Big difference in age/experience on a first date and if something more.
April 6, 2015 12:38 PM   Subscribe

So I am a 34 male and I knowingly asked a 19-20-21-ish-year-old on a coffee date. I mentioned the age difference to her when I did so. She said, "Sure." If we go on more dates after this date and/or become physically intimate, how can I minimize the chance that she will retrospectively feel preyed upon or taken advantage of in X years?

So I've been in long-term relationships with mostly people my age, and also one of my most serious relationships was with someone nine years younger than me. With that person, we "casually" dated while she was in undergrad and only "seriously" dated when she graduated and got a job.

This person could even be as young as a freshman (she's somewhere in her undergrad program), and, post-invite, she advised me that she's never been on a date.

So. I have been on a quintillion dates. I asked her out because of exceedingly uncommon interests in common (please trust me on this) and I'm attracted to her. Actually I'm lusting after her. (In a subsequent email, she confirmed she understood that this is a date-date ("low-key, friendly") and not a friend-date.)

I have a history of being somewhat abrupt in breaking things off with people, which I want to be extra careful about, here, if we keep seeing each other, but I'm fairly careful, respectful, and not-horrible as far as I can tell. I think I come across online as hyper-analytical and maybe tone-deaf or even normatively oblivious. But I'm not tone-deaf--I get that a situation like this would skeeze the crap out of lots of third-party observers and that she might only have a faint or even no sense of third-party skeeze reactions.

And she probably *doesn't* have a sense of the ethical/power minefield, here. I'm sure I don't fully grasp it, hence this question. (We have an overlapping social context, and she actually does some mild administrative stuff in that context. I'm just an attendee.)

So, given the vast gulf in experience and life-situations, what are some things that I should be extra careful about?

I mean, of course I would be ok if we don't click or just become shared-interest friends or acquaintances or non-acquaintances, which are all likely outcomes. But, of course, part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.

One of my concerns is that I want this to be a positive interaction for her because, as a first for her, I don't want her to end up with a warped template that messes up all future relationships and relating...

And, the other concern I have is that I don't want her to look back in X years with the benefit of life experience and decide that whatever transpired between us was not good and not right and that she regrets having done it or having been in that situation given downstream effects.

Just as an aside, as an example of my "interpersonal skill level," I have taken the chance on two workplace romances in my past, both of which became long-term relationships, and both of which ended on good terms while the two of us were still working in close proximity. So I just want to emphasize I can skillfully navigate fraught human situations if with a bit of an appetite for risk.

So, in this particular non-work, one-person-inexperienced, age-gapped situation, what am I most likely to do terribly, horrible wrong in terms of her best interests? I am certainly open to, and even expecting, us having a hopefully friendly, fun conversation and one or both of us wanting to be just friends or whatever. But I am also interested in the possibility of physical and/or emotional intimacy as well.

Of course, all of that is 100% contingent on her instantaneously-valid-no-matter-what preferences, desires, and interests as a unique human being with agency and autonomy.
posted by zeek321 to Human Relations (99 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

But, of course, part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.

I think this is the most interesting part of your question. You are interested in doing complicated sexual things with a young woman who has never been out on a date, and so is presumably a virgin. Does she know this? Or does she think that you want to go on a coffee date?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2015 [57 favorites]

One big difference between teenage-me and adult-me is that teenagers/young adults are in contact with each other ALL the time (texting, apps, whatever the kids do these days). Adults cut way, way back on that. She may expect you to text her 1000 times a day. Most people in their 30s and up just don't do that. So I would try to establish a frequency of contact that you're both comfortable with, and understand there may be some hurt feelings on her part because you are not adapting to the norms of her peer group.
posted by desjardins at 12:50 PM on April 6, 2015

In terms of protecting her, I think you should not date her. I had relationships with older men when I was younger, and now that I have reached those ages, I'm appalled that someone my current age would have been romantic with someone 18ish. I would also be concerned about future relationships with women your own age, because if it comes up that you dated a teenager, it could be a big turn-off/red flag.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [94 favorites]

Mod note: Couple comments removed. Long, complicated question; probably better to skip the one-liner bromides and focus on somewhat more substantial advice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, you are 34 and you don't know how old she is. Is she over 18? People have absolutely graduated high school and started college at 16 or 17. I think you should get a number from her beyond "19-20-21-ish-years-old" before you do anything else.

If she's legal, be kind and move slowly. Very slowly. She's never been on a date! At that stage of my life, dating a guy for a year without sleeping together felt normal. Now that I am 34, sleeping together after a couple dates or (one date or half of a date) feels completely normal.
posted by kate blank at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [26 favorites]

I am going to refrain from judgment and encourage you to really, really, really respect the "instantaneously-valid-no-matter-what preferences, desires, and interests as a unique human being with agency and autonomy."

Having been the younger person in a similar situation way back in the day, I will advise that the best thing you can do is to let her take the lead--in terms of physical touch (even if this takes many months), intimacy of any kind, making plans, etc. Please do not pressure her with anything even as mild as "well, I got these tickets, and they're non-refundable, so..." Let her let you know what she's interested in. Expect very little. Good on you for thinking ahead on this, also.
posted by witchen at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: You are interested in doing complicated sexual things with a young woman who has never been out on a date, and so is presumably a virgin. Does she know this? Or does she think that you want to go on a coffee date?

Won't thread sit. I mean I do want to go on a fun coffee date with someone who I find intriguing and who I'm attracted to. And I expect that she'd move realllllllly slowly on physical intimacy in that possible future.
posted by zeek321 at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2015

But, of course, part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.

Wait wait wait, is this a bdsm thing? No, stop. Let her experience vanilla stuff first, you are jumping into the deep end of the pool. She may have all sorts of fantasies but I do not believe she can meaningfully consent to this without having experienced sexual intimacy first.
posted by desjardins at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2015 [71 favorites]

Here's the thing... you're already anticipating that this relationship will be imbalanced based on your age/maturity/relationship and sexual experience even though it's couched in concern about her well-being now and in the future. That means she's going to look back on it as a time when she was in a position of less power, whether she views you as a mentor or as a puppeteer. That suggests to me that whatever happens will be a mixed memory for her at best and you should therefore refrain.
posted by carmicha at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2015 [20 favorites]

Eh. One of my dearest friends is 38 (I'm 43) and has been dating a woman who is... 22? for a year or more. He is a stand-up, ethical, totally un-creepy guy and she is straight-up great -- mature, together, engaged, interesting, very much my social peer when we hang out.

If you respect her agency, I don't really see the problem unless she is a problem.

You are interested in doing complicated sexual things with a young woman who has never been out on a date, and so is presumably a virgin.

In a million years I would never make this assumption. Going out on dates is not a thing people under the age X do. At that age, you hang out and hook up until your friends tell you you're a thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:55 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: you're already anticipating that this relationship [...] mentor or as a puppeteer

I really won't thread sit. Serious question: If I'm taking meta-perspectives that she's probably not taking, does that automatically preclude an ethical relationship? Ok, over and out.
posted by zeek321 at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2015

At that age, you hang out and hook up until your friends tell you you're a thing.

Totally true. I should say that my spouse and I are 30 years apart. We started dating right after I turned 28. Not quite the same as this situation (I had dated around a lot). However, one thing I appreciated that my partner did was that he always, always made sure I was okay with what we were doing. Often, before, during and after. That's a good thing to keep in mind.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:58 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: if I were talking to the girl, I would tell her: honey, date someone your own age. especially since she hasn't had dating experience at all. how do you know that he loves you for you, and isn't actually just attracted by your inexperience and your youth, etc. Get a more even power dynamic.

But youth is folly, and wasted on the young and so on.

And I am talking to you instead. so here's what I'll say:

when I was 20-ish, I dated a guy who was 35. I would say he ought to have known better, because age levels and experience and yeah he ought to have known better. He even mentioned to me the same misgivings that you mentioned above. I'm not sure he even saw me as an equal, "strong" though I was.

While I wouldn't do it again, I came out of it relatively unscarred, because he was in general decent and not a player. (you sound a little bit like a player to me, tho, tbh)

Now, when I was 25, I dated a guy who was 35. We both still had relatively little dating experience and that was much more equal relationship. That was a-ok, no regrets on the age front. But he went into it sincerely, with his heart, giving it an honest go. He wanted to get laid and build a partnership.

While you may technically date this woman, use your common sense. If you see that she is unwise in her decisions, looking up to you, getting more attached to you than you are to her, and so on, then for the love of [decency], don't get involved and find someone who is your equal. I think on some level you sense this already, but you are so besotted by her sexiness that it is clouding your common sense.

The best way to leave her undamaged is to... leave her alone.

Unless you're like: hey, this woman and I could be a serious thing together, my heart/mind/soul is stimulated, not just my body/mind, then just walk away.
posted by serenity soonish at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2015 [27 favorites]

Best answer: If I'm taking meta-perspectives that she's probably not taking, does that automatically preclude an ethical relationship?

posted by jesourie at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [29 favorites]

I kind of disagree, unless you're talking dominant/submissive sexuality stuff. Otherwise, I think you're overthinking this. She's legal, you're aware of the issue. I don't think this is 'inability to consent' territory. In fact, I find it kind of insulting to her to deny her that agency in the matter.

Campsite rule, and be sensitive to if she's really not into it, but doesn't have the experience to know it. Be aware she doesn't have experience in the communications part of relationships, so you might have to do more than your share in that area.
posted by ctmf at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I'm taking meta-perspectives that she's probably not taking, does that automatically preclude an ethical relationship?

