TIME relationships

15 Guys Explain Why They Date Women Over 30

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Tom Merton—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Here's why older is better in some men's eyes

We’ve all heard the sobering statistics: given a choice, straight men of all ages would rather date women in their twenties. Women, on the other hand, prefer guys closer to their own age. In September, a study of 12,000 Finns reaffirmed what prior research had already established.

But there’s something fishy about all that data. If dudes were really so set on their caveman-era mating habits, wouldn’t we see more single ladies over 30 home knitting tea cozies on Friday nights? (Then again, just because a guy wants to date a younger girl, doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to date him!)

As a woman over 30, I decided to try to get to the bottom of this conundrum by asking a series of straight, unmarried men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s to find out why some actually prefer to date “older” women. Turns out, there’s lots to love about women of a certain age.

Men in their 20s date women over 30 because:

“They understand better how to interact in a relationship.”
— José Fernández, 24 (single)

“I appreciate the grace and expression of slightly older women. Certain facial features, like smile lines, can be charming.”
— Niv, 25 (single)

“They know what they want. There is more of an end game. So if you meet their criteria, they’re good.”
— Billy, 27 (has a girlfriend)

“I think women in their 30s are in their prime. Sexual maturity, the way that they carry themselves — for me something about it screams woman.”
— Alex Sanza, 28 (single)

“They are more stable.”
— Solomon, 29 (just started seeing someone over 30)

While men in their 30s say:

“Generally more expert at the multisensory/theatrical aspects of the whole dance.”
— Anonymous, 30 (single)

“Much better sex”
— Anonymous, 32 (actively dating)

“When I was in my 20s, I was drawn to older women because it gave me a certain level of confidence because she was established. She’s not as needy.”
­— Peter Bailey, 34 (“not married”)

“More nurturing.”
— Percy Baldonado, 38 (single)

Men in their 40s add:

“Women over 30 have stopped putting metal through their lips and tongues which makes it easier to kiss them. And they’ve figured out their makeup routine so they won’t keep you waiting as long when you’re trying to get to an event.”
— Anonymous, 49 (seeing someone)

“Age has never really played a role in who I date … I have dated my own age, younger than me, and older. What it comes down to is, I like this girl, she’s cute, and I’d like to see her again.”
— Chris Dinneen, 41 (in a relationship)

“I always liked somewhat older women for their maturity, self confidence and poise, finding those qualities quite attractive and usually absent in younger girls.”
— Daren, 45 (in a long-term relationship)

And men in their 50s prefer women over 30 because:

“We have similar life experiences and similar pop culture references. It’s a little more comfortable.”
— David, 50 (seeing someone, not exclusive)

“Given that I’m 52, I can’t really relate to dating someone in her 20s — too much of an age difference.”
— Patrick, 52 (single)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Learning from our mistakes: Global response to the current Ebola crisis should improve our handling of the next outbreak.

By Lena H. Sun, Brady Dennis, Lenny Bernstein, Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post

2. A blueprint for reopening the tech industry to women: be deliberate, build a new pipeline that is openly focused on women, and attack the archetype of tech success.

By Ann Friedman in Matter

3. We need to change what’s taught in business schools and the narrative about business success that dominates boardrooms.

By Judy Samuelson in the Ford Forum

4. A health system that learns from its experience through data analysis can change medicine.

By Veronique Greenwood in the New York Times Magazine

5. A long overdue move to align our international development with climate reality could trigger sweeping policy changes around the world.

By Charles Cadwell and Mark Goldberg in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrity

Aziz Ansari Explains Why He’s a Feminist and Why We Don’t Need to Be Scared of That Word

With a metaphor about Beyoncé and Jay Z to help make his point

According to Aziz Ansari, most people are feminists — whether or not they actively call themselves that — because most people believe men and women should have equal rights. The comedian discussed this theory with David Letterman on The Late Show last night after explaining that his chef girlfriend is a “big feminist” and has turned him into one too. Here’s the thing, though: he doesn’t give some big, dramatic speech about feminism. To Ansari, being a feminist just seems like a no-brainer.

