Hey, Queer Girls–What’s Up With This May-December Crush Thing?!

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While scrolling through my regular sites tonight, this article caught my eye.  Of course, the headline “Lesbians Love Older Women, Says Survey And Our Hearts” made me chuckle.  My little half-gay heart certainly affirms that claim–to which just about anyone who knows me can attest.  If I can count on anyone to speak for me, it’s usually Autostraddle, but as I read the article, I started wondering what was really behind this phenomenon–if I may indeed call it a phenomenon.

Allure Magazine conducted a survey about “aging” in society, investigating how aging affects one’s romantic prospects, career prospects, etc.  They found, not surprisingly, that:

  • LGBT respondents are more likely to be attracted to people older than them by more than 10 years compared to straight respondents
  • LGBT respondents think they attract people younger than them by more than 10 years more so than straight respondents do

Outside of the LGBT pool (which, as Autostraddle rightly points out, um–they probably didn’t survey many “B”s & “T” is not a sexual orientation), one of the most interesting results was that respondents “ages 18 to 29 are overwhelmingly the most likely to have a negative opinion about a celebrity or politician who’d had injections or plastic surgery to look younger.”

So if we put young queer women in that 18-29 pool, we can come to the conclusion that women 18-29 indeed have higher opinions of those who age naturally.  And if also apply the numbers from the LGBT questions above, we can infer that queer women are more likely to be attracted to women more than 10 years older than them.  What is it really about queer women (especially young queer women) that makes us attracted to older women?

I started cataloging my female crushes & realized that I’ve hardly ever been into a girl my own age–or even close to it.  Sure, I wouldn’t kick Blake Lively or Naya Rivera out of bed–


–but my crushes–at least the lasting ones–have always been on women at least a decade older than me.  To preserve the innocent (though, really, most have been guilty–wink wink nudge nudge), I won’t name names, but let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we?

My first crush, my “Oh, um… I AM FEELING THINGS WHAT ARE THESE THINGS” woman–the delicious, the delectable, the still-to-this-day dream girl…  The one, the only, Parker Posey:

I was a kid when I saw the Will & Grace episode arc featuring Posey as Dorleen (The Whoreleen) & was smitten.  Is it problematic that my first crush was on an ice queen–on someone hilariously bitchy & conceited who regularly threatened to “scratch your eyes out?”  Eh, maybe…  (Psychoanalyze me, go for it.)

Soon after, the requisite queer girl crushes started in… Agent Scully (that voice!!!!!! those eyes!!!!!!)


Xena Warrior Princess… like… ’nuff said.

And then Jodie Foster.  (Oh, sweet mother of God, Jodie Foster.)  Jodie Foster set me down a long road of crushes on older women.  When I discovered her (almost said “came to her”–thanks, Freud!!) as a middle schooler, Jodie was rounding the 40-something curve, but I was smitten.  When she officially came out this year, she told me–& millions of other queer girls–nothing we didn’t already know.  Like, hello–you watched any movie Jodie’s ever been in & didn’t immediately have your gaydar bing?!  If, at any point, I was for some reason unsure that I actually had the hots for her, I went to see Inside Man (a film I still stand by as being totally fucking awesome) & sealed the deal.  When I saw her in that freakishly femme high ponytail, I got all quivery, sure, but when the mayor called her a “magnificent cunt” & she smirked proudly… oooh, the feelings.

Then there was this movie.  For anyone who was still living in a quicksand pit, this movie screamed “OH HI I AM GAY HI HI HI GAY.”  That butch hair, those butch clothes, & hot damn, that butch walk.

Besides the extreme hotness quotient, this is also the film where Jodie utters the lines I scrawled on an index card & taped inside my planner:  “I always believed that fear belonged to other people, weaker people, and that it never touched me. And then it did. And when it touches you, you know that it’s been there all along, waiting beneath the surfaces of everything you loved.”  Because Goddamnit, if there’s ever been a better summation of trauma, I haven’t heard it.  I still cry every time I hear that monologue…

But back to happy things.  My other celebrity crushes have followed the same pattern–mid-to-late 40-somethings, largely.  Michelle Pfeiffer… Julianne Moore… Mariska Hargitay… Kate Mulgrew… & then Jennifer Beals–the one who made me realize that maybe (& just maybe) there was something to this desire besides just… well, wanting to fuck.

I was in high school when The L Word came into being.  Yes, I’ll be the first one to admit that there are some serious issues with representation on TLW, but it also made me a hell of a lot more comfortable with myself, & I know so many girls & women who say the same thing about TLW, so I can hardly hate on it.  Anyway.  I knew right away that I was an amalgamation of a Jenny & a Bette.  As I get older, I become more of a Bette than I’d sometimes like to admit.  If you google TLW fan message boards, she’s usually typed as an ENTJ/ENFJ, & I’ve fluctuated between the two of these my entire life (I’ve stayed at ENFJ the last couple of years).

