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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: How age-gap relationships can be problematic


The TLC show “Milf Manor” is a show in which mothers in their 40s and 50s date each other's sons. It is extremely disturbing to watch mothers date the sons of the other contestants. Not only is it uncomfortable for the other moms to watch a woman their age flirt with their son, but it is odd that these moms are sexually attracted to their sons’ peers. The show also incorporates sexual challenges that the moms and their sons must compete in together, which is excruciatingly awkward to witness. 

“Milf Manor” gained immense viewership and popularity. Parrot Analytics found that “the audience demand for MILF Manor is 3.9 times of the average TV series in the United States in the last 30 days.”  

Clearly, I was not the only person strangely intrigued by this show dynamic. The show got me thinking about the ethics of age-gap relationships. I was particularly interested in age-gap relationships in which someone in their late teens or early twenties dates someone 10 or more years older than them. These relationships can be highly problematic. 

One of the most significant issues with age-gap relationships is the gap in emotional maturity. The emotional maturity between two people isn’t completely dependent on age. But, when you take the emotional maturity of a 20-year-old compared to a 50-year-old, there is an obvious discrepancy. You are in two completely different stages of life. A 20-year-old recently graduated high school while a 50-year-old has had the time to have a career for 30 years and have children and even grandchildren. It is extremely unlikely that these two individuals can be on the same page in life.  

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Another glaring issue is the clear power imbalance between the couple. When one party is significantly older, they can abuse what comes with that — financial stability, for example — to make the younger party submissive to them.  

In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, Dr. Daria J. Kuss, Associate Professor in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, states that “In some cases, coercion and financial control may be a reason for confrontation. Age may make younger partners more vulnerable with regards to being more dependent on the older partner.”  

This is extremely dangerous and can trap the younger party in an unequal relationship. 

This is magnified when young people — most often young girls — in Hollywood date older and powerful men. There is no way for the relationship to be equal in dating a much older man who has the industry connections to ruin your life. And these sorts of relationships are all too common. The running joke that 48-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t date anyone over the age of 25 is truly a testament to the way older men in Hollywood purposely date young girls.  This phenomenon of older men dating younger women is not only present in Hollywood — but in other age-gap relationships that I have found online. 

It seems that in straight relationships, the woman is almost always younger than the man. Let me give an example. On YouTube, a channel called “truly” has a series called “Love Don’t Judge,” which highlights people in unusual relationships. They have made many videos on age-gap relationships, and the disproportionate amount of younger-woman-older-man to younger-man-older-woman relationships is staggering.  

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If you find yourself constantly needing to justify your relationship by saying that it is legal, maybe you need to reevaluate your choice of partner. Legality does not equal morality.  

Lastly, but equally as important, the brains of older teens and people in their early twenties are not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, is not fully developed until your mid-to-late twenties. I believe it is wrong for someone who has a developed prefrontal cortex to go after someone who does not and therefore is not at their fullest capacity for making smart decisions for themselves.  

I do not want to villainize all age-gap relationships. I believe that if two consenting adults who have gone through full brain development and are in similar places in life want to date, that is perfectly fine. But a 19-year-old dating someone 10 or more years older than them will never be okay in my eyes. 

Ravana Gumm (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism.

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