If you're correctly characterizing your relative maturity, experience, etc. then yes given the degree of potential damage and the difficulty of avoiding same. It's not ethical to put her at such risk, especially since she may lack the capacity to understand/reject taking on that risk in the throes of attraction to worldly older you.
posted by carmicha at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think what grosses a lot of women out retrospectively about relationships with big age differences is when they realize that, whatever he swore up and down at the time, the guy wasn't just into them because of their shared passion or how well they clicked conversationally. Those things were there, but it was the fact that they were housed in a young body and/or a young spirit who hadn't yet had to deal with the gritty day-to-day shit that a woman who was the guy's peer would have. And that makes the guy in retrospect pretty unappealing, when you realize that if they met you now with the same personality, but with forty more pounds and 20 more wrinkles and a slightly healthier sense of skepticism they'd pass you right on by.
posted by MsMolly at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2015 [217 favorites]

I think that no matter how chillax you are, there is a high chance she will regret the relationship and think that you were kind of a suspicious cad and she was a fool. Them's the risks. Unless you are uncannily mellow and she is uncannily mature (which is seems is not the case).
posted by stoneandstar at 1:06 PM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Serious question: If I'm taking meta-perspectives that she's probably not taking, does that automatically preclude an ethical relationship?

Dude. You are going to do no harm with a cup of coffee. I think you are meta-bean-plating, at least at this junction. And also, who are you to make assumptions about what she may or may not be thinking? If you are heading into this patronising and paternalistic, that is creepy. You're making it creepy.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:06 PM on April 6, 2015 [33 favorites]

That's great that you have "a bit of an appetite for risk" but the risk here isn't to you, it's to her. Are you finding some of the attraction in the subversiveness and risk of the situation? Because that's not fair to her at all.

Also she may not even be of legal drinking age, assuming you're in the US? That's more of a pain than you might realize if you ever go to clubs, bars, concert venues, want her to meet/hang out with your friends, etc. And if you hang out with her friends, are you going to end up the designated party beer-buyer?

And for her, god, even if you are perfectly behaved in every way, to me part of the experience and joy and heartbreak of young love is having the freedom to be dumb and maybe make bad decisions and whatever, but do so with someone who is equally dumb and young and in love so that it's not this inherently either paternalistic or predatory thing.
posted by misskaz at 1:08 PM on April 6, 2015 [29 favorites]

I'm going to go against the flow a bit here, I guess, but I kinda don't see the big deal here. You're, what, 13 years older than she is? Not a big deal. Unless you're leaving out some salient fact, like that you're her boss or professor or something, I don't see this as some big ethical dilemma. Not everything has to turn into some sort of three-act opera with powerful political ramifications. She's not a child, and I assume she knows you're older than she is. She has every right to make the decision to go out with you, sleep with you, what have you, without your having to take some sort of protector/mentor role that she may very well not be contemplating at all.

And as others have pointed out, there's no reason to assume she's a virgin; I lost my virginity in my late teens and I don't think I had ever been out on what I'd have termed a "date" in the way that term is generally defined.

I will be honest and say that I look askance a bit at older man/younger woman relationships for the reasons that MsMolly said, but that's not my business, and if she has no problem with it, I don't think it's for any of us to say you shouldn't do it because we find it icky.
posted by holborne at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

Being hyper-analytical and meta about how you interact with someone is already an undermining of their autonomy, as though if you did something just right you could engineer a situation to have YOUR desired outcome regardless of HER will. Big red flag.

I mean, frankly, it sounds like you're already weirded out by your age difference--it's just you're SUPER DUPER ATTRACTED TO HER and so you're doing double back flips to make the age difference feel okay.

Look if it doesn't feel totally okay--it probably ISN'T totally okay. And you literally CANNOT control if she thinks positively of you in the future. She gets to think what she thinks.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2015 [53 favorites]

I'm okay with anything as long as it's done between consenting adults who are being completely honest with each other. If this goes beyond coffee, then you have to be very clear with her and yourself what you want out of this. Give her the information she needs to make a decision at all times. Don't lie.

She's capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. Don't overthink her...concentrate on being you. You're the only variable you will ever be able to control in these situations.
posted by inturnaround at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Look, I’m younger than you (and female, FWIW), so I don’t want to be all “kids get off my lawn”, and I’m sure you’re going to get a ton of MeFites chiming in that these situations can be ethically navigated, but… frankly, I don’t think that there is a way to ensure that you’re behaving ethically here, let alone your desire that you “don't want her to look back in X years with the benefit of life experience and decide that whatever transpired between us was not good and not right and that she regrets having done it or having been in that situation given downstream effects". I’ve done a lot of thinking about this sort of thing as a result of watching various female friends of mine stumble through these situations through their 20s, and I have come to the conclusion that parity in a relationship, and the ability to consent, is predicated on roughly equal power. This problematizes not only relationships between people in unequal positions of professional power (e.g. professors/students, boss/employee), but it also problematizes relationships between people in unequal positions of experiential power (an undergraduate possibly-virgin who has never been on a date, versus a mid-30s person with lots of dating and LTR experience and presumably an independent life and a job and some money). If she were four or five years older – out of college, with a job, maybe with some dating history – my response would be different; but that’s not where you and she are. I don’t have a problem with age gaps per se, but I do have a problem with power/experience gaps, especially when they’re eroticized as you seem to be in danger of doing.

I’m not going to say that such a situation is always everywhere categorically unethical and nonconsensual; but having had numerous friends who have had experiences like this, every single one of them, while flattered at the time, grew to find the dynamic and the attention deeply creepy in retrospect. All of them, despite the guy's protestations of finding their company intoxicating, came to view the situation as one where the guy was creepily attracted to a combination of their teenage body and their innocence/freshness (as opposed to the guy's "jaded" female contemporaries).

And, given the tone of your question, I would urge you that whatever you do, don’t paternalistically try to manage her feelings and mediate her experiences to her about this relationship. You can’t control her future perspective about what transpired between you, and your question to me smacks of the sort of paternalistic micromanagement that you really should be trying to avoid. If she ends up finding you a creepy opportunistic cad and deeming you such in her memory, well - them's the breaks. Given the experience of my friend circle, I would say this is an overwhelmingly likely ultimate outcome; and her experiences and her interpretation of them are her prerogative, not yours.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2015 [102 favorites]

Yeah honestly while I think your heart is in the right place this question already comes across as being pretty paternalistic.

Look, let's face facts here -- you want to have sex with a 19-year-old. My understanding is that lots of dudes think about that, so you're not alone or abnormal. But I feel like you're trying to somehow come up with an intellectual loophole so you're not one of THOSE older men who lust over teenagers, and I just don't think there is a terribly valid way for you to to do that.
posted by jess at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [92 favorites]

Darlingbri and whimsicalnymph expressed my concerns better than I did. In short, the relationship you imagine--which you're actively fantasizing about (even before you have that cup of coffee)--casts you in the upper, power position. Your translate your alleged concern about her well-being into a narrative where you manage her emotions and even her future thoughts based on your superior awareness and experience. This is why some of us are reading you as patronizing and patriarchal.

You aren't envisioning this as a relationship of equals because it won't/can't be; you know it and yet you continue to weave your fairy tale (probably because you're in lust).
posted by carmicha at 1:22 PM on April 6, 2015 [18 favorites]

I am 49 years old, but in my youth I had a thing for older women and dated a lot of them. "Older" ranged from, oh, a 5-year gap when I was 22; an 8-year and a 15-year gap when I was 23; a 25-year gap when I was 27.

Most of what I have to say about dating an older person seems relatively trivial, but the underlying issue is that the older person has to respect the younger one. The younger person you are dating is not a "baby," for instance, though one of my girlfriends enjoyed telling me I was.

The younger person has the right to be at the stage of life they are, and to learn by living through the subsequent stages, without being humiliated or condescended to. "You'll know better when you're older," "I thought the same thing when I was your age but now I understand that..." and any variations on that theme are off-limits.* Your job as the older person is not actually to impart life wisdom to an adoring acolyte; it's to be in a mutually enjoyable and supportive relationship of affection and respect. It's true that one of the things you may well enjoy is the other person's youth, but this does not mean you know better than them what they want and need. If you find yourself routinely thinking you know better than your younger partner, you need to either very carefully evaluate and monitor your words and actions, or consider that you are not a good candidate for dating someone younger.

It is common for the older person to have more financial resources than the younger one; as in any relationship, the financial balance of the relationship should be addressed head-on, and money never ever used for inappropriate exertion of power. There are two people in the relationship, and "people" are the decision-making unit, not dollars. That is to say, if you are going away for a weekend and you're driving, paying for gas, ponying up for the hotel, and buying the $75 tickets to a play, while your younger partner has agreed to pack snacks for the road and pay for one nice dinner out, the extra dollars you're throwing into the pot don't entitle you to impose your preferences about where to stay and what to do. My last girlfriend and I were long-distance, and when we wanted to visit, we got in the habit of each of us saying up-front how much we could contribute to getting together, and then deciding together how best to use our pooled resources. That was a good system for us.

It is best if you don't pretend there isn't an age difference. The 52-year-old I dated when I was 27 wanted to deal with the age difference by not ever referring to it. For me, this was as bad in some ways as the girlfriend who used to say, "you're such a baby," when she thought I was acting my age. The age difference exists, and you can't talk about any challenges or pleasures that arise from that if you can't talk about it at all.

One reason I liked dating older women was that they offered me glimpses into stages of life I hadn't entered yet: when I was 22 and dating a 27-year-old, I was a grad student and had lived my whole life in academia; my girlfriend had been out in the world working. I appreciated the experience and knowledge older girlfriends brought to the relationship but didn't want to be treated as if I was deficient simply for being younger and less experienced.

Express your intention to not be patronizing, and check in about how you're doing. My most recent girlfriend was 21 years younger than me, and one of the smartest people I know. But she was young in experience in some ways. For instance, I'd been with my primary partner for 20 years when we started dating; she and her primary partner had been together for not quite three years, and it was the longest relationship either of them had ever had. Sometimes she would ask me to offer some perspective, and I could do that, but it was also very important to remember that she and her girlfriend were very different people than me and my partner. I would sometimes tell stories from the early days of my long relationship, but I tried not to offer explicit advice for their relationship based on ours, if that makes sense. I think I did a good job of not patronizing her, but when I thought I had slipped, I apologized. And if I slipped and didn't catch it, she let me know. And I apologized.

