would have loved to just be able to play videogames all night and if we fell asleep who cares? I think the others are right in saying to just be open and honest and try not to set up an environment where your daughter will want to hide things from you. As soon as I read your aversion to have the girl she kissed sleep over I instantly thought about how she will never tell you about being involved with a girl ever again less she risk not being allowed to have sleepovers. At least that’s what I would have done as a teen. Don’t put her in that position but don’t compromise on having a no-nonsense policy about talking about sex safety and the emotional risks of being involved with someone of any gender.

    • I was raised in a fairly conservative Central American country and I had sleepovers in high school with my best friends, both male and female. And just for the record, I did not have any kind of sexual encounters (not even kissing) until college even though I identified as bisexual and some of them did as well. We were good kids, we were good friends and my parents are awesome for allowing us that freedom.

  20. I agree that if teens want to experiment, they will, regardless of if you give them a place. So therefore if you provide a safe environment and an open dialogue, you are really doing your daughter a favour, and your daughter will feel more trusted to make safe decisions.

    As a teenager, I guess I was quite late on the dating scene, not having a boyfriend until I was 18. But my parents were very over-protective, basically forced me on birth control and made rules that I could visit my now-husband (who lived out of home) until as late as I wanted, but could never stay over. I don’t think they really understood that the sleeping over part was JUST sleeping, the rest of the night (before I had to go home) was for everything else. They also made it abundantly clear that I was not allowed to have my boyfriend stay over at their house ever.

    What this led to was a relationship with my parents where I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about any of this stuff, because even though I was of-age, in a committed relationship, in their minds I was untrustworthy. I think if they’d offered to support my decisions and encouraged a more open dialogue, things would have been a lot easier.

    Even now, as married adults, if for any reason we stay at either of our parents’ houses, we still feel as though sex is off-limits.

    So I think that if you don’t build a stigma about it, and talk to her openly about the fact that you trust her, but also reinforce that she needs to be emotionally ready to deal with everything that comes with sex, your daughter will really respect you.

  21. Maybe a little off topic, but one thing missing from these really good points is how any of this relates to intimacy. I think kids get in trouble with sex because they don’t start with intimacy. When they’re sneaking around and hiding it creates opportunities for rushed decisions and bad experiences. Also, it’s not super easy to be sweet and cuddly when you’re outside or in the back of a car. I think a lot of kids are really looking for intimacy, but don’t know how to get there other than through sex. Also, I think so often parents only talk about “not having sex” but skip the part about how to have good sex in a healthy context with mutual respect when they are ready and what ought to come before that. Wouldn’t it be better if young couples got to sleep (just sleep) together and really get to know each other, physically and otherwise, before deciding to explore sexually? And that takes time and space. And possibly a parent discussing the importance of these other things with regards to sexual relationships.

    • Amen! In high school I never knew how to explain to my mom that I just wanted to sleep with my boyfriend. I didn’t want to have sex. There are so many lovely ways to be intimate with someone with out sex. And it’s so so important, because if you’re allowed to have that intimacy, then when sex comes, you will have trust and comfortableness. I knew so many girls in college who went from never been kissed to fucked. As a result most of them don’t think much of sex. I was intimate from the age of 14, and didn’t end up having sex till I was 20. It was a great experience, and I trusted the man I was with. Hell, I was so comfortable with him, I ended up marrying him! Hah!

    • I totally agree with this!

      Another thing I’d like to throw out in the mix is consent. I think it’s really important for everyone (young men, young women, and young other) to understand that sex can be wonderful and fulfilling *so long as everyone wants to be having it*. I feel like that conversation is really absent from sex education – at least it was when I was at school. I think my teenage sexual experiences (and probably those of other people) would have been a lot better if I and the people I was around understood that better.

  22. This raises a really interesting question, and I love all the responses. Here’s my two cents:
    Teens who want to have sex will have sex. However, even as an adult, we need to be respectful of others. There was a no sex rule in our house in high school, but it was a respect thing. I knew about STD’s and pregnancy, and had birth control. But it was more to the point of not having sex in the house because it would have been weird for both my parents and myself. My mother started dating someone when I was in college, and they both decided not to have sex when their kids were in the house. So it’s not just the teens that need to be respectful of others in the house…it was everyone. This is a good rule to learn when you leave for college and share a room with someone, and have roommates in a small apartment as an adult. Sex is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but it is also, for the most part, something private. Most people, be they parents, friends, roommates, camp counselors, etc, don’t really want to hear someone else having sex, or catch a naked somebody walking from someone’s room the bathroom. In my mind, the no-sex-in-the-house rule isn’t about making sex secret or bad, it’s about respecting all members who live in the house.
    On that vein, I feel like you have to be consistent between girls and boys. If you want no sex in the house, then the rule is no sex in the house and the sleeping arrangements follow, regardless of the gender of the guest. They can sleep together in a common area, or they can sleep separately in bedrooms. Will they sneak into each other’s bedrooms or take the risk and have sex in the living room? Maybe. But it seems like you’ve done a good job up to this point of making your feelings and motivations behind the rules very clear. She’ll understand that you’re uncomfortable with her having sex in the house, and this is why the sleeping arrangements are the way they are. She may go elsewhere to experiment, but presumably you’ve had other conversations about sex that would lead her to make smart choices. And to be honest, I really don’t think it’s that unreasonable to ask a teen to wait ’till she’s out of her parent’s house to start having sexy sleepovers.

  23. So coming from someone who was once a teen that had supervised overnights at my husband’s(then boyfriend’s) home – I say, allow it. As so many pointed out – establishing guidelines as to what you expect from your child, and them understanding those rules and therefore respecting you for them, will go a LONG way. My husband’s parents are strict Christians (and so are we) – were we “perfect” in regards to our premarital sexual behavior – no – but we did know that 1) his parents house was a safe place where we could ask anything and be given honest, Christian based guidance (insert your own families morals here- religious or not) and 2) that their allowance of our overnights showed they trusted us tremendously and that made us want to respect their rules for us all the more. We didn’t sneak around after bed time – nor do I recall wanting to, because I knew that if we broke their rule, we’d lose all that awesomeness we had.

    Your family sounds open and trusting and your child obviously trusts and respects you. If you would prefer your child to remain more or less sexually inactive for the time being – express that to her and tell her why. She might sneak around a bit…but that boundary you instilled in her will go a long way in helping her determine if/when she is ready, regardless of what her teenage hormones are telling her.

  24. I wonder if not letting her have sleepovers will lead to her feeling isolated? Most of my best friends in high school were guys, and we grew up in a conservative culture. This meant that I never got to hang out with my best friends at sleepovers. I loved my girl friends, but I was closer to my guy friends–all platonic. I felt left out.

  25. I had sex with boys and girls as a teen. I went to boarding school, it wasnt extremely difficult to accomplish. It was easier with girls, sure. What I wanted to say in addition to the many excellent points above, is, talk to your kid about what sex means to them. Give them a chance to think about why sex sounds fun / scary / gross / whatever, and tell them that they can decide what they like. Tell them why you think they should wait, and let them tell you what they think about it. I mean, it’s obvious your kid is a sexual person now. So give them the space to find out what that means.
    I wish I had that. I spend so much time breaking different rules, I didn’t think about what I really wanted til I was almost 30. I wish someone asked me that. It wouldn’t have mattered who slept where, really.

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