Note: This post contains mentions of sexual assault, rape, drug use, abuse, and domestic violence.
Most, if not all, women have experienced unwanted attention from older men in their lives. However, it's more difficult for young girls — from their preteens to their early twenties — to discern when this attention is predatory, especially as society conditions them to perceive male attention as a marker of their value.
1. "When I was 14, I got my first job at a fast-food restaurant. The men that I worked with were in their twenties to thirties. They'd always comment on how my body looked and that there was no way I wasn't 18. I thought it was cool to be getting all this make attention. One of my managers was 21, and he also couldn’t believe that I wasn't 18. We started dating, and he always told me not to tell anyone — that this had to be a secret. I thought it was love when, in reality, he was in a position of power and using that to cloud my judgment."
2. "At 18, I was in a dark place mentally. My mother's friend's son, 21, started messaging me on Facebook. We started as friends, and we'd talk for hours. He then wanted to pursue a long-distance relationship. I agreed because I didn't date in high school. Guys were never that interested in me, so this was new and exciting. I was sexually assaulted by a friend's relative when I was 15, so I'd never felt at peace with my body and not had a physical relationship up to that point. Then, he started pressuring me for nudes and wanted to sext all the time. I was uncomfortable, but I did it because it was nice having someone to talk to. When I was 20, I started to build a real sisterhood with a couple of my friends, and he started getting possessive — but I wanted it to be loved so badly and wanted to feel wanted, so I stayed. Having my friends really changed it for me. They wanted me there, alive and happy, and it brought a new perspective to my life."
"I had their platonic love, and it felt better than whatever love I thought I had.
In the beginning, when we'd talk on Facebook, I felt like he understood what I was going through. We were trying to build a future together. I was going to move 20 hours away from my family to be with him, wore his class ring on a necklace, and had a wedding Pinterest board with his mom.
As I got closer to my friends, he tried to control me because he didn't like me going out with them and manipulated me by threatening suicide a few times. After three years, I started to break it off, and he said what he knew would hurt me. The relationship was done." —swamp_witch96
3. "I was 18, he was 25, and we met in a chat room. He lived about an hour away from me. A few days after meeting, we met for coffee in person, and it quickly spiraled into a full-on relationship. He regularly sexually abused me while coercing me into sex and having sex while I was asleep. Being only 18, I didn't realize it was coercion. He tried to disrupt my exams, and, once they were over, I moved in with him for the summer before university. He promised me a job with a local company, however, there was no job. So to get by, I racked up debt and took out credit cards. He tried to stop me from going to university, but I was stubborn and went anyway. I managed to leave the relationship, but only after losing over 10 grand, friends, and family."
4. "I met him at a church gathering he was 28, and I was 16 — a 12-year age difference! He started to message me on Facebook. At first, it was, 'How's your day going?' and he'd send poems he'd written. To be polite, I'd reply. One day, he was messaging me nonstop. I was homeschooled, so I was doing homework and had Facebook open. I started to feel uncomfy when he said I understood him, I was such a great friend, and how it was so amazing to talk to me. I replied, 'Hey, you're working, right? Why dont you focus on that and not waste your time with my 16-year-old self?' I hoped my age would remind him that I was a minor. Well, this guy replied quickly, 'Aw, I'm never wasting my time when I talk to you ;)' When he sent that, alarm bells went off."
5. "I was 15, and he was 25. I lost my virginity to him. His mother tried to stop it. I hated her guts and felt like she was so manipulative. I realize now how far I'd go to make sure my son doesn't date a child. Later, when I was 17, I dated a 27-year-old for 1.5 years. The real kicker: At a barbecue a few years ago, my high school crush, a boy my age — who to this day is my one that got away — told me that he loved me all throughout high school, but I was always talking about how I dated older guys. We're both married with children now, but that gutted me. I could have been with him."