Pay attention to the things that your younger partner has to teach you. My 21-years-younger girlfriend grew up in a different time and a very different environment than I did; I found listening to her talk about her life fascinating. She was also brilliantly smart, and I learned a lot from listening to her talk about her studies and her work. She was so adept at handling children, including and especially very difficult ones, that I sometimes asked her for parenting advice. I definitely had things to teach her (I think), but it wasn't a one-way street. My respect for her was and is immense. She was sexy, energetic, youthful in a way that maybe you can't fully appreciate until you're approaching 50, but those things aren't enough. That I respected her and recognized that there were things she knew more about than I did mattered a lot. I think a relationship without that respect and sense of mutual exploration is probably objectifying.

* "You'll know better when you're older," "I thought the same thing when I was your age but now I understand that..." and any variations on that theme are off-limits Even if you strongly suspect you're right, or are proven right by the passage of time.

Here's an example: when my most recent girlfriend and I started seeing each other, she told me categorically that two things she and her primary girlfriend knew for sure were 1) they were never getting married, and 2) they were never having a baby. I thought, but didn't say, did not say ever no matter how many times the subject came up, that the late 20s are a common time for people to change their minds about that sort of thing. Now, a scant 21 months later, they have been married a month and are actively trying to get pregnant. I'm not surprised by this, but if I'd predicted it I'd have been a condescending ass, and might well have been wrong. Bite your tongue if your younger person is seeming naive, unless the possible consequences of not speaking are very bad in some way.

I think this all boils down to: if you're going to date a younger person, they have to be someone you truly respect, and you have to communicate that respect to them. If you can't feel that respect, or if you can't resist age-based teasing and advice-giving, date someone older.
posted by not that girl at 1:27 PM on April 6, 2015 [29 favorites]

I don't have any problem with the age difference, or that she is young, or relatively inexperienced. When I was her age, I was asked out by men your age, and it was flattering. But, you aren't treating her as a dating equal here. You are already entering in to this relationship treating her as a project and someone you can mold and influence. If I knew any of the men that had asked me out posted a question like this, I would have high-tailed it out of any future interactions with them.

So, given the vast gulf in experience and life-situations, what are some things that I should be extra careful about? It's too late - you've already crossed that line. If you were really and truly interested in being in a normal, healthy relationship with her, this question would have not needed to be asked the way it did.
posted by umwhat at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.

I recognize your username, so I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you're talking about here, and it isn't (imo) something that is remotely ethical to try to do to someone who might still be a teenager, especially when she admittedly has no dating or relationship experience whatsoever.

FTR, I was an 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old woman who preferred to date dudes who were twice my age or more, and I'm now a 33-year-old woman who is completely horrified by the behavior of ~75% of those dudes, so I'm sure I could give some very meaningful advice in this regard. But considering your highly specific and unique sexual requirements, all I can do is beg you not to try to entangle her in your desired arrangement until she has at least a few more years of living and at least a couple of 'vanilla' relationships under her belt.

I mean, I totally get that you desperately want to bang her, but desperately wanting to bang someone doesn't mean you're going to be able to keep their best interests in mind while you navigate a baked-in power differential. And tbh, when we're talking about a mid-30s dude who desperately wants to bang a teen- or very early 20-something woman whom he barely knows at all, her best interests are going to be the absolute least of his concerns, period. This is still ESPECIALLY true when said dude loudly and repeatedly proclaims himself to be a valiant defender of her best interests. So you might try to consider this a heads-up that how you think you come off and how you actually come off can be two very, very different things.
posted by divined by radio at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2015 [88 favorites]

got delayed with my reply here

If I'm taking meta-perspectives that she's probably not taking, does that automatically preclude an ethical relationship


why you ask?

because you are not in it seriously. from the get go. and you know it. that's why you're asking. that's why you're even framing the question this way. You know the answer.

look, I hate that I can't flirt with the cute 20yo at the check out counter any more too. I hate that it's starting to become creepy now. I would love to bone him buhleeve me I would. But I just have to accept that it's not my time any more and leave the kids to the kids.
posted by serenity soonish at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2015 [16 favorites]

You can't manage her feelings. You can only manage your own feelings and your own actions.

I don't know. Your question makes me queasy and I can't really pinpoint why exactly. I'm not generally skeeved out by stuff like this but something here feels... off. Sorry.

I think your best bet is to not date her. You don't seem to be approaching this from a "oh and you happen to be young, whatever" standpoint which I think matters a lot in relationships like this. It seems like something else is going on here.

If you do date her, quit with the managing her feelings stuff. So what if she feels like you took advantage of her in ten years time? That's her perogative. She gets to feel whatever she feels. I think you're afraid she's going to feel this way because deep down you know it's true: you're into her because she's young. It's not incidental, it is the thing.

If she were 40 lbs heavier, saggier, wrinkled and tired with the weight of a few failed relationships on her conscious and heart would you still want to "do complicated sexual things to her"? Probably not. It's fine to be attracted to someone young and naive but you don't have to act on it. That's maturity: not acting on every impulse we have.
posted by sockermom at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2015 [28 favorites]

I appreciate that you don't want to threadsit but hey it is your question; more than one person asked, basically, if these were the same thing:
I asked her out because of exceedingly uncommon interests in common (please trust me on this) … But, of course, part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.
The squickiness I think some people are feeling about the latter admission might be diminished if that's also what she's after. IHNJH, it just isn't really clear and it seems like it might be relevant, though desjardins is probably still right about the deep end.
posted by kenko at 1:42 PM on April 6, 2015

Also, looking back at your ask history, some questions you may want to ask yourself:

-- Are you using AskMe as an outlet for your sexual exhibitionism/unemployment issues after deciding to shut down your NSFW sexuality blog three weeks ago?

-- Seven months ago, you were fairly sure that you were a vector for multiple STIs, including oral herpes and HPV, but were unsure if you ethically needed to disclose this to a new sexual partner, because you wanted to initiate a sexual relationship with her before you were willing to undergo testing. If you are indeed an HPV carrier, it's a strain that has resulted in more than one of your female partners presenting abnormal PAP smears. Have you gotten tested for these STIs yet? Are you planning to enter a sexual relationship with a 19 year old girl while suspecting yourself to be a vector for an STI that routinely leads to cancer in the women it affects?

I don't know what's going on with you, but you have much, much bigger problems than whether or not you should be going on a date with this 19 year old. You are using compulsive sexuality as an escape from dealing with your life responsibilities and attempting to get Metafilter to enable you in doing so. Please go get your shit together, go to Planned Parenthood and get tested for the STIs you suspect you've been spreading among your sexual partners, and no, do not date this girl.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:48 PM on April 6, 2015 [163 favorites]

I, too, feel queasy after reading everything you wrote. Would you be willing to tell her what you want to do to her sexually right off the bat or send her a link to this and see what's going on in your mind? If not, you're trying to figure out how to manipulate an inexperienced young woman into bed while turning off the misgivings you already have about it.
posted by discopolo at 1:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [12 favorites]

Re the intricate and complicated sexual things, here's what you wrote in one of your previous AskMe questions...

"[In] my okcupid profile, I described intense sex acts (hitting, verbal abuse, etc.) as examples of "ideal" acts to gradually work up to over time, long-term... I think what *I* would like, all things being equal, is for this new person to assume various positions and hold them for many minutes at a time. And I would dictate eye contact...Basically, yes, I want to do what I want. And I want her to feel like I'm doing what I want. But I also want her to feel safe, very aroused, and emotionally connected, afterwards."

You've also described your NSFW blog, your unemployment and your concerns about STI exposure.

Please don't date this inexperienced teenager. It's just not fair. Use the energy to get your life together and stop distracting yourself from the bigger issues affecting your life.
posted by carmicha at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2015 [78 favorites]

Also I think approaching a relationship with someone young and inexperienced hoping to have "complicated" sex - which I take to mean BDSM - is really uncool. That's great that you're into whatever you're into but don't drag someone else into complicated sex if they've never had uncomplicated sex. Like, I don't know man, sex is complicated enough already as is.

The fact that you're so forceful about saying "but only if she wants it!" in your question is what I think is the thing setting off klaxons. That's standard. You shouldn't have to argue so hard or even remind us as readers that you're only interested in "complicated" sex with her if she wants it. Any time someone says that it really gives me pause. Like... I don't need you to tell me that you're going to respect her autonomy. I automatically assume that. You being so forceful about it makes me think that is kind of an issue for you.

Yeah. You're probably going to make her feel like you took advantage of her at some point unless you pretend you're totally into vanilla sex and wait until she maybe maybe one day brings up an interest in "complicated" sex, whatever that is to you. There's no other way for you to play this without her thinking you're a creep either now or sometime down the road. Ask me how I know.
posted by sockermom at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2015 [16 favorites]

Just throwing this out there, but most (yes, MOST) of the relationships I have seen play out this way have been very unbalanced. The older person is often in control and directing the relationship to their liking and the younger person doesn't have enough experience to know the difference.

This isn't every relationship. Can two adults of differing ages have a healthy, viable relationship? Yes, absolutely. 38 years old and 54 years old? No sweat. But the fact remains that this person is mere years from childhood. I know more than a few guys around my age (35) who like to date super young because quite frankly, women their own age won't give them the time of day and are way more attuned to the red flags, of which your post has many.

So, in this particular non-work, one-person-inexperienced, age-gapped situation, what am I most likely to do terribly, horrible wrong in terms of her best interests?

You say you have the tendency to end things abruptly. I would react to that much, much differently at 35 than I would have at 18. You say otherwise, but I really don't believe you when you say you have her best interests at heart. If you did, you probably wouldn't go on the date to begin with.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm with sockermom and others. The way you've written this is incredibly skeevy.

So no. Step away from the teenager. Here's why:

Your phrasing is paternalistic and you seem to give yourself a hell of a lot of credit. You don't want her to end up with a warped template that messes up all future relationships and relating...

And, the other concern I have is that I don't want her to look back in X years with the benefit of life experience and decide that whatever transpired between us was not good and not right and that she regrets having done it or having been in that situation given downstream effects.

