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May 18, 2005

Comments

Caitriona

> If a man can't manage to grow up in thirty or forty years, why should anyone expect
> that he would in fifty?

Dylan,

I find your comment above to be very biased. I've known enough men who didn't mature before forty, but in the few or so years afterward changed immensely, that my family has a "saying" that most men don't grow up until after forty. My husband is one of these men. He was 42 when we met and had already begun making some changes in his life. In the 6 years since then, he's become a totally different man. And he is still growing and changing.

Jeff

Tish: The problem with the "men are visual" idea is that it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy - are men more visual because they're wired that way, or are they said to be because more visual appeals are made to them? We live in a society where physical beauty is held as the prime source of attractiveness for women, to a much greater degree than for men - as men, we're told that we must desire women in proportion to their physical beauty (and that this judgment is to be made by society, not ourselves), and that a beautiful mate is a sign of status; women are told they have to look beautiful to find a partner, and if they don't they can't be happy. (I think the emphasis on fat - which is *not* a cross-cultural barometer of beauty - is further evidence for the visual emphasis being socially constructed.)

That it's a "liberal faux pas" is a straw man - what's being objected to is (i) the insistence on biological as opposed to cultural factors influencing behavior; and (ii) the naturalistic fallacy of justifying behavior by asserting biological predisposition.

Speaking of which, Mr. Bad: it's quite a step to go from "biology plays an important part" to "Therefore, I see it as quite natural for older men to be attracted to and seek out younger, more fertile females." It strikes me as a just-so story - if it were thirty- and forty-somethings that were deemed by society as most attractive, the evolutionary psych folks would say that we're attracted to evidence of longevity, ability to survive childbirth and produce multiple offspring, etc. It's just too convenient that these supposed trends from the past few milennia all happen to result in our current culture's preferences, rather than other cultures'.

And again, it should be noted that "attractive ages" vary across time and culture; there are a lot more "older women" acknowledged as attractive today than a few decades ago (whether this is due to changing demographics or a few cultural phenomena like American Pie, "Stacy's Mom" and "Desperate Housewives," I'm not sure.)

As for the assertion that "younger women are not as likely to be as jaded and cynical about men as their older counterparts are, in turn making them more pleasant to be around and spend time with," that sounds like the accusation that younger women are more easily manipulated from another angle. (It's also notable that there are a lot of misogynists who make the same claim about American/Western European women versus women in Eastern Europe or Asia to justify mail-order brides.)

mythago

that sounds like the accusation that younger women are more easily manipulated from another angle

That's pretty much exactly what it is. It also makes one wonder how all those jaded old broads got that way. (Surely, surely if they'd only dated older men in their youth they'd still be gentle and fresh-faced...)

FWIW, I believe this is different than the 'young people have a different attitude' mentality. Yes, young people have a different take on things than their older peers, can be less set in their ways, have more energy, etc. But when I hear a man say 'young women are less cynical' it really sounds like 'women my own age are on to me.'

There have been many studies that show this to be true.

Which studies have shown this to be innate rather than due to acculturation?

Believe me, I'm not dissing older men (I married one) or think that young women are ninnies. But it is true that when we're young, we like to think of ourselves as oh-so-mature compared to our peers, and we're very sure that we're extremely wise and, really, people ten or twenty years our senior have nothing on us in terms of clever.

In other words, hearing a seventeen-year-old say that she's exceptionally mature makes us look back at our own seventeen-year-old selves (who were convinced THEY were ready to take on the world). And to look at our same-age peers and wonder why they would find someone so immature attractive.

Creeping Jenny

I suspect that the dangers for younger women in dating older men are similar to the dangers for Asian women in dating white guys. There are plenty of perfectly decent guys out there who happen to be white, and sometimes they fall in love with women who happen to be Asian. Then there are the guys who seek out Asian women because of this weird mental picture they've got of submissive Asian women. Those guys are definitely to be avoided, and they unfortunately cast undue suspicion on their normal, harmless peers.

