Parents of teens: would you allow co-ed sleepovers?
July 7, 2015 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Ok go easy on me, this is my first question ever. My super responsible 14yo daughter wants to have a couple of boy friends stay the night along with a couple of girls.

My first thought (I don't know why; my dad in my ear, I guess) was "No f-ing way!" But she said "So if I was gay, would you still let my female friends stay over?" Touche, kid.

Also, it's super common in European/Scandinavian countries which tends to neutralize the forbidden nature of sex that we seem to foster here in America.

I trust my daughter implicitly and I know (from having been a teenage girl) that the most conservative/controlling parents are the ones with teenage girls who sneak out at night. I am a pretty trusting and liberal parent, determined to keep an open mind and keep the dialogue open with my kiddo. But I don't want my house to be the teenage love-shack, either.

So. What do you think? Would you allow boy/girl sleepovers?
posted by CanyonWren to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would (but I'm German). What would the other (American) parents say, though?
posted by The Toad at 4:39 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd say this one really hinges on how well you know the boys in question.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2015 [29 favorites]

What do the other parents think? Perhaps they should get in on this conversation (and really, not us). Liability is a bitch though, huh?
posted by alex_skazat at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are they intending to have sex? If they are, is that something you are comfortable with?

If there are any behaviors you are uncomfortable with, why not set out some ground rules with all of the kids.
posted by Nevin at 4:42 PM on July 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think that at that age, kids at sleepover parties can get in trouble even if it's single-sex: someone can bring a flask, or a joint; someone can invite boys to sneak over after the parents are in bed; they can sneak out. I say this not to freak you out, but if you're not particularly worried about any of those things happening with this group of kids, then you probably have a pretty open and trusting relationship with your daughter and can make this happen in a way that will be safe and fun for everyone.
posted by lunasol at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

Are you one of those families where you regularly just all hang out together, parents and teenage daughter happily crashing on the couch in the evening and watching the same movies? You have an easy and natural parent-child friendship?

Then yes! Because it would be pretty normal and expected for you to hang out with them (not in a "let's all braid each other's hair and play Dream Date!" way, but in an "I like this movie, too, I'm going to sit here and share your popcorn" way) and be present in the room.

Or do you have a relationship more like I did with my parents, where parents and children just coexist because it's more or less required by blood and law, and you'd rather die than watch a stupid teen movie with dumb sex jokes in it together? And you don't share things in a friendship way because that's just not the relationship you have.

Because in that case no! Because it would be SUPER WEIRD for you to hang out on the couch with them or be in the room.

Because let me tell you this, you need to be in the room. And I say that as someone who was really and truly the model teenager (didn't drink, never touched any drugs, was valedictorian, never snuck out, etc) and every time I was in a coed sleepover situation I had my hand in some guy's pants. (I was older than 14.)

Nothing wrong with sticking your hand in a dude's pants, but in my opinion, 14 is too young. Too young for your daughter and too young for her friends who will be at your house with her.

If you can be in the room with them and sleep on the couch in the room when they're there, too, so they're not actually alone, then go ahead and host the sleepover.
posted by phunniemee at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2015 [32 favorites]

Seems to me unlikely that three other sets of parents are going to be cool with this. So then you are in awkward position vis-a-vis other parents ("but mom, Jane's mom said it would be cool, so what's the problem?!"), which is reason enough to say no.
posted by Mid at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

The other parents will likely be pissed if they find out after the fact. I wouldn't do it personally, for several reasons on top of other parents. How will everyone change into their pajamas? What if some of the girls are wearing appropriate but still revealing pajamas and one of the boys is staring? What if one of the boys touches the girls' butts as a joke? I'm bringing this stuff up, because they are real-life things that can happen even with well-behaved kids. Girls of that age mature physically at very different rates, what if a boy is giving a bit too much attention to some girl who is not your daughter? What if something does happen - with another girl? How are you going to explain to her parents that you thought they'd be fine?

There is nothing wrong with having rules. It doesn't mean you lose your liberal parent card.
posted by Aranquis at 4:54 PM on July 7, 2015 [14 favorites]

Totally depends on the specific details about your kid, your lifestyle and your home, with a bonus of what you know about the other kids. I, for instance, have a tiny little house and there's not a damn thing that happens in it that I don't know about. So if a pile of boys and girls were having a sleepover, it'd be happening in my living room, which is two steps from my bedroom, and they'd have zero privacy, and it just wouldn't be a big deal at all to me. YMMV. (I'm American.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:59 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

No. I say this as an experienced parent. Too much insane adrenaline will lead to unpredictability at 2 a.m., someone will push boundaries, and someone is going to be uncomfortable without being able to leave because it's 2 a.m.

