Awhile ago, I answered a question on Quora about a 16 year old dating a 19 year old. Their genders are irrelevant for the sake of the Q&A. I do not have the link to that question, as it was at least two years ago when I was very active on that site. However, my answer was as follows, updated to a more modern interpretation of what I originally had back in 2018.
Often times I see a similar question like yours and most of the time, people condemn the 18+ year old as a predator and a pedophile trying to groom the younger person for sex.
Firstly, a pedophile is sexually attracted to pre-teens. So basically, under thirteen years of age. Pedophiles enjoy the sight and fantasy of young children, primarily between the age of two and eight. They see them as innocent interactive dolls to be coerced and used. They very specifically enjoy that underdeveloped youthfulness.
Secondly, a predator is someone whose intention is to prey on someone knowingly to exploit their weaknesses to their own benefit. Often times, in the case of romance and intimacy, a predator is someone who takes advantage of the naivety and ignorance due to someone’s youthful age, in the hopes that the younger person would do the older person’s bidding. Age isn’t always the factor, but it is often seen by many people as the primary trigger, due to their perception that younger teenagers have the inability to control their superficial libido-driven desires, and/or their inability to decipher right from wrong, due to their underdeveloped brain functions. The act of doing this is called grooming.
Don’t mistake my following words as a support for pedophilia. I don’t. Pedophilia is wrong and adults should never engage in their fantasies. However, do not mislabel the attraction towards teenagers as pedophilia. The attraction towards young teenagers from age 11 to 14, is called hebephilia. The attraction towards 15-19 year olds is called ephebophilia. More specifically about ephebophilia, the reason why many adults are attracted to this age group is because teenagers from age 15 to 19 has already developed their bodies enough to resemble youthful 20 to 30 year olds. Take my wife for example, when I first introduced her to my friends, when she was 22, a few of my friends thought she was 14-15 due to her youthful appearance.
Now, the main problem I have with people who condemn 18+ year olds for having romantic relationships with younger teens, is that these people automatically assume that the 18+ year olds are trying to groom their younger partners for sex. They automatically label them as predators. They bring up that 18+ year olds are on a different life stage than those younger than 18. They view teenagers under 18 as children on the same wavelength as toddlers, and anyone 18 and older are suddenly adults who should stick with their own age.
Recently, I swiped through my Instagram search feed and came across a post about this exact same scenario. Someone responded to the post by saying, “My neighbour got together with her boyfriend when she was 13 and he was 18. They are still together to this day. They are now 25 and he is 30.” Then another person responded, “Cool. Still grooming. Still predatory.”
That annoyed me because there is an automatic assumption that all 18+ year olds who date anyone younger than 18 are predators. They absolutely do not care what their relationship dynamics were like. They absolutely disregard the thoughts and feelings of the younger partner. They absolutely have it burned in their minds that all 18+ year olds are the only ones capable of grooming and all of them only get into relationships with younger teens for the purpose of sex.
The world has about 7.7 billion people. The people condemning the 18+ year olds for being predators are no better than racists, sexists, and ageists who hate on entire groups of people based on one very simple mental condition. Complete, utter blind and deafening ignorance. They look at everyone younger than 18 as toddlers, who in some twisted emotion-driven idea, that everyone under 18 are incapable of making any life decisions, that they are completely naive, and are void of any usable brain power to function on their own. They see the younger teenagers as little kids who need to be coddled, padded up, force fed cartoons, and just be kids. They look at 18+ year olds as sudden adults who are all predatory in nature. The moment they engage in any sort of relationship, even friendship with anyone younger, they are branded as pedophiles.
I am honestly stunned by that sheer level of prejudice. It feels like those doing the condemning are projecting what they would do in a situation like that, much like how fundamentalist Christians often remark that if God wasn’t real, then everyone would go out raping and murdering people. Well, atheists exist. They don’t go out raping and murdering people just because there is no God. So the disturbing reality is that Christians would rape and murder, if they find out God wasn’t real. Isn’t that just simply projection of their own broken beliefs? On that same wavelength, aren’t these people condemning all 18+ year olds as being predators doing the same sort of thing – projecting what they would do if they were in that situation?
