Sexy high school sleepovers are no longer just for 25-year-old actors playing 16-year-olds with permissive parents on TV. This weekend in the New York Times “Style” section, reporter and non-breeder Henry Alford approached the topic from the perspective of an etiquette expert. He cringed at Angelina Jolie, who at age 14 was reportedly living with her 16-year-old boyfriend as man and wife in her mother’s home, but he praised the groovy Stockbridge, Massachusetts, painter who asked her teenage children’s lovers only to wash the sheets and otherwise “behave like good guests.” “This setup strikes me as fairly ideal,” Alford wrote, “a well-mixed cocktail of caution and tolerance with a possible pancake chaser.” Today the Cut took on the topic as a group of people who have not been teenagers for many years and who will not be parents of teenagers for many more.
Kat Stoeffel: Did everyone’s high school have the progressive mom whose children’s lovers slept over and were served pancakes in the morning?
Stella Bugbee: My boyfriend’s mom. No pancakes, but no questions.
Charlotte Cowles: There’s something to be said for allowing your kids to do something that you might rather they not do in a safe environment. If they’re going to do it anyway, you might as well have them do it at home.
Maureen O’Connor: Is sex different/safer/anything-er when it occurs in the vicinity of your parents, i.e., does the logic that “If they’re going to do it, it’ll be better and safer in my own home” ring true?
Kat: Yeah, I never understood that logic. Are you going to watch to make sure they put on the condom?
Emily Shornick: Well, you can at least take a look at the guy.
Molly Fischer: Affirm his non-45-ness.
Maureen: Avoid “lovers lane” serial killers?
Stella: Confirming who your kids are sleeping with does help mitigate the terror of not knowing where they are and who they are with, which is truly terrifying.
Maureen: So it’s beneficial primarily for the parents, you’re saying?
Stella: Right. Control, under the guise of permissiveness.
Kat: This overlaps with some cool parents’ school of drinking.
Maureen: I tend to think that the experience of having to thwart your parents in order to have sex is actually a healthful burden. Or AT LEAST thinking you have to be quiet and afraid. Like the Miss Manners’ “Edwardian house-party approach” from the Times article. “Back then, people would have large parties and invite the lovers of their guests. They’d put these guests in separate bedrooms. And then stay out of the hallway.”
Kat: Yes! I am pro-charade. Except that I resent that in order to be a responsible parent you have to operate a bed and breakfast.
Maureen: Cooking morning-after breakfast is already awkward enough when you’ve had sex. When it’s your high-school age daughter … UGH. “Good morning. You must be famished.”
Stella: Parents should have frank conversations with their kids if they want real relationships with their children, but that doesn’t mean a total lack of boundaries.
Charlotte: Should that conversation include “you are allowed to have sex in the guest room tonight”?
Maureen: The logistics of the sleepover are the difference between discussing and then actually, like, helping your kid plan and execute a sex play date.
Kat: It’s the difference between not hassling your kid about hearing his girlfriend sneak out of your basement at 3 a.m. and saying, “Please explore your burgeoning sexualities under our roof.”
Stella: I think it would be funny to be like, “Okay, kids, while you are exploring your sexuality, me and daddy will be too.” And see if they still want to sleep over.
Maureen: A turbo-charged version of the Obama anti-tattoo measure. When the pursuit of sex positivity turns into a complete ditching of boundaries — it can lead to overcommitment and/or overdependence on relationships really young. Some kids apparently can deal with that, but in general, being allowed to spend A TON OF TIME doing EVERYTHING POSSIBLE with your teen boyfriend seems like a bad idea. It’s best to avoid it during the emotional stage when it’s hard to resist getting in over your head.
Kat: Cohabiting is a form of “getting in over your head” you could never get into without the help of adults.
Stella: Agreed. There is over your head and there is trapped.
Maureen: My point is that it can get taken reeeally far if parents don’t throw up a roadblock or two. Because you’re already prone to going too far as a kid.
Stella: Also, road blocks are sexy.
Kat: So much fun.
Maureen: Learning to thwart authority is important! Also, if kids stop resorting to the back seats of cars for sex, we will lose some MAJOR cultural touchstones.
Molly: Have some dignity as a teen — don’t ask me, as a parent, to like your sex life.
Stella: Like, just go away and do it on that church retreat.
Kat: That’s my stance. Have sleepovers, but have the decency to lie to me about it.