When I was much younger, I used to often feel that my youth was the most important and appealing thing I could bring to a relationship. That’s because the men I dated largely treated me as if it was. At 19, I started sleeping with older men – much older. Even today, I tend to date older men pretty often.
But something in my approach has changed dramatically over the last decade plus. And now I’m in my 30s, I’m so, so done with men (it’s always been men in my experience) who fetishise youth. Men whose dream women is 18 or 19, maybe very early 20s. When I think back to the way some of my past older partners reacted to my age, the way they’d treat me like meat or potential bragging rights when I walked into a sex positive space, it makes my skin crawl.
But what’s wrong with dating younger?
Nothing, inherently, assuming all parties involved are consenting adults. But your motivation and way of thinking about your (actual or hypothetical) much younger partner really matters.
It’s one thing to fall in love with someone much younger than you, if you genuinely connect and have things in common. It’s another entirely to consider age itself to be a selling point. At this point in my life, if I see a man exclusively chasing very young women, I consider that a serious red flag. What is it about women his own age that he can’t handle?
We live in a youth-obsessed world
In a world where a 37 year old female actor is considered “too old” for a romantic role, in a world where women are encouraged to use anti-aging products in our fucking twenties, in a world where a man in his 30s on a dating site will tell a women of 26 that she’s too old for him, we cannot deny that we live in a youth-obsessed world.
There’s an immense power to saying “fuck it” to this. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I certainly haven’t got it completely down, and I definitely Had Some Feelings when I turned 30.
But I’ve also realised that I’m way hotter, more desirable, and more of a catch as a partner in my 30s than I ever was in my teens and early 20s. And I fully expect the same to be true into my 40s and beyond. Here’s why.
I know who I am now
I know exactly why a certain type of older man likes very young women. It’s because they feel that they can mold those women, shape them into their idea of feminine perfection. And when I was that naive teenager and 20-something, I let men (one in particular, but not just him) do that to me.
But you know what’s awesome? Someone who knows who they are. There’s a tremendous confidence in being able to say “this is me, take it or leave it”, and knowing that if they choose the latter, they’re the one missing out.
This extends to knowing my body, too. Men like some of my exes, men who want women as close to virgins (a social construct, by the way) as possible, are missing out. The purity-obsessives I’ve slept with wanted to bring all the ideas, call all the shots, introduce me to all the things I’d never done before. They never considered how awesome it might be to have sex with someone who could bring her own ideas, introduce them to some things too, or tell them exactly how to get her off.
I can say no now
I was never very good at saying no in my younger years. Whether it was going along with sex I didn’t want, smiling and swallowing my disappointment when a guy let me down again, or wearing shoes I couldn’t walk in just because he thought they were sexy.
But when you don’t feel like you can say no, your yes is meaningless. The older I get, the more I embrace the power of “no”. And to paraphrase something one of my partners said recently, if they can trust me to say no when I mean no, they know that my yes is genuine and heartfelt.
And enthusiastic, wholehearted consent is sexy to any right thinking person.
I’m no longer relying on something fleeting
Here’s the biggest headfuck about dating a man who fetishised my youth: I knew that I was worth less and less to him with every passing year. None of us can get younger. None of us can magically become nineteen again.
But now I’m in my 30s, I feel as though I’m relying on other things to attract and keep partners and lovers. Personality, intelligence, kindness and compassion. (I would say wit, but I’m not funny – I know my limitations!)
And those things don’t fade with each year that passes. Focusing on things I can cultivate, rather than something that will disappear no matter how hard I try to hang onto it, has been profoundly freeing.
I expect more now
Self-esteem and valuing of yourself is extremely sexy. (And if you think it’s not and prefer partners with low self-esteem, well, that sounds like a significant You Problem). I’m less easily impressed and hold my relationships to a much higher standard.
As I explained it to my metamour recently, there was a time that I was always the youngest and maddest of any polycule I was a part of. This meant I inevitably got cast in the role of the flit-in, flit-out Manic Pixie who would let the older men I dated vicariously re-experience their own youth.
But I’m saner and tireder and I expect more from relationships now. I’m done being some dude’s midlife crisis. I’d rather be his equal, whether we have an age-gap or not.
A note to younger women
None of this is intended in any way to disparage young women in their late teens and early 20s. I am not, as someone rather charmingly put it on Fetlife recently, simply jealous because my “older pussy” is less desirable to men.
If anything, what I want younger women to take from this is a message of hope and empowerment. I have all the love for you, because I was you a few short years ago. And I don’t want you to give these years of your life to an older dude whose main reason for being with you is your age, not because you’re amazing (even though you are).
If you take nothing else from this post, take this: men who fetishise you for your youth are deeply creepy and should be avoided. You deserve someone who knows you get more and more awesome with every passing year.
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