In the three weeks since my 19th birthday, a new Toronto has become accessible to me. One where any apprehension older men previously held about my age is gone. 18 is legal but 19 is legal+.In fact, my Tinder profile finally reflects my real age and not one designed to make men feel more comfortable talking to me. In truth, the age of one’s Tinder profile is determined by the Facebook account they inevitably made before they were old enough to do so but the former wouldn’t have changed anything either. If I ever said I was too young to meet a man for a drink, he still wanted me to meet him at his house later that evening. When I was 17, I went on a tinder date with a guy that was 21. Fresh off a G2 license, I drove myself to a coffee shop where I supposedly impressed him with my ability to uphold a conversation (so-called maturity). The following week, he picked me up in his own car. Not his parents, such as the one I drove myself in for date number one. He bought me dinner and offered to take me to a movie but I declined and ran a number of excuses through my head until I landed on one that made him stop texting me. I wasn’t attracted to him enough to make up for my discomfort.
Just before turning 19 this year, I started seeing/ sleeping with a guy that is 23, equal to the four-year difference I experienced on my high school tinder date. I was sharing this detail in conversation with two friends in an Uber, and the question of power dynamics came up.
Why do men want to date younger women?
The consensus has always been power. My girlfriends were slightly put off by the idea of me (an expressively vulnerable person) sleeping with a guy with four more years of life experience, due to the fact that emotional maturity aside, he would always have four years on me that I…just didn’t. I can continuously argue that his intentions are genuine, that he was raised to respect and treat women properly but in the end, I have no answer for why he isn’t sleeping with someone who shares his life experience in years. The uber driver chimed in at this point. In his opinion, men date younger women so that they can control them. I asked him if he was married (he is recently separated with a woman 6 years younger) the difference being that they married two years ago. So if your justification for ‘age is just a number’ is that your parents are five years apart, you may now think to question how they met. Were they in similar stages of life or drastically different ones? Now look at yourself four years ago today (I’d have been 15). How much have you changed since then? It’s an undeniable fact that our late teens and early twenties are some of the most transformative years of our lives. A 23-year-old is graduated university and building a career. A 19-year-old is halfway through their post-secondary education and likely without a clue of what to do when it’s over. Up until a month ago, I couldn’t even legally drink. The club/ bar scene in Toronto didn’t exist to me.
Even in writing this, I’m slightly afraid that the aforementioned 23-year old may read it and decide to stop sleeping with me. Does that not prove that he controls the dynamic of our current relationship?
That being said, four years may not seem like enough of a gap to some to warrant an imbalance in power. Try seven. For close to two months, one of my 19-year-old friends has been seeing/ sleeping with a guy that is 26 and part of the reason he told her they can’t date is that he just can’t introduce her to his friends as his “19-year-old girlfriend”. The fact that he believes he can’t present that age gap to his friends proves that he never felt it was an appropriate relationship to begin with. And s,o why is he ok participating in it if he can’t admit to it out loud?
If your secondary justification is that your grandparents are seven years apart, as mine are, then you may also consider more deeply the difference in generations. Fifty years ago, men were expected to wield more power in a relationship. Society accepted and normalized that until the Suffragette movement when women campaigned at every level of government for the right to vote and protested against discrimination in employment, education and violence against women and children. And now fifty years later, a relationship where the man holds all the power is considered dated if not emotionally abusive and dangerous.
Mind you, much like the ability to vote, power can be found in choice. And choice is the exact thing that allows us to determine what is and isn’t acceptable for us on a personal basis. One example is a woman who chooses to date an older man for money. For me, her choice and free will cancel out most apprehensions I might have about the relationship. Which is why “Sugar daddies” are fairly normalized in today’s society- an older man paying for a romantic and or sexual relationship with a younger individual. Still the fact that a sugar baby is most often presumed to be a woman, and a sugar daddy (a man) indicates that the power dynamics between genders continue to sway in the male direction.
On Friday of this past weekend, I attended a club called Citizen for the first time. Senior Citizen. I don’t really like puns but never has one hit me so hard in the face. Every man there had to be at least thirty, over a decade my own age. And the ones who weren’t, were older! But the women didn’t match the age demographic. Guys were tugging at my hands, brushing my waist, offering to buy me and my friends drinks. One of my girlfriends joked that it’d be the perfect place to pre-drink if we didn’t want to spend any money before going out. And she wasn’t wrong.
Within five minutes of arriving, a very drunk thirty-something man had purchased me and my friend a tequila shot, as well as one for himself which he clearly didn’t need. His drunkenness was fortunate in that it allowed us to walk away without him noticing but I still had a chance to question his intentions. After all, even drunk a person’s moral compass doesn’t mutate. The blatant truth is that the majority of men at clubs use their ability to afford drinks to persuade women to sleep with them. It’s not a polite gesture when you’re trying it with every girl that passes you, it’s creepy. But money is power and dominance is power and as a 5’3 teenage girl, I have neither.
Funny enough people occasionally acknowledge that. Less so in clubs because they know that I’ve proved my age at the door, but guys have asked me if I’m even ‘old enough’ to be somewhere or have told me that it’s “past my bedtime”.
Often it’s a joke.
More often it’s a form of deprecation intended to make me want to have sex with them.