No and my God you really glow in self-importance. What will happen is she may look back on this and think you were a sleazeball who knowingly took advantage of the power dynamic between you.

And this, I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her . It confirms the creep factor.
posted by kinetic at 1:55 PM on April 6, 2015 [23 favorites]

Yeah, after reading some of your previous questions, I'm not sure you're ready for what you have in mind with someone who knows even less than you. I don't mean that to sound insulting, but just in October you seemed to be having issues with that, and now you want to be someone's introduction to the lifestyle? Sounds like a not-so-great idea.
posted by ctmf at 1:57 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: more than one person asked, basically, if these were the same thing:

(Oh, I didn't mean to imply we had kinks in common. I have no idea. I always bring this stuff up at the first sane opportunity.)

[...] you were fairly sure that you were a vector for multiple STIs [...] Are you using AskMe as an outlet for your sexual exhibitionism/unemployment issues after deciding to shutdown your NSFW sexuality blog

(Hoo boy. She is aware of my blog. Which is still ongoing and making money. I have an appointment to be tested at the end of this month. I am going on job interviews.)
posted by zeek321 at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2015

part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her
It's odd that you're so coy about this. Basically you are asking strangers' permission for you, a 34 year old man, to do...something to a teenager, but you won't say exactly what. You're hoping most of us will answer the question "can relationships with age differences work" but that's not what you're actually asking.

In any event, these "complicated sexual things"-- would you want to "do them to her" if she were 35 and every bit as experienced as you?
posted by kapers at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: In any event, these "complicated sexual things"-- would you want to "do them to her" if she were 35 and every bit as experienced as you?

(Gah, I should have left out that line. I just meant sex in general. And yes. Ok, I am disappearing again from this thread!)
posted by zeek321 at 2:03 PM on April 6, 2015

because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her

This line gives me pause. if you were genuinely just interested in getting to know her as a person that would be one thing, but coming in with a menu of "intricate and complicated" things to "do to" her seems, I don't know, inherently predatory. You speak of respecting consent, but coming in with such an agenda, toward a person so immature, seems just flat out exploitative no matter what "consent" you obtain.
posted by jayder at 2:03 PM on April 6, 2015 [20 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to be very blunt about why this question makes me uncomfortable:

I recognize your username, and based on your posting history I know that you are (at least sometimes) a dom, so I assume that the "intricate and complicated sexual things" you are interested in doing will be done in the context of a D/s relationship. Specifically, you hope that you will be dominating her, and she will be submitting to you. Now that I think about it, the fact that you were a little squirrely about admitting this in your question makes me think that you do realize that this has the potential to be problematic, and this is consciously or unconsciously leading you to minimize that fact.

Here's the thing: D/s relationships are 100% fine with me, but they recapitulate an unequal power dynamic up to and including acts and situations that would be absolutely unacceptable outside the context of the relationship. (I realize that sex itself is rape in the absence of consent, but I want to emphasize the power dynamic here, which is not an intrinsic part of vanilla sex.)

What you're proposing is a relationship where the submissive partner is not experienced in negotiating consent in a D/s relationship, even if she is legitimately a kinky person interested in submission. This compounds the other unequal aspects of the relationship, and creates a real potential for consent to be trampled at various stages even if both of you are paying lip service to it. It sounds like you are interested in this relationship because it would allow your dominant and submissive roles to bleed out of the constraints of a negotiated D/s relationship.

I think you need to ask yourself "would I be as interested in a relationship with this person if she were an experienced kinkster, of equal experience to myself in the context of this type of relationship?"
posted by pullayup at 2:04 PM on April 6, 2015 [43 favorites]

Repeating for emphasis:

What you're proposing is a relationship where the submissive partner is not experienced in negotiating consent in a D/s relationship, even if she is legitimately a kinky person interested in submission. This compounds the other unequal aspects of the relationship, and creates a real potential for consent to be trampled at various stages even if both of you are paying lip service to it.

I think pullayup hit the nail on the head here, and you should not date this young woman.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:07 PM on April 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

You are both adults and you don't need the permission of strangers to pursue a romantic relationship with another adult. Unfortunately, you cannot change how anyone will "look back" on a past relationship. Just have your coffee date and see what happens.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:08 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So, I don't think there's anything inherently unworkable about relationships with age gaps. I do think it's problematic when the older person is primarily interested in the younger person because of their youth and inexperience rather than in spite of it, which certainly seems to be the case here.

I also think the problems are compounded since your interest appears to be largely about physical attraction/sex, while she's in a place of possibly having zero sexual experience.

Honestly...there are lots of people out there in the world. Pick one where there aren't quite so many red flags.

I am also in agreement with what some of the posters above mentioned, which is that pretty all my female friends who dated way older guys in college later felt kind skeeved out about it. Statistically, I think chances are this is the most likely outcome (and in any case, you can't control how your partner will feel about this relationship down the road, any more than you could for any relationship).

Final thought: I think any ethical relationship is built on a foundation of two people entering into a relationship as EQUAL partners. Obviously there may be marginal things that make them not quite equal in one way or another, but on an emotional level they think of each other as being equally in control, bringing things of equal value to the relationship, and being equally fully formed adult people. Now, I am a firm believer that people of different ages can still work things out to approach things from this even playing field. However, if you read back over this question, I think it is very clear that you do not view this particular woman as your equal.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think you need to ask yourself "would I be as interested in a relationship with this person if she were an experienced kinkster, of equal experience to myself in the context of this type of relationship?"

And if the answer to that is "Yes, but nobody in a group near me wants to play with me for some reason," then this is a 10x more terrible idea.
posted by ctmf at 2:12 PM on April 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: When I was in college, I dated a few guys older than myself. Not anywhere near fifteen years, more like six at most, but even that is a huge difference at that age. To give you an idea: when I was 21, I still technically lived with my parents, I'd never had a full-time job or any recurring bills, and someone else was responsible for cooking dinner and keeping the toilet paper stocked.

I liked dating older guys because I thought I was so smart and mature and above all those kids in my dorms, and I thought I was ready for adult relationships. I roll my eyes pretty hard at that thought now, and I wish I'd spent more time getting to know my college-age peers than avoiding them and assuming I was better than them. And this is why I'd be cautious here: not because she's innocent and inexperienced, but because it's healthy for her to socialize with, and date, people who are closer to her in age and life experience. Same goes for you. Dating someone way older or younger can sometimes - not always, but sometimes - indicate a certain avoidance, a reluctance to accept and enjoy life as it is. And, well, people like this aren't often terribly good at relationships. Even if you share the same interests, even if your particular desires fit together like two puzzle pieces.

I outgrew it, and am wiser and more self-aware but unscathed. It's not like dating an older guy messed me up forever. And I wasn't completely naive - it's not like I was Red Riding Hood skipping blithely into the jaws of the Big Bad Wolf. But I was also lucky to avoid any wolves, know what I mean?

Finally: I'm a year older than you. The idea of dating a twenty-year-old is an instant nope for me, because anyone that age would be at a waaaaaay different place in life from me. I wonder why it's not a nope for you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:13 PM on April 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

Mod note: Comment removed; if you want to give someone advice regarding something they've written off-site, it's fine to drop them a mefimail about that, but cross-posting someone's off-site stuff into threads isn't really okay regardless of good intentions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you truly just mean "sex in general" and not D/s (which from your initial wording I'm having a hard time believing), then my answer is: it's too creepy for a man of your age and general attitude to take the virginity (right?) of a teenager in college and the only way to sidestep all the issues you seem to be aware of re: the power imbalance would be to leave her alone.

I'm your age. When I think about 18-21 year old men, I think they're kids, and that it would be unspeakably creepy of me to date them, so I am applying this same standard to you.
posted by kapers at 2:17 PM on April 6, 2015 [20 favorites]

But, of course, part of the reason I asked her out is because I'm possibly interested in doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her and with her, in the context of comprehensibility, predictability, and consent.

I think you should be aware of how this relationship could change the way your peers view you, as I am one of your peers and if I knew you in person reading this question would instantly label you in my mind as a potential "missing stair". Especially having read through your question history and having an idea what you mean by "doing intricate and complicated sexual things to her". (And if you did honestly mean just run of the mill sex, and not BDSM or D/s, then your phrasing it that way is eyebrow raising.) This is going to have an affect on how women your own age view you as a dating and sexual partner, and it is overwhelmingly going to be negative. I would never knowingly date a 34 year old man who had pursued a relationship with a 19 year old.

I dated a much older man when I was younger, very close to this age gap. I do not feel remotely taken advantage of by him or preyed upon, which from reading replies you can gather is pretty rare! Dudes alright, honestly. And I would still take this teenager/woman you've met aside and tell her DON'T DO THIS. Being completely honest, reading your question gave me anxiety in a watching a horror movie don't open that door!!! way, and I'm concerned at your being so oblivious to that.
posted by Dynex at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2015 [21 favorites]

Also, we had this weird older dude who dated a sophomore girl in our house. We felt she was naive, an international student from Eastern Europe, and he was so much older, in his mid to late 30s that we honestly just thought he was a skeeze creeper. She was pretty stubborn about dating him, but we just honestly wished he was not around, that he wouldn't hang around campus or the dining hall or our house/dorm. I think one of the young woman's friends confronted him and that made things worse and uncomfortable.

She doesn't need to get tangled up with someone your age when she should be making friends closer to her own age and having a good college experience.

I worked at a bookstore the summer after my freshman yr of college and I don't know how old he was, but this dude in his 30s who worked there started skeezing on some of us that were pretty recently out of high school. Someone else noticed and wrote him up/reprimanded him, rightfully.
posted by discopolo at 2:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is going to have an affect on how women your own age view you as a dating and sexual partner, and it is overwhelmingly going to be negative.

