The Trouble with the May/December Story

by D.M. Atkins

The number one fantasy that has come through our submissions in the last three months is of an older woman, usually also having been a high school teacher, who seduces a young man who comes over to do yard work and/or is the son of a friend of hers.

This seems that it’s an important fantasy for many male readers.

And yet, every one of these stories has been so shallow, so lacking in heat or depth, as to be mind-numbing boring.

I don’t believe the problem is the subject matter, but the way it has been handled.

Do writers lack the courage and imagination to really explore this powerful dynamic?

If you search the web, you can find a lot of real life stories of men who have found older women who taught them about life as well as sex. Some of these relationships are long term enduring loves. They have a lot to say about the triumphs and pitfalls of such an age disparity.

Yet, so far, all the stories on this theme have fallen horribly short. They have been shallow caricatures of what these relationships involve.

I wonder if the people writing them have done any research into social, legal and moral dilemmas people in the cross-generational relationships can be like. Even if both characters are over eighteen, they still would face the censure of a society that does not understand such an age gap in sexual relationships, especially when the older person is the woman.

The characters are seemly unaware of anything other than getting laid. Every story we have gotten has been shallow, with no thought of the social dynamics or personal struggles involved in such relationships. Writers barely stop to consider what this kind of relationships brings to each person’s life.

What’s sad about this is that there are a lot of powerful possibilities in the dynamic that if done well could be a brilliant story – emotionally moving as well as sexually arousing. How do two people at such different places in their lives negotiate the different needs, experiences and expectations? What do they give each other that no one else could? How does this change their lives? What are the problems with their differing power via the world and each other?

Do you really think any woman (or man), especially one who taught young adults, isn’t aware of the boundary she would be crossing in this kind of relationship? How does she deal with the ethical, legal and social challenges of the situation? What rewards does it give her? There has to be more to it than “getting laid,” especially with a character who has resisted doing this for years.

And any young man (or woman) who knowingly gets involved with someone significantly older than them does so for more than sex. There the allure of power and knowledge, the mentoring from someone who can teach more than peers. There is also the forbidden nature of it, the rule breaking. is not a place to send meaningless sex fantasies. There are plenty of other places for that kind of boring porn.

If you are going to send us this story (any story) – give us fully developed characters whose emotions and minds are as involved in what is going on as their bodies. We want stories that go to the heart of the matter, make it messy and complicated, and very, very real.

UPDATE 2013: See Comforting Mrs. Madigan by A.A. Garrison for an example of it done right.


1 Comment on The Trouble with the May/December Story

  1. #1 Plastics, Benjamin
    Submitted by Konrad Hartmann on Fri, 02/17/2012 – 5:36pm

    To me, the most interesting aspect of this topic is the potential for discussing power exchange (although, criminy, I need to write about something that isn’t about power exchange for a change). Someone who is older may potentially be in a dominant, or even coercive, position as an employer, agent of social rewards, etc.

    I once worked at a place where an older female employee received a promotion after sleeping with the younger male supervisor. I’m not speaking out of gossip or jealousy as they weren’t exactly secretive about it. So, when you say that someone had to have sex to get a promotion, well it clearly sounds like the woman was exploited. But the sense I got from the personalities of these two was that, if anything, the supervisor was exploited. It’s odd to say, but you’d have to meet these people. The supervisor was sexually exploitative of other women, but I think in this case the wolf met a tiger.

    I’m not making a judgement as far as what’s right or wrong or anything like that, and no, people shouldn’t be coerced for an assistant manager position, but it seemed to me a good example of what should be written about. That is, the sort of thing that appears one way on the surface and another way entirely underneath.

    #2 Exactly.
    Submitted by D.M. Atkins on Fri, 02/17/2012 – 6:33pm

    Exactly. It’s never without some sort of dynamic. Even in completely consensual, non-work environments, the differing levels of life experience and goals can make it a challenge. In real life, I’ve been on both sides of it. As a teenager, I definitely sought out older partners with the intention of learning from them. I wanted sexual mentoring. I’d gotten out of a couple love relationships with people my own age and been hurt. I wanted someone who knew what they were doing. Later, of course, I became the person others sought out as a mentor.

    There are so few relationships which don’t involve a power difference of some kind. It’s interesting when one takes on the task of writing with awareness of them. That’s what’s missing from most the stories I’ve seen on the topic. These cross-generational relationships can have profound impacts on both parties, and on the people around them. This can be positive, negative or both. I just want to writers take that on and do it justice.

    #3 I hadn’t really thought much
    Submitted by E.E. Grey on Fri, 02/17/2012 – 7:41pm

    I hadn’t really thought much about employers in these situations, but as soon as you mentioned it, I realized I already wrote it. Lol. Mine was really long, though, and the younger character was actually against it and when he got a promotion it was for a totally different reason. But yes, these dynamics have the potential to be really interesting depending on the rest of the story and some people just drop the ball.


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