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October 08, 2006

Comments

Makeesha

I don't think you're wrong at all and I think that your post was both very well stated and accurate...and this coming from someone in a marriage that brushes your "outer limits" ;) I'm 9 years younger than my husband and we were married when I was 20 and he was 29.

I think there's something to be said for self control and rejecting natural urges as well. Some poeople might argue with your points, suggesting that sometimes there is a natural attraction of a man to a much younger woman or vv. I think I would suggest that as Christians (or even just as decent human beings) we are not always to yield to our natural urges/to what "comes naturally". There are other things to take into consideration and digging deep to ask "why am I sexually aroused by someone young enough to be my child" is an important question to ask when those feelings rise up.

As an aside, I really appreciated your post on the Amish and blogged about it - just in case you didn't notice the HT :)

Hugo

Thanks, Makeesha. I did indeed note the link coming from your place, and I thank you for that as well.

You're absolutely right as well that those men who are not as fortunate as I, who do struggle with sexual attraction to significantly younger women, must not hide behind the excuse of evolutionary biology. They don't get to rest their case on the gods of desire, to paraphrase Coetzee's famous line on this exact subject.

Makeesha

excellent quote. By the way, I wasn't trying to lure you over to my blog or anything, that comment sounded shamefully self promoting. I just thought you deserved the respect of knowing what other people are saying about your words...in case you don't "track" those things. Anyway, I'll stop now before my foot gets shoved further into my mouth hehe.

K

"men who are not as fortunate as I, who do struggle with sexual attraction to significantly younger women, must not hide behind the excuse of evolutionary biology."

Another classic example of feminist "thought:"
*Homosexual desires are above reproach, despite their non-procreative nature

*40 year old man who feels an urge to procreate with Miss Universe or Scarlett Johannsson has committed the unpardonable sin. The fact that such desires are the utter essence of reproductive fitness is an "excuse" and an invalid one at that.

Men's most natural desire, and one most cricical to the survival of the species, is shameful. But women and gays should "celebrate their sexuality" (except, in the case of women, when it involves a man).

For crying out loud, when's the next group castration?

I like some of what you post, and am glad that your paternal feelings toward your charges help you to not sexualize them, but this is just absurd. The topic was about ATTRACTION, which might be purely physical, not intent or action.

mythago

despite their non-procreative nature

Heh. I assume K condemns blowjobs, which are non-procreative.

Interestingly, for those who worship evo-bio, male bonobos do not have a preference for pubescent females; they prefer older females.

Glynda

Hmmm, I wonder if this changes as we get older. Is it an emotional maturity issue (in which case I can think of plenty of 35-55 couples that would work; whereas I can think of almost no 20-40 compatible pairings), or is it something more complicated? Maybe it is precisely the language that you used that points to our concerns -- if I as a 37 year old woman am attracted to a man 20 years my senior, how much of that is because of him, how much is playing out father issues? I am not at all sure that I know the answer.

Hugo

Uh, K, I would be just as reproachful of a man my age who was attracted to teen boys as to one attracted to teen girls. Radically asymmetrical sexual attraction is something I find troubling, regardless of the sexual orientation of those involved.

Attraction is something over which I am convinced we have some control, as well as over our intent. But note, I am clear that my "history of desire" is not necessarily the result of my personal virtue. I'm just quite glad that I've always been drawn to chronological peers.

Mermade

Ah come on, Hugo. Scarlett Johannsson is sexy and gorgeous! And I say that as a straight girl. I don't get the whole Angelina obsession though (I laugh at the fact that she's the "second" most beautiful woman). Frankly, I think she's scary.

Anyway, I hate to pose such a picky question, but I seem to recall you blogging about being attracted to one of your students who was writing a scholar's option paper. Her body was distracting, as she dressed in very revealing clothes. Granted, you overcame temptation and focused on helping her with her paper. But you were tempted to look. Then again, I don't think you mentioned how old she was, so perhaps this question is irrelevant to the subject at hand.

