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September 27, 2006



At what point are people allowed to spend the night together? When you live together? College students can do that. When you commit to spending your lives together? But that's not always done in a public manner. When you get married? Not everyone can get married, and not everyone wants to.

And also, what happens when there are insufficient rooms?

I think the nod is a little silly, and very much a "we don't care about the reality as long as things look right", which is not a particularly healthy way of living. On something like this, it's fairly innocuous, but as a general rule, it's not.


Meh. This sounds like rationalization to me!

What would you suggest would be a "tactful" way to handle this situation for people who don't have an extra room to dedicate to occasional guests? In my home we usually send a sibling of the same sex to sleep on a couch and give up their room to the guest. Married people get my mom's bed and my mom takes one of my sibling's rooms and we all play musical beds until someone's on the couch. But then again we're definitely all in the #1 category and not prone to be frustrated over it.


I grew up, I suppose, in the number one category, and am usually in situations where separate beds for unmarried people is the norm, but I do object to the implied authoritarianism of the description. I don't think that it was ever "made clear" that dating couples are to stay in their own rooms all night, either in my home or any of the youth groups I was involved in; rather, it was an assumption that all of us happily shared.


All this is pretty reliant on being the sort of people who not only can afford to get away for vacation, but have the money to rent a bigger place or get an extra hotel room for a suitcase to sleep in.

In other words, I view this as saying "throw a bunch of money away so we can show them they're just not as good as married folks."

It's a very icky assumption to me when you say that the solution that wastes the most money and is basically a family endorsement of keeping communication lines CLOSED is the best one. It's nice that some families have the money and the doublethink-capable brains to do this, but where I'm from, things like this are openly discussed, and people agree on when the time is right to share rooms as a couple. It's a great time for open discussions of things like safe sex and such, too. But hey, I guess as long as everyone can stand around pretending that sexuality doesn't exist, that beats communicating any day!


Seems like a distinction without a difference. Either you're cool with premarital sex going on in your house or you aren't. The luggage isn't going to spread a disease or produce a little overnight bag if it's left together in the same room.

For the record, I have a daughter who is seven (also a son who is nine, but he's autistic and it's unlikely that he'll ever be in a romantic relationship). My policy will be that once she's out of my house she'll do as she sees fit--can't control it so I'm not going to worry about it. If she comes home for a weekend with a boyfriend, however, there will be seperate bedrooms and nobody's getting past first base while they're under the roof I pay for, under pain of maiming.


I had not realized how privileged this position was... and as far as families without sufficient space, it's a question I'll have to think about.

Phil Hoover-Chicago

So what about the BIBLICAL MANDATES concerning sexual morality and the likes?

Are those "null and void" in this post-modern pablum?


thechief, your position is one i've seen a lot of, and it's always struck me as both hypocritical and damaging. If you tell your daughter about your "policy", you'll ALWAYS be in a position where she feels like she can't talk to you about her romances, her love, her dreams for the future. You admit to yourself that "she'll do as she sees fit" out of your house, but you say that you'll set up rules for your house that mean putting her in a position where she has to, in some sense, choose between having your love and hospitality and being with a romantic partner. And that's ... sad. Pathetic.

You're going to "maim" your daughter, or her boyfriend, for violating your house rules? Then why would she EVER want to come stay with you? Why wouldn't she and her boyfriend stay with in-town friends, or in a hotel, or ANYWHERE they were out from under your nastiness and desire to dictate the way their lives work? If i were your daughter, **I'D** certainly never come home. I'd sleep in a car or the dust of the road with a partner rather than subject myself to that kind of desire for control and appearances.


Tell me, Phil, what are those biblical mandates? Find me chapter and verse that applies SPECIFICALLY to this situation. (Not vague references to fleeing sexual immorality, the definition of which is entirely culture-bound.) Does sharing the same bed equal sexual intercourse? Given the history of sleeping arrangements, that would be ludicrous to suggest.

Second of all, my family is not a Christian family. We're a religiously mixed family, with no consensus on much of anything, other than a concern for decorum, a tremendous amount of love, and a respect for privacy.


Adrienne, I fully intend to raise a daughter who can survive two or three nights without playing hide the sausage with her latest boyfriend, and who will love and respect me, her brother and our home enough to occasionally forbear so she can come home, have a little of my infamous pesto pizza, run across town to visit her grandparents, etc, etc. Sorry to hear you wouldn't be able to control yourself long enough to do the same. But hey, thanks for sharing!