It isn't sexist to think this way. They are used to same-sex sleepovers, which get crazy enough. Unless they've been raised in an atypical american atmosphere they aren't used to mixed sleepovers and it has a built-in capacity for something going awry.

Kids at that age actually are secretly grateful to have the excuse of a parent telling them that certain boundaries are in place. Not because you don't trust them, just because you're enforcing boundaries.
posted by third rail at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2015 [19 favorites]

American, late-twenties here.

I think they are not old enough to be provided unsupervised overnight access to boys. Wait till they are at least 16. At that point they or their friends drive, and anything they can do at a sleepover they can do in the backseat anyway. Also, at 16 they are older and more likely to confidently draw their boundaries, engage consensually and comfortably, etc.

In my house growing up this was allowed occasionally (after age 16), after a school dance or something. Everyone would be in the family room or game room in sleeping bags, nothing behind closed doors. Other parents knew about it, I think? It was on the other kids to inform and tell the truth to their parents; my parents weren't lying but weren't calling around.

Yes, I think there was some making out or getting handsy or sex, in the sleeping bags or in the bathroom, or sneaking out during the night. But not from anybody who wasn't doing that anyway! It wasn't a new opportunity since we all had cars and such.
posted by amaire at 5:02 PM on July 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

These are people. Are they people you have met before? This doesn't have to be a gendered decision on your part. This is your house, your comfort level, and you can make rules as you are responsible, and responsible for these people.
posted by nickggully at 5:03 PM on July 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think it all comes down to whether you know most of the kids she wants to invite and what the dynamic is.

If it's some of her girlfriends and they want to invite boys or their boyfriends, as in, this sounds like the setup for a makeout party to evade the others' parents, then ehhhh, perhaps not.

But as a group thing with boys and girls whom you know are actual friends of hers, like, everyone camping in the den in sleeping bags and watching terrible movies all night? Sure, why not.

You'd probably let her go to a dance or the movies or some other social function in a mixed group of kids, right? It's not as if teenagers can only make out in the enchanted nighttime; they can get smoochyface at 3 pm if that's when they have the means, motive, and opportunity.
posted by desuetude at 5:04 PM on July 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

How about the boys can stay until 1am (lights on, doors open) and then their parents come pick them up. It's still LATE and COOL but more appropriate at this age.
posted by amaire at 5:04 PM on July 7, 2015 [15 favorites]

At that age sleepovers are primarily arranged to get one or more kids with strict parents into a more permissive environment. Congratulations, you are the "cool" parent :)

Seriously, 14 year olds are running on hormone overload. They may have the best of intentions, but shit happens, and it's more likely to happen in a dark basement or wherever after you fall asleep. Yes, it may be happening anyway, but its not happening under your roof. Or maybe it is, some of the stories I told my parents many years later about my epic Friday afternoon booze fests...
posted by COD at 5:11 PM on July 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

This really depends on the group of kids. Are any of them dating? That would give me pause.

My daughter (15) has a big group of mixed gender friends and they had a sleepover after prom at one of the girls' houses (mind you, prom for them was just another dance, no dates, just more dressy). I have been with that group of kids many, many times, and I was super comfortable in letting her go. When it came time to wind down, boys were in the basement, the girls were on the second floor, and dad stayed in the bedroom on the first floor.

But again, I know these kids pretty well. I know the parents. None of the kids were dating each other.
posted by cooker girl at 5:12 PM on July 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

No. I say this as an experienced parent. Too much insane adrenaline will lead to unpredictability at 2 a.m., someone will push boundaries, and someone is going to be uncomfortable without being able to leave because it's 2 a.m.

Or someone is going to be uncomfortable without being able to tell their friends they are uncomfortable for fear of looking uncool.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:12 PM on July 7, 2015 [21 favorites]

But she said "So if I was gay, would you still let my female friends stay over?"

