What I Learned from Dating an Older Guy as a Teen

When I was 15, I started dating my first real boyfriend. I was a sophomore in high school, and just beginning to understand that there was a whole wide world of romance out there. Up until then, I’d been a whole lot more concerned with books than boys–something my parents had hoped would continue until I graduated. But, unfortunately for them, I met this guy at an art park one Friday, and then, things kind of just started happening.

There was just one little problem. He was 19.

At the time, I had convinced myself that the age difference between us didn’t mean anything. After all, my sister was three years older than me, and I had grown up hanging out with her friends all the time. It was true, I had always mostly hung out with older kids. What was four years in the grand scheme of things, I thought to myself. Tons of adults I knew had significant age differences between them and their spouses, some spanning gaps of ten years. Compared to those differences, a four year difference between teens seemed innocuous enough.

And, when I made this argument to plenty of people around me–friends, concerned adults, and my parents, they seemed to back off. They were still concerned, but I think on some level they were at a loss. My parents always gave me a lot of freedom, and a lot of responsibilities–which I always dutifully fulfilled. After acquiring my older boyfriend, I didn’t fall into a life of hard partying and my grades remained nearly perfect, everyone stopped bugging me about the issue. I was smugly satisfied. Of course there was nothing wrong with me dating a 19 year old. After all, I was so mature for my age. I needed someone older. Everyone else was so… childish.

Sure, I was “mature” and had my “life” in order– but my life was hardly difficult to manage. All I had to do was go to school, get straight A’s, and get to mock trial and swim practice on time. I wasn’t even old enough to have a part time job.

What I never stopped to think about during this whole ordeal, however, was what kind of mindset my then boyfriend had to be in to find dating a fifteen year old an appealing prospect. Sure, I was “mature” and had my “life” in order– but my life was hardly difficult to manage. All I had to do was go to school, get straight A’s, and get to mock trial and swim practice on time. I wasn’t even old enough to have a part time job. Contrast this stage of young adulthood with that of a 19 year old’s and important questions that need answering begin to emerge. At 19, my ex boyfriend was beginning his first year at university. He had already had a few girlfriends, and a handful of sexual encounters– a whole handful more than I had. His world had already expanded beyond the halls of a confining high school, and hell, well beyond the passenger seat of a car (remember, I couldn’t even legally drive at this point). Why on earth would he have any interest in a 15 year old?

Two weeks after we started dating, we had sex. I wouldn’t say he pressured me, it had been my idea at the time. But, I will say that he definitely didn’t protest. Things had been moving quickly, and although when I had first started dating him sex hadn’t been on my mind, by our second real “date” he had asked me if I would go down on him in the back seat of his car, after grabbing my hand and asking if I wanted to leave the jazz performance we were attending early.

Through our sexual encounters, I began to map my own sexual landscape; the things I believed to be “normal” and healthy.

Looking back now, I often think about how so much of our relationship in its early days was focused on sex. I wonder, intently, why someone with so much more sexual experience, would want to have sex with a fifteen year old who had had absolutely none. Before dating him, I could count the number of times my lips had touched another person’s. Through our sexual encounters, I began to map my sexual landscape; the things I believed to be “normal” and healthy. I remember one afternoon, being a little confused about how quickly things had been moving between us. I didn’t want to have sex that day, but I didn’t know how to tell him I wasn’t in the mood because I was afraid he would be offended or upset.

He told me, “Look Victoria, I don’t want to have to convince you that I love you every time we’re about to have sex, you should just know that’s the way I feel,” He added after a short silence fell between us, “And you know–blue balls are a real thing”.

He was living at his mom’s house at the time, so I told him I thought having sex with him while his little brother was home would be weird. He drove me to his dad’s house in the pouring rain and told me no one was home over there and that we could have privacy. When we got there, I finally confessed my growing discomfort. He didn’t hesitate to take me back to his mom’s place. But, once we got there and started talking about my discomfort he told me, “Look Victoria, I don’t want to have to convince you that I love you every time we’re about to have sex, you should just know that’s the way I feel,” He added after a short silence fell between us, “And you know–blue balls are a real thing”.

Those words left me shaken, and a bit taken aback. But, I silenced the alarm bells going off inside my head because I trusted him. He was older, wiser, and more experienced, and so I pushed away my trepidations and told myself to be “reasonable”. From then on, we always did things his way. And from then on, I began to lose my sense of self, and my sense of my own boundaries as I deferred to him completely.

It was only years later that I began to dissect all of our encounters and see plainly, how unhealthy they were. I am not the type of person who likes to tell people what to do, or what choices to make in their personal life. And my fifteen year old self certainly was not the type who would listen to those people either. So, I’ll never tell younger girls that they shouldn’t be dating an older guy, or that their words, agency, and personal will mean nothing because of their age.

If you’re a teen girl who is thinking about dating an adult, ask yourself–with all the equally smart, capable, and mature grown women out there in the world, what does this adult find so special about me? It may just be that you have what no grown woman out there has– the ability to quiet your discomforts, compromise your boundaries, and put your trust into someone who does not have your best interest at heart.

But, I think it’s incredibly important for girls to understand, that even when we are “mature” for our age, an older person who is interested in us may be equally “immature”. Even when we are smart and capable, it doesn’t mean that we can substitute intelligence and capability for life experiences. Intelligence will never equalize an uneven power dynamic in a sexual and romantic relationship between an adolescent and an adult. If you’re a teen girl who is thinking about dating an adult, ask yourself–with all the equally smart, capable, and mature grown women out there in the world, what does this adult find so special about me? It may just be that you have what no grown woman out there has– the ability to quiet your discomforts, compromise your boundaries, and put your trust into someone who does not have your best interest at heart.

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