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Women Share Stories Of When They Realized The Older Men They ‘Dated’ Were Predators (20 Stories)

Brace yourself for a lot of internal sympathy groaning here. I scrolled through this list and couldn’t believe how horrific some of these tales were.

Women, girls, are taught from an early age that their worth derives from the male gaze — from men’s attention. Obviously that is blatantly false, but it allows a lot of predatory men to take advantage of developing self-esteem in underage girls.

BuzzFeed asked women of the BuzzFeed community who “dated” older men as teens to share how they realized the men were, in fact, predators. Here are some of those stories.

1. Theater

I was 14 and in a play at the local theatre. Our stage manager was 25, and I had the biggest crush on him. He was married but started paying a lot of attention to me. We started sneaking to the intermission bar and stealing wine coolers. Our last night of the show, he hugged and kissed me. I was completely smitten. For the next theatre production, he made a bee line for me on the first day of rehearsals and told me how much he he was thinking of me and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. One of the mothers in the theatre production reported it, and he hardly spoke to me again. Nothing happened though, and I was heartbroken.”

“Now, as an adult, I realize how inappropriate his behavior was on so many levels.” —Anonymous, Germany

2. Snapchat

Last year, when I was 17, a man added me on Snapchat. We started talking, and he seemed nice but was hesitant to give me his age. When I started asking more aggressively, he told me he was 26. The age difference felt a bit off, but he seemed sweet so I went along with it. One day, he called me and said he was lying to me, he was actually 30. This was the first red flag, but I ignored it. Soon, he started texting and calling me throughout the day — even when he knew I was at school. When I told him I didn’t like that, he said I was being selfish, and he was scared I was talking to other guys. After a while, I couldn’t take it, and I blocked him. He started calling me from unmarked numbers and having his friends harass and guilt trip me into unblocking him. He would always say that I was different and that he never really clicked with women his age. No wonder.”

“Of course, he didn’t change at all. The scariest part was the second time I blocked him. He had three different numbers for who knows what, and I blocked all of them. He called me from no less than five different numbers and didn’t let up until I threatened to call the authorities. He was manipulative and creepy.” —Anonymous, Rhode Island

3. Red flags

I was newly 18 and fresh out of high school when I met a man 12 years my senior who owned a local art shop. He complimented me, told me how I was smart, mature, and ‘not like other girls,’ and I believed him. When we slept together two days after we met, I thought it was true love. I ignored the red flags. Two months later, I was pregnant. I was excited, he was excited, his family was excited — mine was mortified. He manipulated me into thinking my family was jealous of our relationship and turned me against them. He said my friends — who were concerned — weren’t true friends and didn’t understand what a true artistic genius he was, so I cut them out of my life, too. Eventually, I was alone. The abuse evolved into physical, mental, financial, and emotional abuse. After a few years, he was arrested after spending all day beating me. I got sole custody of my son and eventually met a wonderful man who adopted him as his own.”

“I ignored how he lived in a filthy apartment that had dog poop on the floors and underage kids smoking weed. I ignored how he scammed his customers and took shortcuts on their projects. I ignored the red flag when he said he didn’t want to wear condoms.

The first time he yelled at me was at a restaurant because I wanted to order spaghetti instead of what he wanted me to order. The first time he hit me was at a red light with our newborn and his seven-year-old daughter in the car. Last I heard, my ex was with someone who was 20 years his junior. She, thankfully, realized what a predator he was and dumped him. 

My husband and I teach all of our kids about red flags in relationships and how predators manipulate people. I hope they never end up in the situation I did.” —Anonymous, Kentucky

4. Arcade

I was 14 when a 22-year-old guy — who worked at the arcade in the mall that my friends frequented — started grooming me. All my friends thought he was so cool, so I wanted to be accepted by him as well. He initially gave me attention, making me feel like part of the group. He then retracted it and started making comments about what he thought was cool. I began to do those things to feel included, and not only did he begin including me again, but he also started showing ‘interest’ in me. As an outcast and the black sheep of my family and at school, this was a big deal to me. Eventually, he began pressuring me romantically and then sexually. He is currently in jail for grooming and sexually assaulting two other girls my age — at the same time he was doing it to me.”

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but after years of therapy, I realized what he was doing.” —Anonymous, Texas

5. Politics

I was a 19-year-old college student, and he was a 31-year-old local politician. The big red flag for me was that he didn’t have any friends his own age and only dated college students. I should’ve recognized that he was intimidated and threatened by women his own age. He started taking me to jewelry stores for engagement rings before I left town for a summer internship. Some distance from him over the summer made me see the warning signs more clearly, so I broke up with him. He drove to the city where I was doing my internship and held me against my will in a hotel room for a weekend. He presented me with lingerie and kept trying to get me to have sex with him. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight to contact anyone — there were no cell phones back then. When the weekend ended, he begrudgingly dropped me back off at my intern lodging. I should’ve called the police, but I hadn’t been raped or hurt, and I just wanted to be done with him.”

