My 12-year-old daughter, in 7th grade, just mentioned to me and my husband that she showers with her friends when they have a sleepover. We could not conceal our surprise at this, and both my husband and I are uncomfortable with it. I asked her why and she said they "just do." I asked if there was any touching or comparing going on and she exclaimed "No Mom! We're not lesbians." I was eavesdropping as she and her friend were in the shower, and I could hear their conversation, and it does seem that it's innocent according to what I could hear. She sees nothing wrong with it, and she's done this with other friends at other sleepovers. Is this normal? All seems fine otherwise. Thanks very much!
From: NHMom, Nashua
Yes, this is normal behavior for girls this age.
I know, I know. It’s not what you’re used to. It’s not what we did when we were this age. But wait. Do you remember going to sleep-overs (when I was a girl, we called them “slumber parties”) and practicing kissing your girl friends because you couldn’t figure out where the nose goes during a kiss? Or practicing slow dancing because where, exactly, do the hands go?
It’s also a reflection of today’s culture.
“It’s not sexual,” she says in a phone conversation. “It’s part of a culture in which there is more widespread acceptance of nudity than most of us, as parents, remember from that age. Girls today sleep in the same bed when they sleep over, they take showers with each other – they are just extremely comfortable with each other’s bodies.”
In fact, Kilbourne says it could actually be healthy for girls to see each other naked. “Girls today are surrounded by idealized images of women and girls. To see real bodies, to realize the range of real bodies, that’s not dangerous, it’s good.”
Psychologist Sharon Lamb, author of "The Secret Life of Girls" and a professor at UMass/Boston, reminds in an email that there is a long, ancient and rich history of women bathing together in public bathhouses. “It’s an intimacy but not really sexual,” she wrote in an email. “For seventh grade girls to feel OK enough about their bodies to accept being nude and to accept each other – that sounds like a good thing to me.” Lamb is also co-author of "Packaging Girlhood, Rescuing our daughters from marketers' schemes." Her newest book is "Packaging Boyhood, Saving our sons from superheroes, slackers and other media stereotypes."
That’s not to say that there might occasionally be sexual overtones between two girls. Both these experts say, however, that engaging in sexual experimentation with a same-sex partner at this age does not necessarily predict future sexual orientation.
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