I have no good advice here - I think the parents in the room have mostly covered how you could handle it and concerns - but this makes me wonder which of her friends are dating someone of the same gender that she's covering for. Which is a whole other can of worms, depending on if the kids are out to their parents or not.
posted by joycehealy at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Are these boyfriends or male friends? If it's the latter, I would have no problem with it, and I also did this all the time myself (80% of my friends were male) in high school in a small town in the Midwest and it was never suggested to me that it would be inappropriate, which I'm now thankful for because it would have sexualized something that wasn't sexual and penalized me for having male friends. You can stroll through the area or check in occasionally, and make it clear that you don't want your house to be the teenage love shack to your daughter. Frankly even with the former, I'd be more concerned with having good communication and access to contraception than with approved sleepovers in the house since as a teen I would not have wanted to have sex with my parents upstairs anyway.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:28 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

No. Too much easy opportunity for too much intimacy. But if you go with yes, say that the only kids who can stay over are the ones whose parents call you and tell you they are okay with a mixed sleepover.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:29 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am American 30 years old super "good" teenage girl who never got up to sexual shenanigans and had a very mixed gender friend group. My parents were absolutely the cool parents but we were all huge nerds.

I had co-ed sleep overs at 14 but only with my closest friends who would hang out at my house sometimes every day of the week and who my parents knew very well. One sleepover some of my less close male friends hung out for afternoon + dinner and stayed late till midnight watching movies but went home leaving me with just my female friends - I didn't realize it at the time that it was divided by gender, just that only my closest friends slept over.

That all being said there were definitely times I can think back on and realize how uncomfortable one or another of my friends were, and sometimes that was me and I wanted privacy I couldn't get. So if you say okay to the sleepover I think you need to make certain that everybody knows they can get home at any time, and if your home has the space consider separate rooms for actual sleeping (and make up more beds than there are kids so everyone can have some space.)

It's all about how well these kids know you, and if they respect you and your daughter.

Also, as someone who did turn out to be sexually attracted to all genders, I'd just like to call BS on the whole "if I was gay" argument. You know what? Remarkably I wasn't trying to have sex with any of my friends and none of them were trying to have sex with me. And they all knew that my house wasn't the place for that even if it was the place to feel safe from their shitty parents or their own minds. The whole gender segregated sleepover concept is needlessly sexualizing to these kids. Yes, some of them might be sexually active. But that doesn't mean they're incapable of refraining from being so under your roof if they respect your daughter who is honest with you and they know it.
posted by Mizu at 5:32 PM on July 7, 2015 [12 favorites]

American, 40s, raised a daughter.

I trust my daughter implicitly...

Then trust her. Or more to the point, can you? Does she have good judgement of situations and people? That's the big question.

Otherwise, lay out ground rules, and if these are boys you know and any of them give you bad vibe, then say no. Check with their parents. Check in with the kids (not just the girls) individually, letting them know it's ok for them to come to you if they feel uncomfortable about anything. Make it clear that it's your house and there are rule and you'd like things to be chill and good times for all, you have no problem with pulling parental rank. Let'em know that if they want to do this or do it ever again, they need to be on good behavior. This is a really good chance for you to set up your house as safe space of sorts for your daughter and her friends, as they transition to adults. Ask yourself if your'e up for that.

Also, saying yes doesn't mean you're ok with an orgy. Put'em all in the living room or common area. There's a lot gray between saying yes or no. Remember, you're the parent and it's your house and you are granting privileges, not rights. Also realize that saying yes once weakens your argument for saying no later, when she's 15, 16 or 17, unless you have a really good reason to say no.

I've only raised one kid and said no to such things before. If I could do it all again, I'd say yes, while laying out some ground rules and expectations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:35 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm an American woman mostly raised in the U.S. by my single mom, and co-ed sleepovers happened both at people's houses and, twice a year, on one-night overnights with my school-within-a-school classmates and out teachers (high school). They were all fine and fun. (My crowd tended to run to drama club and chorus crowds, so we'd stay up till all hours singing.)

But really, it depends most on your kid, and the other kids at this thing.
posted by rtha at 5:41 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

But she said "So if I was gay, would you still let my female friends stay over?" Touche, kid.

