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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Age differences

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Author Topic: Age differences
orca
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So I was wondering what people think about dating someone who is older or younger (more than 1-3 years) than you, including a regard to emotional, psychological, and physical development.
Of course, every relationship and every person is different, but for you in particular, what are your beliefs? And what do you think of people in general dating someone older or younger? Also, what are your particular reasons for those beliefs? (i.e. religion, past experience, upbringing, etc.)

[ 05-01-2007, 09:23 PM: Message edited by: pretzel ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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Just to add another dimension to this, why is this just about dating guys?

Given manturity/developmental differntials, and that, on average, young men are a couple of years behind young women (so, again, on average, in many cases young men dating young women their same age are effectively dating women outside the window you're setting), how does that factor in?

I guess I'd also ask why you've got 21 set as a benchmark for when age "evens out," even though generally, the older people get, the closer that differential will get, so at 21, it's not going to be "even" between people of divergent ages the same way it is with people in their forties and fifties, for instance.

I guess I'd also ask, again, just to make any ensuring discussion sensible, how it is you're determining what men's and women's wants and needs are by age alone?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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Heather,
I didn't mean just about dating guys. Sorry if it came out that way.

I would actually disagree with you about young men being behind young women. In my experience, the maturity is about the same, but that's just what I've seen. As for 21 being when things even out, I meant as in a few years difference, not necessarily 10. I guess I just view it as being better that teens date closer to their own age range because when I was younger and dated guys that were two or three years older they tended to be very sexually geared and into drugs/alcohol. All of the last part of the original post was my opinion though for myself and what I would do, not what I'm telling everyone else to do. It was based on my experience and what people close to me have experienced and based on how well the relationship worked out. When people I knew dated someone that were much older than them while they were under 18, those relationships ended badly. Whereas, when they were over say 20 or 21 and dated people much older the relationship tended to work out and if it ended they remained friends at least.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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feefiefofemme
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I think, really, it depends on the situation and the people involved. Obviously, everyone develops at their own pace, and just because you're the same age as someone does not mean you're in the same place emotionally, developmentally, intellectually, or anything else-ually as them. Legal restrictions aside, I don't think there's really any problem with age differences, as long as the relationship is a healthy one. Though, that said, I can't help but feel a little... startled? concerned? when a teenager is in a relationship with a 30-plus year old.
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Heather
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My point is that developmentally, teen men ARE a few years behind teen women, particularly when it comes to sex, and that's really not a matter of opinion: it's biological.

It certainly varies from person to person to some degree -- because puberty doesn't work on an in-years timetable the same way for everyone -- but it is still a biological given, and all the more so of late with female puberty starting to begin even earlier.

So, I'd feel very odd about not including that in a conversation about this issue, and suffice it to say, I'd be very uncomfortable only making age difference an issue when it came to older men, or when it came to men who are older, by age or development, especially since in so many ways, young men are very much encouraged by culture NEVER to say they aren't ready for sex.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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Ah, ok I see what you mean. I got confused by your meaning of developmentally. I thought you meant maturity.
So, how should I rephrase the question then with consideration to development?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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You can make it not just about girls dating older guys, and recognize age-disparate relationships -- or heck, since you made it about varying wants and needs, people in relationships where both people don't want or aren't ready for the same things -- can pose potential challenges for people of any sex or gender, okay?

(And development and maturity are not separate, either: they are often interrelated, even though our sexual development and our emotional maturity do not necessarily completely determine one another. Just bear in mind that it is SO much easier for women to dismiss or discount male readiness sometimes when they think about it, because whereas you see a lot of women saying they aren't ready and being forced or coerced into doing things they don't want, men put the same pressures on young men, and they tend to manifest by young men never feeling able to say thay aren;t ready, so determining male readiness based on age, or what they seem to YOU isn't all that reliable a measure.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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Heather,
That better? And again, sorry for making it appear about only guy/girl relationships. It wasn't my intention.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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Yep, thanks! [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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babygurl2285
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I personally don't believe a difference in age matters. My parents don't think i should date guys more than 3 years older than me, but I don't see why it would matter. My boyfriend is 5 years older than me and we've had no problems in our relationship except keeping it from my parents. I think it depends on the two people involved in the relationship.