"He's even better looking now, too, with his silver foxness. Now, I remember what I was doing as a 15- and 17-year-old. I thought I was cool. What the fuck were those 25- and 27-year-olds doing?!" —rainaf4e29d925f
6. "I was 18 and thought I knew what I was doing, but he was 27 with a four-year-old child. On our first date — a nice dinner at a steak restaurant — he said I would make a great mom to his son. I explained I was planning on going back to college (about 400 miles away) when the summer was over. He acted fine, so we went on a few more dates, and I broke it off with him before leaving for school. He then drove to my school, showed up at my dorm, and asked for one more date. I felt bad that he had made such an effort and agreed to go with him. He drove me to a truck stop an hour away for dinner, then told me he was too tired to drive me back and got us a cheap hotel room. I tried not to fall asleep but dozed off, and I woke up because he was trying to anally rape me. He tried to say he deserved it after all he had done for me?! Luckily, he gave up trying that night and drove me back to school the next day."
7. "I was 16. He claimed to be 26, but he looked 42. I believed him. We dated for a year and never did anything more than kiss. We met at work. At first, I thought he was creepy and gross. He would tease me all of the time. I don't remember how it started, but I do remember him asking me questions about my sexuality, and I didn't understand them. This was 20 years ago, so we mainly talked on the phone and chatted on instant messaging apps. Thankfully, I never went to his house or was alone with him often. After a few months of 'dating,' he asked me to marry him — I think in an instant message — and we were engaged. At the time, I was 17 and in a really bad family situation, so I think a part of me was convinced he was my way of moving on. We dated until a few weeks into my first semester of college."
8. "I was 14 and grew up in a very 'rock n roll' household, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to go out to small rock concerts alone. I was a smart kid. My parents trusted me not to do drugs. It was all good. However, at one concert, I began talking with a man I was standing by. He had tattoo sleeves on both arms and a nose piercing, so I was immediately in love. He was 19 — not old enough that I had thought it was weird, but, in looking back, still too old to be dating a 14-year-old. He essentially groomed me for two years while I was dating him to be this overly sexual, skimpy-clothes-wearing girl. I made up this wild story to my friends that I was dating a celebrity. They were so focused on my 'lying problem,' they didn’t notice I was acting weirdly and sneaking out to see my boyfriend. I lost my virginity to him, and he sexually assaulted me on multiple occasions. My final straw was when he asked me to drop out of school and be his live-in 'slave.'"
9. "I was 14, a freshman, and met a guy at a party. He sweet-talked me, told me how pretty I was, etc. He also told me he was 17. I don’t remember how he found out I wasn't a virgin, but eventually, he got me upstairs, and we had sex in some random person’s bedroom. I had only been kissed one other time when I lost my virginity, and then this. It was my second kiss and second time having sex. I look back now and realize how awful the sex was. Anyway, he and his friend would hang out at our high school once school was out for the day. Somehow, I found out that he was at least 21 or 22 – maybe even older. And every day, he and his buddy hung out next to the gym. He pretty much ignored me, and I got over it."
"A few years later — in my junior year — a girl in my class goes, 'I heard you had sex with my boyfriend.' 'Huh?' was my initial answer. (I just have to add that I only had sex twice in high school, so I wasn’t someone who slept around.) After talking more, I figured out it was this guy.
I think we were 16, maybe 17, so he had to be at least 25 by then. The guy was still scamming on high school girls." —Anonymous, California
10. "I was 18, just out of high school, when I met him. He was 31 and divorced with four kids. My mom got remarried, and I quickly had to find a new place to live. He convinced me that he loved me and to move in with him and his youngest son while their mom wasn’t able to care for them. He became verbally abusive almost immediately. It quickly progressed into physical abuse. I was SO naive and desperate for love that I didn’t see the red flags screaming at me. He proposed, and I reluctantly agreed. He isolated me from my friends and family and moved us up to the Bay Area. We lived there for just under a year when I told him I wanted a future with someone who hadn’t been married or had kids. He told me it wasn’t realistic, and it turned into a huge fight. I ended up cornered on the floor of our bathroom, and he drop-kicked me in the face. When I turned 20, I realized that I needed to leave or I would die by either my own hand or his."
11. "I was 13 and on the tail end of my parents' divorce and a family member's mental breakdown. He was a married friend of my dad's and in his late fifties. We never actually dated, but he regularly picked me up to spend several hours at his house when his wife was at work. One time, my dad and I ran into him at a grocery store, and he convinced my dad to send me off with him on what was supposed to be a family day. He regularly made comments about my body and sexual jokes. I told him I was uncomfortable with them, but he never stopped. At 17, I ended things when he started trying to convince me to go with him to a city in another state wherein I knew no one."