“If you look up feminist in the dictionary, it just means someone who believes men and women have equal rights,” he says, after asking fellow feminists in the audience for a round of applause. “But I think the reason people don’t clap is that the word is so weirdly used in our culture. Now, people think feminist means, like, some woman is gonna start yelling at them.”

He continues to add his signature humor to the topic, which is clearly important to him. “I feel like if you do believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes, because that is how words work,” he quips, adding a metaphor about a doctor who treats diseases of the skin but deems the word dermatologist “too aggressive.”

Then he throws in another metaphor about Jay Z and Beyoncé and basically this whole speech is perfect and it makes us feel like this.

 

TIME society

Subway Thinks You’re Too Fat for Your Halloween Costume

Woman wearing Halloween mask
Steffen Thalemann—Getty Images

Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

October is upon us. If you can battle your way through the riptide of pink and back to shore, you may have noticed a large social preoccupation with costumes, and considerable discussion thereof. There’s the explosion of cultural appropriation that happens every Halloween, the endless debate over whether women are or aren’t allowed to wear skimpy/slutty/skanky costumes, the subsequent argument about whether fat women are allowed to wear them, and…oh, right.

The on-point marketing crew at Subway know how to sell a soggy, limp, tasteless sandwich on cardboard with a few slices of American cheese between leaves of wilted lettuce: By appealing to our universal cultural fear of being fat. In fact, “The Subway Diet” has become such a ubiquitous part of our culture (thanks, Jared Fogle) that the company has successfully convinced people that eating Subway sandwiches is totally a good way to get (and stay) slim, despite the fact that, actually, for calorie counters, its sandwiches may not necessarily be any better than the much-maligned Big Mac.

Now that summer is over and Subway can no longer market to people terrified at the prospect of not having a bikini body, they’re having to search further afield, and they landed upon a brilliant ploy: Convincing women that “costume season” is upon us and that their bodies are far too disgusting to be sandwiched into a skimpy costume. (Apparently they all put the weight they lost during bikini season back on during the intervening two months.)

The company did so with this charming ad:

It features three coworkers sitting at a table, two women and a man. One of the women exclaims: “You’re eating burgers?!” in shock and horror, and when the man looks skeptical, she explains that it’s COSTUME SEASON, don’t you know? She then proceeds to model a series of classic “attractive nurse,” “sexy devil,” “sexy viking princess warrior,” etc etc costumes, reminding the viewer that it’s critical to lose weight so she’ll fit in them properly.

There are a number of things that bother me about this ad. The first, obviously, is the constant cultural imperative to lose weight; do this, or you will be gross and unwanted. I dislike that Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight and promoting its products as a way to do this, though I have to admire the effectiveness of the marketing strategy nonetheless.

I am, of course, also bothered by this whole “costume season” thing and the idea that women (because the ad is very clearly aimed at women, not people in general) should lose weight in order to look their best at Halloween — that they wouldn’t be sexually appealing without being their thinnest. It’s just another iteration of the bikini season and one wonders how much mission creep we’re going to endure. What’s next, sweaterdress season?

It pisses me off to see an ad advancing not just the idea that women need to lose weight for Halloween, but that fat women in costumes are not okay. It’s another reminder that fatness is not welcome or acceptable in the public sphere, that fat women have an obligation to cover and hide their bodies lest they offend people. A fat women in a “skimpy” costume might have visible fat rolls or muffintop or bulges or other unsightly, unpleasant things, and as such, she needs to lose weight if she wants to don that kind of costume.

There’s also a deeper whiff of sexism here, a kind of underlying judgement about “slutty” costumes that reminds women they’re effectively screwed either way. You should lose weight so you can wear a sexy costume, but if you do, you’re a slut — and no one wants to be a slut. But, on the other hand, if you wear something that covers more of your body, you’re a prude (or, you know, a fat person sparing the world from Mt. Adipose). This ad is taking place within the context of a larger cultural conversation that shames women for wearing revealing costumes at Halloween, and thus, it leans on that conversation a lot.

If you’re going to be a slut, at least be a thin slut.

