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Why Young Stars Like Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo & Millie Bobby Brown Date Much, Much Older Men

Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Tinseltown / Cubankite / Shutterstock
Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Millie Bobby Brown

Age is but a number but is the celebrity world taking things too far?

A new generation of teen stars, including Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Millie Bobby Brown, are finding themselves in relationships with older men, but what does this say about what we’ve come to accept from celebrity relationships?

Why do young stars date much older men?

The phenomenon is nothing new in Hollywood.

Celine Dion was 26 years younger than her husband, who she met when she was 13.

Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly only dates women under the age of 25.

But seeing the new age of teen icons who were raised feminist on media and espouse female empowerment to their audience pursuing relationships with older men seems particularly surprising.

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Billie Eilish, 19, is reportedly dating a man who is ten years her senior. Olivia Rodrigo is freshly 18 and rumored to be dating a 24-year-old. And Millie Bobby Brown was reportedly in a relationship with a 20-year-old while she was 16.

Life and relationship coach Keya Murthy tells us these age gaps may be an enactment of Jung’s Electra complex, essentially the female version of Sigmund Freud's Oedipus complex.

Murthy explains the theory hold that “girls who do not have a healthy relationship with their mothers set out to find a father figure with whom they can have a relationship, the way their mother has one with her partner.”

“These young women compete with their mothers to find someone who will care for them the way they feel their mothers are cared for by men,” Murthy adds.

This assumption may be somewhat harsh and presumptive, but these child stars are often exposed to so much at a young age that their romantic relationships become complicated.

These are young women who spent their childhood working in industries dominated by adults, in which they are often sexualized and experience a far from “normal” childhood.

It is unsurprising, yet still potentially problematic, that these women age out of relationships with men their own age quickly.

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Age gaps can create a power imbalance in relationships.

Dating older men isn’t inherently bad, assuming it’s legal, but the intersection of age gaps and gender inequality may leave these young women vulnerable.

Take Millie Bobby Brown, for example, who has had to deal with her former boyfriend spreading intimate sexual details about their relationship, which happened while she was still a minor.

Older men often have different experiences and expectations when it comes to relationships and the power imbalance may pressure their younger partners into potentially damaging situations

Murthy tells us, “Normalizing large age gaps cause harm to young women being pursued by older men because when these grow up and are attractive, strong, healthy, mature women they do not have attractive, strong, healthy, mature men as friends and companions instead have to care for older men which could be more emotionally and physically demanding than they bargained for as teenagers or in their youth.”

We justify these kinds of relationships with statements like “girls are mature for their age” and “girls grow up quicker than boys.”

And while these comments may be true, should they be?

Boys are given the right to act childish well into adulthood while women are sexualized and treated like adults from the moment they hit puberty.

By normalizing these large age gaps, we risk teaching young girls that it is acceptable for older men to sexualize and pursue them.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.