Relationships

Are large age-gap relationships wrong?

WRITTEN BY
05/15/24
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Fact Box

  • The ‘Age of Consent’ in the US “is the legal age an individual is considered mature enough to consent to sex” and where “sexual relations with someone under the Age of Consent are considered statutory rape.” 
  • As of 2023, the Age of Consent in 32 US states is 16, 8 states is 17, and 11 states is 18. Ages for consent also vary worldwide.
  • Celebrities are infamous for engaging in relationships with large age gaps. Some of these short-lived flings or marriages include names like Kate Beckinsale and Pete Davidson (a 20-year gap), Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (a 25-year gap), Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson (a 32-year gap), and more. 
  • A 2022 IPSOS poll reveals that 39% reported to have “previously dated someone with an age difference of 10+ years,” with men more likely to have dated someone 10 years younger and women more likely to have dated someone 10 years older.

Elliot (No)

Large age gaps are not inherently unethical. First, it's important to point out that we already have laws against statutory rape. If kept in place and adhered to, these laws can ensure that young people are not exploited. The whole point of statutory rape laws is to prevent the immorality of age gaps, which means our society has already solved this problem, legally speaking. As long as individuals are the legal age for consent (usually 18 in the US), they are legally considered adults and should be free to live their lives in any way they choose. No one should be able to tell them how to live their lives or who they can or cannot date. We must draw the line somewhere, and our democratic society has agreed that ~18 is the age of consent. 

One might argue that many people are essentially still children at the age of 18. The obvious counterargument is that many people at age 30 are 'still children'—living in their parent's basements, playing video games all day, unemployed, and generally avoiding any sense of responsibility. Age is not a reliable indicator of morality or maturity. A 19-year-old can be incredibly career-focused, responsible, and well-educated—in many cases more so than people almost twice their age.

We must also consider that age gaps were seen as relatively normal throughout human history. Medieval Lords and barons were betrothed to girls below the age of consent today. This would be illegal and immoral today, but in those days, this was just how things were done. The concept of an age gap being strange or wrong is actually a very new phenomenon.  


Luis (Yes)

Everyone is free to have whatever type of relationship they want as long as they aren't breaking laws or hurting anybody and if both parties consent. However, large age-gap relationships can be quite problematic for different reasons. The first one is that future compatibility is essentially non-existent, considering that the age gap will inevitably create challenges that the couple will find uncomfortable to handle, including end-of-life decisions and retirement. Both are awkward and challenging since one of the two persons in the relationship will have to deal with a difficult situation they are too young to handle properly.

There are also natural, legal, and even ethical concerns, considering that the younger person in the relationship can sometimes not be fully aware of the consequences their choice to marry older entails. Additionally, there could be a well-earned social stigma in large age-gap relationships because this is considered immoral in many nations worldwide. Moreover, these types of relationships can create numerous conflicts and misunderstandings since both persons are in different stages of life, meaning they won't see the future in the same way. Finally, these relationships can be unethical due to the power imbalance, which is quite normal considering that one of the two partners has way more life experience, social influence, and financial stability than the other.

While love can unite people regardless of age, sex, race, or religion, large age-gap relationships are troubling enough to prevent having one. After all, the disadvantages are more significant than the benefits.

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