Straight Talk Advice

Jun 16, 2010

Hey Sis, put some clothes on

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m a 16-year-old boy with a 17-year-old sister who is gay. We live with our single-parent mom, who can only afford a two-bedroom apartment, so my sister and I share a room. I really think my mom and sister should share a room since they’re both females, but our mom won’t do it. She figures since my sister is gay, there’s no threat of sexual activity. I change clothes in the bathroom, however, my sister isn’t shy about undressing in front of me and is sometimes casual about nudity in our room which makes me very uncomfortable. Even though she’s gay, she still has an attractive body and I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes get turned on when I see her nude, sometimes getting an erection. Obviously I can’t tell my mom about these feelings. What do I do? — L.C.

Geoff 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

In the words of Dan Savage: ‘We have reptile brains.’ We may refuse to admit it, but everyone (men, women, boys, girls), has biological responses to certain stimuli. No amount of social conditioning changes that. Your mom needs to wake up. If separate rooms are impossible, she should help establish a room divider.

Scot 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

Erections are largely uncontrollable at your age. They can just happen. It doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong or out of the ordinary. Tell your sister with confidence that you need more discretion since you’re both getting older.

Brie 19, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

For awhile I shared a room with my two older brothers, then later with my stepbrother. I always changed in the bathroom so I wouldn’t create a potentially awkward situation. Yes, it would be hard to explain to your mom and sister. Tell your sister it makes you uncomfortable and ask her to change in the bathroom. Or create a divider.

Maureen 18, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Suggest a room divider, that your sister change in the bathroom, or that she warn you before changing so you can leave the room. What about her sharing a closet with your mom and changing in her room?

Ashley 22, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

I would start sleeping on the couch. Maybe that will show your mom how seriously you don’t want to share a room with your sister.

Matt 16, Villa Park, Calif. Ask me a question

Partition the room with a sheet or screen. They do this all the time in places like New York where high rents force people into tight quarters. Don’t feel like you’re the only guy who becomes aroused when there’s a naked woman around.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Don’t blame yourself and don’t try to ignore it. Get out of the situation ASAP. Whether your sister is lesbian or not, you’re the one who ends up in hot water.

DEAR L.C.: You can tell there are many homes with no fathers by the amount of letters we get from angst-ridden brothers like you with mothers and sisters who are evidently clueless about male physiology. Because of this, I don’t advise communicating to them that you are sometimes turned on. Not because it’s your fault (it’s not), or that you’ve done anything wrong (you haven’t), but because I don’t trust them to understand the information correctly. You stand to lose too much due to their ignorance. That said, you may not get your own room, but you must insist on change. Example: “I don’t like it. She needs to dress in the bathroom.” Why? “Because it bugs me; I’m too old for it. It doesn’t matter if she’s gay or straight.” (Repeat continuously as needed; refuse further explanation.) At the same time, take action: hang a divider, create a “nook” elsewhere in the apartment, set up a tent. They’ll get the picture.

Editor’s Web Note: It’s difficult enough for a boy these days with all these alpha females everywhere, but this commonplace situation for solo boys raised in all-female households puts it over the top in total ridiculousness. What really bugs me is that if the boy was “honest and open” about the situation (like females keep saying they want men to be), he would very likely be excoriated on the spot. Maybe after the females calmed down they would realize that he’s actually being a good man, but I don’t trust their initial reaction — and it’s the initial reaction that’s going to do the most harm. He already feels deviant to begin with. It’s sad state of affairs that male bashing is such an unconscious way to behave for so many that I don’t trust most females in this situation to be fair or kind to the male. —Lauren

  1. By Jim, age , from Folsom, CA on 06/16/2010

    As the only guy in a housefull of females, I know exactly how L.C. feels.  I’m 14 and have 17 year old twin sisters and a 15 year old sister.  We live with our mom and hardly ever see our dad who lives out of state.  Since I’m the youngest, my sisters still think of me as “little brother” and I’m not sure they even realize that I’m now sexually mature.  Since I’m just “little brother” to them, they think nothing of parading around nude or in a bra and their thong underwear.  They also talk about things like their periods right in front of me which is the last thing I need to hear about.  Like with L.C. and others who wrote in response to earlier articles, seeing my sisters this way gives me sexual feelings and I sometimes get an erection which makes me very ashamed of myself because you aren’t supposed to have feelings like this about your own sisters.  However, I could never tell them or our mom that I have these feelings. The three of them all share a very nice large bedroom with their own bathroom, so if they want to be nude and talk about female things, they can do it in there with the door closed all they want without exposing me to it, but I don’t know how to tell them this without admitting to the feelings I’m having.  If our dad lived with us I might be able to confide in him about it, but I could never talk to our mom about something like this.

