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The summer my son was nineteen, he said quite casually, that he and his girlfriend would like to sleep together at the cottage, if that was okay with us. I think my husband was a bit surprised, maybe even shocked, but I said yes without any hesitation. When a friend of mine, whose son was also nineteen found out about it, she said she would never let her son sleep with his girlfriend in her house. I replied that Hugh was old enough to drive a car, to drink legally (in Canada), to leave home, and to die for his country, he should be allowed to have sex. She said "But he should have it in the back of a car, like everybody else!"
He was still a teenager, but as far as I was concerned, he was an adult and it was his own business. So what would my cut-off age be? I'm not really sure, but I remember the summer he left to be a camp counsellor at the age of 16 I suggested he take condoms with him. No need, he said, the camp keeps a big jar of them in the staff lounge. Of course, he was going to be out of my sight for two entire months, and it seemed prudent of me to raise the issue with him, rather than pretend he wouldn't have sex, but would I have let him sleep with a girlfriend then? Maybe not. At fourteen, absolutely not, but then he went to a boy's school, so opportunities with girls did not abound, and it was something I didn't actually have to face. Would I have thought differently about this issue if I were talking about my daughter, rather than my son?
There is a new book entitled Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex by Amy Schalet, who interviewed 130 Dutch and American parents as well as teenagers between the ages of fifteen and seventeen on their attitudes regarding teens and sex in the home. Dutch parents, as it turns out, are much more permissive than their American counterparts. Nine out of ten Dutch parents had allowed or would consider allowing teen sleepovers when the kids reached the age of sixteen or seventeen while nine out of ten American parents say they would not allow it. Researchers say that Dutch teenagers are less likely to have unwanted pregnancies and far more likely to use contraceptives than American teens. They also report fewer STDs in Dutch teenagers than American. Not only that, Dutch kids apparently are less deceptive with their parents, meaning if American kids are having sex, they are more likely to be lying about it to mom and dad.
Ultimately, of course, parents will do what they are most comfortable with, and that may mean never allowing their teenaged children sleep with girlfriends or boyfriends. It's an interesting topic, especially given how sexualized so much of North American culture has become on one hand, and how conservative it has become on the other.
How do you feel about this? Would you let your teenager have a sleepover?
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