Co-ed Sleepovers? Changing My Mindset!

Welcome to the Fabulous Hybrid Blog Carnival. Our topic this spring is Change! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Blog Carnival hosted by The Fabulous Mama Chronicles and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on change in all of its many forms. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Co-Ed Sleepovers:

Back when I was a pre-teen and teenager there would have been no way on God’s green earth that my parents would have allowed me to either have a co-ed sleepover or attend a co-ed sleepover.  No way.  It wasn’t even open for discussion.

I should probably ask my parents (mom – feel free to comment here) but my guess is that their decision had very little to do with the possibility that “sex” might happen and more with the fact that they were Catholic and you just didn’t do things like this.  It was inappropriate and immoral.

Other parents probably put the kibosh on the idea because of the sex factor.  Putting a bunch of hormone riddled teens together, overnight, would only lead to sex or sex acts.  Right?  Boys and girls just couldn’t be trusted to keep their horny paws off of each other.

I find it interesting that this discussion is beginning to make its way across the blogsphere.  I first came across the discussion in a post at a UK site, Daily Mail Online, which highlighted several mothers who (gasp) were allowing their daughters to have overnight stays with their boyfriends.  There was a then wonderful post inspired by this same article over at PhD In Parenting which furthers the conversation about co-ed sleepovers. Annie, the author, provides a realistic perspective on the subject.  And then, if you really want some honest insight, straight from a teen, grab a beverage of your choice, sit back, and settle in for what I found to be a really good read.

So all of these posts got the little hamster in my brain running at top speed. While I have quite a few years before Tiny starts asking to have and attend sleepovers, what will my stance be about co-ed sleepovers?

I have been chewing on this quite a bit.  My closed-minded default response based on my own upbringing would be “no way.”  But times have changed.  Teens today are very different from my generation.  Tiny’s teenage years will be very different from today’s generation of teens.  With the evolution of humankind comes the necessity to change our default line of thinking.

When I was a teen, co-ed sleepovers could have fostered an atmosphere conducive to boy on girl hanky panky.  But honestly, if any of us wanted to get it on, we would have found a way to do so anyway.  Chances are it would not be at a co-ed sleepover in front of all of our friends.  At least not the intercourse part.  Maybe the making out, feeling up part…if everyone else was doing it and there were no parents around to keep a watchful eye.

Having a co-ed sleepover today (and probably 13 years from now) is, in my humble opinion, not really that big of a deal.  I think that there is an equal chance of sexual activity taking place at a co-ed sleepover as there is at a same-sex sleepover.  Being biased against a co-ed sleepover simply means that I, as a parent, am assuming that my child is heterosexual and will choose to engage in sexual activities with someone of the opposite sex.  There is a 50/50 chance that my child will decide to explore her sexuality with another female.  This is her choice and her journey.  So should I be concerned about her having a sleep over with her “best friend” if her BFF is a female? 

My parents did not give a second thought to having my girlfriends over to spend the night.  I doubt it crossed their mind that we could just as easily have been “fooling around” with each other.  We didn’t but I know several of my high school classmates did.  And yet, having a co-ed sleepover was taboo.

Again, I have several more years to really ponder this but ultimately any sleepover with anyone while Tiny is still young will require an adult presence and a trust that I have been as open and honest with Tiny about sex and sexuality so that she can make an informed decision.  When it boils down to it, teens who want to explore their sexuality will find a way to do so whether or not they are at a same-sex or a co-ed sleepover.  Period.

A really great discussion was brewing in a Facebook group I am in over this very topic.  I thought I would provide you with a few “sound bites” that I think sum up my current position on co-ed sleepovers while also offering a slightly different point of view.  Enjoy!

