Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tavi Gevinson’s ROOKIE: Advice for Teens Attracted to Older Men


Illustration by Kelly via Rookie


We've referenced a number of books in The Allure of Nymphets about age-discrepant relationships such as Jennifer Gordon’s Jennifer Fever and Belisa Vranich and Laura Grashow’s Dating the Older Man. However, despite their helpfulness, those books weren't written for nymphets. Nonetheless, Tavi Gevinson’s teen magazine, Rookie, filled the void. 

In addition to the magazine containing several articles on masturbation, such as “Do It Yourself”, 22-year-old Amy Rose Spiegel wrote in the article “Older Men” that “One of the most frequent Just Wondering questions we get here at Rookie is some variation on the following: “I’m a teenager and I’m thinking about dating/am intensely attracted to a person who’s significantly older than me. THOUGHTS?”

Spiegel began by sharing that she “has always been interested in older dudes” and “has also dated quite a few of them” For example, Spiegel dated a 28-year-old college graduate when she was a “smart and self-aware” 15-year-old. She dissuaded the stereotype about dirty old men by writing “Finally, I don’t mean for this article to read as “A HORRIBLE OLD MAN TOOK MY YOUTHFUL INNOCENCE,” because that’s not what happened. I made my own decisions when I was 15, and I enjoyed the majority of the time I spent dating that 28-year-old as well as the older dudes who came after him.” And Spiegel wrote that at the time she “romanticized” about being Lolita and that she “... idealized the thought of someone being single-mindedly obsessed” with her the way Humbert was obsessed with Lolita.  (However, she misleadingly wrote that Lolita was a “...story about an adult man kidnapping, molesting, and raping an adolescent girl.)

Spiegel comforted the nymphet readers of Rookie by writing:


  • “First, being attracted to older guys is completely and totally normal.”
  • “It doesn’t mean you have “daddy issues””
  • “Being attracted to someone older just means you are a human person who sometimes thinks other human people are sexy!”
  • “YOU ARE VERY MATURE FOR YOUR AGE...So it’s totally fine to moon over people who are older than you!”
  • “It’s totally doable, as long as you keep some things (*cough* MY INSANELY WISE WORDS BELOW *cough*) in mind.”

Here are Spiegel’s “insanely wise words”:

1.   Spiegel warned that even if a nymphet tricks an ephebophile into believing that she is of legal age by, for example, flashing him a fake ID, the ephebophile could still go to jail (for a very long time) for even planning to have sex with an underage maiden.

2.   Spiegel advises that if a nymphet should feel secure about disagreeing with her older partner, her friends and family should be respected, and that she should be treated as a peer. However, if she has doubts about whether or not those aspects of the relationship are being fulfilled, she should not have a relationship with anyone “older than a quarter of the years” the nymphet has been alive. Thus, according to Spiegel, a sixteen-year-old should not have a relationship with anyone over 20. Clearly, Spiegel’s rule is arbitrary, has no basis and should be taken very lightly.

3.   Ironically, Spiegel encourages girls to wait to have relationships with older men, because girls “can never have a real high school romance (e.g., “passing love notes in class”) again after 12th grade is over.” I doubt that this advice will prevent a girl from having a relationship with an older man, because I have observed that girls who are in age-discrepant relationships often have young boyfriends as well.

4.   Initially, Spiegel advised nymphets not to get into illegal age-gap relationships because of the possibility of jail time for the ephebophiles, but in 4 she advises girls to avoid age-discrepant relationships because “Keeping things underground gets tiring and frustrating, not to mention a little overwhelming, really quickly...Having a significantly older partner severely limits the stuff you can do together, too. You can’t exactly bring a 30-year-old to prom!” Thus, it appears that Spiegel opines that it is more important that a nymphet avoid feeling tired, frustrated and overwhelmed than it is for the ephebophile to avoid jail time.

5.   Spiegel warned “[I]f a person who is of legal drinking age or above makes a habit of courting people who are in high school, there’s a good chance they might be a pedophile (or, if you want to be super technical, an ephebophile). However, as we know from The Allure of Nymphets, The Red Queen and Are All Men Pedophiles?(2013), all men in fact are ephebophiles; however, only some men act upon it (e.g., Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Woody Allen, etc.). And it’s worth pointing out that just like in Lolita, Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep (2000), and Pretty Little Liars - the book and television series, teen girls are often the initiators of age-discrepant relationships - not the ephebophiles.

6.   Spiegel alerted nymphets against being manipulated by older men, but everything she warned against often occurs in age-consistent relationships as well. Teen girls are frequently manipulated, disrespected, undervalued and controlled by teen boys. Who other than teen boys gets angry when girls don’t return their text messages “fast enough”?

7.   Here is another example of Spiegel making a general statement about ephebophiles that relates just as well or even better to teen boys. She wrote that older men are “less likely to wait before moving past the tonsil-hockey stage.” Spiegel is inconceivably implying that teen boys are more patient and understanding of a girl’s desire to maintain her maidenhood than older men.

Spiegel’s “insanely wise words” are somewhat anti-age-gap relationships; however, she ends the article by writing  “And for all the dangers that come with dating older people, there are upsides...It’s nice to be around people who are assured of themselves and their interests, a quality that usually increases the longer you’ve been hanging out on planet Earth...Just be sure—and I say this to you no matter what age your love interest happens to be—that you and of course THEY are responsible and respectful in actions and behaviors; that you are equal partners; that you feel like you can get out of it at any time, for any reason, without fear; and that you are happy...OK? All right, get along. As always, be safe and enjoy…”