In the same way, there are guys who fall in love with women who happen to be younger than them, and who take those women seriously as human beings, but there are also guys who deliberately seek out younger women because they think younger women are stupid, or submissive, or otherwise easy to exploit. The creeps cast a lot of suspicion on their normal, harmless peers.

The trouble is not interracial or inter-age relationships, I think, it's just winnowing out the creeps who gravitate toward those relationships for bad reasons. It seems ridiculous to say "don't date white (older) guys", but still, women should proceed with caution.

I guess there's also some empirical question about how closely certain personality traits are correlated with age. My own (changeable in light of evidence) guess is that the big barrier is between people who rely on their own incomes vs. people who live with their parents, and the rest is pretty much a wash. But ask me again when I'm older.

Mr. Bad

Jeff said: "The problem with the "men are visual" idea is that it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy - are men more visual because they're wired that way, or are they said to be because more visual appeals are made to them? We live in a society where physical beauty is held as the prime source of attractiveness for women, to a much greater degree than for men - as men, we're told that we must desire women in proportion to their physical beauty (and that this judgment is to be made by society, not ourselves), and that a beautiful mate is a sign of status; women are told they have to look beautiful to find a partner, and if they don't they can't be happy. (I think the emphasis on fat - which is *not* a cross-cultural barometer of beauty - is further evidence for the visual emphasis being socially constructed.)"

There are a lot of problems with this paragraph Jeff: First, while I can't cite them from memory, there are lots of studies showing men to be more visually- and spatially-oriented than women, and women to be more verbally and communicatively-oriented than men are. You can look these up using Medline, Google scholar, etc. Thus, I don't think that you can simply write off visual cues re. primary female (or male) sex characteristics to "social conditioning." As for your claim that "more visual appeals being made to men," are you kidding? Come on, it's not men who are fed all those magazines devoted to decorating, fashion, makeup, etc., nor is it men who are watching TV ads for clothes, shoes, drapes, furniture, etc. Such advertising is marketed to women, not men. Further, the people who set the social standard for female "beauty" in our culture (i.e., women's fashion designers, editors of fashion magazines, etc.) are women and (mostly) homosexual men, so I don't see how you can link this to male/female sexuality. I think (and some good biologists agree) that there are basic female features that men find attractive from a purely biological basis, (e.g., full hips and breasts, curvaceous butts and thighs, etc.); socially-constructed fashion features like 6-inch heels, miniskirts, lace bodices, etc., are simply ways to draw mens' attention to these primary features. And as for your "fat" theory being purely cultural, I'm not so sure. There's fat, and then there's fat., so it depends on what you're defining as "fat." If there's a significant culture anywhere in the world that finds truly obese women (or men) to be highly sexually attractive, then I haven't heard of it. Sure, there may be a small population somewhere in, e.g., Micronesia, that does, but there are always examples of extreme culutral aberrations, e.g., the cannibals of Papua New Guinea. I know that most ordinary men find ultra-skinny waifs to be a turn-off. Again, it's women (and gay men) telling each other that they have to be super-thin, grotesque charicatures in order to be attractive to men; it's like some kind of twisted competition to see who can be the most skeletal. I don't why this might work on men, other than perhaps by exploiting contrast. Perhaps if, e.g., one has ordinary-sized boobs, then maybe a super-thin waist would make them look bigger by comparison. Who knows? What I do know is that I personally find the 'heroin addict' figure to be revolting, and so do most of the other guys I know.

Jeff continues: "Speaking of which, Mr. Bad: it's quite a step to go from "biology plays an important part" to "Therefore, I see it as quite natural for older men to be attracted to and seek out younger, more fertile females." It strikes me as a just-so story - if it were thirty- and forty-somethings that were deemed by society as most attractive, the evolutionary psych folks would say that we're attracted to evidence of longevity, ability to survive childbirth and produce multiple offspring, etc. It's just too convenient that these supposed trends from the past few milennia all happen to result in our current culture's preferences, rather than other cultures'."

Well, you're welcome to skeptical, but I've seen no good proof that refutes biology, so unless and until such proof comes along I'll go with the explanation that has survived the scientific method.

