In Other Words: “Our Houseguests Woke Us with Their Loud Sex!”

Hello Wendy!

I am a long-time reader and fan. I would love to hear your take on some advice I read today. The current Dear Prudence sometimes misses the mark, but this seemed really weak. I am sex positive. I am a mom. I would never have loud disruptive sex in someone else’s home – repeatedly – and then ask to stay with them for the summer! I think the LW handled it fairly well, but I’m interested to hear your opinion. I admit it wouldn’t be my kindest moment if someone upset my child in a totally avoidable way.

For those who don’t want to click over, the letter this reader is referring to is posted here, and reads as follows:

Our house has thin walls. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend spent the holidays with us in our guest room, which is right next to our 4-year-old’s room. When they had sex, it sounded like a bunch of howler monkeys. Our daughter woke up and got scared because she thought someone was in pain. I came out into the hallway and could hear the thudding from the bed echoing. We let our daughter sleep with us that night. My husband “talked” to his brother. I assumed everything was taken care of since there were pink cheeks and no eye contact the next day.

The next night my husband was asleep downstairs when my daughter came into our room crying, saying the girlfriend was “screaming.” I was furious. I could hear the noise three feet away from their door. I slammed a fist on the door and told them to shut up or I would make them leave the house right then. They cut their visit short and never apologized. Our daughter had a few nightmares afterward, and I don’t want a repeat. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend need a place to stay over the summer. I told my husband that if they stay, they stay in separate rooms—the girlfriend can sleep on the sofa. Otherwise, I don’t want them in my house. My husband talked to his brother, and I got labelled as “controlling.” I don’t think any reasonable houseguest would act like this, especially the second time. What do we say here? — Bad Houseguests

Danny Lavery (Dear Prudence) responds here, and honestly, my advice wouldn’t be much different. After agreeing that the LW has every right to ask houseguests to keep noise down after kids have gone to bed, Danny suggests that the LW missed an opportunity to de-escalate the situation. Instead of angrily pounding on the guests’ door when her daughter complained about the noise, the LW could have explained to her daughter “that no one was in pain or hurting, offer an age-appropriate contextualization along the lines of ‘Sometimes adults who live together make noise,’ and tell her you’ll go ask them to keep it down. Then you could have knocked on the door, told them they’d woken your daughter up and that they needed to be quiet, and saved the chastising for the morning when your daughter wasn’t around.”

I think that’s good advice! I’m not sure what else I would have added, really. I mean, yes, obviously, the guests were incredibly rude. They probably got off – pun intended – on being loud and disruptive and having an audience. That the audience consisted of their hosts and a young family member makes this particularly disturbing, but none of it will be scarring. This didn’t need and doesn’t need to be the end of the world. When they asked if they could stay with the LW and her family for the summer, my advice would have been, “No, I’m sorry, that’s too long of a stay at our place. We love seeing you and you’re welcome to visit for a day, but no more overnight stays.” No explanation is needed, but if they pressed or if they questioned whether that’s a rule for everyone or just them, I’d tell them that this is a house rule for any guests who regularly wake them up with loud sex.

Also, to the reader who sent me the link – and thank you, by the way – you say that if you were the host, it wouldn’t be your kindest moment if someone upset your child in a totally avoidable way, and look, I understand being angry, but kids get upset ALL THE TIME. Often, in very avoidable ways, and sometimes by adults who know better. It’s one thing to have their back and show them that you have their back and that they’re safe and protected, but it’s another to escalate a situation that is merely inconvenient and rude into something truly scary for them. What kind of message does that send to lash out so aggressively because your peace has been disturbed or someone was rude? It teaches that the appropriate reaction to disruption is anger – immediate anger (in this case, slamming a fist on the door, screaming “shut up or leave the house right away!”).

