“Dirty old man”. Why this is a harmful notion.

In our society, if you are a young man, it is considered acceptable if you go after young women to hang out with them, befriend them, and perhaps pursue them as romantic partners. Once you are older, however, that is no longer acceptable. Just because of your age, that is no longer acceptable. I am 38 years old and for men my age it is expected that we be married and likely have children. If we are not married, it is expected we get married soon. While it is more acceptable now for people to not get married than it was in the past, our society is not built to suit older people who either are unable or choose not to get married.

There is the notion that older men who do not get married and like to spend time with younger women are perverts, up to no good, “dirty old men”. Assuming this thing about someone just because of one’s age is just as prejudicial as assuming negative things about someone because of the color of that person’s skin. If we hang out with women our age, society is a bit more accepting, but most women our age are already married, and that is especially true for the nice ones. Even if we just want to be friends with them, between their spouses and their children they do not have much time for other people. While there are some good older women who do not get married- I don’t want to be prejudiced against anyone because of one’s age- the pool for us is very limited. The same is true in seeking out male companions, as most men our age are already married or in long term relationships. And if you are not married or in a relationship, you need to have several casual friends with whom you can spend time and talk about your issues. While that is acceptable for younger men, it is not too acceptable for men my age. Maybe for women it is a bit more acceptable. Single women have long been admired as strong people, and it is quite acceptable for them to have casual male friends no matter what the woman’s age is. But for men, that is not the case.

Some people ask me why do I not go with the flow and get married. That might be a good idea. If I find the right wife it would be a net positive. However, realistically speaking that it not very likely to be the case. Marriage involves a lot of compromising, and compromising on some major things that I don’t want to give up on. A wife will most likely want to have children, something that I do not want. I never liked noisy and dirty little kids, even when I was one myself, and I still cannot bear spending an hour around them. I am not going to spend ten years plus of my life being around them because that is what my wife wants. And while there are some who do not want to have children, they will most likely want dogs. That is another thing I will not give up on. I refuse to let any dog come up and lick me, and the dogs my wife would want to have would most likely want to do that. There are some people who for love are going to be willing to make major sacrifices on the things they do not like, but there are many who aren’t. Most People like me with Asperger’s are not going to willing to do that. And neither should people be compelled to do make these sacrifices and get married. There is a reason why a lot of marriages end in divorce.

Why do we not have many people protesting the “dirty old man” notion, you may ask. It is because more older men do not have it so bad. Being compelled to get married is not nearly as bad as being kept down because you are black or a woman. Also, most older men are in a position of privilege. They can use their positions of power to coerce others to spend time with them if their marriage is not stable, and many times they even remain married for little more reason than that it makes them seem like less of a threat.

Some of these actions did definitely need to be stopped. And maybe the “dirty old man” notion was somewhat necessary to delegitimize the nefarious actions of some of these men in an age before #metoo. However, if men are going to stop doing these things, we should get rid of the motion that because men who have more seniority have more power men also become more harmful just because they get older.

And we need to get rid of the “dirty old man” notion even if men in power will not stop what they are doing. While there will be some in power whose power increases as they get older, there will be disabled adults who have almost no power even as they get older. Yet the “dirty old man” notion lumps them in the same category as more powerful people and becomes prejudiced against the weaker people just because of their ages. And while the powerful men will still be able to get away with many of their relationships, even when they are nefarious, the older disabled people will be looked down upon even when their relations are innocent. It’s time to rename “dirty old men” into what really is the problem- “sexual harassers”, “sexual exploiters”, “sexual predators in power”, but not a term that implies someone is up to no good because of age.

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