Jeff goes on: "And again, it should be noted that "attractive ages" vary across time and culture; there are a lot more "older women" acknowledged as attractive today than a few decades ago (whether this is due to changing demographics or a few cultural phenomena like American Pie, "Stacy's Mom" and "Desperate Housewives," I'm not sure.)

Acknowledged as attractive by who, the actors' managers, studio execs, et al.? And further, are you talking about sexual (i.e., reproductive) attractiveness? I don't think that men are necessarily buying this just because a few PR folks say this is true. Got any proof that this is changing men's minds? There's a fundamental, huge difference between a "classic beauty" and a full-blown 'drool-on-youself' sexual bombshell.

And finally, Jeff states: "As for the assertion that "younger women are not as likely to be as jaded and cynical about men as their older counterparts are, in turn making them more pleasant to be around and spend time with," that sounds like the accusation that younger women are more easily manipulated from another angle. (It's also notable that there are a lot of misogynists who make the same claim about American/Western European women versus women in Eastern Europe or Asia to justify mail-order brides.)

You might find such statements suspicious, and that's your right, but I've actually talked with lots of real, honest to goodness men and it's a simple fact that some see women this way, i.e., as "damaged goods" from an emotional standpoint. And given mythago's sniping, it's clear that some women are truly jaded in such a manner. But to be fair, as she notes, perhaps some women have a reason to be so jaded; I know that the men have good reasons for this. (You might try actually having real, sincere conversations with men instead of basing your opinions on feminist stereotypes.) Therefore, perhaps they have very good reasons (other than the convenient, hackneyed, misandrist canard of "mysogyny") for looking elsewhere for compatible mates.

Mr. Bad

C.J.: Ouch, those are some pretty harsh, racist words you're laying down re. white males.

I wonder, would you feel just as comfortable providing a missive about how plenty of young white women exploit older men for the sole purposes of taking their money from them? I'm thinking of Anna Nicole Smith types here.

The sword cuts both ways my friend.

Caitriona

> C.J.: Ouch, those are some pretty harsh, racist words you're laying down re. white males.


It's harsh and racist to say, "There are plenty of perfectly decent guys out there who happen to be white, and sometimes they fall in love with women who happen to be Asian. Then there are the guys who seek out Asian women because of this weird mental picture they've got of submissive Asian women. Those guys are definitely to be avoided, and they unfortunately cast undue suspicion on their normal, harmless peers," and " It seems ridiculous to say "don't date white (older) guys", but still, women should proceed with caution?"

I don't understand where you see harsh racism here. I read it to say that there are some good guys and some bad guys, the bad guys make the good guys seem suspect, proceed with caution. She simply equated the age issue with the race issue.

Mr. Bad

Hi Caitriona,

Try out the statement "there are perfectly decent guys out there who just happen to be black" on for size.

Further, the original (i.e., "white guys") statement implies that those guys are decent despite the fact they're white.

I think that if you were a white guy you'd have a better chance of seeing this. Perhaps it's a lot like the sexism against women I keep hearing about but just can't see - I've been told I just "don't get it" because I'm a (white) male. I certainly 'got' the overall tone of her post, and as I said it was decidedly racist and sexist.

joe

C.J.

should we ask you again in five years when you are twenty?

Hugo

Joe, please watch your remarks. CJs comment was perfectly fair and within the bounds of decent exchange, yours was not. My blog, my rules.

Caitriona

Mr. Bad,

I think people look for racism, sexism, etc where there is none. There ARE perfectly nice guys out there who just happen to be black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever. And then there are creeps who also just happen to be black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever. No matter the category, people of any gender and ethnic group have a tendency to make blanket statements.

"Don't marry HIM. He's Shanty Irish!" was a statement my mother-in-law heard from her grandmother. She'd had a bad experience with a man who was "Shanty Irish" and didn't want her granddaughter going through something like she had. We all have a tendency to do this that we must be aware of and guard against.

I could very easily have determined that all men, outside my mother's family, are abusive louts. But I chose to look beyond what I'd seen from my father, step-father, and their families.