    Not So “Little Brother”

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  2. By S.T., age , from Anaheim, CA on 06/16/2010

    This really surprises me and it isn’t true for all guys.  I’m a 16 year olf guy and have a twin sister.  We have always shared a room and aren’t shy about undressing in front of each other.  We shared a double bed until we were 13 and only stopped because our mom said it was time for separate beds, not because it bothered us, and it wouldn’t bother me even today.  Seeing her nude does not give me any sexual feelings whatsoever.  Since we’ve been seeing each other nude every day our whole lives it means nothing to us.  We also have a 12 year old sister and my sister has been given the option to share a room with her if she’s not comfortable, but she prefers to share with me since we’re closer and have much more in common.  I’m normal and am attracted to other girls, but I can’t imagine having sexual feelings about my sister.

    S.T.

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  3. By Anon, age , from Bolder, Colorado, U.S.A. on 06/17/2010

    I have what I think is an even worse problem.  I have 2 sisters, but they keep the door to their room closed and locked when they’re undressed and there’s no way they would let me see them nude, which is fine with me.  My problem is with our mom.  She parades around the house nude all the time.  It doesn’t bother my sisters since they’re girls, but it really bothers me.  She works out and keeps her body in great shape and causes me sexual arousal.  But how can you tell your own mom something like this?  You obviously can’t, so I try to pretend that it doesn’t mean anything to me, but it’s getting harder and harder (pun intended).  It seems to me that it should be common sense and I shouldn’t have to tell her that this isn’t appropriate at my age (15).

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  4. By Sally, age , from El Dorado Hills, CA on 06/17/2010

    I’m a girl and have to share a room with my stepsisters on visitations at my dad’s.  As sisters, they’re used to being very casual about nudity in the privacy of their room.  Since they’re sisters, there’s nothing wrong with this when it’s just the 2 of them.  However, they’re just as casual when I’m there and it makes me very uncomfortable.  I don’t have a problem undressing in front of them or other girls or them undressing in front of me, but the overly casual nudity makes me uncomfortable even though I’m a girl, so I can imagine how L.C., Jim, and Anon must feel.  I’ve tried to tell my stepsisters that it makes me uncomfortable and ask them to please not be nude except when they’re getting dressed and undressed when I’m there, but they just laugh at me and say that I should know by now that “girls are all the same.”  I do know that, but I don’t think it means that we have to go out of our way to expose our bodies to each other.  It seems like they actually go out of their way to be nude in front of me because they know it makes me uncomfortable.  I think that the bottom line is that people have different comfort levels about something like this and that the feelings of others should be respected if you are making them uncomfortable. 

    Sally

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  5. By Marsha, age , from Medford, Oregon on 06/18/2010

    I agree with Sally.  Everybody has their own comfort level about something like nudity and it should be respected.  If S.T. and his sister are comfortable with it, that’s fine even though they’re opposite sexes.  If Sally isn’t comfortable about it with her stepsisters even though they’re all girls, her feelings should also be respected.  I’m shy and private about my body and am not comfortable with anybody seeing me nude except my sister who I’m close to and share a room with, my best friend, and my mom of course.  At the slumber parties I go to most of the girls are very casual about undressing in front of each other and being nude in front of each other.  Since I’m not comfortable with this, I change in the bathroom, and I’m usually the only one who does this.  Some girls just let it be my business like they should, but some tease me and put me down because of it and it really hurts.  I also get the “girls are all the same” comment a lot.  However, the fact that we’re “the same” doesn’t change how I feel.  Since it does them no harm for me to change in the bathroom, I don’t see why they can’t just let it by my own business and leave me alone about it.

    Marsha

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  6. By Linda, age , from Santa Barbara, CA on 06/20/2010

    I agree with Sally that everyone’s comfort level should be respected, although personally I don’t see why it should be a problem when it’s a case of all girls (or all guys).  If you all have the same body parts, why should it matter (even if someone’s gay as discussed in previous columns)?  However, when it comes to opposite sexes, I think that room sharing and nudity in front of each other should be avoided at all costs.  My sister and I didn’t used to have a problem with our younger brother seeing us and were casual about nudity in the home, and didn’t think it bothered him.  However, one day he lost it and really went off on how much it bothered him and made him uncomfortable and how ashamed it made him feel.  Ever since then, we keep to our room with the door closed when we’re undressed.  As sisters we have have no shyness about nudity in front of each other, but we respect our brother’s feelings.  However, as many guys have written, they are often too ashamed to admit to their feelings about their sisters and even their moms, so opposite sex nudity should be avoided at the very latest from the time of puberty.

    Linda

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  7. By Lauren Forcella, age , on 06/20/2010

    Thank you to all who wrote in support boys in this unfortunate situation. Your letters will really help them replace their shame with action and insistence that the situation change.

    Your letters also are a wake-up call to females to take responsibility to use discretion around nudity and partial nudity for the sake of their brothers.

