To unify the family, teen sex sleepovers?

Family life would be happier if U.S. parents let their teen-agers have sex with their lovers at home, argues Amy Schalet, a U-Mass sociology professor, in the New York Times.  For her book, Not Under My Roof, Schalet interviewed 130 white, middle-class, not-very-religious American and Dutch parents.

While American parents think they should “steer teenage children away from relationships that will do more harm than good,” Dutch parents regard teenagers “as capable of falling in love, and of reasonably assessing their own readiness for sex.”

Dutch parents are more likely to talk to their children “about sex and its unintended consequences and urge them to use contraceptives and practice safe sex,” Schalet asserts.

Normalizing teenage sex under the family roof opens the way for more responsible sex education. In a national survey, 7 of 10 Dutch girls reported that by the time they were 16, their parents had talked to them about pregnancy and contraception. It seems these conversations helped teenagers prepare, responsibly, for active sex lives: 6 of 10 Dutch girls said they were on the pill when they first had intercourse. Widespread use of oral contraceptives contributes to low teenage pregnancy rates — more than 4 times lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.

However, “sleepovers aren’t a direct route to family happiness.” Good to know.

The op-ed doesn’t compare sex education, contraceptive use or pregnancy rates for white middle-class Americans and Dutch teens. It’s possible to discuss the risks of sex without providing a bedroom, writes Stephen Kruiser on PJ Media.

A no-sex-under-my-roof policy is a great way to get adult children to move out of the house, suggests Instapundit.

Raise your hand if it feels weird to have sex in your parent’s house with your spouse.  Yes, I thought so.


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  1. Yeah, because white, middle class teens are a big percentage of the teen pregnancy rate.

  2. So, on one hand, we’re told that if our children can hold off on eating a marshmallow for a few minutes, they’re going to be more successful in life. On the other hand, letting them fool around (and even providing a place to do it openly) before they’re halfway through high school is going to make life better. Hmm, who to believe?
    I’ll stick with the school of thought that teaches self-discipline and dismiss with a sigh crackpot ideas like Schalet’s.

  3. I don’t have teenagers yet…who knows what will happen when I do.

    For me though this goes beyond a moral issue or an issue about love.

    If my kid wants a regular sleepover guest..then he/she can go out and get his/her own apartment. i don’t want to wake up in the morning and have people camped out at my house on a regular basis.

  4. As far as intelligent ideas go, this ranks right up there with using napalm to smother a grease fire, pole vaulting in a thunderstorm, and hunting grizzly bears with a Nerf pistol. The idea that being the “cool parent” is the way to keep a family together and happy has been known by everyone with a clue to be self-destructive for decades; it’s been a frequent theme of many sitcoms, and even several episodes of “Gilmore Girls” for heaven’s sake. Parenting is hard because you have to tell kids things that they don’t want to hear and to keep them from doing things that they want to do, because your knowledge and experience tells you better. Anyone who is not capable of doing that is not qualified to be a parent.

    Seriously, this is so sand-poundingly stupid that, were I in charge of the paper, I would fire every person involved in selecting this article for printing.

  5. I laughed out loud when I got to the part in Schalet’s piece when she describes 16-year-old Kimberly, who “only slept with her boyfriend at his house, when no one was home. She enjoyed being close to her boyfriend but did not like having to keep an important part of her life secret from her parents.”

    Ah yes, it was so sad when she couldn’t tell her parents over their cornflakes what an amazing lover Antonio is, and how loved and attractive he makes her feel. But now that he sleeps over every Saturday, they know–from her deep contendedness, and the animal squeals of passion that rattle the windows moments after SNL goes off the air.

    Will teens have sex? Obviously. Does it follow that normalizing and condoning it through approved conjugal playdates is the way to go? Of course not. Not everything that is common must be condoned. Adultery is common. By Schalet’s logic, it would make us happier and healthier if Mom and Dad had sleepovers with their paramours rather than sneak around.

  6. That’s pretty rough, Obi-Wandreas. This was an op-ed, published in the big Sunday Times op-ed section. If the purpose of op-eds is to generate discussion, circulation/page views, etc., I’d say the editors did their job here.