If this respectfully made you consider your own biases, great. But I did want to just say that one of the very most important tools I think we can give all our kids, but especially girls, is the capacity to set and maintain boundaries. And so, if you are not comfortable with the idea or with any component of the sleepover (where the kids sleep, etc.), it is perfectly okay to model boundary setting for your daughter. Fearsome Logic (although I'd argue this is not quite that) is still not a reason to let anyone trample your sexual or who gets access to your home boundaries.

As for the rest of the question...I personally would not want to go first. If this is something the kids are doing, and they've evolved a culture where this is the norm among the whole social circle including the parents, great. If I were the groundbreaking parent who hosts the first adolescent co-ed sleepover, I would not be down with that for the precise reason of not becoming the lovenest. I realize that is a bit lame, but it is how I'd go about making my decision. If I were going to be a trailblazer and take the heat, co-ed sleepovers is not the hill I personally would want to die on.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:42 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Do you know these kids? All of them, girls included? Do you trust all of them?

And, are all of their parents cool with this?

And, have you talked to your daughter about whether they are or will be hooking up?

Only if you can say yes to all of the above questions can you even consider this. And then, I mean, it's not a logic puzzle. You still have to decide what you're comfortable with.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:43 PM on July 7, 2015

Parent of two girls and two boys (fortunately none yet teenagers). I would let her do this, with the caveat that if she feels uncomfortable at any point (before or during), she can text me or use a code word or whatever, and I'd be up there in a flash to get her out of a situation and/or end the thing on the spot.
posted by Etrigan at 5:47 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm American, female, no children. I went to a very strict Catholic school, with very strict parents. I had a good friend who regularly had coed sleepovers, and my parents let me go. My friend's parents wrote a letter to all the parents about the rules of the house, to call/stop by anytime if they had any questions, etc. The boys slept downstairs, and the girls slept upstairs - I think we got "locked out" around 2am, when her parents wanted to go to sleep. It was fine, nothing went on, no alcohol, no drugs, no hanky panky. The "worst" thing we did was go to a adult store after the youngest person in our group turned 18. Really.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 6:07 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with thatcanadiangirl - I think you have to have communication from all the parents that they're OK with this too. Maybe this will make you the uncool parent who's ruining Timmy's chance to sneak out and be with his friends, but I think - even if there is 100% nothing sexual going on - they are too young and too likely to bend the truth to their own parents, for you to not respect the other parents' right to make the decision.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:13 PM on July 7, 2015

I'm American and was a teenaged girl in the 90's. My mother was an extremely permissive hippie type, and I often had late night things at my house because my mother was welcoming to teenagers who chafed against their own parents. The rule at my house was that we could all stay up as late as we wanted in a coed group in the living room or kitchen (common areas), but when it was time to sleep, girls stayed in the house in sleeping bags and the guys slept in the backyard in tents. Bedrooms generally were off-limits. My mom was ALWAYS home for these, though she usually stayed out of our way, and from my understanding, she was in touch with friends' parents to talk to them whenever.

She never explicitly told us not to make out or have sex, but we were definitely a group of platonic friends, so this was not a concern. You'd need to suss out the group dynamic and know your daughter's friends well. If she'd said to me, "I'm glad to be a haven for you and your friends, but please go fuck somewhere that's not my house if that's what you want to do," I would have respected that. To this day, she is in loose touch with many of my childhood friends and cares about them still, and they think of her and visit her when they're in town with their own children.
posted by juniperesque at 6:13 PM on July 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Can the boys come to the party part but not the sleeping over part? So they come eat dinner watch a movie or two (in say the lounge room or a room the parents have access to not behind closed doors) then go home. You can always word it as you trust your daughter but you do not know these other people so don't trust them.

Side note I have a Danish SIL and there is not a cat in hells chance she'd let my 14 yo niece have a co ed sleep over, so don't assume too much about liberal Scandinavian ways.
posted by wwax at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2015

I have no kids but I was one once. This sounds like, if this isn't an established social thing, a powderkeg waiting to happen. Have you spoken to all the other parents yet?

The sex thing... that's complex. I had guy friends sleep over all the time as a teenager (and at their places), and nobody's parents had any idea what we were doing the moment they went to bed. While, true, there is a biased thing there, it's also a not-unreasonable assumption that one's kids are most likely to be straight, based on sheer numbers.

My vote would be no, this is a bad idea. The 'boys can stay for a bit and leave when the parents are going to bed' thing sounds like a reasonable compromise.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:20 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm an American parent and I work with (very lovely!) teenagers.

