Straight Talk Advice

Jul 30, 2013

Are daughter and best friend intimate during sleepovers?

Dear Straight Talk: I've been searching for insight regarding our 13-year-old daughter. Public affection with her best friend "Ashley" has increased and it seems they are intimate behind an always-closed door. I don't think my daughter is gay (we are not homophobic — my brother is gay), however, I'm extremely uncomfortable with their secrecy. We don't allow our 17-year-old son closed-door privacy with his girlfriend. I'm not a helicopter parent but I'm considering disallowing their overnights. Would it be detrimental to ask if she is being intimate with Ashley? If she denies it, then what? My radar knows differently. The other concern is that she was cutting herself last year and she's confided she's cutting again. (Yes, she sees a counselor.) Ashley was involved and we've heard she cuts too — she's from a very troubled family. My daughter is an excellent student and our relationship is pretty open, but this is challenging. —Worried Mom in Monclova, Ohio

Frankie 24, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

Communicate without shaming, accusing or dismissing your daughter's feelings. To reduce embarrassment or emotional overwhelm, start with, “How are you feeling lately?” I realized my attraction to girls in middle school but didn't act on it or discuss it with my parents until college. Even then (though they are incredibly accepting and supportive of gay rights), I didn’t have the courage to come out as “bisexual.” Your daughter may not be gay or bisexual. Perhaps she is experimenting, or her friend is pressuring her. Start an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests. Walk by and monitor activities. This situation requires helicoptering! If they ARE being intimate, then NO, they shouldn't be sleeping together. This doesn't mean you shame and alienate, but kids want boundaries not parents in the clouds. Trust your intuition!

Breele 19, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

Follow your intuition. Don't let Ashley stay over, and when she visits, insist the door remain open. Your daughter is your responsibility and ultimately you must do what you think is best.

Brandon 21, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Your daughter may be going through a bisexuality movement common among 13-15-year-olds from California to Florida. It's almost like an initiation to determine if you're straight or gay. It's very widespread in rural Maine. When I was a senior, the entering freshman class had nearly a quarter of the boys and half the girls experimenting. Same-sex activity isn't “home free” from disease. I've heard of 11-year-olds bringing home genital herpes.

Cutting must be addressed swiftly to avoid long-term effects. As a former cutter, having to constantly hide the scars is tedious. Your daughter needs your affection, compassion, and guidance.

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

Whether she says so, your daughter looks to you for mentorship and guidance. Talk to her without pre-judgment, listen carefully, and act to your best abilities. If possible, involve Ashley's parents and your daughter's counselor.

Jessie 21, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

Establish a “doors-open” rule for all guests. Regarding sleepovers, tell her you respect all orientations — thus her rules are the same as her brother's. Also, it's okay to express dislike of choices or friends (though never in front of them!) My mom encouraged such mutual honesty. She also always reminded me that decisions have consequences and to ask myself if the worst possible consequence of a decision was worth making that choice.

Stressful choices often go hand in hand — and cutting is very serious. In addition to her counselor, are there other adults close to your daughter? I benefitted greatly from an aunt and uncle who shared their youthful experimentations and lessons learned. They never preached and didn't automatically “report” our discussions to my parents. Even though my mom is one of my best friends, there's still a line.

Brennan 20, Colorado Springs, Colo. Ask me a question

I would treat this just as you would a straight daughter or son and not allow sleepovers. Cutting screams of deeper and more pressing issues. Extreme behaviors usually result from family issues or outside issues (school, sex, bullying) that aren't getting support at home (sometimes due to parents being kept in the dark). If both girls are cutting, they need to be separated until they are stronger and can deal with problems in healthier ways. Is there an older role model available to your daughter? This kind of trusted, available adult is as valuable as a parent or therapist.

Dear Worried: Many young girls who write us with bisexual stress are cutting. Any sexual activity too young usually leads to depression. With 'experimental' sex it can spiral into a very dark place. I'm glad you heard it from the panel: Communicate, but trust your intuition; establish an open-bedroom-door policy for all guests; disallow overnights with Ashley. In a loving-firm manner, find the strength to enforce the rules your daughter desperately needs.

Editor's Note: Many parents worry that when kids are on the edge, enforcing rules will drive them over the edge. It might seem that way at first with tantrums, isolating, or acting out, but if your rules are fair and reasonable (as in today's example), sticking with them actually brings your child to stable ground. Kids NEED  rules. With rules, they can blame YOU, the feckless foreign dictator, for why they can no longer engage in the unhealthy activity. This  works much better than having to say they no longer want to do it because it's not right or doesn't feel good.

Regarding limiting access to a friend, an earlier column on this topic (NOV 2, 2011) also had near-unanimous recommendation from the panel that parents intervene and limit the friendship that was contributing to negative behavior. That column regarded drug use, but friends cutting with friends and middle-school intimacy totally qualify as friendships gone awry.

