The age gap question isn’t black and white

Image by: Herbert Wang

Sex, intimacy, and romance are considered private affairs—until a couple’s ages becomes subject to public critique, that is.

Age gaps are uncomfortable. They unsettle the balance of power we expect couples to maintain in a relationship as it’s sometimes assumed this foundation of trust will be manipulated by the older partner. 

Age gaps disturb our notions of love and intimacy because we can’t know if the younger person is able to make an informed decision. Relationships are reduced to an equation of reduction where the smallest number, subtracted from the biggest one, must be no larger than x or y. Thus, the acceptable age gap is always subjective. 

The debate has recently been reignited in the media due to age-gap relationships between celebrities like 48-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio and 19-year-old Eden Polani or 47-year-old Pedro Pascal and 19-year-old The Last of Us co-star Bella Ramsey.  

Commentators speculate these relationships are creepy, gross, or awkward and question whether they’re ethical. Despite the legality of the celebrity relationships between DiCaprio and Polani, the public deems them morally criminal. 

Those arguing against an age-gap relationship imply people like Polani or Ramsey are being coerced into their decisions to stay with the older men. In trying to protect the younger person’s consent, the public victimizes and infantilizes them.

Ultimately, the decision to be in a relationship is individual, but it will always be questioned by the public. Age gap relationships can be consensual and mutually beneficial, but ideas of consent make it an issue of morality. 

The age gap debate is not simply a celebrity matter, nor a heterosexual one. The same age gaps existing in straight relationships are also seen within the queer community. 

Tom Rasmussen wrote an article about age gaps in Vogue’s opinion column, discussing the intimate relationships he experienced with older men and the stigma he experienced.

He described his relationship with a man in his 60s when he was 17, presenting a complex narrative of consent and equality only seen in private, where assumptions were left at the door. Rasmussen argued for the reader to look not at the fault within age gap relationships, but at how we come to know love as a possession instead of a gift. 

When we speak of age-gaps relationships as something that works only in the older partner’s favour, it can infantilize the younger person and reduce their agency. 

We shouldn’t judge adult age-gap relationships so harshly—it doesn’t help anyone. 

Suzy is a fourth-year English and history student and one of The Journal’s Features Editors.


age gap, celebrity, Consent, romantic relationships

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