I was just introduced to the concept of co-ed sleepovers by several mama friends who have kids a couple of years older than my son. Their families are close, and their daughters – and sons – are all close friends. When a few of the same sex kids wanted to have sleepovers and asked if their opposite sex friend – who they play with all the time in other situations – could stay too, the parents did a lot of soul searching and decided that they were comfortable with co-ed sleepovers. At least one mother said that she would not stop when kids got to an age where sexual experimentation was a factor. (As we all know, sexual experimentation could start at any age. Plus, sexual experimentation does not necessarily mean boy-girl, it can be girl-girl or boy-boy.) I do believe that there would need to be a level of trust between kids and parents, and between the kids themselves – that kids should be confident enough to say no to something they are not comfortable with, that parents need to be accessible, etc.

I am not closed to the idea, as much as culturally it’s a hard one to wrap my mind around. It depends so much on the individual family and the kids/teens involved. Underage/teen sex is a reality, whether we as parents choose to admit it or not, and if my teen wants to engage in it, I’d much rather she (or he if we have a boy one day) and I be in a place of trust where she can talk openly with me and I can support her through a really big phase in her life – offering guidance of course, to make sure she’s as safe and comfortable as possible. I’d love it if I had children who felt they wanted to wait until adulthood, but I have a feeling that won’t be my decision to make, and I’d rather be supportive than make them feel they need to hide it.

My hardest time with co-ed sleepovers is: what is the fear? Is it sex? Because who says that is limited to opposite sex? Gay, Bi, or straight, how can I be fair to all my children without assuming their orientation, or even just their drive for exploration?  And is it fair to expect teens to fight their biological drive to attempt procreation to align with ideas of premarital sex and the cultural expectation to be “ready” for marriage (not all communities, but quite a few) by finishing school and procure a steady income.

I’m a big believer in the Dutch approach to teens and sex. It’s expected that if you are in a long term relationship (you know, in teen terms, so a couple of months) that you are probably going to want to have sex. Kids stay over at their b/gf’s houses, birth control is discussed and provided, the relationship is integrated into the family. I actually think the hook up culture has been caused by our society’s drive to push teen sex under ground. I would much rather my kids had a loving, healthy, mutual respectful sexual relationship then that we pretend they don’t want to.

I guess part of it is that I expect my teens to know what they are ready for better then I do, just like I expect my kids to know how hungry or cold they are better then I do. And they can’t develop that kind of self knowledge if I’m imposing arbitrary outside guidelines.

We had co-ed sleepovers when I was in junior high/high school… When it was warm, we’d do backyard campouts. When it was cold, we all slept over my friend’s house, in his basement. Our parents all knew and were ok with it, even my conservative grandparents were ok with it, which seems so weird to me now. None of us were dating each other, so it was just a large group of friends- about five girls and eight boys. I did, however, end up a teen mom, but not because of the co-ed sleepovers, which consisted of “manhunt” (like hide and seek, with teams, in the dark) and occasionally truth or dare- the worst dares were having to smooch someone in the circle which was SO GROSS to us. The worst thing that ever happened was the time we were feeding twigs to a citronella candle and nearly set fire to the picnic table.

So what are your thoughts on co-ed sleepovers?  Are you prepared for your child to ask permission to attend one or to have one?  What will your response be and why?  Do you need to CHANGE your mindset?


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  1. says

    “I think that there is an equal chance of sexual activity taking place at a co-ed sleepover as there is at a same-sex sleepover. Being biased against a co-ed sleepover simply means that I, as a parent, am assuming that my child is heterosexual and will choose to engage in sexual activities with someone of the opposite sex. There is a 50/50 chance that my child will decide to explore her sexuality with another female. This is her choice and her journey. So should I be concerned about her having a sleep over with her “best friend” if her BFF is a female?”

