Straight Talk Advice

May 28, 2013

Older sister needs to get thoughts under control

Dear Straight Talk: I'm 17 with a 12-year-old brother who I love very much. I've always been a good big sister to him and he comes to me for consolation and advice. We have to share a bedroom and seeing each other nude has never been an issue. However, with his puberty, everything has changed. I've seen Straight Talk columns from younger brothers complaining that seeing their older sisters nude causes them arousal and terrific guilt. However, I'm the one feeling the guilt because I'm finding his inadvertent arousals from seeing me a turn-on. I know that we shouldn't see each other nude anymore, but because I'm turned on, I can't bring myself to do anything about it. I tell myself there's no harm in my thoughts since I would never actually seduce him. What should I do? — Big Sister in Newport Beach, Calif.

Gregg 22, Los Angeles Ask me a question

Whoa. Even thoughts of incest are inappropriate. Hang a curtain in the middle of the room. Quickly. And, geez, get a boyfriend!

Katelyn 19, Azusa, Calif. Ask me a question

Change in the bathroom! And find a therapist to help you end these thoughts.

Nicole 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

Some people we just CANNOT be intimate with, such as teachers, married people, family members, etc. When I have a forbidden attraction, I tell myself, 'no,' and set up ways to assist myself. For instance, if a song triggers something, I stop listening to it. If I have photos, I throw them away. If I have to see the person often, I avoid one-on-one interaction. In your case, get a partition for your room. You are a young adult and deserve your privacy. The most important thing is telling yourself, 'NO.'

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

Sexual feelings between members of the opposite sex  are normal. If left unchecked, however, they often result in sexual relations. My best advice is to separate your room and return to seeing your brother as… a brother.

Christina 20, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

Think of this not as attraction to your brother, but as attraction to his physical changes. You're both at the age where you can become sexually aroused. Thus, it is not appropriate to keep changing in front of each other. Since you guys must share the room, set up a no-changing rule. Take the initiative and leave the room when he is changing and use the bathroom for your own.

Kira 20, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

He's five years younger — and he's your brother! You must resist the urge and stop these feelings. To make sure you can, tell your mom you need a therapist for personal reasons.

Dear Big Sister: I'm glad you intend to control your actions. However, you are obviously naive to how thoughts create mood and transfer to others suggestively without words. This is nothing to 'play around' with. Sibling incest happens and it causes horrendous life-long pain and damage. In this case, should you lose control, you could rightly be considered a sex offender.

Awake now? Look, I know you can get past this or you wouldn't have written. Humans are extremely vulnerable to sexual impulses and we often need more than willpower to control them. Nicole gives great examples of “exterior” assistance. For your case, I recommend a room divider. Take five minutes to tack a sheet to your ceiling NOW. Just tell your parents you needed your privacy. I think you can manage your thoughts from there and it's good practice to do so (one method: when a negative mental image comes in, immediately make it small, dark and blurry, and replace it with a big, bright positive image). If you still can't control them, see a counselor.

Editor's Note: We get a lot of mail from boys who experience guilt over inadvertent arousal and erections caused by seeing their older sisters (and sometimes, their mothers) changing clothes, dashing to the bathroom without a robe, or strolling around the house naked or in thong underwear. I'm very glad to receive a letter from the older female in one of these situations.

While many probably judged her for having these feelings, I'm certain she is not alone and I'm glad she was honest enough to admit her feelings and get help. Her letter made me realize that plenty of others in such household situations may 'play around' with such thoughts, thinking there's no harm in it. However, thoughts about others are much more transmittable than people think, especially in close quarters. And when the thoughts are negative or inappropriate, they are much more emotionally destructive than people think. I've been personally involved in experiments that demonstrate clearly how thoughts alone can weaken or strengthen whoever they are projected upon — even when the person is screened from all body language cues.

At the end of the day, it's our actions that really count. Nonetheless, we have a great responsibility to keep our thoughts clean, too.