In defense of thechief, I always "made do." I'm a big "when in Rome" fan, so when I was younger and staying in a situation where the parents actually forbid couples from sleeping together under their roof, I honored that. It wasn't my favorite solution, but I learned to live with it. Some people I know get the heebie-jeebies from having sex while their family members are nearby; others are perfectly okay with it.

I suppose we are all most comfortable with what we were raised with. I'm grateful that I was raised with a keen sense of social propriety as well as an understanding that sexual decision-making was an essentially private matter. Of course, reconciling that with the religious views I adopted as an adult continues to be challenging.


This issue had a very disruptive effect on my family-- or rather, it became a focal point for tensions that were already present. I was raised Jewish (though in my family the religious facet of that heritage was largely desultory); my husband was raised Evangelical and his family is still very religious. He left his church long before he and I met, and has been at odds about it with his family ever since.

He and I chose to have a secular ceremony when we married, and his family did attend and seemed to have a good time and were loving toward me. The following December, though, we went to his family's home to celebrate the holidays... and when we arrived at his mother's house, my husband's mother informed us that since we were 'not married in God's eyes,' we would be in separate rooms. We checked into a hotel, and needless to say, it was a very unpleasant visit.

So to me this raises a different set of questions: how much are mores like 'separate bedrooms' used as a club to express familial hostility toward different choices that family members may make?


Ruth, let me assure you that your evangelical relatives have a very poor understanding of marriage. Since most Christian marriages weren't performed in churches for at least the first thousand years of the Christian era, it's difficult to reconcile -- biblically -- the notion of a church wedding as being the only way to be married in God's eyes.

The Happy Feminist

I like your family's policy but not the rationale you offer for it. I like it because it respects the privacy of the couple involved. Unless I've moved in with my boyfriend (in which case it can be assumed that we share a bedroom), I don't need his family inquiring or knowing whether we are sleeping together yet or not.

It seems to me that for a family to dispense with the separate luggage rule, the family would have to ask all sorts of nosey questions about whether the couple WANT to spend the night in the same room.

Phil Hoover-Chicago

So after FOUR marriages HUGO, you are now the expert? At what, might I ask?

As for your "fleeing sexual immorality" statement--either you believe the Scriptures or you don't. You can't just "pick and choose" which of the biblical directives that you can obey. It's not a "let's make a deal" situation, pal.

What do you tell your 17 year old when she gets pregnant, and doesn't have any intention of marrying someone that she isn't sure that she loves?

What are you going to tell your 17 year old son when he feels like trash because he slept with someone who was "hot" at the time, and then he discovered that he had violated himself, the girl he had sex with, and a HOLY GOD who has forbidden premarital sex in HIS WORD?

Or has the "don't play with fire, you will get burned" ever come home to roost in your house or anyone you might know? Playing the "fire of sexual passion" will definitely burn those who do not know how to "control" it properly.


Phil, I'm not quite sure where the nastiness of your tone is coming from. When have I claimed to be the expert? Note the last line of my post -- it's a request for the thoughts of others.

I had sex at 17, and no, I didn't feel like trash. I don't regret it, and I would never use the term "violated" to describe it. Phil, the whole institution of marriage was so radically different two millenia ago that it bears precious little relationship to what we see today. Most evangelicals don't accept polygamy, though that is clearly biblically endorsed.

Sex is fire, no question about it. Sex can burn, no doubt. But does it always leave the married unscathed? Of course not. And will it always bring ruin and heartache to the young and unwed? The testimony of many of us suggests otherwise.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Wow. Being upper class (upper middle class?) WASP sure is different from being the daughter of a Greek immigrant. "Luggage stays in separate rooms" isn't an option that would even have occurred to me (though I sort of like Happy's rationale for it). Here's how things have worked in my family.

Husband's family: If you're not married, you're in separate rooms, period. This was enforced on me when I visited as my husband's fiancee, while we were both in our late twenties. I was pretty sure that leaving the luggage in separate rooms and joining each other in one room would have been frowned on.

My family: It never occurred to me that it was even an option to have an opposite sex friend as a house guest while I was in high school (except in the sense that my brother's friends were also mine). If I'd been allowed to do so, I'm sure the boy friend would have shared a room with one or more of my brothers, and I'd have shared a room with a sister, so sharing a bed simply wouldn't have been possible.

Since I'm part of a large family (one of nine), putting a couple up in the same room requires careful rearrangment of the rest of the family, possibly including some people being put up in different houses. And you're not likely to wind up in a room all by yourself if any sizeable part of the family is together. Our general rule has been that you get to sleep together if you are either married or otherwise both grown up and publically living together.