This is a great point. Unless you believe you have such a connection with this young woman that you are likely to end up married to her (which I'm guessing is not the case since you talk a lot of about what will happen to her after the relationship ends), you should be aware of how this will impact your post-19-year-old dating life as well. Fair or not, most 30-something women are not going to want to date guys who are into dating college students. Personally, I would not be into dating a guy who had any interest in 19-year-olds that extended beyond porn.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:34 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

If this is something you choose to proceed with (regardless of whether you should or not): Find really good, healthy resources on consent (not even consent in the BDSM context but in a regular dating and sex context since she doesn't have experience with that yet) and good communication. (I don't have any handy at the moment but perhaps others can share some.) Read them. Share them with her. Explain that this is how good healthy adult relationships operate, and how anyone she dates should interact with her, even if that is not what she might see modelled by her peers (yet, because they're young.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:41 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: I'm going to assume that your "complicated sex things" comment was in jest and let that part be dealt with by others.

Here's something to bear in mind: It is not at all uncommon for young women to be counseled that sex that feels wrong, including if it feels wrong later, including if you just decide later that you didn't like it, is predatory. It is also not at all uncommon for inexperienced young women to have a hard time processing the end of relationships, so that someone has to be the bad guy. I think you may not be factoring into your assessment of this potential relationship the consequences of it ending, even if it ends as well as you can make it end.

Remember the first time you read a really great novel? It was life changing. And no other novel has ever lived up to it. That's because it was never again your first time reading a great novel. Firsts are always really intense, by definition. First relationships can be confusing and scary, and the fact that you're older than she is can make it more scary and, ultimately, more confusing, because she's likely to be looking to you for safety and direction when you're looking to her for a relationship, which is ideally on a more equal footing. I know plenty of folks in May/December relationships, but as others have said, the May partner needs to know what else is out there before they have the emotional wherewithal to be a balanced partner for December.

I know that you said that you two have something unusual in common, but I find it difficult to believe that the one unusual thing would be enough to base a relationship on. And how much have you talked to teenagers lately? You may be idealizing her. I think you need to take this really really really slowly, for a whole host of reasons but in part so that you can really immerse yourself in prattle for a while and see how much you really like it.

Please don't be a predator looking for justification. Everything I say above is prefaced on your not being a predator.
posted by janey47 at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I just wanted to add one more voice saying: leave this girl alone.

It is unlikely that you are going to screw up this girl for life by going on a single coffee date with her, but it is very likely that she will look back someday and say, "Ugh, what was I thinking and how could I have been so stupid?" if you date her and then push her to go faster than she is actually comfortable with. And since you are an adult who is already fantasizing about her, and she has never been on a date before, then I think it is likely that you will end up trying to push her to do sexual things at a pace she's not comfortable with. Because, if you're already sexually active, it may feel generous to not push for sex for the first 3 months, but for someone completely new to relationship and sex that can feel like a very short period of time.

I don't think sex is the whole problem though. Relationships in general take some time to figure out, and young women in general often have trouble setting boundaries with people, because we, as women, are taught from a young age to placate everyone else around us, and that our needs are less important than anyone else's. So even if you are trying to treat her respectfully, it is fairly likely that she hasn't figured out how to say, "No," yet, not really, especially to someone she likes and wants to please. And there's where the age gap/power imbalance also comes into play: you probably know what you want from her, and you are probably used to making adult decisions about life plans, etc, and so every time there is any conflict between what she wants (which may be inarticulately stated, or not stated at all) and what you want, then all of these inequalities stack up in your favor: you are male, older and therefore imbued with an air of adult authority (in the eyes of your average 19 year-old anyway, I think), and you have more life experience. Which means, it will probably be a lot easier for you to get your way in a relationship with a 19 year-old than with someone your own age. Which means I think you should try and date someone your own age instead.

Also, the way you talk about her sounds very manipulative somehow. Since you are 34 you should know by now that you can't control someone else's emotions or thoughts about you. You are already trying to control her future thoughts about you, which is doubly unreasonable.
posted by colfax at 2:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [16 favorites]

Best answer: I feel like the JudgeMe train has already left the station, but for what it's worth, I was once a college-aged, kinkily inclined person who slept with men older than herself, and honestly, the odds are that you are not going to do her any lasting damage.

Some things are easy. Don't take her virginity, even if she says she wants you to (and end the relationship if she asks). Don't be the one who initiates her into the lifestyle, even if she says she wants you to (and ditto). Keep it casual (a long term relationship with a 10+ year age difference requires a whole different set of advice) but treat it respectfully - return all her text messages, don't be fuzzy about whether you're seeing other people, etc. Don't fetishize her youth, either in sexual situations or in day-to-day interactions ("You have such a perfect body" and admiring comments about how I could "eat all I wanted without getting fat" are two compliments from older guys I got when I was 19 that sound way skeevier to me now.)

Some things are harder. She is probably still in the process of forming her sense of self, and so it will be tempting for her to mold herself, at least partially, on you. Watch out for a dynamic where you shower her with praise every time she likes something you like, or claims an interest you also have. Does she *definitely* share this obscure interest of yours, or is it possible that she senses that you like it, and she likes you, so... The tough thing is that it'll probably be hard for you to tell. Hell, it'll probably be tough for her to tell. My taste in music, for example, was genuinely shaped by that of the guys I dated in college; it's what I really like and now that they're long gone it's still part of the core of me...but there would have been something off with them complimenting on what great musical taste *I* had, or claiming my musical tastes as the basis for our romantic relationship (and these were guys my age!) It's a tricky situation, and there's nothing to do but feel your way carefully forward. It is much, much trickier with sex.

And in the end, you know, causing someone harm is something totally different from having them look back on you and feel like the relationship was kinda skeevy. The odds are 99% sure that she will. I look back on the older guys I dated in college and think I never would have dated a guy like that if I hadn't been nineteen and too young to know any better. And that's the crux of it. They wouldn't have dated me if I hadn't been nineteen, either.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2015 [15 favorites]

When I was her age there is no way I would have considered dating someone your age (and it did come up). So I guess that makes me question her interest a little. Not to say it isn't possible to have a connection despite an age gap; of course it is. But I think it's unusual for a college freshman to want to date a 34-year old if she had an option of dating guys her age. And if she's never been on a date, I wonder if she has many other options. If she was more experienced, things *might* be a little different. But she's not. Please don't take advantage of someone like this. It makes me feel a little sick for her. Even if she doesn't realize it now, I would bet that she'll regret going out with you later. You don't want to be the source of someone's regret, and you're old enough to know better.

Does she *definitely* share this obscure interest of yours, or is it possible that she senses that you like it, and she likes you, so

This is a really good point. You may think you have more in common than you actually do.
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:54 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

You deserve credit for being mindful about how she may end up feeling about this situation and wanting her to not feel that way -- but you lose all credit for wanting to go ahead and do it anyway. As I started reading, I thought it was great that you are aware of the situation at hand, but as I read on, it comes across as if the dynamics of this situation are the only reason you're interested in it. If you really cared about taking advantage of her, you would simply not date her instead of asking a question about how to go ahead and do it, but make her not realize it.

You are right: this comes off skeezy as heck, because it seems like you are asking "I know this is kind of skeezy, but how can I make it seem less skeezy?" You openly admitted that what you want is not to get to know her as a person, but to fuck her, and you describe it in a really bizarre, controlling, oppressive sort of way, like she is a piece of meat waiting to fulfill your fantasies. How on earth will she not feel totally taken advantage of if you somehow convince her to let you do these things to you?

I'm sorry to say, but your question comes off as very creepy and predatory, almost as if you aren't interested in not being creepy and predatory, but somehow minimizing only the appearance of it. Appearance or not, it is what it is. I would leave this poor girl alone and deal with your other, um, issues that are apparent from your AskMeFi history.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:56 PM on April 6, 2015 [23 favorites]

I'm about half a decade younger than you, and a woman who dates men, and for what it's worth, I would absolutely not date someone older than me who dated a 19 or 20 year old college student. I just wouldn't. Here's why: I would under no circumstances date someone that young, so I couldn't possibly imagine being comfortable with an older partner who did. Maybe that sounds extreme to you, but clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way.

And it's not about having a 15 year age gap. My parents have that big an age gap! But a 30 year old dating a 45 year old is so much less skeevy than what you're talking about here. And that's without getting into your ask history, which I waded into even before seeing the comments from other posters.

I think maybe, just maybe, if your incredibly specialized interest was related to a shared kink, and you were part of the same kink community, etc, then I could see this being a slightly less terrible idea, but from your updates, it sounds like this isn't the case. (And I would defer to anyone actively involved in this stuff if they weighed in to the contrary.)

To me, one major warning flag, aside from the others that people have mentioned, is the fact that you're so vague when it comes to her age/year in school. As someone who is in their thirties, this probably doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but what you may not realize is there is such a big difference at that age. A 19 year old college freshman is at a much different stage in life than a college senior, even more different still from a recent college grad. This is without getting into the whole "never gone on a date" thing.

I don't think this is the answer you're hoping for, but as someone who was a 19 year old female not so many years ago, I'm strongly on the side of "don't do this."
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

I don't think anything we say will stop you pursuing her and I now worry you've been given enough insight into her vulnerabilities that you'll do a masterful exploitation with the potential to damage her terribly and irrevocably.

The dynamics at stake here are exploitative, disrespectful and damaging. If you're ethical you'll sort your physical self out before touching another human being, and see a therapist to explain why predatory behaviour is wrong so you actually get it. It's worrying that you have to ask. Although I'd bet money you're not listening. Please talk to someone about this. Please.

While kink and BDSM with consenting, equally powerful, adults is fine, this isn't healthy behaviour.
posted by taff at 3:04 PM on April 6, 2015 [12 favorites]

Best answer: "...19-20-21-ish..."

I think you're being way too nonchalant about her age. The difference between 19 and 21 is HUGE. It's not the same as the difference between say, 29 and 31. 2 years is roughly 10% of her young life. A lot of growth and maturity happens in 10% of a person's life.

No doubt she'd be pissed that this many strangers are weighing in on her life choices, but if she's 19, she's a teenager. And it says some not great things about you and your maturity level that you want to date a teenager. Let her experience life as a very young adult with other very young adults. She's got years to learn what hanging out with men in their 30s is like.
posted by cecic at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2015 [19 favorites]

This made me feel exhausted/uncomfortable reading it. I want to offer the idea that water meets its own level.