Notably, Subway has since taken the ad down, but the Internet never forgets (as evidenced above). Once you run an ad like this, it goes viral, spreading across the Internet to a variety of sometimes surprising locations. I expected to see it turning up on Jezebel, where Kara Brown rightly skewered it, but I was surprised to see it turn up on Consumerist, which is not normally where I go to find discussions about sexism (though chronicling badvertising is a long tradition on the site).

So congratulations, Subway. You managed to piss off a broad swath of the Internet with your gross, fatphobic, sexist, misogynistic ad. Thanks for reminding me that a) You exist and b) You are terrible.

S.E. Smith is a writer, agitator and commentator based in Northern California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

Campus Sexual Assault: What Ever Happened to Common Sense?

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

Parents, don't let your daughters grow up to think they have no agency

According to much of the media, there is an “epidemic” of sexual assault, including rape, on our college campuses. The problem is apparently so bad that California recently passed a “yes means yes” law that requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” on campus, and President Obama announced a new national initiative to put a stop to it. Not to mention the countless rallies, awareness sessions, YouTube videos, and so-called SlutWalks aimed at telling men to keep their parts in their pants and their paws to themselves unless otherwise directed.

There’s been an ocean of ink spilled on this subject, most of it falling into two camps: the first reasons that no matter what language or set of rules colleges and universities adopt in an effort to curb sexual assault, most cases of alleged abuse comes down to “he said, she said.” This camp also tends to assume that, in any given case, the male party will be found guilty by default, fairly or not. The second set of voices points to a culture of male dominance — one that all too often leaves young victims of sexual assault without recourse to justice (especially on campuses where certain members of the student body, especially prized athletes, aren’t held accountable for their crimes), such that action from the top needs to be taken immediately to stop the assaults.

Both sides of the debate have validity. However, what neither seems to recognize is that much of the time, young women have agency. There are of course exceptions — the football player who pushes a girl into a closet and rapes her, the drunken frat boy who doesn’t stop at “no,” the ex-boyfriend who, allowed into the confines of his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room, forces himself on her. Even so — at least in my view — women are not, and certainly don’t need to be, helpless victims of a misogynistic endgame.

This is the point at which I think the debate has gone powerfully stupid. Where, in all this spillage of verbiage and amping-up of anger and outrage, is female agency, the ability of young women to make their own fates and claim their own power? What’s feminist about teaching our daughters that, as victims of a sexist culture, there’s no use in taking control of their own bodies, not only in terms of using birth control, but also when it comes to drinking, dressing, and representing themselves? What’s pro-female about ignoring the reality of non-verbal communication, of nuance and gesture and expression?

I have a personal interest in all this because of my own undergraduate twins and their older brother. My oldest son’s freshman year roommate had a different girl in the room with him every night — a major source of misery for my son — and was eventually booted off campus after being charged with sexual assault. My younger son, currently at a college in Massachusetts where frat life is minimal, claims that campus assault is a real problem, and anyone who thinks otherwise is being willfully ignorant. And yet my daughter, in South Carolina — where Greek life dominates — says that she has never known anyone, or of anyone, who has been assaulted. “But if you get completely wasted at some frat party,” she said, “and you wake up naked with some guy next to you, you might not even remember what happened.”

Yup: that’s college all right. If memory serves, college is a time when that heady brew of youthful idiocy, curiosity, and horniness is likely to result in at least one misadventure between the sheets. Just add copious amounts of alcohol or drugs and, voila, a potentially potent brew of disinhibition, peer pressure, confusion, desire, and even memory loss (with alcoholic blackout). Thus my own memories, garnered both from my own and my friends’ experiences, of trying it on, acting it out, experimenting, bowing to peer expectations, having a one-night-stand, disregarding the inner voice that’s telling you to get out of there, indulging in a quickie and waking up with a morning-after hangover of regret and perhaps shame? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. But assault? Not so much.

Not that sexual assault is something to take lightly. In my view, sexual assault is a crime and needs to be treated as such, period, end of story, no matter how scantily clad, or wasted, the victim. But if there is in fact an explosion of sexual assault on campus, why now, after decades of feminist consciousness raising and “take back the night” marches?

