Straight Talk Advice

May 12, 2010

Twin beds, open dialogue best solution for sleepover issues

DEAR READERS: This is the third column in a series about a topic I get a good deal of polarized mail on — that being the dilemma of whether a gay girl and a straight girl should be allowed sleepovers with each other. I’m glad we took our time exploring this because this issue has never been up for the widespread consideration demanded by this generation. What I learned is that the lesbian-straight sleepover is mostly “much ado about nothing.” With rare exceptions, whether undressing, sharing a room, or even a bed (although there was some disagreement on the bed), a lesbian does not become aroused by her straight friends, much less hit on them. To bar her from normal female bonding experiences is harmful.

The most common exception in my mail is between stepsisters thrown regularly into the same bed. The gay female anguishes over her arousal. She wants her own bed but doesn’t ask out of shame or because she’s still in the closet. I recommend this topic be included in sex-ed classes and the home sex talk. Parents discussing these things non-judgmentally with their teens and ensuring them that it’s safe to talk to them about “anything” is the best defense against problems. Another recommendation is to replace the oversized beds in many teens’ rooms with twin beds and folding mats for sleepovers. From what I’m hearing, by removing actual bed-sharing, issues reduce to almost zero.

I really want to thank our readers for your insights. Many of you posted on our website for all to read. Scot and Peter wrap things up with some excellent points. — Lauren

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

Any number of your child’s friends may be gay or bisexual and you won’t know. And female sexuality is very fluid and can change and grow. What it boils down to is trust — just as we trust adults to share a YMCA shower with 14-year-olds without assuming they’re all deviants. To assume that because a person is gay or bi they will attempt to indoctrinate others isn’t fair. And to assume a teen does not have his or her own resolve is also unfair. Sure, somewhere in the mix, there will undoubtedly be some experimentation. But to deny things wholesale, especially if the teen has enough trust in her friend to say she’s comfortable isn’t fair. This would be like telling all dads that they can’t be scout leaders because some dads are pedophiles.

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

I have lots of gay friends. In high school and college, I spent the night at their houses. My straight lady friends spent the night at their lesbian friends’ houses. At all these events, the biggest issue was which pizza toppings to order. A simple “I’m not interested” got the message across. I feel bad for my gay friends because there is a belief that their gayness is transmittable. Some gays react by hiding, others by becoming flamboyant in order to fit into something. When gays don’t feel the need to go overboard to give themselves an identity, the differences between gay and straight are ultimately superficial.

How a person becomes gay, straight or bi, shouldn’t matter. If it turns out it’s genetic, we’ll feel bad for forcing them into a mold. And if it’s a choice? Well, If their choices don’t hurt anyone, why is it our business?

For kids under 18, parents really shouldn’t worry unless they didn’t teach them how to be responsible, respectful, and able to say “I’m not interested.” Parents obviously hold biases regarding their kids’ sexual orientation which keeps discussion of these topics turned off. If my future kids are gay or bi and don’t tell me due to shame or fear, I will have done something wrong.

Editor’s Web Note: The Boomer and Gen X parents of today’s Millennials have a lot of catching up to do to get on board with all the changes taking place since they were teens. The commonality of the gay-straight sleepover is just one of them. The more parents can constructively and non-judgmentally engage their teen, tween, or college student in conversation around the things they read in this column, the more that young person will trust that you are someone safe to talk to in times of need or confusion. Sexual issues resulting from bed-sharing and bedroom-sharing are frequent in my mail. I wish parents were more sensitive to the power of sharing a bed (or bedroom in the case of brother and sister) and could see how important it is to replace a large bed with two twins, or create separate sleeping arrangements. That’s what ALL the kids with issues want you to do, they just aren’t telling you. — Lauren

  1. By Shannon, age , from Novato, CA on 05/12/2010

    Dear Lauren:

    As a person who happens to be gay, I really appreciate your reevaluating your original opinion and agreeing that there is no reason to ban girls who are gay from sleepovers.  Sleeping in the same room with as well as undressing with straight girls does not raise sexual issues because it simply is not a sexual situation. The same is true for sharing a bed, although I personally do not like sharing a bed, but only because I am more comfortable sleeping separately, not because it it gets me sexually aroused. However, at least some gays who responded indicated that it can create arousal, so maybe it is best avoided.  I have slept in the same room with and undressed with straight friends many times and do so with my sister on a daily basis since we share a room, and it has never been a problem or led to anything sexual.  Thank you for reconsidering.  It takes a big person to do that.

    Shannon

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  2. By Zach , age , from Yorba Linda, California, USA on 05/13/2010

    To my knowledge, ones orientation is almost preprogrammed into each person before birth. Other things decided before birth: hair color, skin color, race, and many other physical and mental traits that I don’t feel like listing. It’s prejudice and wrong to judge people by these traits just as it is to judge someone by their orientation. Now I know this is more an argument of etiquette, but isn’t it race and color? Would you not let someone sleep over because they are a different skin color? I mean I’d hate not being trusted for being a straight guy. I guess I just mean that we’re all still equal and straight, gay, or bi we all deserve the same amount of trust.

    Besides, what’s keeping 2 straight people of same gender from experimenting? Well besides the extreme awkwardness.

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