CJ was reaching beyond this tendency, saying that there happen to be guys who just happen to be white who fall in love with women who just happen to be Asian, and then there are white guys who look for Asian wives because they are under an impression that this will get them submissive wives who will cater to their every whim. Both scenarios exist. You can't assume that a relationship is the 2nd scenario simply because the man is white and the woman is Asian.

By the same token, a man shouldn't assume that "all women are evil" simply because he's had bad encounters with a few. And a woman shouldn't assume that "all men are evil" because she's had bad encounters with a few. People are people. Some are wonderful, and some are horrid. Making blanket judgements about an entire group based on encounters with a few members of that group is wrong.

Mr. Bad

Caitriona,

Believe me, I can appreciate your comment that "I think people look for racism, sexism, etc where there is none." I work in academia, and trust me, this sort of thing happens all the time on campus. All I'm asking for is a bit of sensitivity for white males, who arguably are the only group left that society feels is Ok to deride, insult, discriminate against, etc. I know there are many reasons, excuses, etc., for this (valid or not), but the same could be said for, e.g., racial profiling.

Again, all I'm asking for is a little mutual respect vis-a-vis sensitivity for people's feelings. Is there anything wrong with that?

Keri

See, I just find the "if you're young, you can't say you're mature without proving you're immature" catch-22 a little unfair. I don't think we know anywhere near enough about "Kate" to conclude that she's "so immature" that any older man who's interested in a relationship with her must have suspect motives or be otherwise defective. Frankly, the leap to that conclusion seems to me to hold a good degree of projection-- yes, there is a certain correlation between age and maturity, and things always look different in hindsight, but I highly doubt that everyone looks back on their teenage years and concludes that they were drastically less mature or less prepared to make decisions than they thought they were. Some people make bad decisions at those ages, some make neutral ones, and some make good ones; again, it depends on the individual.

Besides, the conflation of "thinking one is more mature than one's peers" and "thinking one is infinitely wiser than everyone ever" is a little dishonest. Kate never said anything about thinking she was smarter than people who were ten or twenty years older than her; she said that she feels more comfortable with adults than she does with her peers. Maybe it's just the fact that I've been in the same situation in the past, but I'm failing to see how stating that is some unforgivable act of hubris. Not everyone matures at the same rate, and that inevitably means that some people won't fit in with the rest of their peer group as well as others. Even putting aside the romantic/sexual relationships issue, the idea that they can't discuss the fact that their experience differs from the norm without the assumption that they're "just trying to make themselves look special" or "proving their immaturity by claiming maturity" is just bizarre to me. Is it only possible to be mature if one is unaware of one's maturity, or denies it? Bizarre.

Caitriona

No, Mr. Bad, there's nothing wrong with asking for mutual respect and sensitivity toward feelings. But calling something racist when what actually occurred was a call *against* a particular racist bias is, IMO, out of line. I really don't get that, "Just because *some* white guys are this way doesn't mean we should assume *all* white guys are this way," is making a racist statement.

Mr. Bad

Caitriona,

The original statement was "there are perfectly decent guys out there who just happen to be white" , not "Just because *some* white guys are this way doesn't mean we should assume *all* white guys are this way." If you can't see the difference between the two then I guess we have an impasse and we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Creeping Jenny

It seems reasonable enough for Joe to ask my age in this context, since my age might affect my perspective. For the record, I'm 25. I'm flattered that someone thinks I'm smart enough to be both 15 and in grad school, though.

Mr Bad, no slight intended toward white men. I think Caitorina captured everything I would have said pretty perfectly, so I don't have really anything to add.

Caitriona

Mr. Bad,

You're choosing to overlook CJ's complete statement:

There are plenty of perfectly decent guys out there who happen to be white, and sometimes they fall in love with women who happen to be Asian. Then there are the guys who seek out Asian women because of this weird mental picture they've got of submissive Asian women. Those guys are definitely to be avoided, and they unfortunately cast undue suspicion on their normal, harmless peers.

followed by:

The trouble is not interracial or inter-age relationships, I think, it's just winnowing out the creeps who gravitate toward those relationships for bad reasons. It seems ridiculous to say "don't date white (older) guys", but still, women should proceed with caution.

