Thursday, June 30, 2011
When love is more destructive than sex.
When I was 19, I had casual sex with a much older man for no good reason. I kind of regret it, but it didn't really hurt me; it was just sort of awkward and embarrassing. I thought it would be fun and it wasn't fun; but whatever, I could say the same thing about the Transformers movie. It wasn't coerced or painful, and a day later I was over it.
When I was 15, I fell in love with an older man. It was a huge fucking mess. He never had much connection with me except for sex, but I missed classes to be with him, got reported as a missing person when I was with him, my parents filed a restraining order against him, they tried to charge him with statutory rape, and the drama built to the one and only time in my life when I've threatened suicide. Basically, any kind of up that can be fucked, was.
I thought of these two men when I read that 51-year-old Doug Hutchinson married a 16-year-old, and I realized exactly why I was horrified.
I don't think an older person having sex with a teenager is that bad. It's kind of icky to me, but if it's consensual and legal, you have the right to be icky.
I think an older person saying "I love you" to a teenager is horrifically wrong.
Of course there's a special place in Hell for people who do this intentionally just to get some of that hot teenager sex, but I think it's wrong even if it's true. Because what a teenager thinks of as "love" is very rarely the same thing an adult means by that word. I might only be speaking for white suburban middle-class girls here, but at least in my experience, teenage love is stupid. It's idealized, over-dramatic, volatile, impractical, and often destructive. When two teenagers fall in love, they may do stupid things, but they really didn't know any better. An adult should know better.
I don't think it's always about sex, either. I think the experience of being idealized by someone, having them treat you like you're Edward Cullen and you're made of unicorn kisses and it's so cool that you have a car, can be an even bigger draw for adults who aren't very good at coping with other adults--or are so narcissistic that they don't see why they should have to.
When I was a teenager, I thought True Love conquered all. I thought if it was really True maybe it would last forever and we'd get married and have babies and a house of our own. I wanted to be by my True Love's side all the time, damn the damage to the rest of my life--in fact, I even thought the damage was sort of romantic, because it meant I was sacrificing for Love. I thought that True Love means thinking that your Lover is perfect and worshipping them. And if he asked me to do things I didn't want to (rarely sexual, more often in terms of disrupting my studies and friendships), saying "no" wouldn't be very Loving, would it?
I slept on his floor. We'd have sex, and he told me he wasn't comfortable sharing a bed, so I slept on the wooden floor next to his bed, like a dog. I don't want to make him out to be a complete monster here; I could have gone out and slept on the couch, but I preferred the floor. At 15, that was my idea of Love.
It took me quite a few years, and getting burned rather badly, and a whole lot of learning and thinking, to get to the point where I could be cool about love. To go from saying "I love you so much I'd jump in front of a train for you" to saying "I love you so much that I trust you to get off the goddamn tracks." To be able to argue with someone--and not back down, and maybe not ever completely resolve it--and still love them. To be able to say "no, I don't want to do this" (and I'm not just talking about sex acts; I'm also talking about "can you take the day off Tuesday to help me out?") and know that real love, if not True Love, is when they say "well, that's a bummer for me, but I understand you have a life too."
When I read about Doug Hutchinson marrying a 16-year-old, I don't worry that it's "gross" or that they're in different "leagues" or even that they won't have much to talk about over the dinner table. I worry that she's sleeping on his floor.
(Metaphorically. You guys.)