The problem with underage relationships
By Jessica Berget, Staff Writer
I can’t help but cringe whenever I see an adult dating someone under 18, or someone significantly younger than them. Besides the fact that dating someone under 16 when you are more than a few years older than them is illegal, it’s also extremely creepy and inappropriate. They are a child, you are an adult. End of story.
Speaking of creepy, just two years ago, now 38–year–old James Franco attempted (and failed) to hook up with a 17–year–old girl on Instagram. Although our age of consent is 16, in many places she would still be considered a minor. After being called out on his gross behaviour, he denied it, but eventually confessed to it and even joked about it, with his career remaining virtually unharmed. He admitted it was a bad judgement call on his part. I can’t help but wonder if he would still be saying that if they had actually hooked up, or if he is just saying that because he was exposed? I presume the latter. Yes, the age difference is gross, but even more disturbing is the thought that this girl is probably just graduating high school and figuring out what she wants to do with her life, while he is almost 40 years old. Even if she went along with it and consented, it’s his responsibility as the adult to determine right from wrong and to say no to sex with a minor.
In a romantic or sexual relationship, it is important to realize that there is a large imbalance in power dynamics if your partner is much older or younger than you. The adult partner has unspoken authority over their younger partner, no matter what their gender is. The older partner is also seen as more dominant, while the younger person is more vulnerable. Lastly, there is a big difference in life and relationship experience, and the older partner may use their partner’s age and lack of experience as an excuse to undermine or manipulate them. Of course, not all relationships end up like this, but a significant amount do.
There are different levels of maturity in these relationships. The underage partner might be mature for their age, but for an older person to have the same level of maturity as their much younger partner is troubling, especially if they are still in high school. The younger partner may act older or even look older than they really are, but when it comes to sex they may not be emotionally ready, especially if their partner is significantly older than them. I’ve heard about some people waiting for their partners to become legal before they start dating, but that is still predatory behaviour.
I’m not here to knock on anyone’s relationship. If you have a healthy and meaningful relationship, then all the power to you. If you want to date someone older than you, that’s your choice. But it’s important to recognize the issues that might come up with such a relationship, and learn how best to avoid them.