What In My Teenager’s Room?!

One of the articles that caught my eye this weekend was Sex in a Teenager’s Room.

A few things first: It’s in The New York Times, in the Fashion & Style section, in the monthly Circa Now column. It’s written by Henry Alford, an American humorist and journalist.

I mention all that to say: Sex in a Teenager’s Room is not a serious, researched examination of the changing attitudes towards teenage sexuality. Alford begins with “One of the lovely things about not having children (besides never having to counteract a toddler’s propensity for covering all surfaces with what experts call “sticky”) is that I will probably never need to stare down the barrel of teenage sexuality,” uses a few anecdotes, and ends with his punch line: “I suppose I could always employ what I think of as the parent curveball. That’s where you guide your child and his loved one into your child’s bedroom while saying, “And in the meantime, your dad and I will be in our own room, doing the same thing.”

A slightly more serious look was taken in the accompanying blog post, Are Teenage Boyfriend-Girlfriend “Sleepovers” The New Norm?”, which (unlike the article) allowed for reader comments.

My point? On the one hand, we read articles like this, researched or not, that start a conversation about the way parents and teens navigate teen sexuality and sex, from birth control, to “sleepovers,” to living together.

On the other, in libraries, we see books being challenged for including masturbation, teen sexuality, sex, birth control.

Part of the reason is the parent of the twelve year old hasn’t had to deal, yet, with the realities of a seventeen year old.

Part of it is, even within the same town, parents are different. Some will be fine with this; others will not. Even between “yes” and “no” there will be a lot of differences in when “yes” or “no” is said.

Of course, libraries serve everyone, including parents and families that all on all sides of this issue, from “let’s not talk about it” to “please, move in.” Parents don’t always recognize this.

Let’s bring this back to books!

What books include parents being OK with a teenager’s significant other sleeping over? 

I’m pretty sure that Endless Love by Scott Spencer had the parents originally being OK with this, and only stepping in to stop it when they thought the relationship became too intense.

And I also am sure, without rereading, that there was at least one Norma Klein (It’s OK If You Don’t Love Me) that had sleepovers going on.

More recent books: Rosie and Skate and Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman.


6 thoughts on “What In My Teenager’s Room?!

  1. I got the sense that Mia’s parents allowed Adam to sleep over in Gayle Forman’s ‘If I Stay’. I can see them being ok with it, but mostly because they recognized and respected how deeply in love Mia and Adam were. If it was another guy, or a different type of relationship, they may not have been as accommodating. Anyway, it was one of those subtle, read-between-the-lines details, not a focal point in the plot.


    1. Reading some of the comments at the NYT blog were fascinating. As you point out for IF I STAY, the teens’ relationship may be quite serious. Yet some of those commenting seemed to think if a parent is OK with this, they have OK’d some type of revolving door. Also good to point out that for some books, it may be subtle, not a point of the book.


  2. Interesting post, Liz, and a good reminder that parents are different. Do you know of any books that include coed group sleepovers? I’m very open with my 17 yo son, but when he was invited to a coed sleepover a few years ago, I said no. (I didn’t know that was a thing!) As far as novels in which parents allow a boy- or girlfriend to spend the night, I’m drawing a blank. Am interested to read of more.


    1. I’m going to be more aware of this as I read going forward. I’m trying to recall any that deal with post-prom/event parties? That may have that type of “better to be safe here than driving at 3 a.m.” component?


  3. We had co-ed sleepovers in high school and college, but with lots of friends and no sexy times. They were after the dances or on New Year’s Eve and almost always at my parents’ house because my brother and I were big geeks, my parents were always home and they don’t really drink so we never had alcohol around the house. My high school friends have said before that they’d ask if they could do something and their parents would say “I don’t know…..” and then they’d say it was at our house and their parents would be “oh – that’s fine then.” Having that climate made a big, big difference. So when I read these headlines, I, at first, was all, what’s the big deal? We did that all the time! But then realized they were about something very different that my parents never had to deal with, with us. Although when I moved back home during library school (26, 27 years oldish) my boyfriend (now husband) stayed over more often than not. But that seems completely different to me.

    I also can’t come up with any books off the top of my head where this is allowed, but will be sure to keep an eye out for them now.


    1. Jen, sometimes people get a bit annoyed at me when a seemingly yes/no question is answered with “it depends.” Your answer is exactly why “it depends” is true — who are the parents? Are they there? Will it be supervised? Will there be alcohol? Etc. I’ve read a few books lately that deal with teen sexuality and to be honest, I don’t remember any of them including sleepovers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s