The following is regarding consensual interaction only. It’s also just my opinion learned from life’s little lessons. Also, I think “erotica” and “porn” really falls outside the realm of this discussion. Erotica is geared towards fetishes and fantasy. If you’re trying to learn psychological lessons from erotica, you might be barking up the wrong tree.
I’ve been thinking about the way people’s sexual preferences are portrayed in a variety of media. How some things are typically frowned upon, regardless of context. Things like older men even noticing younger women are “dirty old men” and how young women who prefer older men have “daddy issues.” Mind you, when those words come up they are usually with a negative bent.
I think that what is missing from this equation is the acknowledgement that all of us have sexual preferences for reasons. Having “daddy issues” or “mommy issues” demeans the people who choose these relationships. A younger person falls in love with somebody older, it implies they cannot make a sound decision based on the older person as a whole. It also demeans the older person as well, as though they are taking advantage of the younger person.
I’ve seen arguments that older people and younger people cannot have an equal relationship. Implying that only people who are totally equal can ever be in a consensual relationship together. But how can we possibly quantify, beyond known power imbalance, that this is somehow detrimental to a relationship?
Therapists should not date their patients. Teachers should not date their students. Bosses should not date their subordinates. These things make sense. There is definite power imbalance in these situations. But beyond these types of relationships, things get murky.
People have all kinds of psychological reasons for why they are attracted to other people. They love big breasts or tiny feet. They fall in love with singers or writers or military men (and women). There are many reasons we feel attractions and they are all valid. Some of them can be self destructive. For example, people who only fall in love with married people. Or people who fetishize something to the point they cannot have a bonding sexual experience, or possibly any sexual experience, without that fetish present. Or people have a fetish that hurts others, non-consensually.
So what exactly is an equal relationship? Only professors with equal education levels? Only people who speak the same language? Only people who are making similar income levels? Celebrities can only date celebrities?
We have long rolled our eyes at the professor who sleeps with the co-ed. But these relationships happen time and time again for a reason. Each person is attracted and having some need met. The co-ed swoons over the smart handsome professor. Or the young male student is interested in a sexy older woman. This could also be female/female or male/male. The possibilities are endless. The professors feel adored. Who doesn’t like to feel smart and adored? The student feels special. Both parties are smart enough to know the cliche – so why does it keep happening (and often ending badly) over and over again? Because these people are chemically and psychologically drawn to each other. If it turns out that they learn something along the way – that’s called a lesson. If these people have destructive, hurtful relationships that hurt other people each time, then maybe they learn to stop the harmful behavior. But at least sometimes, it works out. And that’s not a mistake. It’s because some people are actually meeting each others needs.
Learning from sexual mistakes are like every other mistake we make as we grow.
I’ve mostly been thinking of this because of Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk about bullying. And the imbalance in the blame that went on in the fallout. I was much younger then and I remember being angry at her as much a Bill Clinton. Part of that was media driven madness. So unfair. But now that I’m a bit older I realize that their behavior isn’t so out of place in a world where all of us have needs and sometimes they aren’t being met and the next thing you know, the thing that can scratch your itch is right there. It’s human. There was definitely a power imbalance in that relationship, so in my feeling if there is blame to go around it should be laid squarely at Bill Clinton’s feet. In retrospect, the only thing that really bothers me about all of that stuff now, is the lies he told – to his wife. But that’s none of my business.
I think we get mad, not because we think Monica did something that is so wrong or out of the realm of fairly normal behavior for a young woman intoxicated by a powerful man. I think we get mad because we don’t want our spouse cheating on us and embarrassing us in front of everybody. Wounding our egos. Feeling like somebody is going to take away the thing that made us feel safe when we were first together. We were mad at Monica because we identified more with the wronged spouse. If you identified more with Monica, then you were probably not the spouse in the scenario. It’s all relative.
Being with somebody who I totally trust has made all of the difference in the way I project my feelings onto these situations. Growing up some, has given me perspective. When you have a healthy self esteem and you totally trust that your spouse is truthful and always has your best interest at heart, you don’t worry about these things. Therefore you don’t project your insecurities onto the people in these scenarios. That doesn’t mean that your relationship will never suffer any serious blows. Or that a lie can’t and won’t happen. It just means that you’re more likely to get what you need from that relationship 98% of the time and you’re not going to go around being mad at things that have nothing to do with you.
I said all of that to say this: we should stop portraying some sexual desires as gross or stupid. Sure, we can have characters in stories that think some things are gross or stupid. But it would be nice to see it stop being validated within the story. An older woman and a younger man is always a “cougar.” Sure, that’s fun and wink-wink, nod-nod. And sometimes that is fine and appropriate. But it’s become a trope and it sort of removes the humanity from the people involved.
Old men noticing young women isn’t always “dirty old man” situation. Remember, every young man who came of age and was into young women isn’t going to just stop finding young women attractive because his body ages. He may make the choice to only date older women or more mature women, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop his attraction younger women.
We seem to be at war with our humanness. Rather than accept those parts that are normal and ingrained and then building on them to make better decisions. Controlling our behavior for healthier happier outcomes. Rather than build up from the foundation we’ve laid, we tear other things down so we feel better. We have a culture of this sort of thing. From the magazines at the check-out aisle where we can see which successful person who is richer than we are has cellulite so we feel better about our cellulite, to viewing senior citizens as funny little non-sexual entities. Some day we will be staring at a seventy year old lover, if we are lucky enough to be having sex well into our old age.
We all are attracted to what we are attracted to because it meets some need inside of us. I don’t mean our sexual orientation. That’s just part of what you are born with. I mean the aspects and features of others that we are attracted to. And even if you think somebody else has weird needs and attractions, so long as things are consensual and not hurting their lives or the life of somebody else, it’s ok. They’re ok. You’re ok. And it’s none of your business. Just don’t stop growing. The more honest we can be about these things, the more we can grow.
So buy that new whip for your dungeon room and put on that tu-tu and dance around. Spank or get spanked. Put on that superhero spandex. Role-play. Kiss. Fuck. Lick chocolate off of each other. Have fun. Healthy sex is fun, satisfying sex.