“He is still in politics and married a woman with a teenage daughter.” —Anonymous, Georgia

6. Pimped

The oldest guy I dated was 27 or so, and I was 16. Multiple other factors made this an unhealthy relationship, but a few years ago, I realized the trauma I carry most with me is from that time in my life. Not only did he continually state how he wanted me to have his children, but he also tried to pimp me out multiple times. He would manipulatively tell me I didn’t do anything for him. I didn’t work, and so I didn’t bring him money. Because I didn’t bring him money, I wasn’t enough anymore. He tried to push me into it. I resisted and laughed it off. He would parade me around in front of his friends and cousins. Some of who were already in the life. Gauging interest or something? The crazy part is that I never tried to stop any of it. I didn’t come to my senses and leave. I just moved on to another guy because I was tired of him cheating. My self-worth still hasn’t recovered.”

“I dated multiple adult men during high school. Older men always expressed interest in me in pubic, but the boys my age didn’t. I wasn’t a skinny teen and had lots of curves early on. I never felt beautiful, attractive, or wanted by anyone my age. When I received it from older men, it was affirming. It felt like I was finally recognized. 

It’s sad to realize my self-worth was so connected to male approval. I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that most of my relationships have been with abusers and basically pedophiles.” —Anonymous, Washington

7. Assistant Basketball Coach

He was my assistant basketball coach. I met him when I was 15. It wasn’t until my senior year — I was 17, he was 23 — that we worked together consistently enough to develop a relationship. It started near the end of basketball season. I kept it a total secret. We would meet up in parking lots to make out. I confided in a close teammate who was very close with our coach, and she got so angry with me that she cried. She accused me of ruining her future coaching relationship with him and told our entire team. The season had ended by then, but it blew up my senior year. Everyone hated me except my closest friends who were on my side. I lost long-term friendships, and even our head coach — who was best friends with our assistant — told me to apologize to my teammates. I realized then that I was not in the wrong and that my coach was the one who bore responsibility for what happened. It had a massive impact on who I am as a person in my adulthood.”

“We had started texting when he had begun seeing another coach that I knew. It was just chatting and joking but eventually, they called it quits, and he told me he had feelings for me. I remember being over the moon because my entire team, as teenagers, crushed on this guy. I had told him I was a virgin and didn’t mess around with a guy who wasn’t my boyfriend — so we never had sex.

Oh, and he didn’t leave me alone after everything. He’d periodically reach out to me when I started college — even to the point of trying to meet up with me a few weeks before his WEDDING. 

Only one person from that period ever apologized. But the worst part is that when discussing it with a very close friend from high school who is a very committed feminist and caring person, she still said that I was mature for my age then and that it wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes I still question if she’s right, but I don’t think she is.” —Anonymous, Washington

8. In a band

I was working for a restaurant in a mall at 17. He worked in a record shop, did delivery for a florist, and was in a band. He was also 27. He looked so cool to me with his rolled-up t-shirt sleeves, his tattoos, and smoking unfiltered cigarettes. I was flattered when I heard he was asking about me and said I was cute. We went on a couple of actual dates. He would give me stolen flowers from his deliveries, and I went to see his band play. He always told me I was beautiful and looked younger than my age. Then, it turned into no more dates and just sex. I stopped seeing him after one awful night when I found out he was doing heroin, his roommate tried to rape me, and I found out he was seeing other girls my age and younger.”

“I never realized he was a predator until I was in my thirties, and my daughter was a toddler.” —Anonymous, Pennsylvania

9. It happens to EVERYONE

I literally don’t know a girl who hasn’t experienced at least unwanted attention from an older man. For me, it was Gavin, who worked in our local bowling alley. He was at least 18 to be working there and paid me and my girlfriends (14 to 15) a lot of attention, which we all vied for. Turned out, he liked me — much to the disgust of my friend who actually stopped talking to me for two weeks over it, but we’re still very good friends now, don’t worry! He asked me out, and by out, I mean to his flat that he rented with his girlfriend. She was at work, so he put on some soft porn. I was not at all comfortable, and he encouraged me to give him a blow job. I remember stopping halfway through, saying I didn’t like it, but he persisted, and I continued. It was horrible. I wish I could go back and stop myself. He was actually 21 and knew I was 15. I saw him and his girlfriend years later, and I hid like I was the guilty party. It just makes me so sad.”