Regarding incestuous thoughts, sexual arousal is hard-wired, starting with puberty, or earlier with some individuals. That is why societies and families have promoted sex-segregated changing, bathing, and sleeping for centuries. Cultures that don't do this generally have significantly higher rates of incest. Our world has experienced a quantum leap in inappropriate and pre-pubescent sexualizing since the pornography industry went mainstream on the Internet 12 years ago. It is more important than ever for parents (or kids themselves, if parents are napping... and many are) to segregate around dressing, bathing and sleeping.

It's simple and inexpensive to divide a room with a sheet or bedspread tacked to the ceiling. Or, if you have bunk beds, create a triangular dressing area in a bedroom with a sheet tacked across a corner of the room. Don't delay. We are human and we need devices like this. Recognizing our weaknesses and using exterior systems to assist in self-control is a key to success. —Lauren

PS: To read the earlier columns we made from boys in this predicament, go to our Search by Topic list and look under Sex, then Nudity. Or simply click here and here.

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  1. By Mandy, age None, from Roseville, CA on 05/28/2013

    For Heaven’s sake, Big Sister, tell your parents you need a room divider, also called a privacy partician and do it today!  They are not expensive at all.  My sister and I have to share a room and weren’t getting along at all.  We’re still both girls and sisters, so undressing in front of each other and seeing each other nude wasn’t an issue for us.  However, we were always fighting and arguing, mostly over issues related to sharing a room.  Our mom’s a single parent and money is very tight and she couldn’t afford a bigger place, so she got us a room divider so we could each have our own private space, and it worked wonders.  Now that we have some separation and private space, we are getting along much better.  Separtion is bringing us closer together if that makes sense.  While the issue is different with you and your brother, the same solution would work as you wouldn’t be seeing each other nude anymore and neither one of you would be getting aroused.

    While it isn’t exactly this week’s topic, I thought I’d mention that we also found a similar solution for sharing the bathroom since that was a recent topic in Straight Talk and I didn’t get around to commenting.  We also only have one bathroom and like some of the others who wrote, even though as sisters we aren’t shy about nudity, we aren’t comfortable sharing the bathroom when we’re “on the facility” especially when it’s “#2” to put it tactfully.  We put up a plastic curtain that could be pulled around the toilet so that we could share the bathroom in the morning and still have privacy on the toilet.

    These things can usually be worked out if you use a little ingenuity.


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  2. By Another Big Sister, age , from Los Angeles, CA, USA on 05/28/2013

    I have a similar but what I think is a much worse problem.  I’m a 16 year old girl with a 12 year old sister with whom I share a room.  Ever since my sister started puberty last year and began developing breasts and pubic hair, seeing her naked gets me “aroused.”  I don’t think I’m gay since I have a boyfriend and seeing friends my age nude doesn’t arouse me, so I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I love my sister and have always tried to be a good big sister to her and set a good example, since she looks up to me and tries to emulate me.  Since we’re sisters and have never been shy about undressing in front of each other and being naked in front of each other, I can’t very well suddenly say I need a divider or partitian for privacy from her.  Unlike Mandy, my sister and I are very close and have no problem getting along sharing a room, so I can’t use that reason either.

    I know that it could cause serious permanent psychological damage to my sister if I tried to do anything sexual with her, and I am confident that I would never do such a thing.  However, having these feelings about my own little sister really concerns me and makes me feel guilty.

    Another Big Sister

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  3. By Lori, age , from La Habra, CA on 05/28/2013

    A partitian isn’t always the answer.  In our case it actually made things worse.  My sister and I had to temporarily share our room with our 8 year old stepbrother.  Even though he showed no interest in looking at us when we undressed, we were still uncomfortable since he was a boy and told our mom, so they got us a privacy partician.  Once it became something hidden and forbidden, he got interested and we would catch him peeking at us through the cracks in the partition when we were undressed.  We would have to take turns standing in front of each other when we were changing so that he wouldn’t see us.  He’s no longer living with us, so the problem no longer exists.


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  4. By Becky, age , from Carmichael, CA on 05/28/2013

    It’s a relief to hear that I’m not the only one to have feelings like this about their younger brother.  We also have to share a room and seeing each other naked didn’t mean anything to us when we were younger.  However, like “Big Sister” it now gives me sexual feelings to see him naked and it still doesn’t seem to bother him.  Like all teenage guys, he gets boners and it really turns me on to see that.  However, I know better than to have sex with my own little brother and I won’t do that! Our mom can’t afford a bigger apartment so we’re stuck sharing a room.  I don’t know why, but I never even thought about the partition idea, so I’m going to suggest that to our mom.  I too ashamed to admit to the feelings I’m having, but that really isn’t necessary.  I’m just going to say that I feel the need for privacy since we’re opposite sexes.


