Eyebrows raised (sharply!) at the news of the relationship between Caroline Flack, 32, and 17-year-old singer Harry Styles and she quickly became the victim of public hatred. But with Hefner, Stringfellow and Ronnie Woods all known to date women half their age, isn't this just a case of double standards? Why is that older women who date younger men get ostracised by society while men get a pat on the back?
Cougar, cradle snatcher, vile, predator, perverse, disgusting and the list goes on! These are all scathing remarks used to describe the romance between 32- year-old, presenter Caroline Flack and 17-year-old Harry Styles from boy band, One Direction. It has become the latest "controversial" relationship to clock up the showbiz column inches, with everybody and anybody (Alex Gerrard) putting in their two pennies' worth. This has also led to Flack becoming the unfortunate target of public hatred and the recipient of death threats. (Gosh, he's hardly Justin Bieber!) Forced to defend their relationship she commented in an interview, "He's (Harry) really nice and we have a lot of fun together so what's wrong with that?"
So, what exactly is wrong with two, consenting people having fun with each other? (And I'm assuming she means a little more than a few games on the Xbox console.) Is it simply the fact that there is a 15-year age gap? Or is the fact that her alleged lover is only 17 and far from possessing the worldly, 'Mr Big' credentials many 30-somethings are seeking?
Well, "pot calling the kettle black" is all I have to say. When pensioners Mick Jagger and Ronnie Woods are pictured out on the town with a stunning woman half their age, nobody ever seems to bat an eyelid. Yes, you may get the odd snigger here and there with jokes about Viagra but for the most part, older men get a celebratory pat on the back.
You will rarely hear derogatory comments made such as, "go and find somebody your own age, you saddo!" or "you disgusting perv." Many people have commented on the fact that Flack is an attractive, successful woman so why would she be interested in a floppy-haired, teenager? I guess the question is as good as asking younger women what the attraction is in a wrinkly and decrepit denture-wearing man. Take our Brucie or even Des O'Connor, who are both enjoying long-term marriages with their much younger spouses. How about, it just happens?
Forgive me for sounding idealistic or a romanticist, but things do 'just happen' between two people, that are far beyond any form of logic or control. I'm sure, just like the whole world, they had the same concerns about their age gap at some point or what other people may think. And I'm also sure that like many other couples faced in a similar predicament, they simply said, "sod it!" and went for it. I doubt there will be any marriage proposals just yet but in the meantime, just let Ms Flack and her young fella enjoy their time!
It's a shame that there is something fundamentally flawed and hypocritical about how society judges' older women and their so-called, 'toyboys'. If she is not perceived as the predatory woman set on corrupting her vulnerable prey, she is the desperate 'has-been' who craves some forbidden excitement.
As a 32-year old women myself, I cannot begin to imagine nor understand the attraction of ever dating a 17-year-old boy. However, I do believe that each to their own and be it 17 or 70, if two people are genuinely drawn to each other then who are we, the wider society to judge? Is it an unconventional and unusual pairing? Maybe so. Does it warrant a public flogging and personal vilification? Absolutely not!