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ashley_love
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I also agree. I have been dating my boyfriend for about 6 months and he is 4 years older then me. We have no issues in the relationship except trying to keep our parents finding out about the 'intimate' things. But they are okay with us being together.
I do not always support having an older partner. Sometimes they pressure you into things to fast and minipulate you. But I am also not saying all older partners are bad, sometimes you get lucky and find someone really great. I kinda fell into the pattern my parents made, there are 14 years between them. And they have been together for 15 years but happily married for 13. (Which i think is a good example) But then there are cases like my aunt and no longer uncle, they started dating when she was 13 and him 17. They were married and divorced twice. They were together till two years ago. Heck i have even had a friend who was 13 and dating a 20 year old, sadly he raped her after being with her 5 months. (But no he is in jail) So all cases are different. It is more of a personal prefrence and what you feel is right.

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*ash*

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appleXsauce
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Okay... so here's my story... i'm 17 years old and have been seeing a 25 year old for about 7 months. i never would have pictured myself seeing someone so much older than me a few years ago but it seems natural at the moment. my father and step mother support our relationship for various reasons. mainly being that at this point in his (my boyfriend's) life he has a stable carer as a professional athlete and a track record of responsibility. both my father and my step mother have told me that they would rather me see him than a teen age boy who is more likely to be less stable. my biological mother thinks he's a great person but is uncomfortable with leaving us alone (for visits etc.) as far as i know it is illegal for us to have sex in most states until i am 18 but i don't know if those laws apply to dating as well (without the sexual factors). at the moment he does not live in the US and would only be able to visit every once in a while.
My question i guess is what do you guys think about this situation... and... is it legal. if not, any way i can find out when it will be for me? i have done research on age of consent and age of majority but the info is a bit flakey... different from each source. i'm really needing help on this from a different perspective. the two of us are far to into each other to be able to look at our situation objectively. we want to be able to have a more serious relationship but neither of us are sure if it's legal. and i don't want him getting into trouble.

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*kris*

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piscesian
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My grandparents were 20 years apart. Even though that's back in the day, I consider having a "20 year age limit." Especially since I'm old enough. But that's just me.
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Channy
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Well, believe it or not, my mother and father were 35 years apart. (Yes, no joke!) So I guess I have grown up with age not being a major conflict. You can't help who you fall in love with, right?

Right now my boyfriend is 4 years older than me, and this relationship has been much more successful so far than when i've dating people my own age. I believe a lot of it has to do with maturity levels..

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James the Dark
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I've never considered age to be a factor, if the two people involved are both rational, informed, and consenting. I have no problem with May-December, in either direction. Of course, teenagers with 25+'ers I always view with suspicion. There's always the chance that the elder is exploiting the younger.

I also acknowledge the difference in maturity between boys and girls of the same age. That's why pubescent males can be such morons sometimes (and I say this as one who used to be a pubescent male). Of course, at the age I am now, it seems that women my age are too sweet, unsullied, and unspoiled for me to associate with. That's probably not just due to age though... My, I seem to be wandering off topic.

I don't know why, but even I seem to mark a distinction between O-Y relationships when the younger is above 20 as being, if not completely fine, then at least a lot less unhealthy than those where the younger has even a single less year.

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"And you're really asking me if I prefer injury to embarrassment? That's not even a choice. I don't know anybody who's literally died of embarrassment."

People are annoying sometimes.

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summergoddess
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Age isn't really an issue if both partners are consenting and informed. In my early dating days, I however had a five year age limit. The biggest gap in a relationship was at when I was with my ex for a month. I was 17, and he was 21. However when it came to casual dating, I was at the five year limit, me at 17 and a different guy being 22 on one time date. When I was still 17 but reaching very close to 18, I entered in a long-term relationship with someone who is only 6 months older than me (December to June). We have since tied the knot in 2006 with me being 22 and him 23.

My friends all either have a year or two in between their partners and whoever they are casually dating with.

It really depends on who you are with, and how much of compatitablity there is regardless of age and what not.