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  5. By Marci, age , from Santa Rosa, CA, U.S.A. on 05/29/2013

    Maybe it’s different because we are twins, but my twin brother and I have been sharing a room and seeing each other nude with no shyness our whole lives and there is nothing sexual about it.  We are very close and love each other as a brother and sister, but nothing more.  I’m just as comfortable with nudity in front of him as I would be if I had a twin sister instead of a twin brother, and am actually more comfortable with him seeing me nude than I am with my girl friends.  He does frequently get erections but more often when I’m dressed than when I’m nude, so I don’t see it as sexual attraction toward me.  He’s just a normal 16 year old guy.  We also share the bathroom if we are just taking a pee.  It’s no big deal to us, but we do arrange to have our bowel movements in private. 

    I agree that action needs to be taken in a case like Big Sister’s if there is a sexual attraction, but it isn’t true for all sisters and brothers who share a room.


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  6. By Charlene, age , from Rocklin, CA on 05/30/2013

    Marci’s comment really surprizes me.  I’m also 16 with a twin brother.  Even though we’re close, I can’t imagine sharing a room and seeing each other nude at our age.  We were still sharing a room when we were 12 and beginning puberty, and I started feeling uncomfortable.  He started getting a little too interested in looking at me when I was nude and my body was developing.  Then one day I saw that he had a boner when he was looking at me nude.  I didn’t even totally understand about what boners were as I had never seen one before, but it scared me and my gut instincts told me that something was wrong with the situation.  I told our mom that I was no longer comfortable sharing a room with him now that my body was changing, so she put me in with our older sister who was not happy about it to say the least after always having her own room.  Even though I got along much better with my brother than with her, I was still much more comfortable sharing a room with her since we’re both girls.  Even though we still don’t get along the greatest we’re still sisters, so nudity in front of each other in the bedroom is not a problem.  I really don’t think there would be sexual attraction if my brother and I saw each other nude at our age, but I would be very, very, uncomfortable.  On the bathroom issue, my sister and I sometimes share the bathroom if we’re in a hurry and just need to pee and it’s not that big a deal even though I’m not totally comfortable with it and much prefer to do it in private, and we never share the bathroom when we’re pooping.  However, there’s no way I could handle sharing the bathroom that way with my brother. 

    Before puberty, I don’t see a real problem with a brother and sister sharing a room, but after that it should be avoided if at all possible and if it’s not possible there should be a room divider for privacy at the very least.


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  7. By T.J., age , from Salinas,California, United States on 05/30/2013

    I’m a 14 year old guy with 2 older sisters.  Their room is right across from the bathroom and they don’t bother to put on a bathrobe when they go to take a shower and sometimes walk around the house in just a bra and thong.  I didn’t think much of it when I was younger, but the last year or so, I have to admit that it gives me sexual feelings to see them this way, and sometimes I get a boner and I also sometimes think about their naked bodies when I jerk off.  I know I shouldn’t be seeing them this way when I have these feelings and I feel guilty, but I don’t know how to tell them since I’m too ashamed to admit that they give me these feelings.


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  8. By J.B., age , from Westminster, CA on 05/31/2013

    I’m secretly gay and have to keep it secret since everyone in our family is Mormon and it’s consider a terrible sin and the church doesn’t believe that you can’t control it.  I share a room with my cousins when we go to visit their family which we frequently do and get sexual feelings when I see them nude.  I try not to look, but sometimes I can’t resist.  Since we’re all girls, I can’t tell anybody that there’s a problem with us sharing a room or that we need a partition without giving myself away, which I can’t do.  I’ve read the Straight Talk columns that say that girls who are gay don’t get turned on by seeing straight girls nude, but in my case, I do.  Maybe it’s because I have to hide my feelings and can’t express them with other girls who are like me.  I’m not sure, but it puts me in a difficult situation.