Maybe I’ve been following too much news lately – spoiler: I have — and am feeling sensitive to the amount of rage – from white people, specifically (I’m thinking of armed protests against lockdowns because the people want haircuts, calling the cops on an African American bird-watcher in Central Park, endless police brutality and the murdering of black lives at the hands of white people drunk on the privilege their skin color affords) over feeling disrupted or inconvenienced, but I see a link between overlooking opportunities to de-escalate private disruptions and the kinds of escalations we’re seeing in the news where people feel entitled to aggressively and, often, violently demand submission from others to their will (which is different than protesting true injustice, by the way). Maybe that link seems farfetched, but it’s not. Entitlement is taught. Aggression is often taught. As parents – especially, any of us who are parents of white children (and I don’t know if any of the parents in the above scenarios are, but I’m specifically addressing white parents right now) – we have an obligation to teach less combative ways of confronting others over minor indiscretions (like being woken up by houseguests two nights in a row).

As parents, it is our top priority to keep our children safe. But it’s also a top priority to teach them to be good, kind, compassionate people, and those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, we want them to stand up for themselves (and others!). But let’s model ways they can do that in steps, with step one being a non-aggressive, de-escalating way. And let’s have age-appropriate conversations with them about the importance of that step and about some of the consequences of skipping it.

Did I just turn a letter about someone else’s letter about houseguests having loud sex into a conversation about white entitlement and police brutality? Yeah…I guess I did. It’s been that kind of week (month/year/era).


  1. I think that people sometimes want a third party to decide who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. But making someone else the bad guy is rarely useful advice for dealing with friends and family.

  2. WWS. This would have been a great opportunity to remind the 4 year old that the brother-in-law and his girlfriend were in that room and that yes, they’re fine, but that as people are trying to sleep they really should keep it down and you’ll speak with them in the morning.

    The second time it happened, I’d definitely have been annoyed, but more in a what-the-HECK-how-rude-eye-rolling kind of way. And the next morning my husband would have had a conversation with his brother.

    I am suddenly reminded of years ago when my son was 5, and he woke up to use the bathroom, heard me “breathing loudly,” and politely knocked on our bedroom door to make sure I was okay. Husband thought fast and informed son that my asthma had been problematic but all was well now. And we didn’t forget the noise machine again. 🙂

    1. I agree, calming the child down & then addressing the rude houseguests out of the kid’s earshot is the way to go. Kids are always observing how adults deal with conflict and taking notes. I also wouldn’t allow these people to spend another night over.
      4 years old is a little young to explain the mechanics of intercouse. My 5yo knows babies grow in mommy’s tummy, and mommy & daddy like to kiss, and what private parts are, but that’s all he’s ready to handle. When he starts asking how the baby gets in the tummy (which happens around 7-8 in my experience) I’ll lay it all out there then.

  3. I saw this letter originally, and at the risk of playing devils advocate, I wanted some followup questions: could the wife hear the couple having sex from HER room, at least the second time? She states she was three feet from the door, which is pretty close; of course you’re gonna hear them boning. Yes, they absolutely should have taken note the first time she commented and had quieter sex, but do they realize how thin the walls are? Did they assume that the second night they were being quieter? Maybe I’m just being naive, but I want to think maybe they assumed they were quieter and didn’t realize they could still be heard. Please be kind if I’m being ridiculous here lol.

    1. No, she states her daughter woke her up because the daughter was woken up by the gf’s screams. If that is their idea of being quieter. . . .

  4. I don’t think it sets a good example for your kids, to see you deal with a problem by screaming and making threats (I’ll make you leave the house right now!). That’s how Karens are born. That’s gonna just teach your kid to deal with issues with other people that way. She could have knocked on the door maybe and said “you guys okay? Just making sure!” And they’d be like, yup, we’re good, which would calm the kid down. And then take the kid back to bed and express her displeasure to them privately in the morning.

    I don’t think I EVER saw my parents yelling at anybody or making threats. They stayed outwardly calm (though they yelled at us plenty). They gave me really good training on how to deal with people. Screaming and making threats is NOT it.

    1. Just want to say again, my mom taught me how to get what I want from people by being respectful and polite. Like, here’s how you approach an airline gate agent. Here’s how you ask for a raise. Did you ASK the sales associate if they have what you’re looking for? Etc. It was never, just start yelling.