Hugo

Mermade, you mean this post, I think: http://hugoboy.typepad.com/hugo_schwyzer/2006/08/reprint_incredi.html

It wasn't a sexual response to Jill. It was a response to a woman who was quite literally falling out of her clothes every time she came to my office. Male or female, straight or gay, we're all going to have to work to keep our eyes focused when someone is exposing so much more skin than normally gets exposed. That's work for all of us -- but work we need to do. Distraction and genuine desire are, for me, two very different things.

I loved Lost in Translation. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Best movie of '04, hands down. I love Johansson. And if I were 22, I am sure I would think she was incredibly sexy.

mythago

Scarlett Johannsson is sexy and gorgeous!

Sure, but that's not quite the same thing as "...and I have the hots for her and would sleep with her if I could, because men/women my own age or older are wrinkly old bags."

Hugo

Thanks, Mythago, exactly. I mean, women can think another woman is "sexy" without wanting to have sex with her. Trust me, plenty of straight men can do the same.

K

I’m somewhat proud for offending our host, feminists, homosexuals, and men who enjoy blowjobs in such a short post :)

To the specific concerns:
Men care greatly about the gender of the blowjob-giver. So they want non-procreative acts in the context of a relationship that appears to be have procreative possibilities.

I don’t “worship at the temple” of evo-bio, but men’s attraction to fertile-looking women seems so fundamental that even creationists would agree with it. Gotta watch out for those bonbos.

Hugo, I know that you weren’t discussing homo/hetero issues. You seem to be missing the point: homosexuals were accused of having “wrong attraction,” and successfully defend themselves against the charge with “I was born that way.” You are stigmatizing men for what may be a necessary trait and twisting the kinfe by ending with "It doesn't matter if you were born that way!" But obviously the age of the "teenager" is hugely important: 19 is not at all 14.

And note that I’m talking about attraction and not behavior.

Mermade

I stand corrected. Excellent points, Myth and Hugo.

Hugo

I suspect, Mermade, you're sitting rather than standing.

K, my heterosexuality is not mutable. The age of the objects of that desire have proved to be so. Big diff.

Kip Watson

Group castration! ha ha, that was funny.

Myself; I separate sexual attraction from sexual desire. I find lots of women sexually attractive, young women included (ahem, as in young _adult_ women), but I don't desire them. Because I'm not in love with them. I love my wife.

Sex without love, I did that in atheist youth. It's not as much fun as advertised -- far from it. It wasn't what I wanted then (although I didn't realise it) and it didn't lead to what I wanted, which was love (I didn't realise that, either). It's certainly not what I want nor desire now.

Ugh, the very thought of it, what a turn-off...

K

Hugo,
In contrast to your experience, some people’s preferred age range stays relatively fixed, while many people have switched orientations during their lives.

But enough of my bickering. I was mainly responding to the most out there part of your post. I actually agree with you that we can groom and guide our desires a bit, though we may disagree on how much and in what ways.

I think the age factor in attraction depends greatly on the age at which you meet the person and the context, though. A given age difference for me can be “I just met this really awesome young woman” or “Wow, my little Sarah who I babysat is really growing up; she’s a sophomore in college now and has her own apartment.” Not to mention the wildly varying maturity and experience levels of young people.

I think this may be a little related to the wild oats thread. Some people who are too isolated from the opposite sex well may miss psychological/psychosexual developmental milestones. There may be a subconscious aspect of it (memories of experiences) and a conscious aspect (“OK, I had my time with women of this age, and it’s time to move on”).

I do think it is very wrong for a man to “trade in” an aging wife for a younger person. But it’s strange for me to see how it’s acceptable for a man to be interested in Scarlett Johannsson (who has a stated preference for older men) but somehow “troubling” for his big brother to feel the same way.

So much of this depends on the age of the people involved…I can understand your lack of attraction for youth group kids, given that they are so young.