A mid-thirties dude who is putting this amount of energy into justifying having a kinky relationship with a young woman who has never had a vanilla relationship let alone a BDSM one does not sound like someone who is in a great position to be a generous, fair, and kind partner. To be frank, you sound a little immature. Your previous questions make you sound like you have a tendency to do what you want regardless of the impact you'll have on others - you sound intelligent, and I think you talk yourself into believing that we don't understand you otherwise we would tell you what you want to hear.

I would discourage you from pursuing this, but I'm not sure if that will make a difference - you are bending over backwards already to justify this. You keep claiming to not want to threadsit, but yet you still jump in, hoping that the more information we have the more we will see it your way. It's so rare that the green is this unified - I hope you will take it seriously.
posted by superlibby at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2015 [37 favorites]

Best answer: I want to add a couple more things to my previous answer:

While I don't think it's patronizing for you to consider the ethics of doing this and to anticipate potential problems, at the same time, it's not your role to manage the relationship for both of you, and it would be, at best, patronizing for you to try to control things on her behalf. For this to be a relationship of equals, you each need to be responsible for your own side of the street, so to speak.

But here's the not-really-solvable problem: A 19 year old doesn't have the kind of life experience to anticipate all these potential issues and pitfalls, no matter how smart or mature she is. And it's not like she's bringing relationship experience to the table.

Now, take a minute and think, what is the best and worst case scenario for you, personally? I'm guessing best case would involve enjoying the company of someone who share your interest, plus potentially having sex with a 19 year old. What's the worst case? Not much, other than it not working out.*

But what about for her? I think your best case scenarios are probably similar. But then when we get to the worst case scenarios, these are so much more vast and difficult to predict. Even if you both have the best of intentions, there are so many ways, large and small, that this could negatively impact her, and she may not even grasp any or all of them until she's much older. And by that time, I'm sure you'll be long gone, but this will be a part of her history for the rest of her life.

You can try to minimize harm all you want, but at least be honest with yourself. You are doing this because you want this, and no matter how much you pay lip service to trying to make this ethical, you can't make these issues disappear. Of course, she wants this to, but she really is assuming significantly more risk than you are, and the worst part is that she's not in a position to comprehend that the extent to which this is true.

But you are. Which is why you should extricate yourself now.

*Other than the standard STD/pregnancy issues, but that's true of any relationship, so I'm ignoring that for the moment.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:15 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

So, given the vast gulf in experience and life-situations, what are some things that I should be extra careful about?

Her...self? I mean, I think you should be extra careful about treating her well and respectfully.

It sounds like you mostly want sex with this young woman. There's nothing wrong with those feelings, but we can't always have what we want, and much more importantly, we shouldn't necessarily have what we want just because we want it. I think the kind and honorable thing to do would be to avoid pursuing anything with her. It seems like you're not really thinking about what the best thing to do is, here, you're thinking about how to fuck this super hot girl in a way that's as minimally-gross as possible, and that's kinda shitty.
posted by clockzero at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2015 [10 favorites]

So, given the vast gulf in experience and life-situations, what are some things that I should be extra careful about?

I will suggest you be super ultra highly picky about consent. IF you can get that right, this might be okay. If you can't, then just walk away.

To quote a man I knew who was ultra highly picky about consent: Don't push. Just don't ever push. At all. About anything.
posted by Michele in California at 3:23 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I met my husband when I was 18 and he was 29. But he seemed much younger, and he really is emotionally young. He hadn't had a lot of experiences with women, we went on dates, spent lots of time talking to each other, then drifted apart and got back together many years later. He is still a nice guy, somewhat emotionally immature, and not sexually experienced. So he's sort of shy and we really connect on a friend level.

There was also a couple at our university, she was in her 20's and he was in his 50's, a real May-December romance. They got married. Again, he was a really nice guy and she was emotionally mature and accomplished in her own right, and we all were like, "how nice" for them.

I guess there is no law, but in terms of ethics, I would ask why are you even asking this question if you thought it was unethical? Because as a young woman, I did have guys who preyed upon me. When I thought they were being friendly. I am a naturally friendly person, and I don't always clue into when a guy is just talking to me because his weiner is at full mast. I want to think that someone is talking to me because they are interested in me as a person. Which brings me back to my husband, who loves talking to me as a person. We would talk for hours, and when we got back together, we talked and talked and talked. We do things together, we like similar things, and he is 11 years older than I am, but we are friends. I teach him things and he teaches me things. We hang. We stream shows. We go on adventures. We talk about books. He compliments me, but not in a creepy way, just an honest, "I am so happy to be with you!" way.

So if you can sincerely say that you are getting to know this young woman in a way like that, then go for it. But if you are asking permission to pretend you are going to be her one-all-and-be-all and teach her your ways or do the horizontal mambo, well, then don't. She is a human being, not the object of your fantasies. Treat her as such, and you might be rewarded with a friend instead of a young woman subjected to your fantasies of objectification. Put yourself in her shoes: going to meet a nice guy for coffee, older, kind of cool on paper, wants to know her... but do you really? And how disappointed she will be when she realizes that you only want her as a vessel for your fantasies. Not cool, in my opinion. People first before sexual gratification, that's my motto, may not work for all, sex is good, but please, stop and consider her a human being before you go any further. Thanks for listening.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:56 PM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

I tabbed away from this thread to continue watching an episode of Fresh Off the Boat, and I unpaused it in a scene where the father character, a restaurateur, is trying to give his 11-year-old son advice regarding his crush on the teenage girl next door:
Look, getting girls is like opening a restaurant: it's all about location. You just have to be conveniently located when she's driving home from the airport and too desperate to look for other options.
Which is a joke about puppy love obviously but it reinforced to me what superlibby says above about talking yourself into this: consider that everything seems so perfect about this situation because subconsciously you've arranged it that way.

But if she's the ingénue, and you're designing everything to the point of planning a soft landing and working out how to achieve a positive retrospective for her in her post-relationship life, that's not cute and romantic or anything like that like it would be in a sitcom, it's predatory.
posted by XMLicious at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I routinely dated men your age or a little younger, once a little older, at her age. I feel like I can speak to this.

No. No. No.

She has zero romantic experience. You sound... kinda like a strange strange person. You should not date her because you will fuck up her idea of a relationship for a long long time. You are totally correct about this. 100%.

I have no problem telling you that you need to enter therapy and develop some interpersonal skills. After you do some self-work, start dating women at least who are mid-20's, preferably with some dating and life experience.

You are attracted to this one because it is easier than dealing with your own personal maturity issues. Don't do it. You have nothing positive to impart to this young woman. It's not so much that you are preying on her, as much as using her naiveté as an ego boost for yourself. It's easier impressing a 19 year old with zero experience than it is to impress 29 year old with comparable life experience to your own.

Don't do it, man. Stop this. No. Nope.
posted by jbenben at 4:24 PM on April 6, 2015 [30 favorites]

Best answer: When I was 18, I dated a 36 year old man for a while. My dating / "dating" history at the time was pretty extensive, I knew that this was not a fairy tale romance, that wasn't what I was in it for. I expected to be pretty prepared for the ways in which our relationship was uneven, and thought I had my eyes open going in.

They were not. After about four months I became aware that his feelings about me and my value in our association were much, much grosser than I had thought they were, and I bounced IMMEDIATELY. It did me no lasting harm, but I can't say I look back on him with fondness by any stretch of the imagination. From reading your question, you remind me a lot more of him than you probably think you do.
posted by KathrynT at 4:47 PM on April 6, 2015 [19 favorites]

When I was 19 I had a casual relationship with a man about 10 years older than me. And I look back on it fondly HOWEVER, we both had adequate dating/sexual experience. I was mostly in control of the pace and we had equal footing in the relationship. I had been with people, had a long term relationship, etc. So had he. My maturity level was such that he often forgot that I wasn't old enough to head to the bar because I was in general more mature than most my age. (And many of his friends thought I was many years older.)

However, that is NOT this girl. She hasn't even been on a date! She needs to date someone her own age or at the very least someone with similar a dating (or lack of) history. That person is not you. I find this very creepy. I'm only 25 and the thought of dating a 19 year old as you describe her icks me out. Find people in your own age group or at least with more life experience than this girl (and she is still a girl.)

I agree that your other questions on here as mentioned above also gives me huge pause. A woman that age is looking to act like she's cool with things or interesting in things because she wants to seem more mature. The key word here is ACT. She doesn't have the capability to truly consent to those things that I assume you want to do to her. (And I'm all for kink!)
posted by Crystalinne at 5:14 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

You aren't envisioning this as a relationship of equals because it won't/can't be; you know it

Well, it certainly isn't that it can't be; there is nothing intrinsically "this will never work" about a relationship between a 19 year old and a 34 year old. It's a 15 year age gap. I'm going to guess this won't be, though, because the OP has made this weird before they ever walked into Starbucks.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:31 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I don't think D/s is inherently more of a problem here than a vanilla relationship, if you're slow and cautious about it. Of course, I am a person who has basically never had (or wanted) a "vanilla" relationship. And you should let her interests drive what you do. If she's into something, try it with her, sure. Let her experiment with you.

That said, go sloooow and if she seems way more into you than you are into her, cut it off. Make it clear to her that you don't want her to make plans based on your life or career--instead, encourage her to pursue her goals. And don't pressure her.

As for the power differential, it's complicated. There is a major power differential in every hetero relationship. And power is a complex thing.

Good luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:39 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I didn't read this whole thread, so I'm sorry if I'm repeating.

But hi, I'm not so different from the person you're interested in. I turned 22 last Thursday and I've been an active okcupid user for two years - yes, since I wasn't old enough to legally meet my date in a bar. In that time, I've mostly dated people in their mid-20s but a few as old as early 30s and a few my own age. My first real date-date (which might be what she's referring to when she says she's never been on a date) was a date from online because traditional dating is not always super common in college settings. I don't think it's always bad, and in fact it led to a lot of interesting conversations and good times. I always felt in control and respected sexually - in fact, more so than regular college hookup culture because it was more dating-focused.