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~Jules

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youngNcurious
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i personally dont think that age should be a problem...ive been with my boyfriend for a year n a half and hes 6 years older than me...im about to be 15 n hes going to be 21 but like channy said its been more succesful than any other relaionship...does it look bad though???sometimes hes unsure about our relationship because of some problems with my mom in the past but i love him so what can i do
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DarkChild717
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youngNcurious, in your case, it's a bit more complicated: the Age of consent in New York is a 15-17 split. This means that at fifteen and sixteen, there's a limit on how much older your partner can be. This is going to be 60 months, or five years. At your age, this means that your partner is committing a crime if he does much more than hold your hand. This isn't about rebelling, or age not being a bit deal; if he is caught and convicted, he would be labeled a sex offender, which is a lifelong tag. This will prevent him from doing a lot of things in his future.

If it's successful, and you want it to work, you can, but you need to understand that any sexual aspect needs to halt until you're of age for both of your protection, okay?

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pplotus
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I think a big age difference may be a bit of a handful when we're teens, but it won't destroy mankind. When I first told my parents about my grilfriend, they weren't very sure it was 'healthy' to be involved with someone 'so' young. My gf is 3 years younger than me (im 21 she's 18) but he have had no problems sharing and understanding each other. However, we've known each other for over 5 years (and have dated for about 1 and a half).
Personally, as long as it's legal and both parts respect and understand each other's needs, i think there's no problem.

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Darcy783
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My sister recently got out of a relationship with a man who's in his late thirties. My sister is a year younger than I am, and I'm 24. It worked for her, I guess, but such a large age gap just isn't for me, so I won't even consider dating a man more than five years older or younger than I am.

Younger, because 1) I want to make sure it's legal, and there are too many different laws about the age of consent to keep them straight, and 2) I'm 24, so anyone more than 5 years younger than I am is younger than 19, and 19-year-old guys are less mature (physically, emotionally, whatever) than 19-year-old girls, and I remember that when I was 19, I was markedly less mature than I am now. I knew I wanted a good relationship, I just didn't necessarily know how to be in one, and since guys at that age are even less mature than girls, I wouldn't want to date a guy who probably wouldn't treat me right due to his lack of real relationship experience causing him not to know how to treat me with respect.

I won't date anyone more than five years older than I am for a completely different (and I think a whole lot more practical) reason than that. Simply put, if I'm in a relationship, I'm in it for the long haul, so I seek out men to date who are able to show that they want a commitment of some sort. All that's fine and dandy, as long as I can find one. But if he's more than five years older than I am, there's a higher risk that he'd die long (i.e. more than a year or two) before I do, and I'm not sure I'd want to a) be alone for the rest of my--possibly a lot--longer life after his death, or b) have to go through the whole process of finding another man after the pain of losing someone with whom I'd been in a relationship (most likely marriage, in my case) for more than a decade or five--assuming he would die a natural death around 60 or 80. So, I just avoid dating men more than five years older than I am, in the hopes that the gap between his death and mine won't be too long.

[ 10-03-2007, 11:34 PM: Message edited by: Darcy783 ]

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Andromache
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I'm seventeen, and my boyfriend is twenty-one. When we met, I was sixteen, and he was just turning twenty.

The age difference was a huge issue at the beginning of our relationship, and is almost negligible now; we are both college students (and were when we got together), but when we first began seeing one another, I was just starting college, and he was a junior - so while technically we were both approximately peers, he had a great deal more experience to go with his age than I did. Now that I'm midway through my sophomore year, the age difference doesn't interfere much, as our experience levels have averaged out, but it mattered a great deal in the beginning.

My general feelings are that if and when I have another heterosexual relationship, I don't want to do so with someone whose life experiences are considerably more advanced than my own. That is to say, though I am going to be younger than most of my peers for a long time, having skipped two years of high school to go to college, I'm going to be more concerned about stages of life than just age as a number. So I'd rather date a twenty-four year old in college than a twenty-two year old who's been living on his own for five years.

That said, I'd mostly rather date people my own age from now on!

I also think age/power differences aren't necessarily the same in homosexual relationships, or maybe just lesbian ones, because for some reason I feel much less intimidated by the idea of dating and sex with an older woman than with an older man.

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Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

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RebootJive
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Most of my life, I felt kind of reluctant about it. After all, what could people so far apart chronologically see in eachother? This was kind of hypocritical, since I have always been attracted to men between 3 and 10 years my senior. I just didn't see that as a huge difference, since I was quick to develop both mentally and physically.

But then...