I absolutely wouldn't do it.

Two reasons:
1. There are stories of sexual assault on high school field trips that should give you pause. It doesn't even have to be as extreme as that scenario - what if one of the boys puts his hand inside the sleeping bag of a girl who's sleeping? You sound like a great parent and I have to imagine that you'd feel sick if any type of sexual assault happened on your watch.
2. As a high school teacher, I see many more problems coming out of parents being too permissive than parents being too strict. 14 is too young to trust that every one one of these kids had the ability to act with the maturity required of this situation. Don't forget that it's entirely possible to keep an open dialogue while saying no.
posted by leitmotif at 6:21 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

14 is just such a terrible age; they have a bunch of hormones but they don't have enough lived experience to know what to do with them yet. Not that 16/17 year olds are sages, but compared to a 14 year old they are, which should give you pause considering how stupid 16/17 year olds can be. I'd let them have a late movie night in the living room and give them a some space but not privacy, then drive everyone (or at least just the boys) home at midnight or so.
posted by gatorae at 6:26 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

We have three boys, ages 14 to 20. We're a gay couple, so everyone's been raised (very) comfortable talking about sex and gender and boundaries. We had no issue with co-ed sleepovers, but the general rule (for a time) was that the actual sleeping had to be in different rooms (at first) and at the very least in different beds/spaces (eventually). This was mostly for the benefit of other parents (of girls who would sleep over). At this point, girls will sleep over and we don't mind everyone crashing out in the living room after a movie or whatever, but everyone knows to sleep in their own space. So, two kids can fit on the couch, one on the floor, and one on the murphy bed. They self-police this pretty well on their own now, since the times in the past when we've walked in on a cuddle session landed them squarely in a friendly reminder about safe sex and condom use and where the condoms are.

My parents were pretty chill about this sort of thing when I was growing up. I was the last of three, so they'd seen it all by then and knew enough to know that I'd make my own trouble no matter what precautions the adults took. They were confident that I knew how to avoid that kind of trouble, so they let me guide my own socializing as long as I kept it cool.

If you're uncomfortable, don't hesitate to disallow co-ed nights. Just be upfront with your kid, and yourself, about your rationale/motivations/fears so everyone involved can address them over time. Your daughter won't always be so young that she respects or even acknowledges your rules, so take this time to establish that you're wise and transparent, not just a tyrant. Our oldest broke out of our reins around 17, and we've tried to be more flexible and open with the younger two to keep from repeating the issues that came along with that process.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:27 PM on July 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

What's to be gained? I assume she and her friends have ample chances to socialize with boys, and plenty of fun can be had before midnight. The boys may be just her pals, but the dynamics are different and the possibility of shenanigans multiplies if they sleep over. Why on earth do they need to be together from midnight until 8AM?? Send them home, then you can get a good night's sleep without worrying about supervising a co-ed slumber party. That's worth a lot.
posted by MelissaSimon at 6:35 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think this is something where you have to trust your gut, and whatever feels right is OK. Other parents may judge you as too strict or too lenient, but this is your kid and you have to go by your own parenting instincts. (...Said the lady with no kids.)

If you decide to let her do this, I'd say, have a Serious Talk. Find out who these boys are and what she feels about them. Talk to her about the risks, that sometimes when kids are in groups there's peer pressure to try smoking or drinking or drugs, or to get kissy or grabby. Let her know that even if she has the best intentions, teenage boys can sometimes be sneaky creeps. Partly that's to warn her, but it also lets her know that you are not naive about this thing and what could happen. Let her know that you'll be watching carefully and checking in regularly, and that if anything feels even slightly weird she is to let you immediately. Even if she rolls her eyes, I bet on some level she'll be glad to know you're determined to keep her safe.

Talk to the other parents and make sure you are all on the same page. And if this thing happens, know that there may indeed be some drugs or kissy stuff. Your kid is going to get into mischief eventually, and at least this would be under your own roof so you'd be right there if anything goes wrong.

Or just say no to the whole thing. That's OK too. She's not gonna hate you for it when she's 30.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:38 PM on July 7, 2015

I'm a girl who had a majority of male friends for a long time in grade school and we had sleepovers all the time.

I will admit that on one occasion, there were shenanigans. But the vast majority of the time we just wanted to stay up late and watch movies/play RPGs together.

