I try my best to stay away from celebrity culture. It’s often vapid, fabricated, and, to be perfectly honest, bad for my brain cell count. Despite my best efforts, I stumbled upon the recent feud between Amber Rose, and what seems to be the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan, including of course Rose’s ex, the always classy Kanye West, over the youngest Jenner, 17-year-old Kylie, and her relationship with Tyga, a man who is seven years older than her at the age of 25.
I try to stay away from celebrity culture, but this isn’t a celebrity issue for me. Age differences are a feminist issue- one especially personal to me.
I am nineteen years old, only two years older than Kylie. I’ve had my fair share of older guys pop into my life, men who had much more life experience than me, and the sentence “You’re 18, right?” (as if the only thing in the way of them and a minor was a pesky law, not being in totally different developmental stages) is so familiar, it makes me want to hurl.
See, at 17, I didn’t know how to say no to a man 6 years my senior asking me when I was going to be legal, so I kissed my friend to make him leave me alone.
At 18, I didn’t know how to tell a man 9 years my senior that his sexual messages and attention made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know why him telling me how young and foolish I was made me feel like I owed him something. I was legal, right?
Laws aside, girls don’t stop being teenage girls by reaching a milestone in the number of years they’ve been alive. Minors and barely-legal girls are often hypersexualized and viewed as fresh meat- even Kanye, who should be protecting his sister-in-law, applauded Tyga for being smart, and “going in early,” as if Kylie would be useless once another man has been done with her.
Rose, commenting that Tyga should be “ashamed of himself” for dating a 17-year-old, has been attacked the past few days for noting what is right: no 25-year-old man should be dating a high schooler. Her past, from working at a strip club at the age of 15 to feed her family, to West feeling as though he had to take “30 showers” to cleanse himself from Rose to be clean enough for Kim, has been brought up as ways to humiliate her. The entire clan and its fans have turned to criticize Rose and her reaction to the alleged relationship, while praising the relationship as the perfect example of a love story. Rose not once blamed Jenner for her participation in the clearly unhealthy relationship, placing the blame completely on Tyga for going after a child, and on Jenner’s family for not protecting her.
Fuck anything that has to do with the law. Jenner is a child, and a relationship with a child has more than just legal repercussions. It is a relationship with an innate power imbalance, in which any sexual act isn’t just questionable, but is immoral. How much control over her body does she really have with someone who is seven years older than her? How little pressure do we expect to be placed on a child in the public eye? How can we allow the teenage girls who are viewing this conflict learn to think of themselves as fresh meat for men’s consumption?
Age differences aren’t innocent. Can two people with a large age difference fall in love? I’m sure it’s possible, but it is irresponsible to refuse to acknowledge that relationships in which there are big age differences have a higher chance of power imbalances, abuse, and psychological damage, beyond the objectification and hypersexualization of teenage girls as fresh meat for men to use.