I met a guy. A guy 27 years my senior. No, he's not rich. Nor is he in danger of dying of a heart attack. No, he's mild-manned 45-year-old who lives in a small boat in the Bahamas, looks 10 years younger than he is, and connects to me and all my eccentricites in a way that most people, young or old, don't.

So, at this point, I have come to realize something: everyone is different. Age doesn't matter. If people hit it off, they hit it off. They age, race, gender, or social status don't matter.

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-Reboot

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Heather
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quote:
Age doesn't matter. If people hit it off, they hit it off. They age, race, gender, or social status don't matter.

I really do think it's best with statement like this to add a "to me," rather than to voice them like unilateral givens, okay? Especially since phrases like "age doesn't matter" are pretty powerful things to say to someone who really, really wants to think that's so, even when in their own situation that isn't the case. We have a pretty profound social problem when it comes to older adults dating teens with some pretty undeniable, and not at all positive, statistics: in particular, an awful lot of teen women are exploited or manipulated by older men. Not all, by any means, but it is a pretty big problem, so I think it's important we be cautious with how we word stuff like this.

I mean, I know age sure matters to me: I, given my job, obviously connect with an awful lot of young people, who clearly feel comfortable with me, but I don't want to date someone decades younger than myself, for a host of reasons I think are pretty valid. That also doesn't mean I can't hit it off with people younger than me, but rather, that it doesn't feel appropriate to me (to a point that while I wouldn't say I feel an aversion, I don't feel an attraction, either: I feel like I'm looking at my friends kids, not a peer) nor do I think that connection makes a romantic or sexual relationship the right thing for me or the young people who feel I understand them. Mind, some of that may well be because I also was way ahead of my years even when I was young, so it's just mighty tough for me with younger people to be in anything but a mentorship position, and because of being in that position, I'm well aware that I'm seen as a mentor, and don't really feel like romance/sex and mentorship make for a good mix. I guess that I also feel like I'm old enough, and have seen enough, to be able to do a pretty good job of figuring out in what relationship I'm of the most benefit, and the most positive, for someone else -- and that it's important for everyone to do that -- and from my vantage point, I can be of a lot more benefit to younger people, and be a lot more sure the relationship they have with me is positive, by making that relationship be one of friendship and mentorship, acknowledging that we really aren't peers, even if we connect and afford each other respect.

It may also have to do with my gender, for a whole host of reasons.

I also know that some of those other factors -- gender, race, social status -- have certainly mattered in my life, even when I would have preferred they didn't! For instance, it's pretty darn hard to be dating someone living off a trust fund and very cavalier about money when you're working 60 hours a week and still can barely pay the rent. I could go on and tell a partner of a completely given culture and heritage how much it doesn't matter, but my perspective on that is going to be a lot different if, say, they're the one who may lose a family or community they love by being with me. Needless to say, given the worlds biases, how these things matter to others always impacts us, even if and when we disagree.

That's me talking, but that's also an awful lot of people's experience (as are relationships where that isn't the case -- point is that yep, everyone is different, so unilaterals aren't so sound).

And often? Hindsight can make a pretty big difference. Personally, I have had some positive realtionships with older partners (though not with a spread as large as yours), but the older I get, and the more I realize and get to know the position the older person, or the far-more-life-experienced person is really in -- something I couldn't possibly have known or understood when I was far younger, and the younger person in the relationship -- the more I look differently at those relationships than I did. That doesn't necessarily mean aspects of them weren't positive, or that that changes those, but it does shed light on some things that makes the conflicts and disconnects make a lot more sense, and shows up some hidden negatives I hadn't seen at the time, which I certainly wouldn't have seen in those relationships when they were new, and didn't even have a hint of until they'd gone on for some time, as in, years.

quote:
No, he's not rich.
And there's SO no need to deny cruddy social sterotypes here: we work pretty hard to make this a space where there's just no place for those. [Smile]

[ 10-08-2007, 01:44 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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RebootJive
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I still think my statement is fundamentally correct. You can't help who you like. You CAN help who you decide to be in a relationship with. After all, just because you like him doesn't mean you will be with him. And if age is one of those things that could make you decide that liking him isn't enough, that's fine. It's true: love ISN'T all you need.

But not acting on an attraction is not the same as saying the attraction doesn't exist.

