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At What Age Does Flirting From An Older Man Become Predatory?

By Cristina Margolis·· 7 min read
At What Age Does Flirting From An Older Man Become Predatory

No matter how old you are, it feels good to be flirted with. It’s an ego booster to know men find you attractive. But at what age does it become too uncomfortable, creepy, or even predatory for an older man to flirt with a younger woman?

A recent story shared on social media unveiled the unfortunate experience of a group of young women being creeped out by a flirtatious man about 10 years older than them.

The Situation

When a 30-year-old man was recently shot down by a group of 18 and 19-year-old women celebrating their friend’s birthday at a restaurant, he felt hurt and confused. He took to Reddit for answers (his post has since been deleted) as to why these young women thought his behavior was inappropriate and predatory, because in his eyes, his flirtation was perfectly fine because they were all adults. According to the man, he was “respectful and not creepy at all.”

His Side of the Story

According to the man, he had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and the newly 19-year-old birthday girl at the restaurant was the first woman to catch his eye since the breakup. Even though his wingman for the evening told the man not to go talk to her, because the women looked like babies, he decided to go anyway.

He says he wished the birthday girl a “Happy Birthday,” and he thought everything was going well until one of her friends called him R. Kelly (referring to the rapper’s predatory and inappropriate behavior with underage girls) and told him to take a hint. Another friend asked him to go away, but he refused. Even his wingman told him to leave. Finally, the birthday girl herself spoke up and told the man that it was weird for a man his age to be hitting on a woman her age, especially when she had made it known how uncomfortable she was. She asked if she looked like Aaliyah to him, again making another predatory R. Kelly reference. 

He thought everything was going well until one of her friends called him R. Kelly. 

Finally, the man decided to leave the women alone, and as he walked back to his table, the women at the party began singing R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” Humiliated and angry, the man couldn’t understand what went wrong. His wingman told him it was his own fault for approaching the young women and not seeing the signs that showed how uncomfortable he was making them feel.

Her Side of the Story

When the birthday girl saw what the man posted on Reddit, she decided to tell her side of the story to clarify some things. According to the woman, she wanted to celebrate her 19th birthday at a restaurant with her girlfriends. They were seated in a corner booth and a family was sitting at a table next to them, so their seating arrangement definitely did not give off the vibe that it was a party where people could come and go.   

After the man came over and wished her a “Happy Birthday” (which she says she did appreciate), she politely said “Thank you,” and then went back to her conversation with her friends, yet the man still stuck around and kept interrupting their conversation, making the girls uncomfortable. They tried to give polite hints to the man at first, like nodding when he said something and then turning their backs to him. When he still didn’t leave, the women decided to say “Thank you. Bye,” whenever he said something, but he still didn’t get the hint.

The women said “Thank you. Bye,” whenever he spoke, but he still didn’t take the hint and leave.

Although the woman said she felt “annoyed, uncomfortable, and disgusted,” she tried to politely offer the man a piece of cake and said, “Have a good night. Here’s some cake for home. Bye!” One would think the man would have definitely gotten that huge hint, but instead, he grabbed the cake, sat down in their booth, and said, “The night’s not over yet!” And that was when the women snapped — rightfully so — and said all of the things the man said they did. They had had enough of being polite to men like him who are creepy and disrespectful.

Is It a Problem with Age or with Behavior?

The honest truth is that it depends on the individual and where they are in life. In general, though, college freshmen women are not interested in grown men with established careers. They’re primarily interested in college guys much closer to their own age with similar lifestyles and interests. People grow so much in college — both intellectually and emotionally — that dating someone who has already gone through college can seem like a huge gap. In general, a 19-year-old’s experience, expectations, and maturity are going to be radically different than a 29-year-old’s.

The woman in the story said, “When he asked us our age, and gave us his, it became a million times more uncomfortable.” She felt like he was IDing them and justifying his flirting because he now knew they were “legal.” Everything about the encounter was sickening and demeaning to the women.

A 19-year-old’s experience and maturity are going to be radically different than a 29-year-old’s.

But a 10 or 15-year age gap post-college probably isn’t that big of a deal. A 35-year-old man who flirts with a 25-year-old woman is less weird because both have likely been to college, worked a job, and gained at least some of the wisdom, experience, and maturity that come with adulthood. 

And some women are interested in dating older men because they can be more mature and established. In fact, a lot of celebrity couples have a large age gap. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds are one such example: Reynolds has 11 years on Lively, and they began dating when she was 20. Another couple with a big age gap is Jason Statham (52) and Rosie Huntington-Whitely (33). They met and began dating when Rosie was 22 and Jason was 43.

Predatoriness is more about inappropriate behavior than age difference.

It’s important to note that big age gaps can come with a power imbalance on the side of the man. Older men may feel they have an advantage over younger women, whether it’s an advantage of experience, resources, or status. Regardless of age, though, men can be predatory towards their same-aged peers. It isn't always so much about the age as it is about the behavior.

No man has the right to force himself into a woman’s life.

Men need to listen when women say they're not interested. Even if the man in the story were 19-years old and the woman wasn’t interested, his behavior would still be extremely inappropriate and predatory. No matter what, no man has the right to force himself into a woman’s life, demand her time, or demand she explain herself for rejecting him. (The same goes for women with men, by the way.) When a woman says “No,” men need to respect that. Men, regardless of age, need to listen to women when they say they’re not interested.

Closing Thoughts

I think that the women at the party handled the awkward situation well. They were initially very polite and respectful, but the man was incredibly pushy, which made him look predatory. After he finally got the message that he was being rejected, he became angry and stayed, making him look like even more of a creep. The women could only take so much, and predatory jerks like this man need to be set straight. 

The bottom line is that it’s ultimately up to the woman if she wants to have a relationship with an older man. However, it’s also up to the man to respectfully and gracefully bow out if a woman makes it clear that she’s uncomfortable or creeped out by the age difference.

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