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‘I’m dating an older man, but I think he just wants sex’

Ask Roe: Remember 20-year-olds: That 30-year-old does not love you; they’re a creep

Dear Roe,

I am 20-years-old, gay and I have met a great man. I’ve been working in cafe and he was a customer who left me his number. He’s 10 years older than me and much more mature, and that’s the thing that fascinates me.

For me at the beginning, it was just a sex, but now I think I am falling in love. We have been out to concerts and he even bought me flights abroad for my birthday. After two months I had to tell him.

He told me to chill out a little bit and I have realised it is just a romance for him. I think he meets with others, even though we have talked about being exclusive. I feel I’ve lost a respect for myself. But I love sex with him. I’ve never felt like this in my life.


To any and all 20-year-olds, anywhere, please memorise this phrase: That 30- year-old is not in love with you; they’re a creep.

(Teenagers, please memorise the phrase “That twenty-five year old is not in love with you”, and then immediately file a police report about anyone who debates this.)

Age differences are always tricky, with inherently unequal power dynamics that can be exacerbated by maturity, life experience, class or wealth, education and a myriad of other factors – including sexuality and gender.

No thirty year old of any gender or sexuality should be pursuing someone who was a teenager on their last birthday

In the past, it has been common – please note that “common” is not synonymous with “ideal” - for LGBTQ adults to embrace attention from older admirers, as bigotry kept their peers from being open about their sexuality, hugely diminishing their ability to find romantic partners or even friends their own age.

Relationships with older LGBTQ people weren’t just relationships; they were about finally finding acceptance, understanding, and potentially being introduced to a supportive and like-minded community.

However, today, with apps, online dating, and increasingly open, accessible and supported LGBTQ communities, you should be able to find some friends and dates your own age. And no thirty year old of any gender or sexuality should be pursuing someone who was a teenager on their last birthday.

At that age, the chasm in life experience, maturity and self-assurance alone is vast, even without other factors like wealth, education and social power.

You know this chasm exists. You’re feeling it already. And like many people who have been approached by an older person, you’re finding the chasm both intoxicating and intimidating.

It’s easy to feel special and singled out when an older person pays attention to you; you feel mature and appreciated and like you’ve won a fast-track to adulthood.

But unfortunately, it’s far more likely that an older person who deliberately seeks out younger partners is attracted to your naiveté and insecurity rather than some remarkably precocious maturity.

This relationship is not now, nor ever will be, anything but a giant flashing neon sign that reads 'Leave. Leave now'

The very fact that you are intoxicated and intimidated by your older partner – or “fascinated”, to use your own words – means you are less likely to stand up for yourself and to speak out against any disrespectful behaviour.

Simply, a 30-year-old who seeks out a 20-year-old knows that your youth and inexperience will make you easier to control.

That is the opposite of a healthy and equal relationship, and you know that. You already feel it. The only information that you give about this man’s character and your dynamic is negative. He’s unfaithful, dishonest and dismissive of your emotions.

You think you’re in love with him, and he doesn’t share your feelings. But most importantly, being with him is making you lose respect for yourself. Read your own words again.

This relationship is making you lose respect for yourself, that is not now, nor ever will be anything but a giant flashing neon sign that reads “Leave. Leave now”. Noone is worth losing yourself for.

I know it’s hard. It will help to evaluate what you are really attached to in this relationship, because we know it’s not his character, or how the relationship makes you feel.

It sounds like his power and resources are what is attracting you. You say you’re in love with him, but you only refer to what he gives you. Concert tickets, flights, trips away.

You have to leave him, and commit to loving yourself, instead

These things can be beautiful and fun adventures, of course – but valuing a person and valuing what their money can give you are not the same thing.

I don’t mean this unkindly. Romance films and fairytales have programmed us to think the grander (read: more expensive) the gesture, then the greater the love. And here you are, getting the attention of an older man, who take you to concerts and whisks you away to exotic locations. It’s the dream, right?

But maybe this dream isn’t about him, but who you want to be. You want to be more mature, worldly, confident. You want to be adventurous and go to exciting places and events. He’s giving you a glimpse of that life. But it’s not enough for you, and it shouldn’t be.

Because as well as all the luxuries, you also want an equal relationship, with emotional honesty and love. And he can’t offer you those things. You have to leave him, and commit to loving yourself, instead.

Leave with a newfound sense of knowledge, self-awareness and appreciation. Embrace what you enjoyed from this connection: the search for new experiences, the sense of possibility. Seek out what was missing: vulnerability, equality, respect, love. Value what he didn’t: yourself.

Spend your twenties doing what you should be doing. Date other people in their twenties. Fall in and out of love. Make friends who adore you. Find communities who support you.

Discover and follow your own dreams. Learn about yourself. Be kind and tender and respectful the whole way. By the time you turn thirty, you’ll be remarkable. Just give yourself the time to get there.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford.

If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at