Is Bette Porter hot?  You be the judge:

But what really drew me to Bette was the multitude of ways I identify with her character–both positive & negative.  She’s a fuck up in the same ways I’m a fuck up, & she’s a badass in the same ways I’m a badass.  Yeah, I still wanted to kiss her until she died from it, clearly, but I also looked up to her character.  She taught me, in many ways, what it meant to be a successful, complex queer woman.

Prior to Bette Porter coming along, though, the women I’d developed serious crushes on in my “real life” were (with only a couple of exceptions) heterosexual.  I felt like all the horrible stereotypes.  (Remember this article by Staceyann Chin–also known as the collective vomit heard ’round the lesbian world?  That’s what I felt like–not fun.)  I’m many things.  Subtle, however, is not one of those things.  I think every woman I’ve ever had the hots for has been well aware of that fact–as has everyone around either of us at any given moment.

Unfortunately, let’s think… 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… um, yeah, we’ll stop there… of my big female crushes have been on teachers/professors.  (I mean, there’s a reason this is my all-time favorite movie… & why I may have every line memorized…)

From 7th grade until… um… December… nearly every crush I’ve had has been on a teacher.  Age range? Anywhere from 9 to 23 years older than me.  The older I get, my crushes seem to increase in exponentially increase in age. Now–this is not to say that my male crushes/partners haven’t been just as old.  I’ve never dated someone younger than me, & my male partners have ranged from a handful of years older than me to 15 years older.  (I mean, not counting the totally obvious & totally innocent crush I currently have on a man who shall remain, uh, ageless…)

There’s this weird combination, though, of age & authority that I find appealing.  (Again, we can psychoanalyze the authority stuff a different day.)  But what is it about queer women that makes us so open-minded about age?  Little baby queers having crushes on their teachers seems to be an age-old phenomenon.  Age has to play a big role in this, right?  As Lindsy Van Gelder & Pamela Robin Brandt write in their book The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart Of Lesbian America, “We’re sure that there must be lesbians who don’t find older women sexy, but we haven’t met them.”  Autostraddle contemplates why we queer girls are so into the May-December romance, wondering about big age gaps just being “the icing on the deviance cake” & considering that maybe since fewer queers have kids, maybe people care less about age gaps when no kids are involved.

Sure–these things both make perfect sense to me.  But I just have the sneaking suspicion that there has to be more to it than this.  Why is it that I can say, “Sure, that 20-something year old girl is pretty cute” but not really think about her again?  Why is it that it’s really only when that 46-year-old woman (we are speaking completely hypothetically here & 46 is just a random number) touches me that I get butterflies in my stomach & can’t stop writing poems about her & having dreams about her &…

I don’t know, though–I have a hard time believing this is something genetic or something that queer girls are somehow hard-wired to feel. But I also don’t completely buy the suppositions of the Autostraddle article about deviance & child-rearing.  I almost wonder if the older women we’re attracted to aren’t our Bette Porters–showing us something about what it means (to us, individually) to be a woman.  But then I think–no, wait–I’m generally only attracted to older women who are complete fucking disasters.

Even physically, though–what is it?  Is it just that if I want to see a 24-year-old naked body I can look in the mirror?  Is it that the vast majority of 24-year-old girls I’ve met are either still trying to relive their high school glory days or make up for their lack of high school glory, & that this drives me absolutely fucking crazy?  Is it that a patriarchal society tells us that only 20-year-olds are attractive to men?  That we should be attracted to flat stomachs & smooth skin & perky tits?  So is my positive physical reaction to an older woman’s body–whether that be her eyes or hands or hips or anything in between–somehow working to subvert that patriarchal norm?  Have I essentially subconsciously conditioned myself to feel things that are not the societal norm?  Is this even possible?

I would just say, “Hey, I have a type!  I’m attracted to 40 year olds!” but… this seems to be a queer pattern.  So many queer girls & women I know are attracted to older women… it can’t just be that we all have a type… can it?

2 thoughts on “Hey, Queer Girls–What’s Up With This May-December Crush Thing?!

    Leslie said:
    March 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Wow, interesting read! A friend of mine sent me the link because she knows I have always had a “thing ” for older women and never understood it. Thanks for sharing!!

    Vicky said:
    March 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Hello, my dear. Well… I used to think it was only me :). I’m a Lesbian, 26-year old, and the same case like yours as far as age is concerned. While reading the article, every word in it seemed like mine… I dunno if gay or bi girls are really attracted to older ones, but if that’s true, it’s probably got something to do with the limited range of crushes. I mean, when you know (much) fewer people have the same sexuality as you, you probably tend to become open-minded, not only when it comes to age. Well, the facts and statistics you shared were really interesting. And, as I said, it’s good to know there are others like you :). Thanks a lot!

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