    Mind=blown! In a good way! 😀 When Gabe is old enough for sleepovers that aren’t at Grandma’s house I’ll be coming back to this post, you can be sure. I used to do coed sleepovers with my best friend but we slept in seperate rooms as we’d stay up all night talking or playing with glow in the dark dinosaurs. (we were like, 6-8 yrs old). It’s been a long time! My parents never let me do co-ed sleepovers either; it was Not Done because of the potential for hanky panky. Oh little did they know… 😉

  2. says

    This was a great post. I wish I had a deep and profound comment, but I pretty much agreed with everything you said. My experience was that a lot of my friends experimented sexually, even with same-sex (even in cases where they weren’t gay) because sexuality was something that simply had to be explored.

    I have a theory I am going to chew on a little bit and then come back and share it once I’ve thought it through. :)

  3. says

    You make a really good point. I know that when my kids are ready for sex, they are going to find a time and place, one way or another.

    I’m not sure I’m quite ready to be openminded on this score, but I do remember being 13 and sleeping at my girlfriends house only to wake up with her 12 year old brother dry-humping me. If I had been so inclined, yeah. Stuff coulda happened.
    Also, in highschool I had girlfriends sleep over at my house all the time, and found out years later that my mother had been under the impression that one of them was my girlfriend-girlfriend and never batted an eye to my having her in my bed. It definitely makes you stop and think about cultural taboos and their practicality.

  4. says

    I believe sexual exploration and freedom is healthy, and that the taboo around it creates the dysfunctions that affect so many people, like teenagers, into doing things before they are ready or even interested. I feel that transparency is important when it comes to this subject in order to keep communication lines open to explore what is healthy and respectful in terms of sexual relationships. This requires a certain level of intimacy and connection in the parent-child relationship that goes beyond just this particular subject, that must be embraced and nurtured from birth so that the discussions are even possible at this level. When looking at the research, unwanted pregnancies tend to occur with couples who are ignorant about their sexual processes and are unable to meet their needs without risking conception adequately. Keeping our children in the dark about anything is risky, it allow for misconceptions and anxieties to grow. That is why I am not opposed to supervised sleepovers, as I would prefer my children engage in such things at home where they feel safe enough to make choices that they are comfortable with and to be there for them to seek answers if need be.

  5. says

    I’ve been reading some of the online co-ed sleepover discussion on the internet lately, too. I’m definitely more conservative than most; I want my children to wait until marriage to have sex. The decision is theirs and I will not freak out or force anything, but I don’t want to endorse or create opportunities either. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with sleepovers in general, co-ed or not~although a group co-ed sleepover would likely be the situation I would be the most comfortable with. (Probably ironically!) It seems the most benign, like simply an extension of a group of good friends hanging around during the day.

    Sleepovers were a fun part of my childhood though, so I am going to have to come up with a ‘plan’ as far as what I’m comfortable with as far as teens and sleeping over at some point! So far, we haven’t had many sleepovers beyond going to gramma’s house, and none with children whose families we don’t know very, very well. Food for thought!

  6. says

    While I think we can try to prepare ourselves for our children’s teenage years, I think there are some things that I won’t be able to wrap my head around until it is staring me in the face. This is one of them.

    I hope I am terribly open-minded and respond to requests like co-ed sleepovers with grace, but I think it will all depend on the child and the circumstances. Times have changed, but teen nature certainly hasn’t much. Luckily I have a little bit of time.

  7. says

    I too am in the wait-until-marriage camp, and I think for me it is more about perception than about actually being worried sexual experimentation will occur. It’s not that co-ed sleepovers between respectable kids are going to magically turn into orgies; it is more about not intentionally throwing temptation right in front of your kids’ faces and about helping them avoid the appearance of impropriety as well as impropriety itself.

    There will definitely be no co-ed sleepovers at my house (and none my son is allowed to go to!)

  8. says

    Very interesting topic! I agree that our children do not need our permission in order to experiment. I’ve been having this discussion with a friend / mother. We’ve been trying to help our girls understand that we feel they are not ready for a physical relationship yet.

    So on the same topic of sleepovers, what of sleep arrangements? Do you let 2 girls sleep in the same bed? A boy & a girl?

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