- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

They watch movies, pig out on pizza, then crash on the floor or on couches and beds in various rooms in the house. It's the typical teen sleepover with one notable change: These days, the participants are increasingly likely to be boys and girls together in one big, coed event.
Mixed-sex sleepovers are gaining popularity, not to mention buzz on teen Web sites. Teens say the sleepovers are just another way to hang out a result of mixed groups of friends who want to spend even more time together. Some parents go along with that, though teen health specialists warn that coed sleepovers make sexual exploration too tempting.
Samantha Gioia has been invited to three in her hometown of Greensboro, N.C. Her hesitant parents have let her go because of what she calls a "trust and faith in each other that, from my view, is rare."
David Harrington, of Kingston, N.Y., is having less luck persuading his parents. He has been invited to two coed sleepovers but has been required to come home by midnight each time.
"I'm friends with both boys and girls," says David, who like Samantha is about to turn 16. "So what's the big deal?"
His father, Gerry, has a candid answer: "Truth be told, I'm largely using my own sexual barometer my own 'teen libido memory' in making this decision."
He is not the only parent who feels that way.
Carly Donovan says her mother "flipped" when she found out that boys were included at a recent sleepover at a friend's house in Scituate, Mass.
Carly, 15, says she was "totally comfortable" sleeping in the same room with the boys, who are friends.
"The only thing was waking up in the morning and not looking your best. But I was just like, 'Whatever,'" she says. "They don't care, so I was fine with it."
Her mother was not fine.
"Kids that age are experiencing raging hormones," Cinda Donovan says. "Are we supposed to trust them?"
Dr. Marla Kushner, director of adolescent medicine at Chicago's Weiss Hospital, says "no."
She says she has heard about only a few coed sleepovers in her practice, but she has had young patients show up in her office the night after the prom, asking for tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
"There are so many factors involved, such as peer pressure," Dr. Kushner says.
Gilda Carle, a psychotherapist and author, agrees that the sleepovers set up situations where teens may feel pressured to have sex, especially if alcohol and drugs are present.
"Kids are so burdened with all kinds of stressors in their lives today why add another stressor?" asks Miss Carle, who addresses coed sleepovers in one of her books for teens and parents. "I think this is a very unfair position for parents to put their teenagers in."
Even some teens say there is reason to worry.
Of 879 young people polled by Teen People, for example, 83 percent said they had seen or heard of their peers "fooling around" while at such events. Just over half said they had been to a coed sleepover.

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