The reality is that anyone of any age is capable of being a predator. A 13 year old is capable of grooming a 16 year old for sex, just as a 17 year old is also capable of grooming another 17 year old for sex. It’s not about the person’s age. It’s about their character, their intellectual ability, and the capacity to do these sort of things. It’s as if these people doing the condemning has never heard or read about a 12 year old who killed a 24 year old in Texas, or about a 16 year old who raped an 18 year old, or a 12 year that tried to rape a 37 year old in New York state. It’s like they live in some sort of bubble plugging their ears and covering their eyes from the realities of the rest of the world. Whenever fact is blown up in their faces, they twist things around and call people giving them the facts, as pedophiles for defending the 18 year old for having a 14 year old girlfriend. Did any of them ask what the girlfriend thought? Did any of them observe their dynamics? Did any of them witness coercion or grooming acts? It’s quite astonishing that these condemners often call themselves feminists, support equal rights, as well as condemn racism, yet completely wipe away those same standards when it comes to people dating outside of their exact age. This is ageism plain and simple based on their individual capacities for self awareness and decision making that may affect their entire lives. We’re not talking about a 20 year old dating a 10 year old, nor are we talking about a 17 year old dating a 9 year old, because those ages are clearly beyond the threshold of mature thought, self awareness, and decision making for one’s lifestyle. Furthermore, those two examples are real pedophilia and that’s just wrong.
For context, I would like to share a story from when I was 21.
When I was 21, I fell in love with a 17 year old. Neither of us knew each others’ ages. We never asked each other and just assumed we were of a similar age. At 21, I stilled look like I was about 14-16. I didn’t have much facial hair until my 30’s. At 21, I had just started my own small software development studio on the third floor of Pacific Plaza in Richmond. The 17 year old was a barista that worked at a bubble tea cafe on the ground floor. Her body was fully developed with all of the same sort of curves you would find in a 20+ year old woman. She had an hourglass figure, perfect long black hair, and I thought she was in university. We connected quite well. Though I was much more emotionally conservative and I was quite a bit more traditional back then, than I am today. I never once thought of having sex with her. I did however fantasize about kissing her on her lips. The most I did at the time was hug her and kiss her lightly on her face. When I was at her place, I usually sat on a chair or on the edge of her bed. It was her who asked me to spoon her on her bed. It was her, who sung to me downstairs in front of a crowd, a love song. It was her who made every effort to open me up for intimacy, when I resisted because I was shy, insecure, and totally inexperienced.
So based on those details, was I still considered the predator? Was I somehow unknowingly grooming her for sex? Was I a pedophile for falling for someone who looked like she was already fully developed? I definitely don’t think so. It comes down to intent. My only intent at that time was to love and cherish her, not fuck her and leave. 🙄
Anyway, people should not automatically look down on teenagers as having the inability to think and make decisions for themselves. The problem in common western society is that there is too much social pressure on people who are legally defined as adults. Society preaches that all adults must act and behave ‘their own age’, when in fact there is no such thing as ‘acting one’s own age’. Maturity is dynamic. It’s not supposed to be a one-size-fits-all. Each individual’s capabilities and their dynamic maturity levels depend primarily on the connections they have with other people, as well as the environment they were brought up in.
However, on a similar note, but certainly not a condemning one, I would strongly advise that those whom are younger should be cautious with anyone, regardless of their age, when it comes to romance and intimacy. Making a mistake at your teenage years, may have a huge impact for the rest of your lives. Be clear and communicate your boundaries. Definitely uphold and stand your ground with those boundaries. Never let anyone, regardless of their age, regardless of their relationship with, allow them to pressure you into something you do not want to do or uncomfortable in doing.
So to answer your question. I think you two are fine. Just make sure to look up the minimum age of consent where you two live, and practice safe sex if you two are active sexually. In Canada, the minimum age of consent is 16. In the USA, the minimum age of consent ranges from 16 to 18, depending on your state. Also, there are Romeo and Juliet laws concerning age differences for teenagers who engage in sex. Definitely look them up. Your boyfriend should not have to bear the eternal burden of being a Sex Offender for making a mistake you two can avoid. Furthering that however, don’t rush into sex. I understand at your age, your libido is super high. What’s important is that you two should take your time to figure out your relationship with each other first. It’s better to establish your boundaries first, before anything. Then communicate openly about the rules of your relationship. As you two get older, your perceptions may change. Always revisit those rules and reestablish those boundaries. Always communicate openly and never make assumptions about each other.
Good luck in your relationship endeavors!