      1. Oh another one, how to get pompous men to listen to you at work. Spoiler alert, it’s not by yelling over them.

    2. anonymousse says:


      How is hitting the door and yelling okay behavior?

  5. Also, talk to the frickin kid about sex stuff. Aren’t there things it’s appropriate to tell them at age 3 or 4?

    1. I disagree. Discussing sex with your kids should not have to take place as a real-time explanation for what 2 people they know are doing loudly on the other side of a thin door. It’s just too intimate all around.

      1. I don’t mean make sex the explanation in the moment. I mean, as a parent, you don’t need to have sex be a source of terror for your kids. Like omg, screaming and banging on doors and threats in the middle of the night because you feel your kid is being terrorized by two people having sex? Jesus Christ. Be an adult and model calm and rational behavior. Don’t make the kid’s fear worse. Don’t go crazy trying to shield your kid from sex. This mom was out of control. I get being sleep deprived, but that’s what you sign up for as a parent. It’s completely on her and her husband to model peaceful conflict resolution.

  6. I saw this on Prudie. Yeah, it’s really awkward to have people making howler monkey noises in your house (that made me lol), but I think there were better ways to handle it. For round two, I would have knocked on the door myself and asked for the brother-in-law to come out and talk. Right then. I wouldn’t have yelled, but there definitely would have been a quiet “What the hell, Bob? This is the second night in a row you’ve scared the hell out of your niece and embarrassed all of us. Please keep it down.” If he got embarrassed by having his sister-in-law talk to him about sex noises, so much the better.

    As for the kid, I think a vague explanation would have been fine. “You know how some kids get way too noisy when they play? Well, adults sometimes do that too. Daddy and I have asked them to be quieter.”

    I don’t know if I’d be in a hurry to have them back. It’s just such bad guest manners to be making that much noise doing anything in the middle of the night. Especially since it’s scaring the kid. And especially after they were told it’s a problem.

  7. dinoceros says:

    One of the things that commenters were disagreeing on was about whether the LW should have been calmer, and a lot of people seemed to be misinterpreting the advice and assuming that Daniel suggested being calm to be nice to the family members. But he was referring to the fact that the child was scared and yelling and pounding on doors is also scary to a child when they don’t understand what’s going on.

    I don’t think it really matters THAT much, but that was something that bothered me about the commenters.

  8. anonymousse says:

    I think DP advice was fine. I think the LW is so out of bounds. Who yells and hits a door in front of their young, scared kid? That’s actually really scary behavior. If I was in this position, I would have assured my child that nothing was wrong, they were wrestling or whatever and take them back to bed. With the yelling and hitting the door, you are scaring your child more. How do you explain that to a kid? He or she hears scary noises and instead of explaining or being reassuring, you yell and hit? And then how do you explain how your reaction was appropriate?

    I don’t want to scare my kids. I’m supposed to do the opposite of frighten them.

    Yeah, you probably shouldn’t have loud sex when you’re a guest in someone else’s house and they have thin walls, a wife with a temper and a small kid with incredible hearing. That’s not great guest behavior at all- but I would never confront them or yell at guests in my house. I’d ask my husband to discreetly talk to his brother about turning the volume down.

    1. Yeah, good point too that it’s HIS brother, let him deal with it.

  9. I guess I’m in the minority here but I feel a lot more sympathy for the LW? It was the second night in a row of disrupted sleep and frightened child. I’d probably feel like slamming the door and yelling to make myself heard over the existing noise. I mean, I hope I’d just knock firmly and speak sternly, but I’m sure I’d be pretty angry and disappointed in my husband and the visiting couple for being that knowingly inconsiderate. I get quite angry at whoever seems responsible for my sleep being disrupted so the reaction seems reasonable to me.

    I do think forcing separate rooms is less an actual strategy and more an exercise in trying to punish the couple, but again, I get feeling vengeful when there was no apology from the guests. It seems so childish for these adults to be calling her controlling for not wanting guests to be loud at night. Does seem better to just decline the summer visit especially if it’s more extended than a holiday visit.

