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I am trying to design a "progressive", every high schooler's dream high school/boarding school where grades 9-12 attend (but could make it just the more senior years if that would work better). Through this setting one of the concepts I'm trying to explore is the opposite of gender segregation i.e. having coed dorm rooms (2 students to a room) available for students (they can choose non-coed rooms also), mainly for plot/world building reasons, but also because I think it is an interesting concept to see how this could realistically work if implemented, either now or in the near future.

Based on my research the main reasons this isn't widely implemented (even at most colleges/unis):

  • Hygiene eg. boys at the height of "sexually discovering themselves", girls challenges with menstrual cycles
  • Privacy/modesty eg. most girls especially would not be comfortable rooming with another boy, let alone a random one they do not know because simple things like getting dressed each morning would suddenly become embarrassing especially if the roomies start to gossip about each other
  • Parent concern eg. most parents would not provide consent to allow their kid to room with someone of the opposite gender to prevent distractions, unwanted pregnancies etc

So looking at these 3 factors, I may be missing something, but the bottom two feel quite a bit old fashioned and contradictory in many ways. Here are my reasons. In regards to modesty/privacy, public baths/showers are already very common for all ages (although they are gender specific). With gender specific showers and toilets in place (separate to the dorm rooms), I find it hard to believe that some kind of solution couldn't be added into dorm rooms to make getting dressed more private eg. a modesty screen, some kind of alcove etc?

The parent concern I understand, however where this is contradictory to me (at least for the senior years) is that the majority of students will be exposed to parties and other social activities which have similar if not worse threat of debauchery. Of course the main difference is that it isn't on a daily basis. But I wonder if the fact that should this become a daily norm, whether it would normalize and trivialize such things similar to how society opinions of modesty change when it becomes more common place eg. when the bikini first came out it was considered scandalous, but now no one cares.

Hygiene is definitely the toughest one and I can't see any real solution to not make it awkward/ uncomfortable, other than relying on the student's maturity, educating them and putting certain rules in place. Although that said, I think this one has the potential to be very embarrassing whether rooming with the same or opposite gender, and plenty of boarding schools already exist with kids rooming together.

Looking at what currently exists that is similar; in the past few years there appear to have been some boarding type schools that introduced coed dorm rooms (mainly to cater for LGBT). But as far as I can see the arrangement was each student having their own room, which wouldn't work in my case because a lot of the dialogue and characterization happens in the dorm rooms, and I would prefer to avoid monologues.

So is there a way to make this kind of setting work semi-realistically or should I rethink things?

Existing Culture/Ethics My thoughts were that this would be an international type school open to elite students from anywhere in the world. Assuming they are able to pass the entrance exams. So the culture would be quite diverse and multicultural, hence the option to choose between coed & non-coed. Due to the "exemplary student" nature of the school I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore some more progressive ideas on how a high school should be and how it's students should be treated i.e. NOT as immature, irrational kids who have no control over themselves, their actions and are incapable of making mature decisions.

Dorm Rules I have very little knowledge of how to design a high school (hence the reality check) but below were my initial thoughts on how this could work. 3 main sections including a non-coed female dorm, non-coed male dorm and coed dorm. Students would choose whether to live in a coed or non-coed dorm, and require parental consent. The roomies would also be chosen as roomies, not based on any relationship status. I thought perhaps roomies would be chosen by the school itself by default, with an option to change in very exceptional circumstances. The changing of dorms would be strictly limited to prevent chopping and changing, firstly by school rules but also by limited availability of spare rooms, which I imagine would also make sense financially? Students would also go through a thorough induction style education piece when commencing to understand the above. Any kind of "bad behaviour" I imagine would be punished similarly to any other high school i.e. detention, suspension, expulsion etc. And due to the elite/exemplary nature of the students I would imagine this would assist in the rules being followed, since the amount of effort required to get in, wouldn't be worth the risk of getting suspended or worse.

Answer Goals What would generally need to be in place for a modern day high school to be able to function with this kind of feature? Whether that be rules and education (to guide the students), processes or policies (to enable the school to deal with any issues easily and efficiently), facilities or building design/layout (not sure why this is necessary, but most dorms are very specific about their layouts and where they put coed and non-coed dorms and rooms).

