This is a contribution article by Zara McDonald
Scott Disick, 34, and his girlfriend Sofia Richie, 19, are a thing and, well, it’s a little bit weird but maybe good for them?
Sure, there are 15 years between them. Sure, she was three years off being legally allowed to drink when they began dating. Sure, there is a bigger age gap between Disick and Richie than there is between Richie and Disick’s eldest child. But love! Acceptance! No judgement!
We say nothing, because to say something comes off potentially close-minded, if not a little sanctimonious.
Do a little googling, and any story about their relationship will follow a curiously similar pattern: Sofia Richie and Scott Disick will be on holiday/out for dinner/on a walk. There will be paparazzi photos of them in the various stages of walking/eating/being. They’re a couple, they looked happy, the accompanying article will say. Oh, by the way, he is 34 with three kids and she is 19 with none but we’re not going to cast judgement on that, we’re just going to leave those facts with you and let you make up your mind.
In a world where we’re often afraid to speak in case the keyboard warriors come for and at us with their ferocious 280 characters, let’s be clear and to the point: You’re allowed to feel weird about the relationship between people like Scott Disick and Sofia Richie without inherently deeming their relationship any less worthy.
Because older men dating younger women is a tale as old as time. A cliche, but a concept worth unpacking.
Listen to Michelle and I discuss Scott and Sofia (AND chat to the Bachelorette’s Georgia Love) on the latest episode of our celebrity podcast below.
So why is the older man and the younger woman like a universally accepted social cue, a long-held message to the world that as women age, they inherently become less relevant to the world?
Fairfax columnist Kerri Sackville touched on this idea in a column of hers last month. In her piece, she quoted Stacy London, the American stylist and host of What Not to Wear, who was interviewed recently about what society tells us about aging and our worth.
“Culturally speaking,” she says, “the reason women are devalued as they age is because we’ve internalised the male gaze.”
“Maybe there’s a fear of mortality when men watch women age,” London goes on, “and that it’s just too much of a mirror.”
Her idea is a simple one: As men age, they see women as a mirror to themselves. Her aging is a stark reflection on his ageing, and he’d rather live in denial for a little bit longer, thanks.
So why isn’t the same true for women? Well, London contends we, as women, see ourselves not as a reflection of men, but instead see ourselves through their eyes.
And so, the stereotype is born. Older man tires of older woman, breaks up with her, proceeds to date younger woman.
It becomes clear, about here, that the dynamic between a younger woman and older man says far more about him than it ever will about her.
Consider, just for a moment, Leonardo Di Caprio. In 2016, journalist Christina Cauterucci wrote a stinging piece for Slate, writing that over the course of his 20-something years in the public eye, Di Caprio has never – to the public’s knowledge – dated a woman under 25.
No, really. Consider his ex-girlfriends including Kristen Zang, Gisele Bündchen, Bar Refaeli, Blake Lively, Erin Heatherton, Toni Garrn and Kelly Rohrbach. All were between 20 and 25 (and all looked like clones of the other, but that’s for another time) when he dated them.
Cauterucci doesn’t hypothesise why this is the case, more than saying this: “DiCaprio seems particularly committed to the 20-25 age range, though; maybe it’s a very specific trophy-girlfriend archetype he’s looking for, or maybe he’s scared to date someone as grown and wise to the world as he is.”
But perhaps that’s all there is to it: The man who dates the much younger woman innately doesn’t want to be challenged by a woman who has seen as much of the world as he has. The man who dates the much younger woman wants to be immediately transported back to the days of no responsibility and golden youth. And the man who dates the much younger woman harbours a quiet insecurity, whereby his relationship validates his need to be the leader or the captain of his relationship. He wants to guide her, lead her, teach her, so he goes younger.
Of course, there are exceptions and of course, this isn’t a rule. But we cannot look at years of anecdotal history of the older man and younger and yell coincidence. The law of averages simply won’t allow it.
We are allowed to question what it says about it man when he consistently seeks out women who have seen less of the world than he has. Because if he doesn’t value experience and wisdom and the potential to be challenged, well, what does it say about his own insecurities?
That’s not to say Scott Disick is necessarily insecure, or deliberately seeking out a woman who may not challenge him. But is it to say: That’s probably why you feel weird about it. And that’s OK, too.
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