Also I was expected not to be having sex when I was in high school (though my mother made sure to inform me about birth control well in advance of when the school sex ed program did - they didn't get around to the birth control part of sex ed until sophomore year in high school). I had a couple of friends who were having sex in high school, but I assumed both that the sexually active high school students were in the minority and that all adults frowned on it (with the division being between cool liberal adults who frowned on kids having sex but wanted them to know about birth control anyway, and not so liberal adults who got the heeby jeebies about sex ed and information about birth control). In fact, I pretty much assumed my father still wanted me not having sex while I was in college (I figured my mother to be more lenient on that score), though eventually he accepted his adult children living together first with the people who would become their spouses.

Phil Hoover-Chicago

First of all, my tone is not NASTY....I'm not a nasty person, and my tone isn't nasty...

Where does the Bible endorse polygamy.

One of the ten commandments was "Thou Shalt Not commit adultery."

Now just because men had more than one wife/concubine does NOT...repeat, DOES NOT mean that God endorsed such behaviour.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I should also add that, when I was in high school, I agreed with what I perceived to be the position of the cool, liberal adults (it's better not to be having sex at your age and in your position, but be sure you know how to properly use birth control if you do); it wouldn't have occurred to me to adopt the view that Hugo took for granted (that it was perfectly OK, even with adults, that he was having sex with his girl friend at 17). Of course, it was probably a lot easier for me to stay virginal in high school than for Hugo, given that I a) was introverted, and b) only found maybe three guys at all attractive during my entire high school career.


Fine, Phil; if you read your remark about my divorces as being in the spirit of Christian charity, so be it. God doesn't command polygamy -- but doesn't condemn it either. Similarly, how are you so certain as to what constitutes sexual immorality?

Lynn, indeed. Culture has so much to do with this! It's why I enjoyed being a part of so many different families with so many different rules...


Yeah, to echo what others have said, this just doesn't come up unless you've got a whole lot more space than most families. I don't know anyone with more than one or two guest rooms. I'm pretty sure my family would frown on premarital sex while visiting the family, but it wouldn't without a fair more exhibitionism. Since many people sleep per room at overnight family events, sleeping arrangements had little to do with marital, gender or couple issues and everything to do with who sleeps lightly, who snores, who likes the heat up, and so on.

I picture your family in a Wodehousian country home, with hallways full of empty bedrooms. Y



I was raised in a #1 household, and to be honest, I'm not sorry for their more conservative approach in its insistence on committment, though it had its own problems. When I came out, my parents decided that were I to bring home a boyfriend, we would be in separate bedrooms just like my brother and any of his girlfriends would be; but that if I were in a committed relationship, my partner and I would be given a single bedroom. There is something to honoring that commitment, and I think your mid-way approach not necessarily a bad thing, but in my parent's house, like you, had I brought home a boyfriend, I would respect their wishes. That they kept the rules the same for both of us irrespective of orientation is a wonder given their Pentecostal background.


Hmm. Well, if I'm at my parent's house, then my boyfriend or (to my dad's poorly veiled confusion and uneasiness) girlfriend stays over, I end up on the couch. To some extent this is annoying, but I deal, mostly because I know my dad is acutely uncomfortable with his "little girl" having a sexuality (or indeed boobs!), and I love my dad. I don't love that he has such trouble seeing me as an adult in that way, just as I don't love it when he makes mildly racist and homophobic comments, or when he disparages other religions (namely Wicca/witchcraft/neopaganism) as "made-up" (not in the sense that all religion could be argued to be so, he's Catholic). I will call him on it (mostly to no avail). But I still love him and if I can make him slightly less uncomfortable without sacrificing too much, I will.


Not Wodehousian, DJW -- but we are blessed to have a fine old ramshackle ranch house and a couple of other buildings at our family place. It's difficult to describe without sounding even more pathetically privileged, but really, it's hardly the Hamptons. But yeah, space makes a difference.

Indeed, the ability to respect the privacy of others often hinges on space.


I am certainly in the #1 kind of family too. Hugo, do you realize how many of your students read this blog (like me?) Your background is so different from practicallly everyone I have ever met, it's really amazing. But you need to be careful about how your lines like "I married into one of those families once" comes across. I still have my ideals about marriage being once and forever, and having a teacher I respect so much being so cavaleer (sp?) about the institution of marriage is really off-putting. Anyhow, I wish you and your lovely wife (I love the pictures in your office!!!) well.

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