And the shenanigans... I mean, it was gonna happen somewhere, somehow. Would've just been in a car instead of a roll out bed.
posted by easter queen at 6:41 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nah. I'm on team 'what's to be gained?'

I'm all for questioning the status quo, but some things are Just Not Done for very good reasons. I think mixed-gender sleepovers at age 14 is one of them.
posted by Salamander at 6:44 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I was letting my daughter do co-ed sleepovers starting at that age. We talked a lot beforehand, and I made sure of the adult supervision, daughter's comfort level with the people who would be there, reassurance that she could call us at any time if she became uncomfortable and wanted to come home. I knew at least most of the kids well, and I trusted my own's judgment. It was the springboard for lots of great conversations about boundaries, experimentation, peer pressure, safety, and responsibility for oneself and one's friends.
posted by chaoticgood at 7:03 PM on July 7, 2015

It could be completely fine, but I'm just thinking about the fact that my parents would have called me a "super responsible" child, but at an even younger age than 14, I remember going to coed parties that involved strip poker and other shenanigans that I'm assuming you wouldn't like. Obviously depends on the kids, but it seems like it could be tricky.

I could imagine that the difference in some European cultures that would make this acceptable could also potentially mean that kids there would behave differently and have different expectations than kids who grow up here.

I think she raises a really interesting point about same-sex sleepovers. As the stigma against same-sex relationships slowly declines, more teenagers will feel comfortable coming out and having relationships than they did in the past, and that could affect what happens at events like sleepovers. I'm straight, but at a school event as a young teen, a gay girl sharing my bed propositioned me, and I didn't know what to do. Really, really uncomfortable situation.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:04 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just want to point out that the teens don't have to be dating or romantically involved for sexual activity to happen. You could interrogate your daughter on this point and she could reply with 100% certainty that no one is dating anyone else, but that doesn't mean they won't hook up if the mood strikes.
posted by stowaway at 7:07 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

In general, I'm in favor. I had mixed gender sleep overs; I was in a different room for the sleeping. But I would talk to your kid and tell them that you are considering it, and ask them what rules they think would be appropriate. I mean still add stuff if necessary afterwards so all your expectations of propriety will be covered, but seeing where their thoughts go will give you insight into the situation. It also helps them think about setting boundaries.

If something happens, it won't happen the first time; It will happen the second or third time, when you drop your guard, and they are comfortable with how it works and think they can get away with something.

You also need to make sure that you know when the parents are picking up the kids in the morning, who is picking up, etc.
posted by gryftir at 7:42 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

... 100% certainty that no one is dating anyone else, but that doesn't mean they won't hook up if the mood strikes.

... and opportunity will create the mood.

Are you cool with your daughter having sex (of whatever form) with one of these boys? If the answer is yes, proceed to ...

Are you prepared to handle the consequences of anything from unwanted advances to rape or pregnancy? (Extreme I know, but not so extreme that they can be unequivocally ruled out).

It (almost) goes without saying that the other parents would also need to be cool with this event, which I would doubt (but I might be a bit out of touch with these things, and I am not in America).

Trust is one thing, common sense is another. I think that this is one occasion where common sense has to rule, to the point of 'sure I trust you, but I don't think the mixed sleepover is a good idea. How about the boys go home at (whatever) o'clock?' and let the negotiation be about the curfew hour and its not about her, its about the others. (60s parent of three here)
posted by GeeEmm at 7:44 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Addendum: I did in fact go to parties where a bunch of boys and girls spent the night together at that age. The parents in charge freely invited other parents to call and assured that there were separate sleeping areas...which there were in theory if anyone had cared to "go to sleep"...but in practice we basically all crashed in a puppy pile and my friend's parents cared not a whit.

At one point, my parents got the vapors over how THINGS could HAPPEN and YOU don't even KNOW what they might TRY TO DO if we're left alone in the dark together. I said "eh, it's not that kind of party, what's this "them" business, you know we're all friends." And it was reiterated that I was wrong, that my assertion meant that I was too naive to be able to trust myself or my friends, that I had no agency, basically.

That was incredibly insulting. And totally factually incorrect. In my case, these really were platonic friendships and we were all pretty squeaky-clean, despite our prodigious vocabularies -- we were theater kids, and a fairly high level of friendly intimacy developed naturally. I massively resented (and distrusted) adults who projected all this sophisticated sexual baggage into my life and then insisted on "protecting" me from it, when I was actually a late-bloomer, hoping for eventual hand-holding and perhaps a kiss.