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-Reboot

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orca
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quote:
Originally posted by Andromache:
I also think age/power differences aren't necessarily the same in homosexual relationships, or maybe just lesbian ones, because for some reason I feel much less intimidated by the idea of dating and sex with an older woman than with an older man.

I wonder how many other people feel the same way, that older women are somehow less intimidating sexually than older men. Could part of it be the idea of an older woman being represented in society as a nurturing and motherly figure? Could it be because society often portrays older men in relationships with younger guys or girls as lecherous and taking advantage of the young girls or guys? Any opinions on this one?

[ 10-08-2007, 05:20 AM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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-Lauren-
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I guess I'll need to speak out here, then, as somebody who HAS been exploited by a much older man.

You can bet your *** I riled off on the unfairness of it all, the "Age is just a number/doesn't matter", the consent laws, etc. at the age of 15 or 16. Also, I was lucky enough to have the safety net of communicating with him solely online and having no way to legally meet him. I shudder to think of the results if he had managed to coax me into a meeting.

I don't want to go into too many details due my privacy, but let's just say I was coerced into many sexual activities I wasn't comfortable with (to my knowledge, he's still hoarding the photos I took and has possibly shared them with others). All he could ever talk about was how he bragged to his friends about bagging a piece of "jailbait". He seemed sophisticated, smart, funny, and all that.. until I made a realization in a year or so (which we often advise to users is enough time for personal growth enough to stop any relationship in its tracks).

He was immature. He was needy. He hated women his own age, and always had failed relationships with them. With men like this? They AREN'T oh-so-sophisticated-and-wise; they're immature as **** for their age, even when you don't want to see it, but that's mostly because -- uh huh, face it -- YOU'RE at that mental level he should be far beyond as a healthy person of his age. A man who is healthy and sound and generally well-off will seek partners his own age. Yup.

Soo.. I know if ya'll are anything like me, you think it can't be true for YOUR guy, and can't be convinced otherwise. Well, I don't blame you; it'll hit you in a year or so. My best advice is to NOT plot anything long-term (or even exclusive), be very careful limit-setting, and keep an ear out for bragging sessions -- it's ego-flattering when you're an insecure 15 year old, but you DON'T want ANY of your self-worth to revolve around your young sexuality in the eyes of men disrespectful enough to tell intricate details of your anatomy and evens share photos without your permission. That **** there? Is the norm rather than the exception.

(By the way? I realized most of this only when I met and started dating someone close to my own age who was AGES more mature and respectful who was only 18 at the time. So, there goes the "more mature than younger guys" argument. Oh-so-mature Guy 1 threatened suicide when I "left".)

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Heather
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quote:
I wonder how many other people feel the same way, that older women are somehow less intimidating sexually than older men. Could part of it be the idea of an older woman being represented in society as a nurturing and motherly figure? Could it be because society often portrays older men in relationships with younger guys or girls as lecherous and taking advantage of the young girls or guys? Any opinions on this one?

Well, from a class-based/feminist perspective it's pretty cut and dried, simply because the value of women still generally tends to be about youth and sexual desireability, as well as fecundity, so from a class perspective, women's value, power and influence is generally presented as becoming lower with age. For men, it's quite the opposite: we hear plenty about men "coming into their own," even though women most certainly do as well, but the way men as a class value women as a class, that's not seen as accruing in value, but being LESS valuable. the scales never quite balance out, but the only time they even come close is in VERY old age.

Men's salaries (again, as a class, individual results may vary) and property acquisitions tend to increase as they age, and even their attractiveness is often put forth as increasing with age: not so with women. Straight women have gone on -- and plenty still do -- and on, and on about how terribly sexy Sean Connery is, and he is 77 years old now, and surgery-less for what I can gather. Try and find the 77-year-old woman, or even a woman who at the age of firty or sixty hasn't botoxed herself to the nines who you hear throngs of men or women going on about her sex appeal. Note with actors at what point women are only given roles as someone's mother, not as romantic lead or lover, and at what age -- if you can find one -- that even changes for men, at all.

From that perspective, it's pretty unsurprising that older women are seen as less intimidating or powerful. It's also unsurprising we would be seen as less of a threat when it comes to may-december relationships: we ARE less of a threat, because in general an older woman of a given age has less power and less influence than a man of her same age. Initimidation is all about the actual or perceived power a person has: to intimidate means to make someone else fearful or timid. Women, as a class, have less power across the board, at every age, and thus, intimidate less -- we generally aren't fearful or made silent or timid by someone who we see as an equal or as less powerful than we.