The thing that I find to be a telling thing about the power imbalance is how the other person relate to my experience. If I say "yeah, I went to do this thing with my friends" and your first reactions is "oh cool, I like to do $SIMILAR_THING with my friends too!" then that's great. If your first reaction is "oh yeah, I liked to do $SIMILAR_THING with my friends in college too!" then it becomes very, very clear that you do not view us as equals. In the latter case, I usually end up perceiving other weird power stuff later so at this point that's enough reason for me to cut things off. I'm not telling you to police your language; rather, watch your reactions and if you see yourself in the latter camp you should probably reexamine what you're doing.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:01 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having glanced at your posting history, I wish you'd leave this girl alone.

The difference in age is not a big deal. What bothers me is the difference in experience. This girl is young and apparently has no dating history?

You've posted a number of things about STIs. I hope that you'll be upfront about that stuff with her.

To be honest and blunt, I don't think you're posting here because you really care what anyone says. I think you posted because you want to "show off" that you got a date with a younger woman.

If you're really, truly concerned about her welfare, again, I hope you leave her alone. Barring that, Dan Savage's "Campsite rule" would certainly apply.

On preview, what jbenben said.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:11 PM on April 6, 2015 [16 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted; OP, check your MefiMail. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:33 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: I really don't think you're going to listen, but for whatever it is worth, I was that girl and I went out with a man like you. And at the time I would have told you it was my choice, but I didn't have enough information or experience to make that choice.

Like many bookish and inexperienced young women. I was raised on a steady diet of Jane Eyre and I thought meeting Mr. Rochester was the prize. Or, at least-- a prize. And because I was bookish, it was fairly easy for me to have an interest which was unlikely to be unusual for a woman my age. (Want to have coffee and talk about Thomas Pynchon, honey?)

You know what? Jane Eyre is not a good model. Rochester marrying his daughter's babysitter was gross. There was a basic power imbalance which no amount of shared interest could address.

Every man (or woman) I have met who dates someone inappropriate claims some kind of rare interest. Every one. It might be true, or it might be an excuse, but it does not make dating someone inappropriate okay. And the fact that it's rare to meet someone who has this shared interest and you have a policy to date everyone yadda yadda yadda does not make it okay.

You won't screw her up for good because you don't have that kind of power, luckily. But you shouldn't do it. The best way to not harm her is not to do it.
posted by frumiousb at 6:42 PM on April 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I was looking through some of your posting history (especially this answer and this answer of yours to the question a few months ago on a man's plastic surgery kink), as well as this line from your question today ("Of course, all of that is 100% contingent on her instantaneously-valid-no-matter-what preferences, desires, and interests as a unique human being with agency and autonomy.").

Thinking about these together, I wanted to gently encourage you to reflect on how differentials of power might impact one's ability to make a free choice in a given situation - and how certain scenarios, with certain extreme imbalances of power between two parties, create situations in which the possibility of the less powerful party being able to make a non-coerced and consensual choice become vanishingly small or nonexistent. I have this problem with a lot of Dan Savage's advice too - it seems to me predicated on the assumption that all people in a given situation are autonomous free agents with equal power and agency to make uncoerced choices, and it can't really accommodate situations in which there is a real power disparity that exists between the two parties in question. Obviously I'm just a stranger on the internet, but it seems to me that you may have a similar habit of minimizing or rationalizing very real disparities of power. Being on the powerful end of them, it is naturally far more difficult to inhabit the experience of the less powerful party, and power disparities are often invisible to the powerful party (which is why they can be so pernicious). It also seems to me that you seem to think that there is some sort of rational fix that can be ingeniously designed to resolve the situation to your ethical satisfaction - some way to inform the other party of the risks they are assuming, so that your own duty is done and one's hands are washed of the consequences. I strongly believe that often there isn't any such tidy solution like that, this situation included. The problem is that she is assuming the lion's share of risk in any scenario involving a relationship between the two of you, and also that she is - by virtue of her inexperience - unable to assess the degree of risk that she is assuming. She is thus unable to meaningfully consent.
posted by ClaireBear at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [18 favorites]

I want to add that age difference does not equal inappropriate power difference. A 30 something person dating a college student who has never dated does equal inappropriate power difference, in my book. (I am willing to believe there could be students experienced enough for this not to be the case, but I would argue they are likely to be rare.)
posted by frumiousb at 6:50 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mod note: A few comments deleted; please reload the thread, some of you are replying to deleted comments.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:59 PM on April 6, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you so much for so many of these replies--they are helping me to articulate and confirm a bunch of previously inchoate aspects of this. Of course I wish I could clarify a few (a bunch) of things, here, but that's how it goes. I'm leaning towards asking her for a mutual downgrade to non-date-friendly-coffee or apologetically backing out and hopefully continuing to hang out as friends/acquaintances in the context of group activities. Still watching this thread.
posted by zeek321 at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think you're massively over-analyzing the situation. You're coming from a well-meaning place, but you should probably just go on a coffee date with this woman, treat her respectfully, get to know her and see how it goes. Yes, you have more experience, but you can both make mistakes and get hurt. Her inexperience and youth may require a little special consideration, but don't just assume she's a delicate flower. Just try not to be a jerk. If you catch yourself doing something bad, or she tells you you're doing something bad, stop doing that thing. Be good to her, and have fun together.

I think it's nobody else's business if there's an age disparity in a relationship, as long as both of the people are of legal age. People are individuals, and if an 18-year-old wants to be with an 80-year-old, that's their choice. Yes, such relationships can be complicated and they can sometimes be unhealthy, but it's not our business to police other adults like that. You don't get to judge an older person going out with a younger person, unless and until you know those people well enough to see that there's something actually bad going on.

Going out on dates is not a thing people under the age X do. At that age, you hang out and hook up until your friends tell you you're a thing.

Huh. That is really puzzling to me. Since when do teenagers not go on dates? Since when do they rely on their friends to tell them they're a couple? Admittedly I haven't been a teen for a while, but I'd be kind of amazed to hear that boys and girls don't ask each other on dates anymore and don't declare they're "going steady" and all that stuff.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2015

So when I was 16 I was in a relationship with a guy 12 years older than me. We didn't actually have sex until I was 17, and it was a pretty tortured affair that lasted until I went to uni (which I started at 17, but I think I was 18 when we finally broke up). Because I was still in high school and living at home, this was all conducted secretly with lots of lying and sneaking about, and he was definitely a player as well. But I convinced myself that I knew what I was doing, even when I had doubts. I thought I was deciding to be with someone who was older and wiser and more experienced and knew what to do, unlike my male peers who seemed pretty hopelessly inept to me, at the emotional stuff as much as the physical.

I don't really indulge much in regrets. I think all my decisions, good and bad, have made me the person I am. But looking back at the situation, I think it was pretty definitely a bad thing and primed me for some other, not-so-great relationships. Did it scar me for life? I don't actually know. Do I think he was Creepy McCreeperson? In retrospect, absolutely. If I could somehow go back to 16-year-old me and give myself some advice, I'd tell myself not to do it. I also probably wouldn't listen to myself, because 16. I knew it was risky and probably wrong and I did it anyway.

In my mid- to late-20s I knew a guy, my age, who got involved with a 19-year-old. Everyone in our social group mocked the hell out of him behind his back, although we were unfailingly polite to her at group outings where he'd brought her along. We all thought he was having some kind of early mid-life crisis, that he was being creepy, etc. It changed my opinion of him forever to the extent that even though I think he's an interesting and fundamentally nice guy, that there is something at best immature and at worst creepy, manipulative and borderline abusive about him.

So my advice is: don't. Don't for her sake, because she is at a hugely malleable stage in her relationship life and honestly, why should she start out behind the 8 ball? Don't for your sake, because you don't want to be That Creepy Guy who dates 19-year-olds and is disrespected by his social circle, with good reason.

If you ignore all this advice though then please, please, please respect her and don't push her or pressure her in any way. Let her call the shots. Do not attempt a D/s relationship with her because I think the boundaries between roles in play and the actual relationship get really, really blurry with someone who's not experienced at it. If anything, let her use you for meaningless sex. But I still think much better just to back away from the pretty young person and let her find some other pretty young people to play with.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:42 PM on April 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

Thank you so much for so many of these replies--they are helping me to articulate and confirm a bunch of previously inchoate aspects of this. Of course I wish I could clarify a few (a bunch) of things, here, but that's how it goes. I'm leaning towards asking her for a mutual downgrade to non-date-friendly-coffee or apologetically backing out and hopefully continuing to hang out as friends/acquaintances in the context of group activities. Still watching this thread.

I think it's great that you started this thread with sincere openness, are receptive to people's commentary, and willing to take action. And also that you're replying very graciously to criticism. Cheers to you.
posted by namesarehard at 11:40 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

"I think it's great you started this thread with sincere openness, are receptive to people's commentary, and willing to take action. And also that you're replying very graciously to criticism. Cheers to you."

As a former kink and fetish professional, this is how self-delusion works.

Find someone with a similar level of Life Experience to "play" with. This person is not consenting, because they have NO previous experience with the scene you are trying to enact here. You are concerned about Ethics? THIS IS IT.

C'mon. You know you know better, hence this question.
posted by jbenben at 12:16 AM on April 7, 2015 [14 favorites]

a young woman who has never been out on a date, and so is presumably a virgin
Is it 1954? I think you're assuming an "innocence" on the part of this person that may or may not exist. It is not reasonable at all to conclude that someone who has never been on a date has never had sex.

Anyway, OP, I think the fact that you're posting about this here says you're uncomfortable with the age difference, maturity difference, "power imbalance", or whatever you want to call it. If you have this many misgivings about starting a potential romantic/sexual relationship, before your first date, maybe you're trying to tell yourself something.
posted by deathpanels at 3:34 AM on April 7, 2015

So i've been on the outside of this a lot. I haven't been the young woman, since i'm a guy, but many close(or former close) friends and medium-close friends have. All the way through the tail end of high school, college, and now just my early-mid 20s.