My daughter-in-law thinks that in fact there isn’t an uptick of sexual assault on campus, just a greater willingness to report it. Perhaps. But that equation leaves out the cultural swings toward even greater confusion (and instant gratification) that her generation was raised on, as compared to my own desperately confused generation. Because at least in my own desperately confused generation — during which the “three date rule” stipulated that you owed it to the guy to sleep with him after three dates — we had grown up with parents who, more often than not, themselves grew up with notions of what was then called virtue: i.e., good girls and good boys waited (or at least didn’t spread it around).

Compare that to today’s college students, whose parents grew up with easy access to birth control and may themselves never have figured out that the anything-goes culture of our own youths was less than ideal.

What keeps coming up for me is the old song “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” except in my version, it’s “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Stupid,” with additional lyrics, including a refrain, that exhort fathers to accord their daughters both love and respect and teach their sons that real masculinity lies in restraint.

Take back the night? I’m all for it. But while all the conferences are being held and the marchers are marching, it wouldn’t hurt to stop ignoring the complexity of human interaction, the birds and the bees, and the remarkable power of alcohol to make otherwise intelligent people stupid. Young people who find themselves in sexually confusing situations might want to emulate their grandparents and resort to common sense. And if, God forbid, they are victimized, they need to report it immediately, and get help.

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

Subway Wants Women to Stay Skinny So They Can Wear Sexy Halloween Costumes

This new ad reminds you that it's never time to stop dieting

You thought it was over. You thought it was finally safe to sit down at lunch and eat one, just one, burger. Subway wants you to know that YOU THOUGHT WRONG.

Thank your lucky thigh gap the sandwich chain, which recent research asserts is just as unhealthy as McDonald’s, is here to remind you that it’s your moral obligation to stay skinny. Because “bikini season may be over” — that’s an actual quote from the company’s YouTube page — “but there’s more reasons right around the corner to stay fit.”

Namely: To wear skimpy Halloween costumes. Cue a video montage set to the tune of waiting room music where an excessively perky woman models an array of sexy costumes.

Except, Subway clearly isn’t allowed to say sexy. Rather, it’s a “hot devil” (too literal), “sassy teacher” (literally smacking a ruler against her hand), “foxy fullback” (please, let’s get into how women feel about the NFL right now), and our personal favorite, “attractive nurse.”

Luckily for Subway, there’s an emerging sexy (albeit bizarre) Christmas costume market, so that they can keep their “it’s never ok to break a diet” campaign going.

Your skinny coworker lunch buddy will be watching you!

TIME Opinion

New Adam Levine Video Confuses Violence and Love

RAINN released a statement slamming the stalker-fantasy music video

Updated October 2, 2:00 pm E.T.

In the new Maroon 5 video, ‘Animals,’ Adam Levine plays a hairnet-wearing, meat-hugging, blood-drenched stalker of his real-life wife, model Behati Prinsloo. But don’t worry ladies, he’s still totally sexy! Take a look:

Wait, the whole stalker thing doesn’t do it for you? You’re not into a guy who hugs a blood-drenched cow carcass while he imagines having sex with you? Well, you’re not alone. RAINN thinks it’s horrible too.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network slammed the video Wednesday for “trivializing” stalking, warning that it could romanticize dangerous behaviors. “Maroon 5’s video for ‘Animals’ is a dangerous depiction of a stalker’s fantasy — and no one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance,” RAINN VP of Communications Katherine Hull Fliflet said in a statement. “The trivialization of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry.”

Mixing stalking with romantic pursuit is exactly the problem, and the fact that the girl in question is played by Levine’s real-life wife makes that line even blurrier. Levine and Prinsloo only married in July, which makes the whole bloody-murder-fantasy seem like a perverted newlywed game. And because there’s a real relationship underneath all the fake blood, the video risks making stalking seem like a legitimate or even attractive version of normal courtship behavior.

This isn’t the first time Levine has used violence to talk about love– Maroon 5’s 2010 video ‘Misery‘ featured Levine getting beaten up by a girl in a sort of love-dance. But ‘Animals’ takes that violence to a whole new level.