  10. Maybe she has already asked him and he wanted to be the cool guy (you know how she is).
    Houseguests like these break more than one boundary.
    No wonder she lost it. Not great, but understandable to me.

    1. To Wendy’s point, white women lose their shit and feel personally victimized by any minor inconvenience, and that is not okay. All that happened here is her child was awakened in the night. That’s it! No reaction was necessary except to reassure the child that nothing was wrong and put her back to bed. Maybe gently knock on the door and say, “you guys ok in there?”

      And then you have a kid who sees, oh, ok, someone wakes me up in the night yelling, I make sure they’re ok and go back to bed. Not, omg my world has been shattered and I need to scream and stomp and threaten people.

      1. My house, my precious sleep (interrupted, again), my rules.
        If that was my husband he could happily join them where ever they may camp in the summer and enjoy their noise too.
        Because, no, they would not be welcome, and the familieee argument does not work for me. I had houseguests that will be appriciated any time, and some who are not.
        People do as much as you let them do to you.

      2. Ok Karen.

      3. (rolls eyes to the back of my head at Kate for the Karen comment). This was the second night in a row. Kid wakes up to gf screaming. Not having it. They are getting off on scaring the kid and annoying the mom, pulling brother’s strings. They can sleep in their car. Love, Becky.

      4. You’re a Karen too, “Debbie.” That’s my point exactly, white women jump right to feeling personally attacked. They must be getting off on scaring the kid! They’re doing this on purpose to annoy me! Thus I will throw them out of my house in the night! When, again, all that has happened is a minor inconvenience. Would I be annoyed to be woken up? Absolutely. Would I scream at guests and throw them out of the house for that? W T F. No. Would I feel embarrassed to be told to put my dog on a leash in an on-leash park? Probably. Would I react by calling 9-1-1? Would you??

      5. Karens apparently don’t think about the consequences of their actions either. Amy Cooper got fired from her job, for example, for calling the police on Christian Cooper.

        The idiot who decides to kick out the loud guests isn’t rationally comparing 15 minutes of lost sleep to a huge dramatic screaming scene where everyone in the household is awake, the lights are on, the kid is crying, you’re waiting for them to pack up all their stuff, get their things from the bathroom, get dressed, you can’t get back to sleep, then you and your husband get in a huge fight, and the guests drive off with maybe alcohol or sleeping pills in their system. Great stuff right there. Totally beats a light knock on the door and a discussion the next day where you assert yourself like a sane adult.

  11. I agree that the LW could maybe could have handled it better. As a parent, I can understand having a moment of being overwhelmed addressing an issue a second time and not being 100% on your A game. As someone with a background in child mental health, being sex positive is important but there are some things that are above a 4 year olds developmental level. I’m not sure there is a sex positive way to frame this situation, other than asking adults to knock it off.

    1. True. Who among us is on their A game when awakened in the night?

  12. Kind of off topic…. I am not terribly familiar with the history of posters on this site, but I read “That’s how Karens are born” and I was wondering who “Karen” is.

      1. Thanks. Wow, I had never read that news story about the batshit crazy lady calling the cops over a dog leash request. She should have been charged for falsely summoning police. My favorite part of that article: “The next day, Amy Cooper was fired by her employer.”

  13. Kate, I think you are beeing overly dramatic.
    I would happily change my username to Karen, because I would be IN CONTROL
    of the situation. No screeming, slamming doors needed. And of course no leave the house right now. Just leave the next day and don`t come back. That´s a grown up thing, you know, when people feel the consequenses of their actions.
    May I say that you sound a little colour focussed? That is not cool in any way.

    1. You sound more than a little dramatic and also racist.

  14. Wow. I see you want to have more attention then I will give you. Read your posts, they are full of “white woman age X” as explanation for some from you unwanted behaviour. I did never ever say anything like this, so stop projecting your language and thoughts to me.