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  9. By Stephanie, age , from Citrus Heights, CA on 05/31/2013

    I’m 14 and have to share a room with my 12 year old brother cause our mom can only afford 2 bedrooms.  It’s a real uncomfortable situation for both of us especially when we get undressed and like some of the others who have written my brother is starting to get boners which really scares me.  I really think that my mom and I should share a room, but she says that as the parent who pays the rent she’s the one entitled to her own room.  She says she always shared a room and didn’t complain.  But she shared a room with her sisters, and that’s totally different!  They were all girls and were the same, so it didn’t matter when they undressed in front of each other.  I wouldn’t complain about sharing a room if I had a sister who was the same as me instead of a brother.  I never thought of the divider/partition idea but I’m going to see if my mom will at least go for that.  It’s certainly better than our current situation.


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  10. By Carla, age , from Anaheim, CA on 06/01/2013

    I have been reading this column and the responses with great interest since it relates to our family situation.  I’m a 16 year old girl with a 15 year old brother and an 11 year old sister.  I share a room with my brother, and friends have trouble understanding why I share a room with my brother rather than my sister as all of the other girls I know who share a room share with their sisters.  I share with my brother because we are very close in age as well as in every other way.  I have nothing against my sister, but we have nothing in common with our age difference and are not close at all.  My brother and I have been undressing in front of each other and seeing each other nude our whole lives and it means nothing to us, even since puberty.  He gets erections like any normal teenage guy;  there would be something wrong with him if he didn’t!  However, I don’t take it personally as he has no sexual interest in me, and I have none in him.  I have a boyfriend and he has a girlfriend.  When I want to have a friend over for a sleepover, he is very gracious and sleeps on the couch.  When he wants to have a friend over for the night, I sleep in my sister’s room and there is obviously no problem about undressing in front of each other since we’re both girls and are sisters.  I’ve even walked in on my brother masturbating and it’s no big deal,  we just laughed about it.  I masturbate also, and so do most teenagers both guys and girls.  I don’t share the bathroom with either my brother or sister when I’m “using the facility”, but we have 2 bathrooms, so that isn’t really an issue for us.

    I wouldn’t want a room divider or partition as it would make our nice large room more like 2 small rooms.  Based on our situation and the other comments, I think it shows that there is no “one size fits all” solution to this issue.  Those who are uncomfortable with nudity in front of an opposite sex brother or sister and/or are having sexual feelings about them certainly should have a divider for privacy.  However, that does not mean that it is necessary for everyone sharing a room with the opposite sex.


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  11. By Misty, age , from Carmichael, CA, USA on 06/01/2013

    I really wish I could share a room with my brother like Carla does.  Instead, I’m forced to share a room with my stepsisters because our mom and stepdad say that my brother and I are too old to be sharing a room.  I’m 15 and he’s 13.  My stepsisters really resented having me move into their room and I can’t blame them that much as it’s very crowded with 3 in a room that’s not very big and they had to put in bunk beds since there wasn’t room for a third bed on the floor.  I’m overweight and they make fun of my body when I’m undressed and go out of their way to be naked in front of me because they know it makes me uncomfortable and to show off that their bodies are better.  I’d much rather be sharing a room with my brother.  Since we’re opposite sexes, there would be no competition to show off whose body is “better” and we could trust each other to just look the other way when we undress.  We wouldn’t even need a divider.  With a blended family this large and only one bathroom, sharing the bathroom is also a big issue.  My stepsisters have always shared the bathroom and are comfortable with it even when they’re “on the facility,” but I need complete privacy at a time like that, which I don’t think is unreasonable, so we have lots of conflicts and they get mad when I lock them out and they say I’m being stupid for not being willing to share the bathroom with them since “we’re all girls.”


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  12. By Patty, age , from Yorba Linda, California, United States on 06/01/2013

    I like the room divider idea.  I also have to share a room with my stepsister who I don’t like and don’t get along with instead of my brother, who I’m really close to and get along great with.  My stepsister and I don’t have a problem undressing in front of each other and seeing each other naked since we’re both girls and have even learned to share the bathroom when necessary.  However, we have lots of conflicts about everything else.  But with a room divider, I don’t see why I couldn’t share a room with my brother instead.  There wouldn’t be a problem about seeing each other naked and being aroused, etc.  I’m going to see about it.  If necessary, I’d be willing to earn the money and pay for it myself as it would make my life much easier if I wasn’t stuck sharing a room with my stepsister, and we would both be much happier.


