You can’t have missed the graph if you’ve been on Twitter today. That one, right? Like the Olympics, it occurs every four years. In this case, though, the participants are a bit more well-known and the outcomes are much more foreseeable. What the graph promises to show, “As Leonardo DiCaprio ages, his girlfriends’ ages stay exactly the same,” it delivers. As a result, it has received widespread praise on the web.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his girlfriend Camila Morrone have broken up, in case you missed the news. This breakup is a major news story, unlike the ones involving other celebrities. That is, to the extent that they use social media. But it’s not because Leonardo DiCaprio’s romantic life is any more fascinating than that of any other Hollywood star, and it’s not shocking that he has a thing for Victoria’s Secret models. No. For the previous 23 years, the Titanic actor has consistently followed the same pattern in his romantic relationships: he meets a lady in her early twenties, dates her for a while until she turns 25, and then breaks up with her.
We have no idea why the actor and Morrone split up, and frankly, we don’t care. But that hasn’t prevented the internet from laughing hysterically at the fact that she turned 25 just last month, meaning DiCaprio seems to be sticking to his now-famous age limit well, pattern of behaviour.
Up until she was 23, he dated supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Until she was 25, she worked at Bar Rafaeli. Age 23 Blake Lively. Twenty-two year old Erin Heatherton. The 21-year-old Toni Garn. Kelley Rohrbach, 25. Twenty-five year old Nina Agdal. This brings us to Morrone.
Someone on Twitter today joked, “Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio feels horrible for all the women who can’t rent a car till they are 25 and is truly a really wonderful man” (31 August). Someone else chimed in, “Titanic’s 25th anniversary of its US theatrical premiere is on December 19th, so it still has almost four months of eligibility left to go on a date with Leonardo DiCaprio.” ‘The girl Leonardo DiCaprio will dump when he’s 72 was born today,’ said a third. Women are also reporting a surge in the purchase of “officially too old to date Leonardo DiCaprio” birthday cakes to commemorate their 26th birthdays.
All of this is ripe for ridicule. And to be honest, it does make you laugh. Will we still be laughing if Leonardo DiCaprio, in his 70s, continues to date women 24 years his junior? I don’t understand what it is about being 25 that he finds so repulsive. When do we stop laughing and start wondering what kind of man dates only teenage girls?
Men may have their sights set on twentysomething women for a number of understandable reasons. It’s only natural in a culture that idolises youth and shames women for exhibiting their age. This, after all, is the standard by which our culture judges attractiveness. Maybe some guys just can’t see past that limitation in themselves.
However, I believe there is more at play than just societal conditioning of sexual preferences. Let’s think about the experiences of young women nowadays. You’ve just started out in your chosen field. You’re at a pivotal point in your development, when you’re trying to pin down your own unique identity. Your financial situation is precarious. Your living arrangements do not sound pleasant. Most importantly, you are anxious to make other people happy and are willing to sacrifice your own wants and needs to do so. The state of affairs is, to put it briefly, chaotic.
This, at least, is how it felt to me and my pals at the time. All this is to indicate that early twenties women and men in their 30s are very different. It’s not hard to see who has the upper hand in this relationship: the younger, less confident, and less well-off the woman is, the more likely she is to submit to the will of the older man. Not that young women lack agency, but they may be more amenable to authority figures because of their age. If that’s what DiCaprio and company see in them, then they should be avoided at all costs.
I used to be able to tolerate a lot more sexytimes from men than I do now that I’m 28 years old. There wasn’t any special pliability on my part. The thing is, I and many of the women I know were crippled by fears when we were young, making us easy prey for manipulative guys. We’d spent our adolescence being told we weren’t attractive or smart enough, and preoccupied with our appearance. That it was essential for us to occupy less room. Be someone else in order to fit in and, more importantly, to be desired. To put it another way, because a man who wanted you immediately held all the cards.
If and when that man acts improperly, this becomes an issue. Fundamental sexism is responsible for indoctrinating women to ignore abusive male behaviour and submit to patriarchal authority. But they are far more likely to do it when they are younger and singing songs of innocence, as opposed to experience.
In many contexts, women may have to wait longer than men to gain power. The question then arises as to whether or not males over the age of 35 avoid dating women above the age of 25 out of fear of being intimidated by them. Does it help their self-esteem to date someone younger who is likely to be less stable in these areas? Do they actually hate themselves so much?
Youth and (until recently) virginity have been ‘beautiful’ in women since they represent for experiential and sexual ignorance,” wrote Naomi Wolf in her 1990 feminist classic The Beauty Myth. Despite gaining strength with age, women’s ageing is stigmatised as “ugly.”
Therefore, the criticism levelled at men who date younger women is distinct from the condemnation levelled at women who date younger men. Fans of Leonardo DiCaprio are eager to point out the “double standard” whenever this graph is brought up, noting that women are rarely criticised for dating younger men. Look at the ongoing uproar about how 38-year-old Olivia Wilde is dating 20-year-old Harry Styles to see that this is not a reasonable or accurate assumption to make.
To be clear, this is not meant to imply that DiCaprio’s romantic life is an easy target. And, to be honest, we can only speculate as to what he could have against mature females. But he can’t keep dating girls half his age without raising eyebrows for much longer. In just over three years, he’ll turn 50. Who knows, maybe by then he’ll see what he’s been missing out on all these time. If not, I eagerly await the graph’s subsequent revision.