I would like to reconfirm (for some) that this question is in no way about encouraging sexual activity or creating some kind of bizarre love hotel. Please do not comment or answer with this kind of mind set as it adds no value to the topic and misconstrues the aim. There are many modern day contexts where coed rooms exist (see answers below for examples). The intention is to explore how a world can be setup where a similar arrangement exists in a high school like dorm, nothing more.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 21, 2022 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this is "progressive" in any way, but thank you much for adding the clarifying sections. I didn't edit out "progressive" because your context is unclear on that point. If you mean "modern American radical leftism", then I'd only note that female-male shared sleeping arrangements are nothing new, even in western culture. Check out the custom of bundling. Otherwise, your edit improves the question by telling us more about the existing culture, aims of the practice and response expectations. I did edit out the ad hominemicidal snark, however. That's unnecessary. VTR. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 21, 2022 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see any question in this. What is asked is "What would generally need to be in place for a modern day high school to be able to function." What does the word "function" mean? If children are educated, a school functions. Right? Do you want to reduce teen pregnancies? Then ask that. Are knife fights too common, and you want them reduced? Ask that. Are there too many distractions from learning? That would be a question. Because the question fails to define what single thing is needed to make this fictional school "work," I can not re-open the question. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 21, 2022 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas what is and isn't "progressive" is subjective I would think. As stated, it is an international school so labeling it as American (or any other country name or country specific ideology) anything is over simplifying and limiting the described culture. The intent is to have a culture (in the school not the country it is located in) here that is accepting of any nationality, cultural background or ideology. I hope that helps $\endgroup$
    – FrontEnd
    Feb 21, 2022 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ If it's "subjective", then I suppose it might be best to either leave it out or define it in terms of your fictional setting. Especially if it's "international" in scope, I think "progressive" might be a useless and meaningless term. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 22, 2022 at 1:22

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All you need is a culture that normalizes this. It was incredibly common across most cultures throughout the ages for co-ed habitation, and not just in a school setting. People tend to minimize how different life has become.

So. Some examples to show why this is entirely possible, and how to offer even the more prudish parents (and students) all the privacy and space they might wish.

First. Communal bathing. Even today, it's common enough in some places. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/german-bathhouse-culture

But historically, even more so--dependent on a lot of factors, of course. Like who built the bathhouse.

https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20121129-the-origins-of-bathhouse-culture-around-the-world

If The Church built it, it is about modesty and separation (in a Europe-centric world).

But in cultures where nudity was seen as normal? Japan's history I am considerably more familiar with with regard to this. It was common enough for everyone to bathe at a bathhouse, and if it was warm enough they would walk there naked (pre World War 1, because things have changed depending on where in Japan and a whole lot of factors). I believe in Nordic countries this was fairly common as well, even today (no sources, just hear-say from friends from those countries)

Should this be an academy of international repute? One that might attract people from different cultures? Then might I suggest:

Shared bedrooms (for 2, 4, or more), with bed, desk, and closet. But single-occupant bathrooms/showers. You need not have communal baths, in the traditional sense. Or you can have communal bathing (single-sex or mixed), and offer single occupant stalls for those who aren't comfortable with that.

How do you prevent pregnancies? The same way you would in every co-ed school: You can't. Unless you have more teachers than students (and a teacher accompanying each student at every hour of every day), they are going to find a moment to do whatever they want to do.

So there needs to be a level of trust. Either you educate them in the risks and let them make an informed decision (and make birth control readily available, and remove all plausible stigma from requesting as much). Or you will risk pregnancy. And that isn't a teen thing, that's a human thing.

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    $\begingroup$ Perfect, thank you Alex, you clearly understand what it is that I'm asking and have provided some great examples and references. If I could upvote you twice I would :) $\endgroup$
    – FrontEnd
    Feb 20, 2022 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ @FrontEnd Glad I could help. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2022 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura If you think yourself a comedian, please be funny elsewhere. Teen pregnancies are most common where sex education is sorely lacking, where contraceptives are hard to get, and where abortion is a 'hot button topic'. And don't make me quote the studies. But by all means, envision a world where everything aligns with the most conservative religious beliefs--just don't be surprised when people rightly call you out for being ignorant. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2022 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura I'm still waiting for a point. Teens are going to have sex. Because PEOPLE are going to have sex. My stance, which I've made blatantly obvious in my answer, is that you cannot nullify that statistic. Even in highly educated societies that normalize fact-based sex-ed and normalize girls on the pill and MA pills, still have more than 1 teenage pregnancy per calendar year. I'm not arguing otherwise. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2022 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ What I am saying, is that this is true regardless of what you do. So, do the best you can: educate them, give them the facts, let them make an informed decision on what they want to do, and make condoms, contraceptives, and the MA pill readily available. Because they're going to have sex no matter what you do. That's how (non-asexual) humans work. Putting them in a co-ed school, even a co-ed boarding school, adds little to the dynamic. Or does teenage pregnancy not already happen in non-single-sex high schools as things stand? $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2022 at 22:56
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I really like Alexandra William's example, but I'll expand on it a bit.