"It took me years to realize that I'd been taken advantage of. I immediately told my dad when I did, because I trusted him. It took a lot to convince Dad not to drive to his house to have a 'stern talk' with him right away. (Military parents, y'know?)" —p1nkl3m0n4d3
12. "I had just turned 18 and was babysitting my married neighbor's kids. I always thought he was hot and cool, but I didn't think anything of it until we slowly started to get closer. He eventually gave me his secret Snapchat. We kissed for the first time, and I ended up sleeping with him. It went on for many months. Eventually, he admitted he loved me and was willing to run away — a big red flag — but I felt bad so I told him we couldn't do that, but we could stay together. Then, I started noticing him guilting me to stay. I knew his wife was an absolute bitch, and she made his life miserable for 10 years, but he used that to make me want to stay with him — along with telling me he never wanted any other girl and that he would never like anyone else. He kept getting mad that I didn't want to take risks with him, like kissing or touching in front of our houses, and it got to the point where it was just him sexually harassing me while I laughed it off."
13. "I was 12 when he started sending me love notes on the bus and continued for a year. I was 13, and he was 19, a second- or third-year senior. He'd stayed back a few years. They'd start out with, 'Hey, cutie,' never my name. They'd tell me about his day and, eventually, the things he wanted to do with me. My very best friend told me how weird it was, but I didn’t listen. He'd pick me up for sleepovers in his friend's camper. I told my parents my friend's older brother was picking me up. The first time he tried things, I freaked out, and he stopped. Then one morning, he didn't take no for an answer. I convinced myself he loved me, and we'd be together, even though he had a girlfriend two years older than me. When he took me away from a school dance, my best friend told her mother who I was with. Every cop in my small town drove around looking for us until we were found. He never said a word to me again and moved to Florida."
14. "I was 17 and in a work program for school. He was 19 years older than me. He asked me out to dinner within months. By the time I graduated, I was living with him. By September, I was pregnant. He actually told me he wanted me to get pregnant so I would be his forever."
"Funnily enough, he was an Orthodox Jew. He had to go home to Brooklyn every weekend and ate kosher, but he didn’t think anything was wrong with our situation.
I eventually moved back home with my four-year-old child." —Anonymous, New Jersey
15. "I met him at a park with my friend at 14. He and his friend were 18. They were really attractive, and we thought we were so cool because they wanted our numbers. He called me a day later and picked me up down the street from my house. My mom was a single working mom so I had no problem sneaking out. He started taking me to the movies or to hang out with his friends. He had a girlfriend his age and said he left her for me. We eventually had sex, and he started me out drinking and doing occasional cocaine. When I turned 18, I began pulling away, and he turned abusive. Once, he locked me in a room with him for two days to hide my bruises at his uncle's. The last straw was when I got pregnant at 19 with his baby. By then, he had three daughters by various women. I panicked as it hit me I'd never get away from him now. I went with my BFF to get an abortion. When he found out, he punched and kicked me, saying I had killed his baby and it could've been a son."
16. "When I was 16, I got my first job at a supermarket. I got attention from a couple of male employees who were in their late twenties. Like most girls in the '00s, I grew up with media and films confirming that attention from men is always flattering. Unfortunately, I didn't know any better and thought it was great to be pursued and flirted with — especially if they were older as I must be 'so grown up.' I went on a few 'dates' with one 27-year-old — AKA trips in his car to random places, where we would stay in the car, chat, and kiss. I now know we didn't go to places because of how odd it would have looked. He eventually stopped working at the store, but we did carry on seeing each other and ended up sleeping together. Around the same time, I was starting to meet boys at college who were my own age, and I started to realize how strange that relationship was, so things just kind of ended. I'm now 30 and see it was totally messed up."
17. "I was 18, he was 30. I thought it was cool to have an older guy interested in me. We dated for a couple of years, but he was garbage. He got two DUIs, tried hooking up with my friends, and bullied me when I gained weight. He literally asked me if I was going to get fat like my mom. Hindsight is 20/20, and I realize that he was some type of man-child that never grew up and was only trying to date young girls to reinforce his mindset."
"Plus, I doubt anyone his age would have been interested in a 30-year-old that couldn’t drive and always lived with his sister or his parents." —Anonymous, Minnesota