If they are all friends, and you keep the kids in a common area and aren't completely scarce, any boundary-pushing will be minimized.
posted by desuetude at 8:04 PM on July 7, 2015 [12 favorites]

I was a great kid, and I would have LOVED a co-ed sleepover when I was 14 because my friend group was co-ed [but ALSO so I could try to get somewhere with my crush.] I mean, you can't control everyone there, who likes who, who's looking for action, no matter how well you think you know them; you just can't.

So, if you're okay with the risk, the big concern you should consider is: are all the other parents on board? Not just according to your kid, or to her friends, but, directly from the other parents, are they aware and okay? Because if something happens and it turns out they were not 100% aware of the sleeping arrangements, that is going to be pure hell for you to deal with.
posted by kapers at 8:09 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went on retreats with my teen therapy group in the 80s. The leader always made it clear that no fucking was one of the ground rules and he would sleep at the top of the stairs(boys downstairs, girls upstairs) of his ski cabin to ensure this when we went there.

On camping retreats the sleeping areas were also separated.
posted by brujita at 8:30 PM on July 7, 2015

I am 100% with kapers on this one: "I was a great kid, and I would have LOVED a co-ed sleepover when I was 14 because my friend group was co-ed [but ALSO so I could try to get somewhere with my crush.]"

There were girl friends I had crushes on; there was a girl I dated for a while, and never told my parents (it made sneaking around a whole lot easier, that's for sure). But the danger level with boys seems that much higher, partly because of the social environment. I wouldn't have made out with my girlfriend at a girls-only sleepover because the other girls would have been uncomfortable!

It would be different if you lived in the Netherlands and mixed-gender sleepovers were normal and everyone was cool about it. But you don't, and so you live in an environment where there is some amount of pressure on these friendships *already*, and some amount of pressure on teenagers to experiment sexually too. Whatever that pressure is may be looking for an outlet and because of the lack of other opportunities your house would be the place. Unfortunately one household making one decision "as though we live in a more relaxed sexual culture" does not actually create that culture.

Basically it depends on your daughter and her friends - not just on how much you trust her to make good decisions for herself, but on who the friends are she's having over, how much you trust their judgment, how much you trust your daughter's ability to *manage a crowd* and take care of things if a problem arises, whether there is any sort of dating within the group (even if no-one is dating now, is there any sort of crushing or having-been-dating? Do they want to start dating, other people if not each other?) Is sexual tension a thing that is present at all? [hard for you to tell, I know]...

My parents didn't allow different-sex sleepovers and this is 100% correct despite the fact that I had male friends who would have been totally platonic to sleep over with. I also had male friends who would not have been platonic to sleep over with. The hard line on gender was probably the only way it really worked out, though I still wish my gay male friend had been able to join us on sleepovers. If he had been out maybe it would've worked.

Oh, and I used that exact same 'what if I were gay??' line. I think the answer was something like, "We'll cross that bridge if & when we come to it, but our rules don't have to be universally applicable. They just have to draw the lines we're comfortable with for *you*."
posted by Lady Li at 8:33 PM on July 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'd also add that, even if your daughter said "we will not have sex!" you need to ask the other parents whether or not it's okay first.

It's incredibly irritating to have another parent undercut you, and say "Well, your parents are awfully conservative, aren't they? If you're not going to do anything wrong, we don't have to tell them."
posted by Nevin at 8:40 PM on July 7, 2015

I did same-sex sleepovers starting at that age. I think it's fine, as long as you know everyone in the group pretty well, and you've spoken to all the parents to make sure it's okay. Put the girls in one room and the boys in another and tell them to separate at 2 a.m. Talk to your daughter before and after and make at least one surprise late night visit to check and make sure no one is moving around.

It's true that SOMETIMES bad, scary things happen when guys and girls are together (in almost any scenario you can imagine!) but I also think you push back against rape culture by encouraging platonic relationships between guys and girls at every age, and allowing girls safe spaces in which girls can practice setting boundaries. I can't think of a safer space than in your own home: you are giving your daughter a chance to enforce both your boundaries and hers in a controlled environment.

