Understanding the stigma behind age-gap relationships
Disclaimer: This article does not discuss these subjects in-depth nor provides a frame for same-sex relationships in the case of the sugar industry.
Many celebrities have recently opened up about their experiences in age-gap romantic relationships. Many seem to regret them, like Demi Lovato. Did I quote her song title? Yes, I did.
Moving on, the wildly anticipated new album, “Midnight” by Taylor Swift, also featured an age gap relationship story in one of her songs. But honestly, when Leonardo DiCaprio only dated girls below 25 years old until Gigi Hadid, people asked questions. And some may have wondered why older men dating younger girls are called sugar daddies and older women dating younger men are called “cougars”. To top it all off, we need to address the elephant in the room: sugar daddies and sugar mommies (not sugaring, the Egyptian practice I kept on finding on the internet when typing sugaring because I thought the industry was called sugaring, my mistake. Though I have learned and now know better).
Coming up with the specific details of this article was challenging. I had the not-so-brilliant idea of interviewing students about their opinions. Don’t get me wrong, the views of others are valuable and should be heard. Not so brilliant because the beauty of gathering your “samples'' while analyzing a subject is to discover something new about it altogether. I thought I was in for a time of exploration filled with straightforward answers. However, early on, I realized that the line was VERY blurred. It is hard to give your opinion if you have never found yourself in an age-gap relationship. What truly astonished me was how, in the grand scheme of things, we should not care about the relationships of others. Age gap relationships remain an enigma to me, so they deserve to be understood at their core value, without judgment. Hence, I invite all Dawson students into my research process/messy brain to get to the root of the stigma against age-gap relationships and much more.
By definition, age gap relationships refer to relationships with a 10+ years gap between individuals. The narrative of heterosexual relationships seems to turn around the idea that women are attracted to older men and men are more attracted to younger women. Why? I'm not too sure. It is essential to state that through gender discrimination, women are pressured to reproduce early in their lives. However, unlike their counterparts, men have the luxury of not being pushed to reproduce.
Some articles have highlighted possible challenges of being in age-gap relationships. One, individuals are at different stages of their life. Although it does not make their relationship less valid, it can sometimes create a power dynamic where one is more dependent on the other. In that sense, one can become the provider and the other the receiver. In capitalist societies, we put so much importance on age. You can get your driver’s license at 16 in Quebec, or even vote at 18. Thus, there is an “age” for everything. We time ourselves based on age. The older you are, the wiser, but the younger you are, the more naïve you are. You’ve probably heard this before; I certainly have.
The phrase “in my time” has likely made its way into the conversation too many times. Several people fear that age-gap relationships are this power dynamic that can prevent an individual from self-actualizing. Disclaimer: all relationships can have power dynamics, but in age-gap relationships, it seems “easier” for these situations to occur since the older person can be in a position of authority.
Two, age-gap couples constantly feel pressured to justify their relationship with others. So many age-gap couples feel like they need to explain their relationship decisions since there are many questions about it. The constant questioning can be annoying. Please don’t do that. We should all be respectful of others’ decisions, no matter the context.
Statistics have shown that age gaps are more prominent in the LGBTQ+ community than in heterosexual relationships. According to the BBC, approximately 8 % of male-female relationships have an age gap of 10 years and more. 15% of female-to-female relationships are age-gap relationships. Finally, in male-male relationships, 25 % are age-gap relationships. Hence, statistics show that more accepting societies where there is no frame of a perfect relationship, where different types of relationships are normalized, have shown an increase in age-gap couples. Age-gap relationships have always been around, but now that women have more rights and freedom of speech, they seem more taboo. Before, many women were married off to older men. Though it still happens today, the practice is not very popular in North America.
On another note, dating apps have sped up the dating process, making it more accessible and even less time-consuming since you do not have to go out of your way to meet someone. Similarly, the popularity of apps for sugar daddies, mommies and sugar babies has increased.
“Sugar babies” are on the receiving end of the “relationship.” They are showered with gifts: objects, money, etc. Sugar daddies or mommies give them gifts in exchange for the “services” of the sugar baby. While sugar babies can keep company to their “benefactor,” some have to participate in sexual activities in exchange for “payment”: gifts. The profile of a sugar daddy is as follows; rich (way too rich), lonely, in need of company, and in need of feeling like they are helping someone with their money. These relationships usually have age gaps. The role of sugar babies has been a growing job prospect among young adults in financial difficulties (aka broke students since education is FREAKING expensive). Many sugar daddies confess to having seemed to have a savior complex. Sugar daddies are more common than sugar mommies. Many have compared it to sex work or escorting.
However, according to sugar daddies interviewed on Vine, there is mutual respect between the sugar daddy and the sugar baby, where both have equal rights. But doesn't being paid for services seem like sex work? We all know the sex industry is curated for men and objectifies women’s bodies. Who creates these money-profiting industries? Men. Who benefits from them? Men. What kind of societies do these men live in? Patriarchal societies. Doesn't it feel like the roles of sugar daddies/mommies and sugar babies are an excuse to justify actions? I don’t know.
Age-gap couples are not different from others. The only difference is that they do not respond to societal standards and therefore are more often shamed. We must stop perpetuating this idea of “good” and “bad relationships.” We should instead try to understand the experience of others and listen with an open mind. Still working on the last one, but I am proud to say it is a work in progress. I learn every day, and so do many of you. Enjoy this chance and ability to continuously learn, for it allows us to be aware of societal issues and inequalities that prevent our world from being peaceful.