Arwen

Funny: I remember being 11 years old, and just hitting the outside edge of puberty. I was powerfully drawn to a little nerdlet (I always liked the nerds), who wore corduroys and braces. Anyway, one night while I was considering how adorable he was, I briefly considered how disgusting Remington Steele was. My best friend's mom was into that show, and I knew that her crush was powerful. Comparable states, as it were.

Suddenly, I panicked. Was I going to grow up to be a pervert? Was my brain going to change enough to like icky Remington Steele? (No. Still not my type.) Was I going to be trapped FOREVER in loving 11 year old boys with braces? I figured that I might need to consider a nunnery. (I wasn't particularly clear on the point of nunneries; I saw them more like voluntary social removal for the functional but ill or abused or unable. With wicked costumes, of course.)

I had several sleepless nights considering my impairment, until I finally went to my mother with my concerns. She was very gentle explaining to me that was fine, and normal. But I could tell she was having a hard time not laughing; and that made it all okay.

Mr. Bad

Obviously we're all different and thus what we have here is a string of anecdotes, so let me offer mine.

Throughout my life (yes myth, a considerable one at this point - how old are you?) I've been attracted to women (and even a few men) who have been younger, older and the same age. I've been sexually involved with women similarly. The greatest age difference was when I was 32 and she was 48; yes, it didn't work out too well and based on my personal experience I agree with the +/- 10 years guideline (yes, she was trading in her older BF for a younger model, so such things do indeed go both ways). However, to me attraction is not so much based on physical attributes as it is the personality of the potential partner (although despite objections by Hugo and others, the reality is that biology most certainly plays a strong role in attraction). I find myself attracted to people whose personality seems to be one that would accomdate a long-term relationship/partnership, and in that sense it gels well with the biological as well as sociological models. In other words, I think that for many of us who are mature enough to figure out at least some of the basic facts of life, our primary attraction is to people who are 'nice,' who have compatable personalities and thus would make good partners vis-a-vis successfully raising a family. It's always been this way with me, and probably so for a good many other men, so Hugo, once again I think you're on shaky ground trying to generalize your life experiences to the population of men as a whole.

On the other hand, biological forces relating to 'survival of the species' surely contribute to the 'older man seeks younger women' and 'younger woman seeks older man' phenomenon, but as you say, presumably because we're civilized humans we can keep that in check. But why should we put a lot of energy into trying? Perhaps physical or other attraction (i.e., young woman, wealthy older man) is what brings people together for the first encounter, and then if two people find that they are emotionally compatible - and mature enough to really be able to tell - they form a relationship. And so, who are we to say that it's somehow wrong or something to be avoid if they do? I know, I know, you are strongly against older men exploiting younger women, but the reverse - younger women exploiting older men - is just as common. Now I know this post, and indeed this entire blog, is all about holding men responsible and apparently avoiding discussing women's contributions and responsibilities in the topic du jour, but are you willing to claim that women play no role and have no responsibility in the phenomenon we're addressing? My experience suggests that women play an equal role in all of this. After all, relationships - casual or otherwise - are a two-way street.

Sorry for the rambling, but it's early and this is a complext topic.

Makeesha

I think maybe I must be missing some hidden controversy. I just took Hugo's words at face value and with the purposed intent. To mix in there stuff other issues and sexual attraction vs. sexual desire vs. lust vs. whatever other semantic you want to insert...it just seems petty. But again, maybe I'm too simple minded for the discussion at hand. Either way, I don't get what's getting people's panties in a bunch.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I find that my preferred age rises along with my own age, but also broadens; I can now find people up to maybe twenty years older or younger than me attractive in a way (sort of like mythago's distinction between looking at Scarlett Johanssen and thinking she's sexy and gorgeous vs. looking at her and thinking I have the hots for her and would dump my husband to sleep with her). My husband teases me that I look at attractive young women more than he does. But the biggest age gap over which I've experienced any serious attraction was, when I was in my mid-twenties, for a guy maybe twelve years older than me.

