Not under my roof? Teenagers and sex

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My father was the undisputed head of our family,  followed by my mother.  My sister, his beloved saddle horses, and I moved up and down the totem pole depending on his mood. With this chain of command came certain implied formalities, fixed assumptions of behavior and respect that were non-negotiable. In other words, there were things one never imagined, considered, or certainly asked or did for fear of coming under his ridicule at best and his wrath at worse.

My sister spoke the language of love fluently. It would be my sophomore year of college before I had a bona fide girlfriend. She, however, seemed to have a stable of teenage boys at her disposal right from puberty. Which is somewhat a surprise when I consider the waves of terror my father could trigger in a boy contemplating the exploit of his little girl. On their first date our father gave my now brother-in-law a mild heart attack by meeting him at the front door holding a twelve-gauge Winchester.

My sister would regularly have him over to our house, and as teenage love is inclined to do they wanted to spend every waking moment together – and if given the option the non-waking as well. But here we find that established etiquette take hold; not in this or any other dimension would there have been the slightest chance he could have gotten his ticket punched for a ‘romantic’ sleepover. It was understood when the movie was over he had to go home. To even ask would have lent credence to the whole notion.

For the majority of families this was and remains modus operandi. The sexual revolution may well have liberated the nation’s bedrooms, but not the teenager’s bedroom. Yet it seems that in our morally muddled world this view is now seen as outdated and intolerant.

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A recent New York Times article, oddly enough in the Fashion and Style section, discusses this latest parenting trend for managing teenage amour. It was ignited by Angelina Jolie’s 2011 admission that at the age of fourteen her mother allowed her to live with her boyfriend in her mom’s home “like a married couple.” The author, admittedly childless, responds to Ms. Jolie’s story:

“I winced slightly. If I had, say, a 16-year-old who was having protected sex in a committed relationship, I would happily allow him to sleep with his partner in my house. But at 14?”

I’m not agile enough for the mental gymnastics necessary to grasp how one distinguishes between 14 and 16. I can only assume the author is applying state driving restrictions; if the kid can execute a proper U-turn that must imply he has the maturity to navigate the emotional intricacies of sex. I should also note this author’s lack of parental experience with his use of the male pronoun, ‘…would allow HIM to sleep’. Obviously he doesn’t have daughters. What father willingly chooses to invigorate his little girl’s sexual education by letting her and Bobby shack up?

One mother featured in the article justified her choice this way; “I didn’t want to think, Where are they tonight?’” This is employing the worn out alcohol argument, ‘if they’re going to drink anyway, they might as well do it where I know they’re safe’, which by the way turns dad into a felon. This is waiving the white flag; an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mentality. These are the same parents who, refusing or failing to properly discipline their children, embraced bribery to get them to behave.

Another mom, convinced that her 17-year-old daughter was in a loving and committed relationship with her 19-year-old boyfriend allowed the couple to live together in her home. It’s here we must stop and look at the logic. When has there ever been a 17 year old, and especially any of today’s 17 year olds, with the mental or emotional capacity to understand what a loving and committed relationship means?

It says plenty about this mother when asked about any ‘rules’ to the questionable living arrangement. Her conditions were the daughter must “attend to her schoolwork as rigorously as ever.” Not to imply the boyfriend was getting his milk for free, he was required to “take out the trash; walk the dog and look for work.“ – her final condition should be particularly noted.

The mom went further to say she believed the cohabitation went ‘swimmingly’; the boyfriend “learned to carry out tasks efficiently” She never mentioned whether he found a job.

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For any rational mind, the behavior of these parents is insanity. The family home should be a bastion of virtue and a counter to the culture not a lab for teenage sexual experimentation. Just because that same teen has proven to engage in a questionable behavior doesn’t give parents license to facilitate that behavior – under the guise of control and supervision. Taking this logic to it’s ultimate conclusion makes mom and dad irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. I had somewhat of a lead foot during my teenage years, would my parents have done me a service by encouraging I speed up and down the highway just so long as they were in the car? As parents we have a responsibility to set a higher standard for our children than that of culture – not encourage them to live at its lowest common denominator.

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8 responses to Not under my roof? Teenagers and sex

  1. I agree with you. My house will not be a safe place for my kids to drink or a safe place for my kids to have sex. I do what my house to be a safe place though. Somehow, I think it becomes safer when a home is seen as a “bastion of virtue and a counter to the culture”. This is a great, thought-provoking post.