    Thank you again. If you have a minute, please email this link to people you know who have a boy in an all-female household. The situation is quite common and many boys are suffering silently and needlessly.

    And while I’m here, Happy Father’s Day to all Dads out there. If you’re not lucky enough to live with your children, or see them very often, I hope you check in with them today, even if they don’t check in with you. They need you more than you realize.

    Love, Lauren

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  8. By F.G., age , from Carmichael, CA on 06/20/2010

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone and that my feelings aren’t abnormal. I live with my mom and 2 older sisters.  I don’t share a room with my sisters, so the partition idea that some suggest isn’t the answer.  However, my sisters don’t bother to put on a bathrobe when they go to take a shower and walk around in their thong underwear with or without a bra and don’t always bother to close the door to their room when their undressing.  And our mom is also casual about nudity around the house.  Hopefully this column will bring some attention to this issue as it looks like it’s not that uncommon and my sisters do sometimes read it.  However, no one had a good solution when your in this situation and having feelings you shouldn’t have about your sisters and your mom and can’t tell anybody.

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  9. By Lauren Forcella, age , on 06/20/2010

    Dear F.G.: When the nudity and partial nudity are paraded around the house, the solution is to make a relentless fuss about it until it stops. In this column I gave an example of what to say and advised against disclosing that fact that you’re aroused because the females in question probably don’t have a clue about male physiology and may interpret it wrongly and against you.

    According to Linda from Santa Barbara (above), making a fuss worked for her brother. It may require more than one outburst though, so be prepared to keep the fuss up until behavior changes. In addition, any time your mom or sisters are nude or partially nude, I would refuse to look at them or talk to them. We did a column on a nude mother earlier which may also be helpful (see the topics list under Sex, then Nudity).

    Let us know how it goes.

    Lauren

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  10. By Annie, age , from Auburn, CA on 06/20/2010

    I agree that guys in this situation need to speak up.  I don’t think that in most cases they would need to wait until they “lose it” like Linda’s brother or make a big fuss like Lauren suggests, and they don’t have to say that they are getting aroused, just that they’re uncomfortable.  From the responses, it looks like this usually happens when it involves older sisters and younger brothers.  That was the case in our family.  Like some of the others who responded, he was still our “little brother” to us and we didn’t think of him as someone who was becomming a man sexually.  When he politely told us that it made him uncomfortable to see us nude or in our underwear, we respected that and stopped.  We now always put on a bathrobe to take a shower and don’t walk around undressed anymore and keep the door to our room closed when we’re undressing.  We like to sleep in the nude in the hot weather, but we now keep our door closed and keep a robe handy in case we need to get up in the night.  Our brother didn’t tell us that he was getting “aroused” or that we were giving him erections, and I really don’t know (and don’t want to know!).  Just telling us he wasn’t comfortable was all it took.  I really think that most girls would respect this and wouldn’t think that their brother was “perverted” or anything like that.  Some sisters just need their eyes opened about something like this as we did.  Looking back, we probably should have figured it out ourselves without being told, but it is always easier to see something like this in hindsight. 

    Annie

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  11. By Jenny, age , from Santa Clara, CA on 06/21/2010

    Wow! This is certainly an eye opener for my sister and me and it looks like we needed our eyes to be opened.  It never occurred to us that our “little brother” (who is now 14) might have feelings like this.  However, since it appears to be so common, there is a good chance that he does. Since our room is right across from the bathroom and we only had to go a few feet for a few seconds, we never put on a bathrobe when we went to take a shower and he never said anything when he saw us.  Our dad doesn’t live with us, so our mom is the only other one who would see us which certainly is not a problem for us or for her.  Other than that, we don’t walk around nude, but we have been walking around in just a T shirt and our thong underwear in front of him without giving it a second thought.  Like it looks like it is with many sisters according to the responses, we’re casual about nudity in our room, but unlike some of the others, we don’t leave the door open then.  However, from reading all the responses, I think we may be exposing too much to our brother.  We’ve discussed it and don’t want to embarrass our brother by asking if we are “arousing” him or giving him erections.  We’ve just decided to start being more discreet and will put on a robe even if we’re just going a few feet and won’t walk around in our underwear anymore.  Thanks to all who wrote.

    Jenny

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  12. By Sheila, age , from The Netherlands on 01/21/2014

    I wouldn’t cover up in front of your brother, unless you can clearly see it bothers him. I have always walked nude down the hallway. My brother stopped around puberty, and started again since about two years. He’s almost 20 now. If I had covered up just in case, he probably wouldn’t be comfortable to walk to the bathroom nude.

    If you are a guy and you are uncomfortable with your sisters nudity, just politely ask her to put on some underwear next time. If you’re not comfortable with your sisters nudity, doesn’t necesarilly mean you are turned on by her. Not everybody has the same comfort level.

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