When I was in high school, nobody more than three years different from me in age seemed the least bit sexy.

Fiona

I'm a straight girl and I would sleep with Scarlett Johanson. That out of the way, Hugo, thank you for a great answer to my question! I am glad you didn't take it the wrong way! I know that the teenager kids you work with love you and respect you and most of them probably never give this issue a second thought. I know one person who was curious and now I have a great answer to give her.

I wish all older men were like you. I bet all the older women wish the same thing!! lol

carlaviii

>I find that my preferred age rises along with my own age, but also broadens;

Agreed, and furthermore I'm finding that as I get older, the importance of physical appearance is falling well behind the importance of wittiness and intellect. Back in my 20s, they were on more or less equal footing.

And I've certainly heard the "older men are attracted to fertile-looking (ie, young) women" argument, but I've never bought that being 20 was a prerequisite of appearing to be fertile. Wouldn't the existence of one or two babies be a better indicator?

glendenb

Glad you had a good trip Hugo!

I have a tendency to reveal way too much here in Hugo-land - a vice about I'm to indulge in very seriously.

As I have grown spiritually and emotionally healthier over the last seven years, I have experienced a transformation of my attractions. In some fundamental ways, the type of man I'm attracted to hasn't changed - his age, however, has changed. In my twenties, I tended to date men who were 20 to 30 years older. In the past few years, that has changed - I now date men within a few years of my own age. I attribute this to several changes - a growing comfort with my own skin, improved self esteem, greater self awareness and greater personal health. At the risk of sounding terrible, in my 20s, I lacked the confidence to approach men my own age so I approached older men who would more greatly appreciate the attention of a younger man and who would see my youth and over look my faults.

I was in a relationship for over six years with a man almost 10 years my senior. The end of that relationship came about as a result of me becoming healthier. With its end, I realized that the "older man thing" had lost its reason. I realized that I could be on my own terms with someone and I didn't need to unlevel the playing field to my advantage.

The wide age gap was - I feel - very often about power dynamics in the relationship. The maturity gap often allows the older person to feel in control, the younger person to feel nurtured and cared for. But, the younger person also holds the power in terms of sexual behaviors and sexuality in the relationship – the threat that the younger attractive partner could simply is the check on the older partner’s exercise of power. An older person who uses money and age as a way of attracting persons is no healthier than a younger person who uses his/her sexuality to manipulate others.

Interestingly, now that I’m in my late thirties, I see the dynamic from the other side – as younger men see me as a possible stable older man to nurture them. (Boy do they have a surprise coming!) But the need that drives them is very real – a deep emotional hunger for self worth growing from any source, even if that source is their sexual appeal.

I think Hugo's spot on - that while the age of the partners is not exactly central to a relationship, that sexually healthy people don't necessarily pursue relationships with persons with whom they have an extremely wide age gap. That is not to say that I believe authentic loving relationships are impossible for persons of widely divergent ages, but that as a general rule, most relationships in which the persons have a wide age gap are not terribly healthy.

mythago

I'm a straight girl and I would sleep with Scarlett Johanson.

That's an oxymoron. ;)

yes myth, a considerable one at this point - how old are you?

Old enough to remember 'libbers'.

The evo-bio arguments don't really explain sexual attraction--if men were keyed to hop on any woman past puberty, big breasts on a skinny body would be a turn-off, not a turn-on, and you guys would all prefer A-cups. (The kind of gravity-defying fake boob now in fashion is something you only get in nature on a lactating mother--not a just-fertile teenager.)

And surely you're not in favor of older women exploiting younger men. The "you got lucky" myth is very harmful to male victims of sexual abuse.

Hugo

Thank you for adding that, Mythago. I find it noteworthy that I have never had an email from a young man writing about "older women, younger men." But I am quite certain I wouldn't reinforce the "lucky bastard" discourse that denies the possibility of underage boys being exploited by older women.

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