    I think that what the author of the piece is proposing is ludicrous, but teen sexuality is the ultimate one-size-DOESN’T-fit-all area of parenting. You show me the absolute best way that you think a parent should handle this issue, and I’ll show you plenty of parents who parented that way and still had their child get pregnant as a teen.

  7. Obi, I thought your comments about “cool parents” were interesting.

    I was curious about your comments about the Gilmore Girls were interesting. I never completely understood that show. Was the Lauren Graham character trying to be cool…or the other characters?

  8. To provoke thought and discussion requires someone to make an intelligent argument. There are plenty of arguments to be made that range between simply ordering kids not to do it or discussing “safe sex” and telling them to be careful. This, however, is just off the deep end stupid. This is like saying “Well, even if you’re really careful with a chainsaw, you could still get hurt, so just go ahead and lick the chain.”

    As far as Gilmore goes, the Lauren Graham character thought she was trying to be cool, and was determined that her child would not make all the mistakes she had made herself. In reality, however, she was strict when she needed to be. I recall one first season episode in which she pulled her daughter and several classmates out of a party which had alcohol at it; the other girls seemed very impressed because they had never known a parent who cared enough to risk angering them.

  9. Ahh…thanks for explaining.

  10. On the subject of cool parents I know one mom who tries so hard to be the “cool mom” it verges on embarrassing for her daughter.

    I think she has fears her daughter will pull away from her if she isn’t “cool”… seems like that strategy will backfire at some point.

  11. BadaBing says:

    That Obi-Wandreas comment was a killer. The first thing that jumped out at me when I read this article was that the author is an academic, a professor, one of the educated elites, one to whom many people might turn for wisdom. Wisdom? Schalet can’t even grasp common sense. Maybe she could write a grant request to fund a study. The academe has been morally and intellectually bankrupt since the 1960s, and there is definitely no wisdom to be found there.

  12. Bill Leonard says:

    Schalet is an academic in a pseudo-science. I don’t think she ever has rised kids,and I doubt if she even has encountered many teenagers.

    The way we raised our kids: Children of all ages need parents, not older people who are “cool” or who are their good buddies. No kid need a ‘best buddy’ who is 30 years or so older than him or her. Kids need parents.

    So no, our kids didn’t have opposite-sex sleepovers at our house; they knew better than even to ask or presume. We see no signs that such a policy harmed them in any way; both are successful adults (aged 40 and 37 at this point) with serious careers, stable marriages, and really neat children. (Whoo, boy, spoiling the grandkids is another topic althogether…)


  13. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, it’s my experience that that teenagers who readily talk to their parents about their sex lives are a developmental fluke. In families where parents play an appropriate parental role (as opposed to being buddies), parents are the last people teens want to confide in about their sex lives. Usually there are a lot of other boundary violations when teens and parents are confiding in each other about sex . Role reversal, in which teens are expected to take care of their parents, in the most common.

    I totally support teens having access to comprehensive sex education (that includes information about birth control) in early adolescence. According to the CDC, this not only prevents pregnancy but delays the age teenage girls start having sex. But usually it has to come from schools and sexual health clinics – not from parents.

    I have done my own small part to raise adolescent awareness about pregnancy and contraception with a new young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW: A FABLE ( A book about youth activism, it also deals frankly with teen sexuality, contraception and abortion.

  14. Nice book plug by Stuart.

    One problem I have with the information given to teens is that I feel that BCPs are overhyped as how safe they are…..they can have significant side effects. If teen girls are going to be taking these sometimes without the knowledge of their parents…they should be taught the side effects.

    I think having information is important. Simply presenting the information isn’t enough…if teens don’t have some engagement in how choices today impact their future…they are more likely to make bad choices.

  15. FWIW, one of my best friends growing up had parents who allowed boyfriends of their 4 daughters to sleepover once the girls were 16. My parents, in contrast, made my then-fiance sleep on the couch when we visited them shortly before the wedding even though we were in our 20’s.

    Flash forward to our mid-30’s. I’ve been married for a dozen years while 3 out of the 4 sisters with the “cool” parents are still single.

  16. I just thought it interesting that the Dutch parents think oral contraceptives constitute safe sex.