And even the "power" younger women are often given or started to have is a permitted power, is a power based on their value TO men, as individuals and a class, so even for younger women who are fertile, and are thought to be desireable, that status is often dependent on how they use it to benefit men.

[ 10-08-2007, 01:16 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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I wanted to add a link in here, with some words I think are pretty powerful from Hugo Schwyzer, and which speak to the differences and issues with age when we're talking expressly about sexual relationships or romances, not other kinds of relationships, and also to issues that tend to be specific to young women and older men (and more greatly than they might be were the world a very different place, and women's equality something earnestly real).

quote:
In my work, it is absolutely critical that I never, ever, respond to the sexuality of the young women with whom I interact. This has nothing to do with preserving my job, and everything to do with the precious integrity of my work on gender issues. Now, at the risk of the accusation of narcissism, I will share that I do get plenty of female students who flirt with me, a few quite brazenly. (My colleagues tell me it will happen less after I turn 40.) I don't let it go to my head much, because I understand that it's not Hugo they really want. At the risk of sounding paternalistic, what they really want is to be noticed, to be seen, to be validated as good and worthy and interesting individuals. And they believe -- with good reason in most cases -- that using their sexuality is hands down the best (if not the only way) to get that attention that they rightly want.

If I were to flirt back, or if I were to date a student, I am convinced I would send a devastating message about what older men "really" want. Young women need older men in their lives who will respect and care about them, who aren't their fathers or brothers but who aren't prospective lovers, either. They need to know that they bring more to the table than their sexuality. They need to be seen as complete human beings. Paradoxically, seeing young women as complete human beings means that in actions, words, and yes, even in thought, older men cannot see them as objects of sexual desire. That doesn't mean that we (older guys) shouldn't acknowledge that younger women are sexual creatures. But we must (and the burden is on us alone here, fellas) love them with radical unselfishness,and that requires that we ourselves always refrain from sexualizing them.

I'll confess, there aren't a whole lot of male bloggers, especially on gender issues, that I enjoy, but I like Hugo, and he has a pretty amazing and thoughtful body of work. I also think what he has to say on this issue, from the perspective of a man, is pretty important.

He's obviously primarily talking about older men per younger women and men, but it's a pretty awesome read: the whole thing lives here.

[ 10-08-2007, 02:44 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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That made me think a lot about the student-professor relationship. I think one of the main problems is that students will mistake respect/admiration for infatuation or love. My first semester at college, I admit that I got a crush on my history professor, but after close consideration I realized that it wasn't a crush afterall but rather a deep respect for him and his teaching style. I think part of it also develops out of a need to be considered intelligent and different from the other students, a need which can be especially strong at a larger college where professors might not even know your name.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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(Just realized I sort of passed you over, Nomad. Sorry, didn't mean to do that.)

I was by no means stating the attraction didn't exist. The phrase I was objecting to was "age doesn't matter" (and the following statements about how gender, race or economic class don't, either).

Because for pertty much everyone -- and for absolutely everyone who isn't living in a vaccuum -- they do. And they do BOTH in what we choose to do with certain feelings we might have AND in the feelings themselves. There is a long, long history of male social status among men being elevated by having sexual relationships with younger women, and a majority of men are reared with that message all around them: social conditioning is a pretty big deal, is usually internalized without any of us even knowing it, and something that we generally can only bypass if we actively work to investigate it and change how we think.

I mean, I don't mean to single this guy out, but for most men, age is going to matter to him, quite a lot. Again, there are obviously always exceptions to every rule, and people are diverse, but we can safely say -- even just by listening to men themselves and many of their words -- that somehow, he's much more likely to choose a sexual relationship with a woman your age when that's an option, than say, a woman with the same age difference he's got with you: than he would with a woman who was 72 years old. And his male peers would congratulate him far more for his relationship with you than for his relationship with her: in fact, he'd likely have to put up with a lot of pretty vile teasing, and endlessly defend why she's valuable, why he wants to be with her, etc. If he's a heterosexual man, your gender likely mattered a great deal, too.

Orca made a post here about dating, so I think it's really iffy, at best, to say that age (or race, or anything else) "doesn't matter" in that context. Not only again, is that issue very specific to the relationship, I think we can safely say that for most people, it has and it does.

