Age-(in)appropriate relationships


With expert information from Linda Porn, Artist and Sex Worker and Kali Sudhra, Activist and Sex Worker

Kayleigh’s infatuation with this much older, wealthy man has been playing on her mind. She couldn’t work out why she’d welcomed his advances so readily.

She sought some answers from a pair of Barcelona-based sex educators and workers, who are also activists and adult film performers. They had plenty say on the topic, as well as first-hand experience of the issues that Kayleigh’s experience brought up. 

Kayleigh Daniels: How much of age-appropriateness in sexual relationships is cultural/societal?

Kali Sudhra: Men don’t live with the same stigma as women. We’re always criticised for who we date, how we talk, how we present ourselves, etc. They live in quite the opposite state. They get high fives and compliments from their male colleagues for having “such a great catch” when they date someone younger (this is also where the objectifying term “trophy wife’’ stems from.

Linda Porn: It seems to me that there is a recurring theme of patriarchy, in which people who were born as biological women have been educated as incapable, as daughters who still need guardianship, especially from the father figure.

Kali Sudhra: From a biological perspective, men’s reproduction capabilities exceed those of women. They constantly produce sperm, and they never experience an “andropause’’, whereas women have to go through menopause, and have time constraints to choose whether they want to give birth. As Linda mentions, this gives men the upper hand in choosing their mates. They often choose younger partners, with the excuse of “fertility’’ even if they don’t plan on having families.

Kayleigh Daniels: How has the range of age-gaps changed across time and cultures?

Linda Porn: It has changed in the West, but the young women of the global and poor south still need older men in a practical sense for their survival and even that of their families. In the West, thanks to a society of wellness and wealth, women can choose their relationships and decide if their partner’s money is an important factor. This is due to the fact that white women can independently access the money and resources they need without “guardianship’’ contrasting with what we see in the global south.

Kayleigh Daniels: How much do people’s shared experiences and interests affect their choice in sexual partners? Does this matter?

Kali Sudhra: I personally believe this is one of the things that can be the strongest bonding point in a relationship, regardless of the age gap between the couple. Relationships, whether platonic or romantic or sexual are built on commonalities. I draw from my own experience. When I was 22, I was actually in a relationship with a man who was 38. We had connected so much over political interests, art, and music.

When I met David* we instantly bonded. He was my first partner who respected me the way I was and also had the maturity that I was looking for. If he had felt pressure to follow the ‘’half his age plus 7 rule’’ he wouldn’t have been able to date me. That’s not to say that he didn’t feel that pressure and stigma when he brought me to meet his family. But I think they understood when they saw our complicity and how much we really enjoyed each other’s company and recognised that we had lots of shared interests.

Kayleigh Daniels: Why is wealth and status a turn-on?

Linda Porn: From my personal experience, as a woman living in precarity, as a migrant and as a sex worker, positioning myself politically, it’s vital to have the most basic needs covered (housing, food and work) due to the shortages we experience in our condition. Wealth or wellbeing are not a turn on, they are indispensable. To say that money is a turn on or arousing, is a slap in the face from the patriarchy.

If I go out with men who have money it is because I need it, not because it excites me, it is a way to hide the patriarchal economic oppression to which we are subjected to as racialised women. Exoticising money seems like a dirty game of the elite in which they play with the working class and thus encourage the exploitation of our precarious families, as if it were all a game.

Kali Sudhra: Wealth to me isn’t a “turn on’’ but rather resources are necessary for day-to-day survival especially as a racialised, queer, sex worker. It gives me access to better health and opportunities to develop as a person. It’s not some fantasy of living a luxurious bourgeois life, but a life where I don’t have to struggle to stay afloat.

We have seen a rise in the popularity of websites seeking arrangements, and also have seen various reality TV shows about sugar babies, as well as ‘courses/seminars on sugaring’ hosted by well-established wealthy white sugar babies. For one part it’s great that there is more interest and talk about what Sugaring is, and also a normalisation of the age gaps between partners. On the other hand, they have been able to maintain this identity that ‘Sugar Babies’ and not sex workers, when in reality the work they are doing is that of a sex worker exchanging sex for money/possessions with pre-arranged agreements with their Sugar Daddy or Sugar Momma.”

Kayleigh’s main takeaway was that ‘age-appropriateness’ lies with whoever holds the power. The powerful are able to date whomever they please without being subjugated to interrogation, humiliation or stigma.

About the sexperts:
Linda Porn is a Mexican artist who works with all disciplines that are at her fingertips such as performance, video, cinema or theater. Her common themes are: Transfeminism, sex work, colonialism and motherhood. Her work has been exhibited in museums such as the MoMA, the CCCB and MACBA.

Kali Sudhra is a Canadian activist and sex worker. Her work focuses on presenting dissident sexuality using porn as a medium. Her films have been shown at erotic film festivals: CineKink in New York, Smut Club Film Festival in Australia, Porn Film Festival Vienna, Satyrs and Maenads Porn Film Festival, Hacker Porn Film Festival, Nuit Raunch and Berlin Porn Film Festival.

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