It is finally December, which is to say that the holidays are upon us. While this season instills many with warmth, merriment and an insatiable craving for peppermint- or nutmeg-flavored hot beverages, it forces some young couples into a difficult position: having sex in their childhood home.
Depending on your family’s attitudes toward sex, this task can vary in terms of difficulty. I have experienced the breadth of this spectrum first hand. As a reform Jew, I usually spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, and as much as I miss my family’s tradition of Din Tai Fung takeout and “Law and Order: SVU” reruns, his family’s commitment to Christmas spirit is well worth the flight to Minneapolis. Thankfully, both sides of his family did not seem put off by the prospect of us having sex. During my first visit, his mom only briefly debated whether or not she would let me sleep in his room. My boyfriend later explained to me that she caved because she knew that we would have sex anyways and did not want to hear us sneaking around at night. His dad was on a similar page. When we stayed at his house, he offered us a shared room immediately.
Unfortunately, my family is different. My mom is a reproductive endocrinologist, but regardless, relationships –– let alone sex –– are rarely a part of our mother-daughter conversations. When my dad found out about my boyfriend, he responded with “I don’t want to hear about that.” When my boyfriend came to visit us in Seattle, he slept in a guest room. With two protective older brothers and my ex-Navy, motorcycle-riding father, my boyfriend and I dared not engage in even the slightest amount of PDA. Really, even sitting next to him on the couch felt overly intimate in front of my family.
I understand that the question of if and when couples should “get some” during the holidays varies from household to household. Bearing this in mind, I reached out to several college students to get their perspective on getting some without getting caught. They all wanted to remain anonymous for obvious reasons but agreed to contribute their thoughts to this piece.
One Wellesley junior admitted that she tries to be careful if she wants to sleep with her girlfriend while at home, despite her family’s openness about sex.
“They trust me to make my own decisions,” she explained. “They’re supportive when I need them to be.” She says that they have shown their support by recommending an OB/GYN, giving advice and buying ice cream in cases of breakups.
“They get excited when I tell them about who I’m dating,” she said.
When it comes to sex, however, her parents leave her to her own devices.
“[My girlfriend and I] had to be very quiet when my parents were home and very fast when they weren’t, just in case they came home unexpectedly … There’s much more of a rush because you never know when people will come back home. It’s also definitely not the time to try anything new or do anything super elaborate,” she said.
Another Wellesley junior mentioned that her family’s position on sex varies with the gender of her partner. Her parents only let her share a room with her significant other if she is a woman. “My parents made my platonic male friend sleep in another room, even though he’s gay,” she explained.
This student likewise agreed that having sex at home dramatically impacts her experience, insofar as it calls for a degree of secrecy.
“The secrecy thing makes the sex I have at home much quieter and calmer than usual,” she added, laughing.
I lastly spoke to one of my peers at the University of Cambridge, where I am studying abroad.
“[My parents] are pretty open to me dating someone –– especially now that we’ve been dating for so long –– but in the beginning, it was very much not like that,” he admitted.
Unlike some of the other students I spoke to, his parents do not let him and his boyfriend sleep in the same room unless the guest room is unavailable, in which case his boyfriend may sleep on the floor of his room if the door is left open at all times. Despite this rule, he admitted to having sex when his family wasn’t around.
“Timewise, you’re not as private as you would be if you lived on your own. You don’t have that same level of freedom, so you’re definitely on someone’s thumb a little bit more,” he said.
I then asked him if he had any advice to share with someone whose significant other was visiting their childhood home for the first time.
“I’d say, for the first time [your significant other] comes home, just bite the bullet and try to make a good impression [with your parents]. You will have time to be physically intimate [with your partner] later, but if you screw it up the first time you won’t be able to recover as easily.”
All in all, the three interviewees agreed upon several core strategies for getting some without getting caught: stay quiet, as hard as this may be; wait until your family is out of the house; keep things quick and stick to the basics. Unfortunately, that means leaving the whips, handcuffs, or [insert kinky object of choice] at Wellesley during winter break. With Dec. 20 fast approaching, my peers agreed that such compromises are a necessary evil. Although having sex in your childhood home presents a number of obstacles, these precautions make it possible to remain satisfied over the holidays without jeopardizing any familial relationship.