It might even for you once the bloom is off the rose in this relationship. In my early twenties, the older partner I met and was with for close to five years was 16 years my elder. Mind, neither of us even KNEW that until our third or fourth date, because we both felt so confident in our assesment of the other's age (I presumed him to be just a few years older than me, he presumed me to be a few years younger), but when we both found out, it was a pretty big deal, despite the fact that in many ways, we WERE at a similar stage of our life. I had started to leave home at 15, had already had college and was starting my own business, had paid my bills for years, had my own place, etc. We met both having equal stage-time at a folk circle we both were musicians in. The sexual asepct of our relationship, even before we knew we had an age diff, was totally initiated by me (and quite casually: I more often had casual partners than serious ones then, and was comfortable having sex quite a lot with quite a lot of people). And we just dug each other, and yep, connected.

And really, to this day, I'll tell you it was a fantastic relationship, and one which, in doing a lot of listening to many young women or men in relationships with older men (and sometimes women, but really, patriarchy does seem to color all of this), I've become well aware was an exception, not a rule. We're still friends, and still chat or see each other when we're in the same town every one or two years. We also both have never since been in a relationship with that disparity, because ultimately, the downsides did outweigh the benefits, and we only were able to get the benefits back, and seem to REALLY connect, once we were friends, only. To his credit, he also was very cognizant of my age, and made clear pretty early on that he knew full well I'd outgrow him so long as he didn't try to hold me back from my own development, and had come to accept that. (I, of course, was convinced he was wrong, because even as an old-21, I was sure I had so little growth left to do: boy, was the joke on me.)

We had an amicable breakup, but it came to be in many ways because of that age difference. His family was awesome, but, also being wise, they just didn't take the relationsip too seriously, knowing my age. They also were very concerned that he was behaving in a way -- by dating me -- that wasn't in line with the ethics they reared him with, per being non-exploitive. Even with someone who was very kind to me, and with whom I had a good friendship (and considerably more sexual experience on my side, no less), it was often very tough for us to be on an even keel. We were always very candid with each other, he was a very pro-feminist man, and more than once voiced very honestly that he realy did struggle not to lord things over me sometimes just because he could. The relationship also had a limited mileage because -- as an older person being honest will tel you -- your life isn't as flexible the older you get. You can't as easily ditch crummy jobs, or move around a lot, or make new friends, etc. You can't as easily reinvent yourself the way you can when you're younger.

I feel like I'm lecturing, and I don't mean to. I'm just pretty cautious about blanket statements, but I'm extra cautious about this one, in this cloation, particularly, because we see SO many girls here (and in YA populations in general: just look at the imbalance with teen unwanted pregnancy rates, per the greatest rates being with those with "mature" older partners) who are, at worse, really exploited by the much-older guyes who, at first, they of course see and want to see age as irrelevant with, or at worst, just kind of blindsided, expecting to be treated as equal, but discovering that if that was even there at all at the start, rather than merely presented that way, it doesn't often last for long.

Obviously, there are often some good wanring signs for when an age-disparate relationship is more likely to be crummy or exploitive. If you can see that the older person you're dating who says it was just happenstance in connecting with you just happens to always have younger partners, that's a good be-on-the-lookout-for-the-badness. If and when older partners seem to often, especially at first, be saying what the younger partners want to hear -- that we're SO mature for our age, SO different from others our age, SO unlike older people, blah blah -- it's another good one: people who respect us and don't have agendas don't only say what they know is what we want to hear. And if and when someone with more power than us goes on about how it doesn't matter, it's sage to pay attention, because they've been young, and they KNOW it matters, and know it influences things a lot: it just doesn't matter as much to them anymore, or, more accurately, they benefit more from it in the configuration they're in than they once would have. I know for myself that had my ex and I not had that big moment of surprise, and not had a LOT of conversations trying to work out if it really was kosher for us to be in a romantic and sexual relationship, I would have in no way been okay pursuing that, because that earnest reservation said an awful lot about his character.

So, perhaps we can agree to meet in the middle somewhere, and not deny that age (and any issue in which there are class difference between groups) makes a difference when you're in a dating relationship -- especially one where age isn't the only class difference -- while still acknowledging that not every given age difference guarantees a specific result, or is necessarily exploitive on anyone's part?

