Recently, BuzzFeed writer Andrew Kaczynski commented about an interesting trend he observed with regard to data from the dating website OKCupid:
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) June 6, 2014
Kaczynski thinks that it is “deeply disturbing” that men find younger women attractive. My question is this: why is this trend actually disturbing? Aside from the obvious biological realities (men are as naturally inclined to desire younger women as women are naturally inclined to favor taller, wealthier men), why are some of this nation’s most progressive people so close-minded when it comes to age-gaps in heterosexual relationships?
Modern society has come a long way with regard to discrimination and the fight against it. In the romantic context, this has led to a lot of interesting changes.
Religious and cultural boundaries that once stood in the way of many romantic unions have now largely been broken down. It was once quite difficult for a gentile to form a romantic relationship with a Jew in many parts of the developed world, with such unions coming under intense shaming and scrutiny from wider society invested in maintaining a separation between the two groups.
Today, such unions are fairly commonplace, and they are now often formed absent the kind of shame that was the norm during the adolescence of our grandparents. It simply isn’t okay to throw vitriol at a Jewish-Gentile couple in this day and age. If the individuals involved in the union are consenting adults who enjoy one another’s company, we rightfully see fit to leave them alone.
Similarly, it was once quite difficult for those of African descent to form romantic relationships with non-blacks, especially those of European heritage. The social pressure and shaming directed at those who participated in such unions was astronomical, and even the legal system in the United States was oriented to crush such relationships until just over 50 years ago. Though such unions are still subject to a significant degree of negative social pressure, it is no longer politically acceptable in mainstream western discourse to throw vitriol at a black-white couple.
We leave consenting adults alone to make their own decisions, and we respect them. The same goes for other interracial unions. Unions between Hispanics and whites in the USA were once generally discouraged, but are now the most common inter-ethnic combination in the USA. Asians and whites mingle freely, as do Hispanics and African-Americans. If you’re an individual seeking to form a romantic union with someone outside of your racial or ethnic group, you no longer face the wall of social shaming and legal discrimination your grandparents may have come against.
Society has come a long way with regard to the treatment of same-sex couples and their relationships. Gay men once had to live heavily closeted lives, even if they possessed large degrees of wealth or fame. The use of slurs designed to insult their preferences and their lifestyle was common in the mainstream media. People across society could voice their “disgust” for the “unnatural” acts associated with homosexuality openly and vigorously without facing any social consequences at all.
Today, prominent celebrities have to beg for forgiveness for merely uttering the word “fag”. Gay men live their lives openly in the mainstream media in full view of the world. Mainstream television shows now feature homosexual couples and even go as far as to openly display gay sexual activity. Those today who voice their “disgust” for these “unnatural” developments are now openly and vigorously shamed and face severe social consequences.
One may be led to wonder why it is that, despite all of the progress described above, it is somehow alright to shame older men who seek to date younger women. Older men who seek to date younger women are regularly described as “pervs” in the mainstream media, even if their younger partners are fully capable of legally consenting to a relationship. Their desire to date significantly younger women is described as a societal ill by some.
Andrew Kaczynski argues that the mere attraction these older men maintain for younger women is “deeply disturbing” in and of itself. He implies that this attraction that male adults feel for female adults really is a problem that should, ideally, be addressed and corrected.
If someone were to write an article about same sex unions claiming that the attraction that lesbian and gay adults feel for adults of their same sex is “deeply disturbing” in and of itself, would Andrew Kaczynski agree with it?
If someone were to write an article about interracial unions claiming that the desires of those who seek to form relationships and start families with individuals outside of their ethnic or racial group are “deeply disturbing”, would they be right?
Somehow, I do not believe that many of those who are most vocal in their opposition to older male-younger female unions would take kindly to either of those hypotheticals. Despite this, they remain vocal in their opposition and shaming of age-gap unions, as though those who maintain a desire for younger women have no real right to do so. Older women who seek much younger men are exciting, daring, sultry “cougars”, while their male counterparts are nasty, dangerous and highly undesirable “dirty-old men”, “perverts” and “creeps”.
These people are fine with individuals who choose to date outside of their race, their socio-economic class, or their religious group and don’t attach negative labels to them. They’re alright with men and women who choose to date other men and women. They’re alright with men and women who choose to change their gender and then date whoever they like. But an older man who seeks to date a younger woman is somehow out-of-bounds?
If discrimination is not alright, then it isn’t alright. You’re either committed to tolerance and determined to fully respect the choices that consenting adults make in their personal lives, or you aren’t. You can’t have it both ways.
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