    1. You proudly identified with a white racist stereotype. You also told me I’m focused on color. People who have a lot of racial bias like to say that they “don’t see color,” which in reality means they’ve never given a single thought to what it’s like to be a person of color in America. These are the reasons you sound racist. Maybe you’re not writing in from the US and don’t understand cultural references, but when you delightedly crow about being a Karen “IN CONTROL,” and tell me I’m too focused on color, yeah, you’re probably racist.

  15. Wait a minute, I think by calling this woman a “Karen” is really diluting what a Karen is. Calling the police because a black man asked you to leash your dog and going from angry voice to fake “scared for my life” voice is a Karen. Being upset at your BIL for waking you up two nights in a row is not a Karen. When I read this the other day, I thought to myself, this woman already loathes her BIL, and this was a last straw type of moment. As other posters mentioned above, some people are not in their best mindset being woken up two nights in a row with a screaming child. Here she is, probably tired from getting no sleep the night before and woken up a second night because someone she doesn’t like in the first place can’t follow house rules. Overreacting to something that would annoy the hell out of most people is not akin to calling the police over perfectly normal behavior from someone who happens to have black skin.

    I’m kind of over you saying that “white women” all act a certain way. That is the kind of nonsense that made white people flock to voting for Trump. I see your line “white women jump right to feeling personally attacked. ” Now if I were to change the word white to any other race, sexual orientation, etc. I’d be racist, anti-gay what have you. The immediate reaction would be to say, all X is not the same! But because a subset of white women act like morons, suddenly all white women are the devil. How do we even know that the person that wrote to Dear Prudence was even white?

    I understand that tensions are high in this country right now and racial injustice is forefront on people’s minds, but there is really no reason racism needed to be dragged into a discussion about this letter.

    1. “If you get offended by an archetype, that says more about your insecurities being a liberal ally, than it does about the people who use that word to describe an unjust situation.”

      1. I don’t consider myself a “liberal ally.” I consider myself just a person, flawed like everyone else with my own set of thoughts about the ways of the world. I try to do what’s right and consider others before I act or speak to the best of my abilities. Am I always successful or perfect in this regard, of course not. Am I insecure? No more or less than the average person. I was just simply pointing out that when you start attaching concepts like “Karen” to things as trivial as a woman losing her shit from being woken up two nights in a row by what appears to be a jackass of a BIL, the term begins to lose its potency. If you want to take umbrage with that, your prerogative I guess.

      2. Yeah, but Jennifer, you’re getting offended by Karen references. I’m a middle-aged white lady, but the Karen thing doesn’t offend me, it makes me think, oh shit, I don’t want to be like that. I want to examine my impulses and watch my behavior. I WANT to be a liberal ally. I don’t want to wriggle out of that responsibility by saying, “oh, I’m just a person trying to do my best!” I want to actually be conscious of the privilege I have as a white middle-class woman and act accordingly so as not to be part of the problem.

        Also, no, I’m not diluting anything about “Karen.” Know your cultural references. The Karen thing is about white middle-age lady entitlement, and encompasses a broad range of things, from making barista’s lives miserable by talking to the manager, to not vaccinating her kids. To, yes, calling the cops on a guy who told her to leash her dog. It’s more of a Becky that calls the cops on black people, though Karen will do it too.

    2. anonymousse says:

      Calling out white women’s sense of entitlement is the kind of nonsense that led them to vote for a trump? Come on! Calling it out or not- racist, entitled white women would have always voted for Trump. Don’t come here with your bs of being tired of being blamed. Black people are tired of BEING KILLED FOR NOTHING. JFC.

      No one even said all white women and you’re still trying to twist this into being offensive. White people ARE entitled. I’m white, by the way. If you are a human being and can see the events happening in the US this week and the last few weeks and still have the audacity to try to spin calling out white entitlement as something offensive, you are absolutely part of the problem.

      That’s not even the reason Wendy tied this letter into racism. It’s really easy to see the correlation of this total overreaction to normal everyday Karen situations.

      The Karen jokes started as a funny meme. It was all fun and games and really bad haircuts until videos of white women weaponizing their victimhood started making the rounds.

      Oh, poor Karen. Good god. Not everything is about YOU.