These two sets of statements together is where my paraphrase "Just because *some* white guys are this way doesn't mean we should assume *all* white guys are this way" comes from. Should we assume that all white males in academia have the same perceptions and biases as do you? Or assume that they all have perceptions and biases similar to those of Hugo? Or should we look at other white men in academia as well to arrive at a clearer picture of white men in academia?

CJ presents a picture of two distinct categories of white males in relationships with Asian women. We cannot look at one category and assume that *all* white males in relationships with Asian women are the same as the ones in that one particular category. To note that there are two distinct categories of these relationships is not racism, just as it's not racism to note characteristics of categories of relationships between white males and black females, white males and white females, white males and Amer-Indian females, Hispanic males and Hispanic females, Hispanic males and white females, Hispanic males and Amer-Indian females, etc.

Creeping Jenny

Wow... thanks for doing so much explanatory work on my behalf, Caitorina.

cija

Keri: I don't think we know anywhere near enough about "Kate" to conclude that she's "so immature" that any older man who's interested in a relationship with her must have suspect motives or be otherwise defective

We also don't know that there are any older men who are interested in her.

Young girls are exhorted and badgered by the surrounding culture to consider themselves as desirable objects to all men all the time, so I don't blame 'Kate' for this at all, but she does not seem to have considered that older men, if they really are as experienced and interesting as she says, will be a lot more attractive to her than she is to them. That's usually the way it goes. It's nothing to do with them being honorable and decent and everything to do with girls who desperately want boyfriends to validate them being kind of, well, boring.


I'm also still staggered by the implication that having a relationship with someone substantially older than you requires you to be mature, which most people in the discussion seem to have accepted uncritically. Because this is obviously false; what takes maturity is having the ability and the willingness to relate to someone who is not more experienced, not 'above' you in any way, who is just your equal, only as good as you and no better - to take the risk of being, sometimes, the 'adult' in the relationship, the guide, rather than the protegee, the nurtured one, the focus, the beloved.

This is harder. This is more rewarding, too; when you can teach or explain something to a boyfriend without it being a surprise or a 'role reversal' or a way to impress.

And yes, obviously you can say that all that is true in your particular relationship, sure. But does it bother you at all that all the thoughtful, contemplative defenses of your relationship paradigm (here, but also everywhere else I've seen) come from younger women, whereas when older men try to explain or justify or simply describe, it comes out misogynist at worst, plain embarrassing at best?

To your last point: it's not impossible to be a thoughtful and mature seventeen year old. It is impossible to be the only one. It's not the claims of maturity by themselves that set off the eye-rolling; it's the dismissal and put-downs of one's entire peer group, when that peer group is full of other lonely intelligent people, some of whom are even, would you believe, boys.

Tish G

(zips up asbestos suit and prepares to jump into fracas again)

Jeff...I think you missed my point, which was to note that often in liberal circles, one will see an a-religiousity in aruguements and a reliance on the rationality and empirical nature of science to prove a certain point (perhpas on gender--use of social science here) when the reliance on rational science suits the liberal argument.

When the reliance on rational science does not suit the arugment, what science has demonstrated becomes, as you say, a "naturalistic fallacy."

The website for the magazine New Scientist (www.newscientist.com) has some very good articles on the biological nature of attraction--and studies that are not forwarded with any particular political agenda (if you are thinking of saying that most objective biological studies have a particular political agenda contingent on who funded them.)

oh, and when you speak of the "older women" who are considered sexy these days, look at their bodies. They are all quite thin and fit--similar to the 20-somethings they are meant to emulate. The mature female body, with rounded hips, larger than 34B breasts, a tummy, and a bit of arm flab is *not* all that attractive in Hollywood. (although, in my 165lb., 5ft3inch frame I occasionally attract the wayward 22 year old)

Mr Bad makes a good point when he says:

Perhaps they just want to spend time with someone who treats them kindly, and who doesn't view them with suspicion and as some kind of potential adversary. I've heard this sentiment from other men quite often when discussing male/female relationships.