For more on why BISEXUALITY has become a "movement," read my "Why "BI"?" blog at http://straighttalktnt.org/blog/entry/why-bi.

Cutting IS serious and needs immediate attention. We have many columns on cutting. See our 'Search by Topic' list under Health, then Cutting. —Lauren

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  1. By Amy, age , from Anaheim, CA on 07/30/2013

    Based upon my experience, this sounds like a dangerous situation.  My best friend and I became “intimate” when we were 13 and going through puberty and having confusing sexual feelings. It messed me up royally.  I think it was just as psychologically damaging as if I was having sex with a guy at that age which almost everyone would agree is far too young.  It could have been prevented if my mom had been more aware.  Since we were close friends, we had never been shy about undressing in front of each other and we started feeling sexually stimulated when we saw each other naked.  We shared a double bed during sleepovers at my house.  We had been sharing a bed on sleepovers for 5 years with no problem, so my mom didn’t give it a second thought.  However, one night on a lark I suggested that we sleep in the nude and that really started things going.  We started touching each other in private places and it led to full blown sex.  I always kept the door closed and my mom never bothered us.  My friend shared a room with her sister and we didn’t share a bed at her house so we couldn’t do anything there, so we had most of our sleepovers at my house but occassionally stayed at her house to help avoid suspicion. 

    I felt really ashamed and guilty, but we couldn’t stop ourselves when we were nude in bed together.  Then my friend got a boyfriend and abondoned me, and I was devastated.  She said she wanted nothing more to do with me because I was a “pervert” and had led her astray, blaming it all on me when she had been an equal participant!  I spent 2 years very depressed and totally confused about my sexuality and whether I was gay, straight, or maybe even bi.  I have gone through extensive therapy and have gotten over the depression and confusion and now am completely straight.

    I really think this could have been avoided if we had not been sharing a bed and if my mom hadn’t let us be in there alone with the door closed.  I don’t know if your daughter and her friend are sharing a bed, but if they are put a stop to it today and don’t take no for answer!  Insist on twin beds or bunk beds.  Also, require the door to always be open when her friend is there.  Let them have a few minutes of privacy when they need to change, but other than that the door should always be wide open, including (actually especially) when they are in bed.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  From reading other Straight Talk columns, I know that many people see no harm in 2 girls sharing a bed, but based on my experience it is playing with fire.  I also remember a column a while back about 2 stepsisters who started having sex while sharing a bed, so my experience is obviously not unique.

    Amy

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  2. By C.M., age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 07/30/2013

    I think Worried Mom is being too paranoid.  It sounds like her daughter and her friend just have a close friendship.  I went through the same thing with my mom when I was the same age.  My best friend and I were (and still are) very close friends, spent most of our time together, and had frequent sleepovers.  Because of this, my mom got paranoid and homophobic about it and was worried that we were gay because we always wanted to be together and didn’t have boyfriends, and we were only 13! We liked to keep the door to my room closed so that we could have “girl talk” and share our innermost secrets without my nosy mom listening in.  Most teenage girls talk to each other about things they don’t want to talk about in front of their parents.  But my mom actually worried that something sexual was going on if you can believe tha,t since she said that there should be no need to close the door if we were doing nothing wrong.  So she would barge in on us without knocking in order to “check” on us.  It sometimes happened when we were undressing.  It didn’t really bother me that much since she’s my mom and I’m used to her seeing me undressed, but my friend didn’t appreciate being walked in on, especially when she was naked.  My mom didn’t see why this should be a problem since they’re both females. However, my mom never caught us doing anything wrong because we never did anything wrong. 

    I don’t see anything in Worried Mom’s letter other than the fact that her daughter and her best friend have a close relationship which is a good thing for a teenage girl (or anyone else) and that they like to be able to talk in private.  It sounds to me like she just has a normal teenage daughter and is being paranoid like my mom.

    C.M.

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  3. By Wendy, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 07/31/2013

    I agree that moms can get too paranoid about things like this when teenagers just want some privacy.  My sister and I are very close and confide in each other about things we could never talk about in front of our mom and like to keep the door to our room closed most of the time.  We’re also pretty casual about nudity in our room since we’re sisters and need to keep our door closed for that reason also since we have males in the house, our dad and brother.  We also like to have private girl talk with our friends when they come over and when we have sleepovers in our room.  However, our mom is sure we’re doing something wrong since she thinks we wouldn’t need to keep the door closed most of the time if we had nothing to hide.  She isn’t worried that were having sex with each other or anything like that, but is sure we’re hiding something. Like C.M.‘s mom, she barges in on us without warning to make sure we aren’t doing anything we shouldn’t be doing and it really bugs us even though we’re doing nothing wrong.  We don’t care if she comes in when we’re undressed or even nude, but would appreciate it if she would knock first. 

    I wish parents would realize that wanting some privacy doesn’t mean that teenagers are doing something wrong and give us some space.

    Wendy

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