  2. I agree – up to a point. At some point in time you have to face the truth of what might possibly be going on behind your back, and trust that you have instilled a high sense of responsibility in your child – that their sex will be ‘protected sex’.

    Just as 21 is the drinking age, and that is the age that I will allow my child to drink in my home, 18 is the age of consent and the age they legally become an adult. Therefore, at 18, the rules of ‘boyfriend sleepover’ change. At least in my home.

    Other factors come into play as well. I will not be responsible for sending a young man on an hour plus drive home after he has worked a 14 hour day and then stopped by for dinner and a movie. And I would expect the same amount of concern for my daughter’s safety by her boyfriend’s parents when she is at their house.

    But under 18? Absolutely not.

    Funny you brought up the alcohol argument. I’ve argued that one many times myself – I don’t understand how a parent can be so blatant about teaching their child to break the law – because that is EXACTLY what they are teaching them!

  3. Gordon James

    I can’t believe that parents could think this is a good idea.

    1. Growing up AND MOVING OUT TO YOUR OWN PLACE are usually a prerequisite to common law sex / marriage.

    2. How does allowing them “to live like grown-ups” apply without a requirement to accomplish something (like school or a job) or even for them to prove they can support one life (their own) by having a job and a place of their own that they look after. Most parents of teens are still struggling with kids looking after (cleaning up) their own room. How can they be ready to look after a relationship and possible children as well.

  4. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Thanks Laura, I’m not sure how parents rationalize this way of thinking. What they say to themselves that will convince them it’s a good idea.

    Thanks for your contribution!

  5. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Thanks Jane, I hope you can expand on this phrase …”that their sex will be ‘protected sex’.” Particularly the protected sex piece; it seems that culturally teenage sex has been predicated upon two criteria – pregnancy and disease. The two ‘big rocks’ of sex. Those are the moral imperatives.

    By reducing sex to its bare bones minimum, are we reinforcing the cultural position that sex can be separated from any emotional element?

    For example, you will allow your 18 year old to have sex in your home, would you stipulate a relationship status or time frame, say dating for 1 month, 2 months, 12 months? Or do they need to date at all? And if so, what if your kid disagrees with that ‘line in the sand’?

    Thanks for your feedback and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  6. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Thanks Gordon, personally I think it goes back to the ‘white flag’. Realizing they could have done things better when their children were younger they’ve painted themselves into a parental corner of sorts and how their kids are effectively ‘running the show’.

  7. Jennifer

    I agree with you. I have a son who just turned 14 yrs old & to think it”s okay? Uh… NO! Some parents are just plain stupid! What kind of morals are we putting into this next generation? I am surely NOT putting the “worldly” ones in MY boys… as a “GOD fearing women” I have a responsibility to show them the path of righteousness. It’s just crazy what people will let their children do… for the sake of peace.

  8. Jane

    Sorry – haven’t been around in awhile!

    I would hope that my 18 year old daughter would not be having sex unless she is in a committed relationship. It is what I have tried to teach her, and so far, the basic moral values and beliefs I’ve brought my children up with, they have displayed thus far.

    My daughter is a responsible, hard working young woman, and I trust her to make the right choices in life, knowing sometimes she will make poor judgement choice. Her first and only boyfriend and her have been close friends sine their freshman year, but only began to date in March. They are now both college students, her here at home as a commuter, him 1000 miles away. If her father wasn’t such a deadbeat, she would probably be with her boyfriend, as she was accepted there as well. As a single parent, I barely make ends meet, and my daughter is working 3 part time jobs herself to pay for college.

    Many colleges now – including the one my daughter attends, have co-ed dorm rooms. I have to wonder if the parents who draw these lines with an adult child regarding sex in their home, are nieve to think it means they aren’t having sex.

    I get the idea of “my house, my rules”, but personally I think there are more important things to be concerned about – considering it is highly likely an adult child in a relationship is having sex anyway – under your roof or not.

    My daughter respects the rules I do set in my home, and I respect her ability to make well thought out and informed choices. I have to believe I’ve given her the tools and values to make those choices wisely. Making lines in the sand is not conducive to our relationship, which is pretty damn good. I’m proud of the young woman she has become.

    Will she actually have sex with her boyfriend in my house? I don’t know – but I trust her to not rush into it, or to do something that will jeopardized either one of their immediate futures, in regards to finishing college, get established, etc.

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