It’s disturbing to see Levine glamorized in this video as some kind of hopeless romantic, because all his psychopathic behaviors are recast as attractive qualities. Is he supposed to seem tortured and artistic because he has hundreds pictures of this girl that he developed himself in his dark room? Maybe we should think he’s adventurous, because he sneaks into her house to take pictures of her while she sleeps. We can see that he’s fit, because he does all those pull-ups in his meat-hanging room. Plus, he can cook!

Take, for example, the part where Adam Levine stands outside Prinsloo’s window watching her through his psychopath-glasses. There are tons of examples of lovelorn men standing outside a window to signal their devotion– it’s a romantic staple that’s so common it’s become a corny trope. Think of John Cusack in Say Anything, James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues, Freddy Eynesford Hill in My Fair Lady, Romeo in the balcony scene. But in this video, that’s a violent act, not a romantic one– because Levine has a camera and a meat locker full of bloody carcasses.

But that blurry line is exactly why Levine’s creepy obsession could be easily misinterpreted as adoration. How many impressionable girls are thinking, “I wish Adam Levine loved me enough to break into my house and take pictures of me while I sleep! Why isn’t anyone following me into nightclubs and refusing to back off?” The fact that he was crowned Sexiest Man Alive last year doesn’t help, because even when he’s trying to look creepy, there’s an element of self-conscious hotness.

Adam Levine rolling around in blood and pretending to be a murderous stalker is scary enough. But casting his real-life-wife as his target suggests that this kind of stalkerdom has some place in healthy relationships, like violence is the underside of love. And coming off the summer of domestic violence stories, that’s the last thing anyone needs to see.

 

 

TIME

Sen. Gillibrand Speaks Out on Secret Service Director

Kirsten Gillibrand and Nancy Gibbs speak at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City.
Kirsten Gillibrand and Nancy Gibbs speak at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City. Larry Busacca—Getty Images for Time Inc.

'If someone resigns, it's always the woman'

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she wasn’t surprised by the resignation of Julia Pierson, the first woman to head the Secret Service, who stepped down Wednesday after the public learned of a number of potential threats that slipped past the President’s security detail.

“Obviously there was a massive failure that needed to be taken responsibility for,” Gillibrand said Wednesday during an interview with TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs at the Women and Success event hosted by TIME and Real Simple. “But I do find that women are often eager to take responsibility for things… inevitably, if someone resigns, it’s always the woman.”

The junior Senator from New York has been speaking candidly about issues women face in the workplace and beyond since the release of her book, Off the Sidelines.

“I think for a lot of us, we feel deeply responsible for how our teams are run, how our businesses are run,” Gillibrand said.

Additional reporting by Eliana Dockterman and Charlotte Alter.

TIME women

The Most Game-Changing Part of the ‘Affirmative Consent’ Law

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds.

Consent and lack of consent can look the same

If you’re interested in women’s safety in general and, specifically, women’s safety on college campuses, it’s been a noteworthy week. On Monday, the Huffington Post looked at data from 125 schools, from fiscal year 2011 through 2013, and determined that a “conservative estimate of the cases shows 13 percent of students found responsible for sexual assault were expelled; at most, 30 percent were expelled.”

Stated without the arithmetic: over the past two years, people found guilty of sexual assault – which includes rape, harassment and stalking – were, by a wide margin, allowed to continue their education on the same campus with their victims. In one case where the assault was caught on videotape, the assailant’s punishment was “expulsion after graduation.”

The policies that govern how some schools deal with rape are created and modified by the Association of Student Conduct Administration, a group that describes itself as “the premier authority in higher education for student conduct administration and conflict resolution.” The ASCA recommends that “legalistic language,” such as “rape,” “judicial,” “defense” or “guilty” should be yanked from policies and procedures. To my knowledge, the ASCA doesn’t offer suggestions about what words should be used instead.

