My 16-year-old daughter says that spending the night in the same bed with a boy doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with him. She brands us (me and my wife) as outdated and small-minded to think otherwise. As someone who tries to have an enlightened and permissive attitude to sex, the implicit accusation that I am a ‘square’ Dad cuts deep.
I know she is not a virgin so the issue here is not about preserving her maidenhood. What it comes down to is the notion (I would say,delusion) that sharing a bed with a heterosexual male can ever be entirely platonic.
She maintains, with typical teenage exaggeration, that “all her friends” go to bed with boys even if they don’t fancy them. Her own chaste motives are that she finds it reassuring to have someone else in bed with her although,significantly, she doesn’t seem to be able to get this same level of comfort from females (apart from her mom!).
I have tried to argue that ,even though her thoughts may be pure, there’s no guarantee that her prospective bed-mate will have equally honorable intentions. I suspect that she is either being very naive or in denial.
By saying NO to her request we want to protect her from something she might regret but this is a delicate area since another school of thought would be that she should be free to make her own mistakes.
As loving, and fairly liberal, parents, our considered view is that this ‘freedom’ starts properly when she is 18. Until she officially comes of age we feel justified in imposing such restrictions. Needless to say, she doesn’t agree.
Part of the issue in this particular case is that guys who sleep around do not face the same social stigmas. Males are universally praised for playing the field or sowing their wild oats while females who do the same are routinely labelled as slags and regarded as loose women. They have to contend with being branded as easy lays not the mention facing the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.
I can accept that hanging out together doesn’t automatically mean you want to go beyond being just good friends. But while teenage and adult brains are certainly wired differently, I believe that the sexual drive is such an integral part of the human condition that it bridges even the widest of generation gaps.
The impasse between me and my daughter is a very real one and wonder if other parents have had to overcome similar dilemmas.