Thursday, August 10, 2017

Age: My Personal Taboo

By Annabeth Leong

I think I’ve written here before about the disconcerting feeling I’ve been having recently, as my fantasies and desires change.

One of the main things I’ve noticed lately has to do with something that’s always been a personal taboo for me: age differences.

When I was younger, I had a number of very bad experiences with predatory older men. I also saw a lot of my friends have similar bad experiences. Even when the older men in question weren’t entirely predatory, the dynamics of large age differences really bothered me. (I once dated a man about twice my age, and will never forget the intense humiliation I felt when going with him to a picnic and discovering that his daughters were only a few years younger than me.)

I know many people are into this sort of dynamic (see the large variety of “Seducing my Best Friend’s Daddy” fiction on Amazon), but it’s always been a major squick and turn-off for me.

Age differences between same-gender partners bother me less, but it can still be a bit weird for me.

So, I don’t know what it is about my current age, but I’m finding myself much more likely to be attracted to people who are much younger than me or much older than me. Each of these presents its unique challenges and feelings.

The times I’ve been attracted to a much older person, I’ve worried that it’s a precursor to feeling the same sense of humiliation that I did in the past. On the other hand, there is a thrill to being the young, hot one in a relationship, and it’s nice to get that without also feeling like the easily manipulated one. There is really something about being desired for one’s youth and beauty, and I guess now that I’m undoubtedly a full grown adult, it feels kind of nice.

Being attracted to much younger people has only happened very recently. I feel very weird about that one, still. I think one of the things that’s happened is that I’m old enough now that people who are undoubtedly full grown adults can still be much younger than me.

It makes me uncomfortable because I worry that I’m being the predator or am trying to take advantage of someone. It also makes me feel vulnerable--like I’m old and foolish and uncool. I find myself having to resist making weird jokes around these people. It’s super weird to be talking about music or something and realize that I’m talking about things that happened before this person was born, or when they were a very small child. The dynamic makes me feel like I ought to be wise and all-knowing, but I’m obviously not, so then I worry that I’m just immature or that other people my own age will think I look stupid.

That said, there’s something very beautiful about these younger people. They’re sort of shimmery with possibility. I can see that they often have this unbroken idealism. In some ways, I feel able to be myself more easily around them, to share thoughts and ideas that might sound foolish, or to do things even when I don’t know what the effect will be.

One random thing I noticed, which I think is interesting, is that I’m more bisexual when younger people are involved. I’m not remotely interested in older men, and only very minimally interested in men my own age, but have recently been thinking that men about a decade younger than me are very attractive. Women and nonbinary people, on the other hand, are very attractive to me at all ages. So I’m not sure what it is about a man’s youthfulness that gets to me, but there’s something.

Anyway, that said, these attractions with age differences still feel very taboo to me. I’m not sure what it would take for me to get over them, and I think part of that is that I don’t really believe it would be okay to get over them.

That said, I’ve recently been dating a significantly younger woman (it came about partly because neither of us realized the other’s age for quite some time). It’s going well so far, I think? But if I’m being entirely honest, I’m still really worried about the age difference.

(Note: I read all your posts for this topic, but I didn’t have time to comment. I’ll be back to the usual practice soon, I hope!)


  1. It's a good sign if neither of you realized the other's age for quite some time. After a certain point (and up to a certain point) age is not a necessarily a defining factor in someone's identity.

  2. Though we may philosophize on the rights and wrongs of these feelings we have, we can't deny our own stimulations. We often have to curtail those feelings so as not to act upon them, but there's no use denying them. What to do with them otherwise?

  3. Really interesting post, Annabeth. One thing I wonder is why you feel you have to "get over" the feeling that these attractions are taboo. For one thing, mightn't that reduce the attraction?

    Maybe you're becoming less sensitive to the whole issue as you get older, because the age differences, as a proportion of your age, become much less. My first lover was six years older than I was. That felt like an enormous gap--and since he was in his twenties and I was in my teens, I guess it was. Six years now means nothing.

  4. When I was 26, I dated a 52 year old woman. She was an awesome influence in my life, helped me to understand that I could be myself and still be loved. In the end, we weren't entirely compatible, but the six months we spent together was very positive... And the sex was incredible!

  5. This is a fascinating and thought-provoking post—though, as often seems to be the case for me, the thoughts it provokes tend to be quite tangential and only marginally relevant. (:v>

    In some ways, I feel able to be myself more easily around them

    These days, Hilary and I feel we're often more on the wavelength of people about twenty years younger than us than we are with people our own age or older. (I'm speaking overall, of course, and there are plenty of counterexamples. We click great with people of all ages from the Grip!)

    Also tangentially, your post made me think about a concept of lovers as "peers": when and how that can be so despite chronological age differences, and when and how it might not. To what extent, and under what circumstances, does a sexual relationship make people playmates or teammates (which I see as "peer" constructs), at least in those moments that they're bedmates?

    Most tangentially of all, I'm thinking of a semi-surprising kiss on the lips bestowed on me by an ~80-year-old actress in a rehearsal a few years ago. It was in the script, but these days scripted kisses are usually faked or at least "cleared," in my experience. (And, sure enough, the director ultimately instructed us to fake all the kisses in this play.) This falls into the category of stories I don't want to delve too far into in public because they involve real people... but what I'll say here, in brief, is that, in the context, it didn't bother me; but what's interesting to consider is this: If, as I think likely, she'd guessed it wouldn't bother me, what fed into that guess—and to what extent did her age factor into it? Were the reasons she might have assumed it wouldn't bother me the same as the reasons it actually didn't bother me?

  6. Ageism is everywhere. When I was a teenager, I slept with the father of two brothers I had also had sex with. I seduced a professor when I got to college. I didn't care about age as much as whether or not the man was married. That was a turn-off, a taboo I adhered to strictly after feeling like a shit the only two times I didn't.

    But it bothers me to see much older men chasing after younger women because now that I'm older, I can't imagine what there is for them to talk about when they're not actually fucking. Daddy X suggested here a while ago, that my attitude might be because I'm a parent. I think he's very right. I look at people who are twenty or more years younger than me and think "I could have been your mom, changing your diaper." Ew! Not a sexy image at all! Now I'm old enough to be the grandparent of all of the teens I sub for, as well as the parent of many of the teachers. I look at all of them and think, "What potential." Not, "Gotta get me some." Bleah.

    And knowing as I well do now, the various vagaries of living in an aging body, I'm certainly not attracted to older men, whose parts will be further along in degradation than mine. I'm happy that the husband is the same age that I am. We're aging together.

    That being said, one of his sisters is married to a man close to ten years older than her, and they've been happy for years. Another sister's second husband is 12 years younger than her. They've also been happy for years. And my only brother is happily-married to a woman 7 years older than him. I guess if both are committed and willing to work out their differences, relationships can work with age gaps.

    But when I write, the heroine is usually older by a couple of years, than the hero. I won't call my refusal to write about younger women and older men a taboo...just a total turn-off that I'm uninterested in exploring.


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