Sex & Dating | June 14, 2021 1:02 pm

Of Course the Internet Hates This 23-Year-Old Man and His 60-Year-Old Girlfriend

Will we ever get over our age gap prejudice?

Screenshot from Instagram shows young man with older woman
We'll always find a way to hate an age gap.

If there’s one thing the people of the internet love to hate, it’s a relationship with an eyebrow-raising age gap. Typically, and rather exhaustingly, this relentless age-gap discourse centers around relationships between older men and younger women. Without fail, every time another middle-aged male celebrity steps out with a younger woman on his arm — or, in some cases, simply talks to one on a dating app — the man in question is slammed for being “predatory,” while the woman is considered either a victim or a gold digger. The latest age-gap couple to capture the internet’s attention, however, proves that even when that gender dynamic is reversed, an age gap between two people is still a target for hate, judgment and disgust, though perhaps for different reasons.

A 23-year-old man named Qurann and his 60-year-old girlfriend Cheryl have gone viral after sharing their relationship on TikTok, where, shockingly enough, the couple is subjected to an onslaught of comments shaming the pair for their “disgusting” 37-year age gap, the New York Post reports. General disgust is a pretty standard part of the discourse that inevitably surrounds any age-gap relationship, but when it’s an older man with a younger woman, it’s usually the man who is labeled “creepy” because his interest in a younger woman, even one who is a consenting adult capable of making her own decisions about her romantic partners, is considered predatory. In Qurann and Cheryl’s case, however, much of the disgust is aimed in Cheryl’s direction — not because she’s a predator, but simply because she is a woman who has aged, and visibly so. As one might expect, most of the vitriol the couple receives is directed at Cheryl’s appearance, with commenters calling her “wrinkly” and “decomposing.”

In addition to the shock and disgust, age gaps often generate a lot of anger. But again, the trajectory of that anger is different when the traditional gender dynamic is reversed. When an older man is dating a younger woman, he attracts anger for what is perceived as an abuse of power; when an older woman dates a younger man, people are angry at her for still possessing power despite lacking what we consider two of the most important forms of sexual currency for a woman, youth and beauty.

Older people of all genders have been having sex with younger people of all genders for as long as people have been having sex with each other at all, and for almost as long, everyone else has been mad about it. Regardless of the gender dynamics at play, people will find a way to attack and criticize any relationship with a significant age gap. It’s no longer considered socially permissible to raise eyebrows or hurl insults at an interracial relationship or a romance between two people from different economic backgrounds, but, for some reason, it’s still acceptable — if not actively encouraged — to judge and shame an intergenerational relationship. As sex therapist and author Gigi Engle noted in a recent article for The Body, relationships with an age gap somehow remain heavily stigmatized even in an era in which society is evolving beyond most other sexual taboos of a more repressive past.

“We’re really quick, even in 2021, to denote these relationships as ‘weird’ or ‘creepy,’ when they’re actually just about humans being humans,” wrote Engle. “Judging these relationships is just a cultural prejudice that we accept as normal and fine. It’s considered OK to say you’re ‘grossed out’ by an age-gap relationship.”

Prejudice, even in forms that remain socially sanctioned, is always rooted in fear and hatred. While we may not generally recognize discrimination against age gaps as the toxic social ill for which we now see racism, sexism and other forms of bias and bigotry, shame and disdain for a relationship based entirely on the age of the parties involved is very much a form of prejudice. So please take this as your regular reminder that what consenting adults choose to do with each other is nobody else’s goddamn business, and shaming those consenting adults for having sex with someone significantly older or younger than you happen to think they should be is judgmental, gross and, yes, prejudiced.