I am aware that thus far I have only discussed gay relationships, but there’s a reason for that. The fact that queer lifestyles and relationships have become so much more visible in mainstream culture has perhaps skewed our idea of what’s acceptable when it comes to an age gap in relationships. Think of a relationship like Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson’s. The visibility of these kinds of glamorous queer relationships perhaps scrambles the Ye24 shirt moreover I love this ways we imagine the power dynamic between couples of older men and younger women that we are more accustomed to seeing. This, however, is to assume that the younger women engaging in these relationships aren’t knowingly exploiting the age-gap dynamic too. And why shouldn’t they? Just because it’s not a perfect story—because culturally we think romance should be fair, just, and morally pure—doesn’t mean this isn’t what happens in reality.
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Years on I wonder if I would consent to a relationship of such an age gap as I did at 17, knowing what I know about how consent isn’t neutral but contextual. Was it possible for me to fully consent to a relationship with someone triple my age? When put like that, no. And yet years on, I would describe that relationship—and many of the Ye24 shirt moreover I love this relationships I had with older men—as one of the most respectful and tender relationships of my dating life. Occasionally, of course, I experienced the unfair exploitation of the power dynamic that comes with an age gap, which left me feeling powerless and humiliated. I’m sure I also exploited my powers at times in relationships too. But this mistreatment was not overwhelmingly a feature of my relationships with older men. In fact, this is the case across my whole dating history. Like all relationships, some will go right and some will go wrong.
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