He is quite right about the adversarial relationships of older females with their male counterparts. Alot of this has been fostered by victim mentality which keeps women dwelling on the hurts of past relationships rather than giving women help to get beyond the hurt. There are myths that continue to this day about midlfe-crisis men (that they *always* want much-younger women) and are touted as the truth by women's magazines...when, in fact, this is a fallacy. How men respond to midlife crisis varies among men, and some even manage to take on other middle-aged, but more sympathetic women as girlfriends.

My current boyfriend is 10 years older than myself and slightly past his midlife crisis. It has been my ability to empathize with the hurt from his divorce, and his ability to empathize with mine, that formed the foundation of our rather good relationship. That, and a common love of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Yo La Tengo.

Keri

Because this is obviously false; what takes maturity is having the ability and the willingness to relate to someone who is not more experienced, not 'above' you in any way, who is just your equal, only as good as you and no better

Is that ever possible, though? Even in a couple where both partners are exactly the same age, one might have more experience than the other (whether it's sexual/relationship/dating experience, educational/career experience, or just a more fully lived life), one might be "better" in certain areas, one might take the dominant role more often, etc. I'm not saying that this justifies drastic power imbalances, but I really doubt that there's ever been a relationship anywhere in which both partners were 100% equal in all ways at all times, so insisting on that as the only indication of a "mature" relationship is a bit strange. People can still be generally equals even if one has more experience in some areas (check out Hugo's most recent sex ed post for a good rebuttal of the "experience is everything" myth, at least in terms of sex/relationships).

I don't even really know how to comment on your attempt to pigeonhole the younger partner in a relationship into the "protegee/nurtured one/focus/beloved" category, either, because that's so far removed from my experience that it has no relevance to me. A few years of age difference in a relationship does not automatically cause a parent/child dynamic to form-- in cases where that dynamic does occur, it says more about the issues of the people involved than it does about the propriety of the age gap.

But does it bother you at all that all the thoughtful, contemplative defenses of your relationship paradigm (here, but also everywhere else I've seen) come from younger women, whereas when older men try to explain or justify or simply describe, it comes out misogynist at worst, plain embarrassing at best?

That really depends on what they're trying to justify, doesn't it? One distinction that hasn't been made anywhere near often enough in this discussion is the one CJ made in her comment-- "men who fall in love with women who happen to be younger" vs. "men who seek out younger women specifically." I've been having trouble getting across the idea that I'm defending the former relationships but not the latter. In any case, I think the observation you made above has more to do with the fact that the men who speak up in favor of these relationships are more often trying to justify the latter type, which comes off as misogynist and embarrassing because it usually is. I can't say why men who have experience with the former type of relationship don't speak up more during this discussion, but I know it's not because they don't exist.

Maybe it's just that the assumptions being made about them are so much more actively negative than the ones made about the women-- it may be a bit easier to respond to people who think you're just a bit misguided and immature than it is to respond to people who think you're a predator. Perhaps they just don't feel it's worthwhile, or they're concerned about being lumped in with the types who actually are predatory. I can't answer for them, but if the implication is that we younger women are just too naive to realize that our male partners are really embarrassing misogynists (and yet somehow we're still thoughtful enough to come up with a well-constructed argument to defend our relationships), I'd have to disagree.

it's the dismissal and put-downs of one's entire peer group, when that peer group is full of other lonely intelligent people, some of whom are even, would you believe, boys.

Yes, of course, but it's also important to keep in mind that teenagers generally don't have the wide variety of social options available to them that older people have. It may be true that there are lots of intelligent, thoughtful, mature seventeen-year-olds; is it necessarily true that there are lots of intelligent, thoughtful, mature seventeen-year-olds at Kate's particular high school, however? The Internet has mitigated this problem somewhat, but for most teenagers, the only people they get to interact with on a regular basis are the others who attend their high school. This can be very limiting, particularly if one goes to a small school (graduating class in the double-digits) in a small town with people she's known since kindergarten. This was my experience, and I don't think I'm being arrogant when I say that sometimes I did feel like "the only one," at least in that I never found anyone who could really relate to me, share my interests, etc. The smaller one's pool of people to interact with and the more one's interests differ from the mainstream, the harder it is for one to find people with whom one can make meaningful connections.

