Age is not just a number

Chloe Williams, Assistant Web Editor

They say age is just a number, but is it really? While a 14 year age gap between a 43 and 57-year-old seems normal, the 14 years in between a 18-year-old and a 32-year-old is a bit concerning. Age gap relationships are widely accepted and in most cases are the result of actual love; regardless, it begs the question: what do these older love interests crave and achieve through these relationships with those half their age? 

Imagine your daughter has just graduated high school and she is about to move off to college, but before leaving wants to introduce you to her boyfriend. Upon finding out he is 32-years-old, you become concerned. Not necessarily for the obvious concerns in an age gap relationship like maturity or difference in life goals, rather for deeper reasons like “what could a 32-year-old have in common or want with a freshly legal teenager?” 

Not only are 18 and 32-year-olds at completely different stages in life, an 18-year-old is at their most impressionable and vulnerable point. A 32-year-old has already lived a full 14 years before the birth of their partner. These older offenders are preying on the insecurity, lack of stability and vulnerability of these young men and women. 

For young girls in particular, being with an older partner has been somewhat glorified. Growing up, I have known many girls ages 14-17 dating men in their mid to late 20’s. Their reactions to any backlash were always the same, “boys in middle/high school are so immature,” “I like older men” and, of course, “I’m mature for my age.” Looking back on how normalized this was feels so wrong. These girls were victims being groomed and didn’t even know it. At their most vulnerable, these grown men lusted after them with promises of happiness and true love. 

Older men aren’t always the perpetrators in these scenarios and older women get away with similar situations all the time without any backlash. Take Sam Taylor-Johnson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson for example: Sam Taylor-Johnson (at the time Sam Wood) is a director and met Aaron while casting for her debut film “Nowhere Boy.” They began dating when he was 18 and she was 42. Not only was she much older, she was his superior and provided him with connections and fame. Her behavior has been glossed over in the past and is only recently being called into question. 

Same-sex relationships aren’t immune from this as well. The idea for this article came from a Jubilee YouTube video, where contestants guess which couple has the largest age gap. The couple with the largest gap of 16 years consisted of two women, who are currently 20 and 36. In the video, they discuss the duration of their relationship being two years, meaning they started dating at 18 and 34. Attractiveness plays a role in the acceptance of relationships as well, both women being conventionally attractive, and the 36-year-old looking quite young, makes many less inclined to see an issue with this situation. Regardless of their sexuality and gender, this rubs the wrong way. Again, the question is asked “what does a 34 year old have in common with a teenager?” One commenter made the point, “I was fresh out of high school when I dated a 30 year old. At the time I would have argued I was mature, we ‘vibed’, all of the things the couples with the 16 & 12 year age gap are saying. Now that I’m 30 looking back- my view has totally changed. I can’t even fathom having a romantic relationship with an 18 year old because we are not at the same stages of life. No one is saying it’s illegal. But there’s a huge [difference] between a 20 and 40 year old dating versus a 30 year old and 45 year old etc.” Another example of this is in the film “Call Me by Your Name,” starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. This film romanticizes the relationship between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver. Despite being a wildly inappropriate age gap, their tale is told as one of love and lust rather than predation. Because of the fame surrounding each actor and the attractiveness of each, the relationship between Elio and Oliver is criticized far less than I think it should be. 

The conclusion to these claims is not that each age gap relation is bad, but rather the ethics and ulterior motives behind older men and women pursuing freshly legal teens and young adults. Regardless of fame, wealth, gender or sexuality, I believe it is time to call those pursuing young individuals out on their motives and for their predatory behavior.