If you have a dorm designed like the modern college dormitory(at least in the USA), where each room can be locked off, with 2-4 people sharing a room, then it's going to happen.

On the other hand, if you have larger, where 10-20 people share a large cabin in a common room, and they all sleep in the same common room, with no partitions or locked off room, I would guess less sex would happen.

That being said, they'll just find another place, so like Alexandra Williams said, it's primarily a trust thing. Education will be paramount. A cultural shift might make it work too, as the commenters have brought up a couple times already.

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  • $\begingroup$ It would be like a youth hostel with a big hall full of bunk beds. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Feb 21, 2022 at 13:38
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The Danish military has mixed gender sleeping for conscripts/basic training at some bases. While there may only be a slight overlap in the age groups (min. age 18), some of their implementation details may be relavant:

  • 4 person rooms with a single bathroom shower
  • If the room is mixed gender, there needs to be at least 2 females

https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/indland/soldater-af-begge-koen-bor-taet-i-militaeret-jeg-har-ikke-noget-problem-med-gaa#!/ (in danish, but has some pictures of the rooms)

I have personally experienced it, and it works great. A 2-person mixed gender room would likely cause some trouble. The lack of "two-person privacy" helps ensure that there is no funny business going on.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! I didn't know about the minimum of two women rule, but that certainly would offer a sanity check--and it would help them women involved to feel like they have backup, if anything happens. Thank you for sharing that. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2022 at 15:46
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In the reasonably affluent parts of the Western world, we are conditioned to expect privacy as the default setting. One to a room. Cohabitation is expected to be either

  • a choice, by a couple in an intimate relationship,

or

  • a cost-saving necessity, for people who are not considered eligible for entering an intimate relationship.

Among those who are not eligible would be same-sex relatives of similar age, little children in mixed groups, little children with their parents, and for brief times, or out of dire economic necessity, unrelated adults of the same sex. But that is a cultural matrix. I recall reading about an emigrant ship in the 19th century where there would be one cabin for the unmarried males, and one for unmarried females and married couples. The social expectation/presumnption, obviously, would be that a married man would not philander.

So you would have to decide into which category your boarding school falls. Either there is a strong expectation that nothing untoward happens, reinforced by strict supervision, or there is permission for things to happen, reinforced by habits and norms to manage the consequence. There could be initial same-sex assignments, plus rules for changing that. "Official couples" could apply to move together, there would be rules for handling breakups, lots of interesting social dynamics to write about.

By the final year, is there a social expectation that hetero individuals would have found a member of the opposite sex? What about those who miss out, yet do not identify as gay? What are the social consequences for males or females who 'swap rooms' more frequently than others? Are the males admired and the females ostracized, or is it more equal?

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  • $\begingroup$ The idea here isn't that there is any expectation for relationships or any similar such activities to take place. It is exactly the same as any modern school nowadays with the exception that coed rooms are available for those who want them. I honestly find it a bit of stretch to say that just because more coed facilities become available that suddenly this represents the functions of a love hotel. $\endgroup$
    – FrontEnd
    Feb 20, 2022 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @FrontEnd, that would be the first option in the penultimate paragraph. Knowing some juveniles, there is an age where they are not blind to sex and gender issues, and a girl isn't just "one of the boys" (or vice versa). $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Feb 20, 2022 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ I think you must of went to a very affluent University if you think privacy is the default in the western world, every university I have attended o taught at had two people per room as the default. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 12, 2023 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ @John, that is not quite what I wrote. Because privacy is the default for couples and couples are (still) expected to be heterosexual pairings, students would not go to mixed pairings today because that implies they are a pair. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    May 13, 2023 at 4:24

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