In other words, it's important to tell her that you're trusting her to enforce your rules (no hooking up, no drinking) but it's even more important to tell her explicitly that you are in her corner to enforce hers: if things start spinning out of her control in even a minor way (people suggest games she's not comfortable with, somebody gets too handsy) you're just a shout or a code word or a quick text away.

I think things will go well as long as the lines of communication stay very open. I hope your daughter has a good time. :)
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:53 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mixed-gender friendships can be really fraught even if everybody on all sides means well—which of course is not to say they're always or even mostly fraught. I was a highly decorated boy-space-friend and I never would have done anything to make anybody but myself uncomfortable, but there were plenty of times in high school when a sleepover party invitation involving some particular girl-space-friend might have driven me to fill a private LiveJournal with angsty free-verse.

I'm on the "no" side just because—as your daughter noticed—on some level every decision you make about something like this is going to be arbitrary. You can make an arbitrary decision here, at the gender gate, or there, at the sexual attraction gate, or downstream of both ("only because I know his family", "only because it's after the party", "only because there's just the one boy", etc.), but you're not going to make a decision that will meet the strict demand for logic and rationality that characterizes any 14-year-old doing his or her best Socrates-as-Columbo impression.
posted by Polycarp at 9:06 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have no parenting experience, but nothing bad happened when I had co-ed sleepovers!

My siblings and I basically lived with a group of friends from middle school through high school. It was mixed gender and age group and we were rarely supervised, though adults were available if we really got ourselves into trouble. It was a fantastic experience. There were many many sleepovers - puppy piles in sheds, camping, everyone crashing on whatever available surface in whoever's house we were in. Yes there was sex and drugs, but it was a good environment to experiment in - and not everyone chose to.

At 14, I was definitely capable of handling co-ed sleepovers with people I knew well and was already having adorably awkward and very exciting sexy times on non-co-ed sleepovers.
posted by congen at 10:38 PM on July 7, 2015

Just a practical suggestion:

* set clear ground rules and discuss them with your daughter
* briefly tell them all the kids once they are over
* let the girls set up a "sleep camp" in your daughters room and let the boys hang out with them until midnight
* then the boys move to another room for sleeping, preferabily on a different floor e.g. the basement / family room
* make it clear to everyone that you trust them but if you find them sneaking up / down at night that this is the last time this type of sleeover has happened

I think such a set-up would be very reasonable at age 14 and I remember doing similar things at that age.
posted by Fallbala at 2:18 AM on July 8, 2015

just struck me that a response to the "so would it be ok if i were lesbian?" point is to raise the risk of pregnancy and then use that to segue into talking about contraception. if you need an excuse and/or want to go there.
posted by andrewcooke at 2:20 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

My first response was no way but then I remembered that I had plenty of co-ed sleepovers and no one in our group was sexualized in any way. I was in the Explorer scouts (the coed version of the boyscouts). We went camping together and had overnight bowling trips. It was all very innocent. If you know the kids and know that there will be no alcohol or drugs there, and you will be there, sober, the entire time, then go for it. Take it one up and throw them all out in your backyard in tents or find some other group activity that will keep them from spending the entire time trying to shock one another with who has the most graphic youtube video. You could bring them all bowling or organize games in your yard. Make the house rules known to everyone and make certain that your daughter understands that if any of her guests break the house rules, she will be the one grounded. Tell her to tell her friends that you are the crazy parent who will report everything to their parents and the police. Don't be the cool parent, be the one that they are a little afraid of and respect a lot.
posted by myselfasme at 4:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had some extremely freaky sleepovers when I was in elementary school, even though they were all girl. (We didn't know about lesbians then, but...) Dear lord, I can only imagine how much worse it could have been at age 14 with boys over and hormones raging. I vote no way.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:29 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

SO many great answers! Thank you all so much!

In the end, I agreed to let them all hang out until midnight, then the boys went home. Yes, I trust my daughter, and I think it's extremely healthy for boys and girls to be friends at this age, but as many of you said, the hormones are out of control at 14 and I wasn't going to stay up all night checking on them. I told her that I *may* allow it ONE TIME later this summer, for novelty's sake, on a weekend night when I can be more present (out of their way, but making sure that boundaries aren't being crossed).
posted by CanyonWren at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

If they were 8 I'd say yes but 14 no.
posted by irish01 at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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