I guess that's why I interpreted the "teenage scum" aside as commentary on the particular teenage boys Kate interacts with on a daily basis, not on teenage boys in general. As someone who graduated with a class that was generally accepted by teachers, parents and students as one of the worst graduating classes ever in terms of behavior, work ethic, involvement in drugs/alcohol, etc., I'm sure I was guilty of similar statements at the time. Even if Kate's experience hasn't been quite that bad, I can still understand the frustration behind her comment.

mythago

See, I just find the "if you're young, you can't say you're mature without proving you're immature" catch-22 a little unfair.

I don't believe anyone has said this. But it's quite true that believing one is unusually mature, just as mature as people twice one's age, is a thought that occurs to the immature as well as those whose self-assessment is correct. (It's also true that "very mature for 17" doesn't mean "as mature as a 25-year-old," for example.)

It's also true that our culture puts a lot of pressure on women to see themselves as valuable in proportion to the men who want to sleep with them--and it's very tempting for a younger woman to see an older man's interest in her as, first and foremost, a sign of her worth and maturity. The older man has selected her from the milling herd of her callow peers because she is unique, special, mature!

Mr. Bad

Like I said Caitriona, I think we're at an impasse here, but let me try this little experiment: I'm going to change the specifics of the statement as minimally as I can, but just enough to get my point across. Let's take a racial profiling approach, because that's essentially what C.J. was doing in her original statements.

Consider these statements:

"There are plenty of perfectly non-criminal people out there who happen to be black, and sometimes they don't deal drugs. Then there are the blacks who deal drugs because of the desperate situation of living in the ghetto. Those guys are definitely the ones to concentrate on, and they unfortunately cast undue suspicion on their normal, harmless peers."

followed by:

"The trouble is not racial profiling per se, I think, it's just winnowing out the people who deal drugs. It seems ridiculous to say "don't trust black guys", but still, people should proceed with caution when traveling through the ghetto."

All of these statements make sense when taken individually, but there's an undeniable overall tone of racial profiling. Same thing with C.J.'s original post, whether she consciously meant it or not.

I know this may not be as close a parallel as it could be, but I don't have any more time to spend on this and it's the best that I can do. IMO C.J. could have made her point about interracial relationships just fine without specifically concentrating on "white guys."

As I said, I think we're at an impasse and apparently we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

IMO C.J. could have made her point about interracial relationships just fine without specifically concentrating on "white guys."

Actually, I'm not sure how she could have. Because the one sort of interracial relationship that worked for her analogy (with older men seeking out barely legal younger women) was, in fact, the sort where white men seek out Asian-American women because they hope they'll be more docile and submissive. You can't dump in, say, white women seeking out black men, or Asian-American men with American Indian women, or any other combination I can think of, and have the analogy work. Because different stereotypes are at work there. If I am a white woman who is especially attracted to black men, and if I'm especially attracted to black men because of the stereotypes I've learned about them, docility and submissiveness isn't what I'm going to be looking for. Maybe there was some different way she could have phrased it that would have struck you as less disparaging of white guys, but I'm don't think she could have talked about interracial relationships in general and made the same point - it was a point about how people try to act out a particular stereotype.

And, in my experience (hanging out in an Asian-American cultural forum online), that particular subset of white men who selectively seek out only Asian-American women, because they hold certain beliefs about them do in fact wind up sounding a lot like the older men I've heard defend selectively seeking out younger women. In both cases, you get men who would adamantly deny that they're looking for someone who's more submissive or more easily manipulated, but then, when asked what appeals to them - about younger women or about Asian-American women - they'll come out with a description that amount to, yes, an assumption that these women will be more docile. Asian-American women are simply nicer and more feminine. Younger women are more trusting and don't have that chip on their shoulder. Etc.