[ 10-08-2007, 03:41 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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quote:
That made me think a lot about the student-professor relationship. I think one of the main problems is that students will mistake respect/admiration for infatuation or love. My first semester at college, I admit that I got a crush on my history professor, but after close consideration I realized that it wasn't a crush afterall but rather a deep respect for him and his teaching style. I think part of it also develops out of a need to be considered intelligent and different from the other students, a need which can be especially strong at a larger college where professors might not even know your name.
Perhaps of interest, orca (and by the way, you have started some awesome topics here lately, thanks!), a friend of mine who just retired from the military and worked specifically in prevention of sexual harassment and violence there, talks about this a lot. He's mentioned that often, on both sides, younger women and older (and usually higher-ranked) men get into trouble, misunderstandings, and deep betrayal (on the part of the person who has been harassed or abused) because of being unable to make that distinction, or because one party had made it, but knows or thinks they can get away with something because the other has not.

I've often wondered how I didn't wind up in situations like this in my teens, good or ill, because I felt so far ahead in my years, and by all means, had a deep need to be validated and respected by others, especially people older than me, since I often felt I had so little in common with many of my peers. And I think Hugo is right: most women are taught that we have a shot of getting into the door of that via sex, or that even sex alone will fill that need. But for all the way-older-men who came knocking (I dated men and women, but I never had an eolder woman hit on me, to my knowledge), even if I thought they were good to look at, or there was cool stuff about them, a capital R-relationship with them just seemed...I don't know, not really possible or at all compelling.

I did have a father who was very straight with me -- as were his friends -- about how older men often see young women when sex and romance is on the table, but more importantly, I think, because of the advanced art programs/school I was in, I got a lot of recognition and respect from older people for the things I actually did, things I worked hard for, things I survived, etc. without them asking or requiring anything back from me for themselves, sparing my own mutual respect. By the time I started my first business running a school, I was the 22-year-old a lot of smart, progressive parents put a great deal of trust in to care for an educate their kids: that seemed a far greater measure of respect for me than some older guy wanting in my pants (though if there wasn't a status in it for them, that would certainly have caused some difference in my thinking). I also have always been pretty acutely socially observant, and I didn't miss the fact that the friends of mine the older guys seemed to have the most interest in were often the most doe-eyed and seemingly (even if they weren't always this way in anything but how they were percieved) naive, needy or inexperienced. In other words, those situations most often weren't recognizing anyone's maturity at all -- quite the opposite.

(Too, I was also the gal in the punk scene who, when the way-older guys, including guys in some well-known bands, would make my girlfriends all crushy, heave them go on about how "cool" they were, that if they were hanging out with a bunch of high school girls, with us -- and the older women in the club, the ones who were their same age, often could have cared less about these guys, though they cared plenty about the smiliar-in-age guys who were NOT hitting on all of us -- how cool could they really be? [Smile] )

[ 10-08-2007, 03:50 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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My Nigga
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God you girls write too much.

Heres the DL, no one really cares THAT much about your relationship, if you're happy, you're happy. END of story. Just keep it kosher and ur in the clear

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-Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by My Nigga:
God you girls write too much.

Your reply is rude and offers nothing to the ongoing discussion. You need to review the guidelines if you intend to continue posting.

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I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns. --Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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SFgrrrl
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Hey Heather,

You say you found 21 and 37 to be a pretty substantial difference, which sounds about right to me. What are your thoughts on 21 and 30? Do you think that would be much better? Slightly better?

And when you say you "outgrew" him, what do you mean?

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SFgrrrl
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"the older I get, and the more I realize and get to know the position the older person, or the far-more-life-experienced person is really in -- something I couldn't possibly have known or understood when I was far younger, and the younger person in the relationship -- the more I look differently at those relationships than I did. That doesn't necessarily mean aspects of them weren't positive, or that that changes those, but it does shed light on some things that makes the conflicts and disconnects make a lot more sense, and shows up some hidden negatives I hadn't seen at the time, which I certainly wouldn't have seen in those relationships when they were new, and didn't even have a hint of until they'd gone on for some time, as in, years."

Also, I would be very interested to hear more in-detail about this. Like what specific negatives you saw later that you didn't see at the time, in a relationship that was still largely positive...?

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