by Wednesday at 12:30 pm•
Thirty-year-old trans woman here, Dan, and I have a question about what is surely one of your favorite subjects: the “age gap discourse.”
About four years ago, I had a sexual experience that I go back and forth on whether to label as sexual assault. When I was 26 years old, I met a 19-year-old on a dating site and drove to a neighboring state to hook up with them. I’ll spare you the details, but when started doing things we had mutually agreed upon, one of them didn’t feel right in the moment, so I withdrew my consent. They respected my boundary for about fifteen minutes, then tried it again. I said no again, they refrained for another fifteen minutes, then tried it again. The cycle continued until I just got worn down. The night ended with me trying to fall asleep so I at least wouldn’t be conscious for what they were going to do. It didn’t work.
I’m friends with a lot of social-justice-focused millennials, and as such, discourse about age gaps in romantic and sexual relationships occasionally appear on my social media. The consensus, as I understand it, seems to be that there is a vast maturity gap between someone who is 19 and someone who is 26; therefore, someone in their mid-twenties has an affirmative duty to make sure nothing sexual happens with someone who is 19. It is also suggested that someone like me is a creep and a predator for even thinking about hooking up with a 19-year-old. It’s hard to not apply my own experience to the discourse, and boy, is it a mind fuck. Hearing people go on about how vulnerable teenagers are or how I occupied a position of power not only dredges up painful memories, but also makes me feel like a creep.
Did I do something wrong? I’m leaning towards no. I didn’t have any institutional power over the other person, it wasn’t an ongoing relationship, nor is it a pattern of behavior. (Like hell am I going to trust a 19-year-old again.) I also tried to follow your campsite rule. Instead of ghosting them, I sent them a message explaining why I wasn’t going to play with them again—the boundary violations—in the hope that they would do better in the future. I’m about 80% sure I have nothing to feel guilty about, but that other 20% just won’t shut up. Was I the bad guy here?
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