I hasten to add that I totally don't make the assumption that any ordinary white guy I meet who's dating or married to an Asian-American woman is of this sort. That would be dumping on my own family (which is thoroughly interracial by this point). And besides, in my experience most white guys, whatever the ethnicity of the woman they happen to be attracted to, aren't of this sort. And those who are like this are the ones least likely to succeed in finding the relationship they want.

At any rate, for me, the warning flag isn't interracial relationships (which are usually fine), and it isn't even a person being often attracted to a particular other race (maybe someone just appreciates a particular culture, or is reminded of a particular person in his or her past). The warning flag is ruling out your own race as even being an option (and there are, after all, people like this).

Same thing with age, except that in this case, I think, the wrong sort of older guy is more numerous. It's normal to sometimes find someone younger than you attractive. It's normal to sometimes feel you have something especially in common, despite an age gap (and as long as both people are above the age of consent and neither is a position of authority over the other, it can be OK). Some good, solid, lasting marriages come out of such relationships. It's even normal to find younger women especially physically attractive - I certainly do. But when I encounter men who only are interested in women much younger than them, then I suspect they may not be especially great partners for a woman of any age.

Now, switching to Tish: He is quite right about the adversarial relationships of older females with their male counterparts. Alot of this has been fostered by victim mentality which keeps women dwelling on the hurts of past relationships rather than giving women help to get beyond the hurt.

This isn't my experience at all. I'm in my forties, work mostly with men, like most of the men I work with, and always have male friends. Most of the women I know my age and older actually like men. Some will get bitter when coming out of a divorce - as will some men. But what I see is not so much an adversarial relationship as a case of people, once they get older, learning what they're not willing to tolerate. I like most men - but I'll draw the line a lot faster on the kinds of behavior I won't put up with, from men, than I did in my late teens and early twenties. That's not a victim mentality - that's sticking up for myself.

Mr. Bad

At the top of her post, Lynn Gazis-Sax said: "Actually, I'm not sure how she could have [made her point while leaving out the "white male" angle]. Because the one sort of interracial relationship that worked for her analogy (with older men seeking out barely legal younger women) was, in fact, the sort where white men seek out Asian-American women because they hope they'll be more docile and submissive.

And Lynn wrapped-up her post with: "I'm in my forties, work mostly with men, like most of the men I work with, and always have male friends. Most of the women I know my age and older actually like men. Some will get bitter when coming out of a divorce - as will some men. But what I see is not so much an adversarial relationship as a case of people, once they get older, learning what they're not willing to tolerate. I like most men - but I'll draw the line a lot faster on the kinds of behavior I won't put up with, from men, than I did in my late teens and early twenties. That's not a victim mentality - that's sticking up for myself.

Lynn, the symmetry of you post is lovely. While I always like to point out that our individual experiences are not necessarily an indication of general trends, I'll offer mine: They parallel yours in that the men I hang out with like most of the women they work and socialize with, have lots of female friends, etc. They just don't necessarily want them as partners, due to the fact that the women are jaded, often have really bad attitudes towards men, and are generally inferior romantic partners compared to younger women. What you call 'seeking out "docile and submissive" women' is in fact men simply drawing the line, not putting up with obnoxious behavior and sticking up for themselves. Most of the men I know enjoy the casual company of women their own age, but at the same time realize that in general Western women have an inflated sense of entitlement and self-importance (IMO likely due to the female chauvanist "go girl!" messages they are constantly fed via the media), thus, they're not as attractive as women from other cultures. You use Asian women as examples, but I've heard that Eastern European women are also a lot more desirable than Western women as romantic partners because they tend to know how to treat men better than Western women do. And it's not men's fault that Western women have earned this reputation, nor is it our responsibility to grit our teeth and put up with the situation if there are better options available. In the world market of romantic partners, many men see Western women as 'damaged goods.'

And I stick by my take of C.J.'s post vis-a-vis racism and sexism. The reactions here simply demonstrate once again the double-standard our society has towards (white) men vs. women, in this case cultural sensitivities.

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