If those responsible for student welfare were known to work in tandem with local law enforcement, semantic arguments like these would be just another example of academic nitpicking. In a recent study, however, 73% of schools surveyed had no protocols in place for working with the police and of those that do, the systems are inadequate to the task. Often, a rape victim’s one shot at justice is through a system created by ASCA, an organization whose president-elect, Laura Bennett, is quoted as saying “‘Rape’ is a legal, criminal term,” a harmless enough assertion if she didn’t go on to say, “We’re trying to continue to share we’re not court, we don’t want to be court – we want to provide an administrative, educative process.” Sadly, the “educative” outcome seems to be how to get away with raping a schoolmate.

Having a bad system in place is probably better than having no system, but that’s only from the perspective of the institution, not the victim. It’s easy to suggest that a porous response to rape allegations serves the reputation of any school where these crimes occur – or allegedly occur. Local law enforcement has to make these statistics a matter of public record, while university administrations are under a different set of rules, and, in most cases, no set of rules.

In one survey, 40% of the schools surveyed hadn’t conducted a single sexual-assault investigation in five years, which, not surprisingly, can lead to low numbers of reported sexual assaults. One theory is that an entire generation of women students believe that, as with their sisters in the armed forces, reporting sexual misdeeds is a risky and futile undertaking. A more troubling corollary is that school administrators downplay this criminal behavior as a matter of course, that anything that might smear a school’s reputation needs to be minimized for the good of all involved. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Anyone looking at the current state of administrative response to rape and sexual assault on campus could make an easy leap from benign negligence to silent conspiracy. Everyone simply understands what needs to be done, and why. A look back at how Jim Crow was allowed to fester for decades in the United States speaks to the effectiveness of this approach. As with Jim Crow, the killing of any deep-rooted collusion requires increased public awareness, individual outrage and political courage.

This week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB967, a bill that could substantially change the nature of sexual conduct on campus and, we can only hope, across the nation. Instead of “No means no,” the new definition of consent will require “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” In short, “No means no” will be replaced with “Yes means yes.” Also, please note the word “conscious.” Anyone drugged, drunk, unconscious or asleep cannot, by definition, consent.

What’s astonishing about this legislation is not that we finally have a law to address the fundamental nature of sexual consent; what’s astonishing is that we needed a law to clarify this in the first place.

Yes, this law isn’t perfect. Unless every dorm room comes equipped with a court reporter, there will continue to be miscommunication. Still, the most important, most game-changing part of this new law may be a single phrase: Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.

This is huge. It should be the beginning of every conversation with college freshmen. High-school freshmen, while we’re at it. As Dr. Deborah Davis, J. Guillermo Villalobos and Dr. Richard Leo have written in a recent publication for the Oxford University Press:

“…the most commonly reported signal to indicate consent, used roughly equally by both men and women, was simply not resisting the sexual advances of the other person (i.e., expressing no response). Nevertheless…lack of resistance to sexual advances could have very different meanings for the two interacting individuals. It might be reflect reactions such as shock, confusion, shame, fear of repercussions of refusal, and others.”

Consent and lack of consent can look the same. A gesture or comment might seem like nothing, but it might be the one chance a woman has to stop something she no longer feels comfortable doing. And it’s important to understand that this new standard also protects men ­– men who may have thought their partners were consenting and genuinely shocked to learn otherwise. The law, and the public, must demand a new conversation for our children and for everyone’s children. When asked why so few expulsions were given out for sexually based offenses, ASCA’s Bennett said, “The worst thing we can do is tell someone they can’t go to school at our institution.”

She’s wrong. The worst thing we can tell someone is that if they’ve been sexually assaulted on campus, they’re on their own.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

I’m Dating a Guy Almost 20 Years Younger Than I Am—And It’s Awesome

Christine Fitzgerald
Carlos Navarro/Photography by Navarro

So what?

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I’m 45. I’ve been through two unsuccessful marriages. I drive a red Camaro. I guess you can say I’m in the throes of a major midlife crisis. I’ve been checking a lot of things off of my bucket list. One of them was to try my hand at stand-up comedy. The first thing you learn in Stand-up 101 is “write what you know.” I’ve had a lot of life experiences one could label as interesting, but my current dating situation is certainly fodder for comedy — and maybe it shouldn’t be.

