In recent years, much has been made of the phenomenon of teenaged girls running off with older men. This is not necessarily because it is happening now significantly more often than it did in the past. Instead, there are two factors that have brought it to the fore. The hysteria about amaros and the Internet, which makes it possible for girls to conduct relationships more privately than they have been able to in the past. Yet while society sees that such occurrences are tragic, it fails to understand why they are tragic. Society believes that the tragedy is that these girls run away, but the real tragedy is that they must run away.
If a girl is living in a home where she is fully satisfied, she will see no reason to absent herself from it. Even when she is not fully satisfied, she often still elects to remain. So what is it that causes a girl to abandon her primary support network and rush into the arms of an older man? There are many possible reasons. Here we will explore three: she is not receiving the support she needs at home; she is unable to pursue the relationships she desires; and she feels unempowered.
Lack of Support
While the family unit is meant to be the primary support network for each of its members, it often falls short, especially in a society that is highly materialistic. Rather than cultivating human relationships, family memebers are more object-oriented. Television, computers and other diversions take precedence over people. Longer hours at work are necessary to obtain the objects people want or believe that they need. Unfortuantely, it is the young who suffer the most from this. Economically and politically disenfranchised, they have little choice in how the family operates. Particularly in suburban or rural settings they may feel even physical isolation due to a lack of mobility.
It is not then particularly surprising that a girl who believes that she is playing second fiddle to her parents’ career or other interests may choose to remove herself from the home. After all, what emotional benefit is she receiving? Especially if there is somebody who pays attention to her, talks to her about the things that are important to her and listens to her, she may well decide that she would be better off somewhere else. If she perceives that the other person can provide not only the emotional support that she craves but also the economic support that she needs, her decision to leave may be even easier.
Perhaps the girl has all of the economic support that she needs and her parents work hard to provide emotional support as well, yet at the same time prevent her from realizing her romantic or sexual needs and desires. This is not uncommon in a society that steadfastly refuses to accept the sexuality of the young, insrtead futilely attempting to convince them to suppress these desires and to classify the desires themselves as unhealthy.
Each young person has a different level of romantic and sexual desire as well as a different rate of psycho-sexual development. So while discouragement or prohibition of romantic activity may not affect some young people significantly, it may be wholly unacceptable to others. In these cases, regardless of the reasons given by the parents why they wish for them to refrain from physical intimacy and romantic encounters, their entreaties will fall upon deaf ears. For such a girl, her organism has begun signalling her that it is ready and desirous of such activity and she will be unhappy until she satisfies her longings.
In some cases this girl begins her quest wholly unprepared. If she has been shielded from experience and information, then she often lacks the power of discernment and her understanding of human nature is so rudimentary that she is incapable of making a wise choice of partner. This is especially the case if her primary sources of information about romance and relationships have been television programs, films, pop music and pulp fiction. Fortunately, it appears that, at least in cases where romances take place over the Internet, young people are sophisticated enough to be able to decide for themselves what relationships they wish to pursue.
Throughout human history, puberty has been widely accepted as the threshold of adulthood. Only in the 20th century did the idea of the ‘long childhood’ come into fashion, with disastrous results. For whille information is more readily available than ever before and society, in many ways, is more liberal than ever before, young people are being expected more than ever before to remain obedient and dependent. While their bodies are sending them powerful hormonal signals telling them to make their own decisions and be independent, society is telling them that they are incapable of doing so and striving to deny them the information that would allow them to do so. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the average age of puberty has fallen significantly in the last hundred years. Therefore, enforced ‘childhood innocence’ is being imposed for an ever longer period on young adults whose genetic hard-wiring is patently incapable of accepting it.
It is no wonder, therefore, that many young people choose to rebel against the authorities in their lives, some of them going so far as to remove themselves from the sphere of influence of the authorities limiting their independence. While some youths may submit to the ever-more-visible hand controlling their lives, for others, this influence is stifling enough to cause them to abandon whatever security they may have had in order to gain their freedom.
In a society that recognized the sexuality of young people and accepted their sexual aspirations rather than repressing them, fewer young people would be inclined to engage in secret liaisons. If families were to trust young people with information rather than enforcing ignrance and entrust them with responsibility rather than enforcing compliance, young people would better gain life experience and the ability to make wise decisions. If society were to accept that human attraction can take place even between people of disparate age and encouraged openness about such attractions, those adults genuinely intersted in forming loving relationships with young people would have the opportunity to prove their motives and young people interested in adults would have a safe environment in which to select a partner. Until these fundamental changes take place in our society, it is unlikely that the number of girls running away with older men will decline.