I think there's no way to prevent the "bad in retrospect" thing you're talking about because it seems to just happen with these sorts of relationships. It's part of the lack of perspective when you're the younger person in them, and going in to them. You don't really get a good wide angle view of the situation until it's over. It's always hard to get in to this one since it can be sort of agency-denying depending on how you frame it, but i think it's undeniably there.

And the thing is, a few of these guys my friends dated didn't really seem like creeps, with the exception that they wanted to date someone way younger than themselves. Some of them seemed pretty cool, or sort of just not grown up peter pan syndrome manchild types in a fairly innocent/sheltered way.

But there's sort of an immovable object in this type of situation. And i saw it every time. Whether the guy was a skeezy fucking loser, middle of the road, or actually seemed like a pretty ok guy(and some of these turned out to actually be from category A later on).

And you know what that this? This kind of relationship is isolating for the younger person. A lot of people her age aren't really going to want to hang out with someone your age, especially if you're dating their friend. Even if they claim they're tentatively ok with it, she just wont get invited to stuff as much and everything. And similarly, do any of your friends want to hang out with someone that young? Or her friends? Being on the young side of this, it always seemed to make the younger person disappear away on "boyfriend island" for the length of the relationship. Either to rarely be seen, or to only make brief appearances with their older partner in tow. Every. Time.

It really sucks at that age when you should be making good friends, networking, etc to be mildly ostracized and just pulled out of your environment by a relationship like this. Because even the most up and up, non abusive ones do it. It gets really compartmentalized, and it always seems to favor lots of solo time and general time away from the younger persons previous or possible peers and friends.

I could also write a huge gigantic screed about how holy shit you sound like some of the worst older people friends or acquaintances of mine have dated, but i really wanted to get in to that impassible wall.

And to be clear, i think that just a year or two matters a TON at that age. No one i knew had shit figured out at 19 or 20, or even 21. But once you're out of undergrad, date whoever you want. If you were talking about someone who was say, 22-24 i wouldn't think this was weird at all. But there's something about an older person pursuing someone in that not-really-indepedent and not knowing shit just out on your own at first period that strikes me as like, specifically seeking out the power imbalance or something. And i hadn't even brought up or considered the possible virginity/lack of experience thing when i was considering that. Even if it's legal, i think someone your age pursuing and dating someone who could be 19 is as inherently skeevy as a college senior doing that with a high school freshmen or sophomore(which i saw quite a bit of, and worse).

A lot of what makes this bad is more mechanics and inherent power imbalance stuff, not intentions. Trying to intentions your way out of this one is like trying to intentions your way out of drunk driving. A lot of this, in that context, reads like "well i mean if i look at this way i've had less than one drink an hour..." sort of BS. Nah.
posted by emptythought at 3:48 AM on April 7, 2015 [36 favorites]

I really don't know how people are supposed to get enough kink experience to be able to consent to kink...

19 year olds can and do consent to sex all the time. It's a weird situation if she is really as sheltered as people are making her out to be, and yeah, tread lightly. But I've had shitty terrible relationships with 20 year old guys. I've had decent, comfortable, and respectful relationships with much older men. I simply don't think that the age difference precludes a relationship, if you let her be in the driver's seat, don't act possessive, don't pressure her, and make it about what she wants.

Oh yeah and condoms. Absolutely insist on condoms + another method, if at all possible. Condoms at the very minimum.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:16 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

So I was debating not commenting but something that you said really hasn't sit right with me. You say that she knows it's a date but then have that quote about friendly, casual. Friendly and casual is a very vague description, and if that is coming from her I wouldn't be so sure about it being clearly a date.

Also nthing what a lot of people are saying, which is you're couching it in terms of looking out for her well being but then your entire way of framing it seems completely contrary to that.
posted by KernalM at 6:17 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The main issue to me is that you don't seem to be focusing on what she might want. There is nothing wrong with consensual kink, but there is definitely something wrong when one party has intricate sexual plans for the other party and the other party is inexperienced and may feel that they have to go along with the intricate fantasies concocted by the other party. It's like she's this replaceable cog in your kink fulfillment machine, and that is super creepy.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:19 AM on April 7, 2015 [18 favorites]

Framing your potential, imagined relationship as something she might regret looking back years later and not something that might hurt her immediately as soon as it begins is duplicitous -- when she looks back on your relationship and considers whether or not you hurt her, her experiences will be based on reality, and if she recollects you hurting her, it'll be because you hurt her. I'm not saying this because I think you can date her without hurting her, just pointing out one of the ways you are dismissing her possible perspectives in the OP, in a way you would not do to someone you viewed as an equal.

IMO, the main characteristics of BDSM (or whatever sex thing you're referring to) do not include being impressively "complicated" at all, and the fact that you feel the need to describe it as something she might not fully understand is a red flag -- there's an implication that if she were mature and intelligent, she'd agree to do what you want, which is an abusive assumption.

I think you should seriously consider issues that other commenters have raised based on your posting history about you personally and not solely about your status as an older man.
posted by Stukos at 7:36 AM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Your difficulties in graciously accepting the limitations the mods put on you here -- limitations they have authority and technical ability to back up because it is their job -- suggest that you do not have the kind of self discipline it would take to implement my above advice to "not push." You seem to have a tremendous need to explain, justify, repeat yourself even after the mods deleted it, even knowing the mods probably deleted it, etc. This is not the behavior of someone with good, clear, appropriate social boundaries.

Let me suggest that, regardless of what does or does not happen with this young woman, you work on your sense of social boundaries. It will improve your life dramatically if you can sort some of that out.

best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:06 AM on April 7, 2015 [26 favorites]

Ok so people have covered the sex thing tenfold. Let me give an answer assuming even vanilla sex is off the table for the near and mid future.

Should you date her? That depends on:

1. Does she have a good relationship with her father or some type of male parental type figure?
If no - do not date. you cannot fill that gap, which you will likely fall into by default due to age. you cannot fill that gap and date without an emotional minefield. She would be better served dating people her age and finding a mentor or something elsewhere.
If yes, proceed to question 2

2. ARe you comfortable meeting the father / male parental figure?
if yes - yes go ahead and date
if no - do not date, not being comfortable presenting yourself to her family is indicative that you are skeeving yourself out deep down.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:08 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I ran through this post with my boyfriend last night and his reaction was pretty interesting. He said, "If you're so worried about hurting someone else when you date them, it's because you've hurt other people in the same way in the past. He should go to therapy so that he can stop repeating that pattern; he sounds like he wants to quit making the same mistakes over and over. It's like he's saying, 'I keep doing hurtful things and then people won't forgive me. What can I do so that I can still do the hurtful things I want to do to them but also make sure they forgive me for doing those things?'" He's right. Your extreme concern is really interesting and not a reaction that most people have when they're thinking about having a coffee date with someone. You've done this before and it has not gone well for the women you've done this to and you feel bad about that.

If you keep hurting people, the first step towards not hurting them is distance. You're not in shape to date right now. The second step is introspection: why do you treat other people the way you treat them? Kink is fine. Kink is not inherently hurtful. Tricking someone, manipulating someone, using someone, controlling someone's reactions and trying to control their feelings, going cold on someone and cutting off contact abruptly... those things are hurtful. You can be kinky without being shitty.

I think my boyfriend is right: therapy sounds like it would be a good option for you. Want to stop doing things that hurt other people? It's going to take some hard work and a really clear look at your actions. Glad to hear that you want to not hurt this woman and other people. Now get some help so that you can make that a reality.
posted by sockermom at 1:35 PM on April 7, 2015 [31 favorites]

"Me thinks thou dost protest too much." It sounds like you already know what the answer is but you are hoping we can find you a way to justify doing something your gut is telling you you shouldn't do.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I was her approximate age, I went on a few dates with a man your approximate age. He might have been approaching the arrangement with your mindset:

I could've honestly said those were my first real dates. That didn't make me naive, inexperienced, or any other assumptions. The criteria for a real date is tricky.

I don't feel like I was taken advantage of or preyed upon. I feel that my interactions with him-- and other men in our social group of about his age-- were operating from some false assumptions. As the years have gone and I've started to approach the age they were then, my retroactive respect for them has diminished. That's what I regret; spending time and emotional energy with people who didn't respect me,

There is nothing anyone could've done to make me not regret the actions taken there. No one can influence that; you can't make her feel in the future what you want, you can't even make her feel what you want now.
posted by RainyJay at 8:11 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: were operating from some false assumptions

Could you expand more on this?

my retroactive respect for them has diminished

What was the cause of your retroactively diminished respect?

spending time and emotional energy with people who didn't respect me

Could you say more about how you came to realize they didn't respect you? Or, in retrospect, what was disrespectful--what would true respect for you have looked like back then?

(By the way, we've mutually downgraded our upcoming coffee date to "just hanging out/not-a-date.")
posted by zeek321 at 3:02 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: False assumptions: he saw me as a blank slate, where he could fix the problems of relationships past, or try out new ways of presenting himself. I am actually my own person who is not a stand-in for anyone else. I wasn't there to redeem anyone or be a rebound.

Diminished respect: realizing the alleged attraction had more to do with my youth than anything else about me. Who I was and the parts of me that are still here ten years later were dismissed or ignored as being young. Too young to know better, but somehow not too young to date. That line there, is what really killed it.

Realization of lack of respect: never introduced or acknowledged to friends as a potential date, despite seeing them. Because they might've thought it was weird. So, that was on me because I was the one who was younger. My hopes, dreams, hobbies and interests being dismissed because I'd grow out of it. Generally being talked to like I was a seven-year-old. Spending time with people who didn't treat me that way.

This is not how a relationship with an age disparity has to go down; it can go well, but only if both parties are going to approach it with their eyes open. If the experience levels are that far apart, the less experienced person might feel taken advantage of or regret the experience, maybe even regardless of the specific actions.
posted by RainyJay at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

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