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  13. By Jennifer, age , from Toledo, OH on 06/01/2013

    A partition is probably a good idea when opposite sexes have to share a room and are getting sexually aroused.  However, my sister and I now have a partition and I don’t like it at all.  I was shocked when she said she wanted a privacy partition since we’ve never been the least bit shy about nudity with each other and unlike many others we have always been able to share the bathroom even when we’re going to the bathroom, including bowel movements.  She said she didn’t need the partition for that kind of privacy, but wanted to have her own private space.  It really hurts that she feels the need for separation from me.  She’s my big sister who I have always looked up to and I like being together in the same room with her.  The partition makes our nice but modest sized room into 2 separate tiny spaces and I hate it!  She got the idea from a friend, but she has to share a room with her brother so there is a valid need for it, but there should be no need for such a thing in a room shared by 2 sisters!


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  14. By Little Brother., age , from Auburn, CA on 06/02/2013

    A couple of years ago, I was seduced by my older sister when she came home from a party drunk.  We shared a room and seeing her nude had been turning me on, so I’ll have to admit that I did not resist her advances.  We didn’t even use protection so she could of got pregnant,  which would of been a real disaster but luckily she didn’t.  It couldn’t of happened if we weren’t sharing a room and maybe even a divider would have prevented it.  She was very sorry afterwards and we promised each other that it would never happen again and it hasn’t, but we both felt very ashamed and guilty and still do and I really regret that my first sexual experience was with my drunken sister.

    Little Brother

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  15. By Linda, age , from Vacaville, CA on 06/02/2013

    Little Brother’s comment shows what can happen when opposite sexes share a room, so those who don’t think it’s a problem should think twice.  Something like this happening even one time is one time too many!  Like Charlene, I share a room with my sister who I don’t get along with instead of my brother who I do get along with, and prefer it that way.  A divider wouldn’t even work in our rooms.  The room my sister and I have to share is so small we have to have bunk beds, and our brother’s room is the same size.  Even though we don’t get along, my sister and I don’t have a problem undressing in front of each other since we’re both girls and our bodies are the same.  However, I can’t even imagine undressing in front of my brother at our ages (15 and 13).  We haven’t seen each other naked since we we’re little kids.  I don’t know if it would give me sexual feelings to see my brother naked and with a boner, but I don’t want to find out!


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  16. By Big Sister, age , from Newport Beach, CA on 06/10/2013

    I really want to thank everyone, Lauren, the Panel, and everyone else who wrote comments.  It was very helpful.  We did get a partition.  I just told my mom that now that my brother has reached puberty, we were no longer comfortable undressing in front of each other since we’re opposite sexes, and since we can’t afford a bigger place with another bedroom, could we please get a privacy partition.  She said she understood and getting the partition was no problem and was very inexpensive.  Now that we are no longer seeing each other nude, it has solved the problem as there is nothing to cause sexual stimulation in either one of us.  For anyone facing this issue, it is a very simple and cheap solution.

    Thanks again!

    Big Sister

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  17. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 06/12/2013

    Dear Big Sister… and Everyone who wrote in—Your comments are so valuable! They show just how common this situation is and how easily unwanted feelings can be taken care of by an “out of sight, out of mind” strategy. Some of our newspapers didn’t run this one because it is such a taboo topic, but clearly, from all the comments here (and all the families squeezing into 2-bedroom homes), it needed to be talked about. “Big Sister,” I’m grateful to hear full-circle about your process in particular. Congratulations on taking charge of things! I appreciate you so much for being brave enough to bring this up. You helped many others as well as yourself.—Love, Lauren

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  18. By anmol, age , from india on 11/27/2013

    what is the meaning of ‘on the facility’?

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  19. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Sebastopol, CA, USA on 11/27/2013

    Hello Anmol—It means using the “toilet” or the “loo”. LOL,

    It is a reference from an earlier column at


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