In my act, I start by addressing my age, my failed marriages, and the fact that I’m constantly at the hair salon and Ulta. As Dolly Parton once famously quipped, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Because of all of this, I’m constantly called the “c-word” — that “c-word” being “cougar.” I do really hate that word. But, when you’re dating someone almost 19 years younger than you are, the association is inevitably going to happen.

So, how did I end up in this situation? Well, since my divorce, my experiences in the online dating world have been pretty disastrous, to say the least. Every time I gave OKCupid a try, I specified my desired age range for a mate to be between 35 and 55 years old — and I’d get constantly barraged with messages from enthusiastic young 20-somethings looking to be my “cub.” The perception that I’m (supposedly) at my sexual peak seemed to be the prime motivation for these boys to reach out to me. Not that it was very different from the responses I got from men my age — they were just far less eager and often downright aloof.

One guy I dated on and off I dubbed “Copperfield” (as in magician David Copperfield), as he’d disappear for weeks at a time between dates. I also had more than one man my age ask if I’d like to enter into a “friends with benefits” arrangement. No thanks. My prospects were drying up rapidly and I was getting increasingly discouraged.

I was still poking around on Tinder and Match when my best girlfriend told me about a guy. I have always been a big fan of stand-up comics. I dated one when I was in my early 20s and he’s still one of my best friends. When my BFF told me the guy was a comedian and then sent me his picture, I was immediately interested. He did look a bit younger than I was (he has what can best be described as a baby face). I asked my friend how old he was, to which she replied, “He’s in his early 30s.” Both of my husbands were a few years younger than I was, but I had never been with someone more than 10 years my junior. I had been on a few dates with 30-somethings, but nothing really came of those.

He and I met soon after and were instantly attracted. It took us a few months to actually start dating — I was still trying to make it work with guys my own age and he had other pursuits for a while as well. I was honestly hesitant at the start — what was I going to tell my family? I broached the topic first with my aunt/godmother. She’s younger than my mom (she’s the one who introduced me to rock ‘n’ roll, so I figured she’d be as good a jumping-off point as any). I told her what the situation was and she helpfully boiled it down for me. She asked me, “Are you happy?” I said, “Yes I am.” She countered with “Well, that’s all that matters.”

I still haven’t told my folks, but I suspect my mom has figured it out. I’m okay with not having to discuss it further for the time being.

There are some “cultural” differences that occur when you’re dating a younger guy. I was a junior in college when he was born. He’s never seen “Raising Arizona,” but he loves Bob Dylan and Jim Croce. He still thinks farts are a little too funny. He describes himself as an “old soul.” I’ve taken him to social gatherings where he was one of the youngest adults there, and, thanks to his amazing sense of humor and the fact that he performs on stage in front of hundreds of strangers a week, he’s blended in with flying colors.

So, we’re making a go at it. The age thing doesn’t really bother me. In reality, I am old enough to technically be his mother, but I still don’t care. I get the occasional look — especially when we go out for drinks and get carded (hey, at least I’m still getting carded). And I’m pretty sure more than one person thought that, with our similar hair, skin and eye colors, that we were either brother and really older sister or mom and son, but the pros far outweigh the cons in our relationship.

We have fun together. He’s turned me on to some new music and I’ve introduced him to some “classic” movies (if you consider “Better Off Dead” a classic movie, which you really should). He’s an amazing cook. He sends me a text or Facebook message every day. He gives great hugs. He really loves me. That’s all I need.

I know I’m still going to have to defend my decision to a lot of people — and I’m ready to do so. You only have one life and it’s really short. I want to see where this goes for a while. I want to be happy. Until I’m no longer happy in this relationship (if that even happens), I’m going to enjoy every moment.

You know, I could go on and on about the whole double standard thing, but you and I both know that’s not going to change anytime soon and I feel like talking about it is just a waste of breath. I just thought that sharing my story might help shatter the stereotype of the “c-word.” The moral of the story: Be with whomever makes you happy. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. I sure don’t.

Christine Fitzgerald is a marketer, celebrity journalist and contributing editor to Socialite Life.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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