      1. If you voted for Trump, you need to own the very conscious decision you made that you could live with his racism, misogyny, and overall vileness. No one made you do it.

    3. If being called out on the widespread privilege that led to Karen behaviour drove a person to vote for Trump then they were an utter shithead to begin with anyway. They were never going to be coddled into giving a damn about injustice and to me it’s really repulsive to blame whatever degenerate morals that got a person to Trump’s side on the minorities they’re working hard to oppress.

  16. Yip, if people voted Trump it’s because they agree with his stupid racist misogynist disabled-mocking utter claptrap and lies, not because some minorities once called them out on white privilege. If people eat animals it’s not because some vegan was nasty to them once in an internet forum. (not equating the two, lots of perfectly nice people eat animals as does my delightful cat, voting for Trump, not so much.) but it does annoy me when someone justifies behaviour by blaming something someone else once said to them. . Make your choices people but own them don’t try to fasten responsibility on someone else.

    1. I’ve argued with a fair number of Trump supporters online, and what’s interesting is they always disappear after a max of 2-3 posts. No matter what tone I take. They have no intelligent arguments to make. They know they stand for vile things, and they don’t want to have to defend them. Male, female, regardless of platform, regardless of tone, they always give up and go away. They don’t show up in any organized numbers to protest anything either.

  17. Bittergaymark says:

    Serious question:

    How much of the screaming that women do during sex is real?

    I dunno. I guess because I used to have sex with guys in very hot but dangerous settings, like say… Frat Houses… I have always found it easy to fuck in silence.
    No partner ever had a problem doing it quietly either.

    Oh, sure. I can be loud. But that always has some real shades of Meg Ryan. It’s certainly not out of my control. Honestly? The whole screaming thing seems so fake to me. (But maybe it’s different for women?).

    Anyway— yeah… I can’t imagine ever having loud screaming sex when sharing a thin wall with a four year old.

    Talk about tacky.

    Sure, I guess the LW could have been more tactful but I can see why they failed to explain sex to a four year old at four in the morning.

    Expecting someone to turn that into an impromptu teachable moment seems a bit much.

    1. That’s not what anyone said. Wendy said, and I agreed, that if you start yelling and banging on doors and making threats in the night, that just freaks your kid out more. And it teaches her to scream and make threats as a way to resolve problems. You just say to the kid that the adults are fine, they’re just horsing around and making too much noise and that you’ll ask them to be quieter, and now lets go back to sleep.

      Some of the screaming is probably real, some is for show.

    2. When people cheer at baseball games is it real or fake? I think that people have things that they do in certain situations and it’s not necessarily “real” or “fake”

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        My point is If you don’t have to cheer at basketball games at 3 am then you don’t have to scream the house down while getting fucked either.

        It’s rude. Deliberately so.

      2. Every time it’s the super bowl or some high-stakes game, I hear people screaming through the walls, including my own husband. I think they literally cannot help it.

    3. Wait. A frat house is a hot place to bang?

      1. Sorry, I guess it could be if it’s like illicit “straight” guy sex.

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        It damn well was in the 1990s when it was all very cloak and dagger and dangerous as fuck. Plus the company had a lot to do with it, too.

        Oh, Kirk.

        God, how I miss you. I wonder — if you know that? I hope so. I really, really do. If only I had faith in a hereafter.

  18. Ya know what BGM, you have a point. I can be quiet, I can be loud, I’ve never ever ever been loud in anyone else’s house. That’s rude, performative, and actually, given that it wasn’t the first time, nastily aggressive. If i am camping in the wilds I might take the moment to howl like a wolf for the hell of it. If I was in a room next to wee kids I’d be taking it way down. Doing what they did was just nasty.

    1. Sea Witch says:

      Totally agree. Knowingly subjecting a small child to those noises is revolting.

  19. Sea Witch says:

    There is something decidely creepy about an adult man having loud sex with his GF while KNOWING that his four year old niece can hear it on the other side of the wall.

    The first time I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, he and his girlfriend may not have realized the wall was that thin. The second night – not a chance. He knew.

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