“It’s sad because my female family members said male attention was what we all aspired to get; because that’s what society says women should want; because I wanted that. Just sad.” —Anonymous, United Kingdom

10. Parents’ age

I was 17, he was 50. I met him at work — a night job — so he’d offer to walk me to my car to make sure I got there safely. He was a friendly, nice guy that everyone liked, so no one thought it was weird that he was offering to look after me. He asked for my number so I could text him when I got home. Then, he started texting me all the time. He’d bring me food at work and offer me jackets when it was cold to make me feel like I owed it to him to keep talking to him. I continued having conversations with this ‘nice’ man who was my parents’ age. Eventually, I ended up at his apartment, and we started hooking up. I remember him saying something like, ‘Whoa, I am just trying to be your friend and definitely didn’t have any motives like this, but if you want to have sex, I’m down.’ I thought I was mature, and it was fine because we got along well and he was nice, until one day, my friend confronted me and made me realize that I was being manipulated.”

“Fast forward to me at 21 finding out from an old co-worker that I was just one of his many younger ‘friends.’ He’s still working there today.” —Anonymous, Unknown

11. Assistant teacher

In high school, I dated an assistant teacher. I was 17. He was 27. At first, I felt cool, and my classmates were jealous. He took me to parties where he and his friends would openly do coke. Several times, they pressured me to do drugs and have threesomes. I felt really uncomfortable, but I couldn’t tell my mom, and my friends thought I was super lucky to get ‘access’ to that world. He began openly talking about our sex life to his colleagues at my school. I felt exposed and embarrassed. He also became clingy, and I couldn’t spend time with my friends — and he hit on them every chance he got — or family. He finally got fired for dating a student, and he blamed everything on me and started acting like a baby, requiring 24/7 attention and care. I finally found the courage to end things, and he and his colleagues made me really uncomfortable — shaming me for the whole situation like I was obligated to stay with him since he was fired ‘because of me.'”

“Two months after we had broken up, he called me to ask if he had raped me and if I was the one who exposed him at his college. I was shocked and just asked him, ‘You don’t know when you’ve raped someone?’ He ended up getting accused, along with all of his friends, of multiple rapes and harassment situations. It definitely affected me.” —Anonymous, Brazil

12. From church

When I was growing up, we had some family friends from church. I grew up with this family since I was seven years old. When I turned 14, he — six and a half years older than me — at 21, confessed his love for me. We dated until I was 16. Everyone was okay with it. Looking back, not only was he predatory but so was my family for allowing this.”

“I come from a very male-dominated family where what they say goes, and that is that. It took years to unlearn this behavior. That is not okay.” —Anonymous, Arizona

13. Coffee shop

In high school, I’d spend time at a coffee shop. The majority of patrons were men over 30. My peers and I ‘befriended’ them. It made me feel cool and validated my sense of being misunderstood by the ‘regular’ people in my life. It made me feel desired. I felt I was cautious enough to keep these men at arm’s length, but I put myself in situations where things could go horribly wrong. One night, I slept over at one guy’s house. Two men were there with two of my girlfriends, but my girlfriends left early. One guy seemed a little torn but eventually asked if I wanted to sleep in his bed. I said no. To flirt with the idea is one thing but to actually do it is another, and that made me nervous. Another man stayed in the living room with me, and as I was falling asleep, he began rubbing my back and moving his hands where I didn’t want them. I pushed him away several times and, eventually, he left without further assault.”

“I’m 34 now and still haven’t been totally honest with myself about how dangerous these situations were. I was so lost and broken and found so much excitement in being rebellious and feeling like I was in control. I had large breasts and received unsolicited sexual attention from older men by age 12. When I was 15 I was assaulted by older men and raped by a 28-year-old.

This predatory dynamic defined much of my adolescent experience with sex and dating. It took me years to work through this, and I still carry lingering shame and guilt since I had been drinking at the time. It surely contributed to my distorted view of getting attention from older men. 

If I were to give any advice to my younger self, it would be to love myself so much more than I did. To know my worth. To realize these predators are selfish, entitled, and manipulative men. To surround myself with lots of good girlfriends and not be in such a hurry to grow up. Due to different circumstances, I had to take on adult responsibilities as a child — but navigating sexual attention from adult men should not have been one of them.” —Anonymous, North Carolina

14. Evicted

I met him a week before my 21st birthday. He was about to be 38, never married, and had no kids. Mentally, I was still a child. I’d never been in a relationship before. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted. He knew this and used this against me, manipulating my words. We never talked about our future. He’d shoot me down when I’d bring it up. I knew at year two, and I stayed. I knew at year four, and I stayed. At year six, after he cost me $9K trying to save his ass, I finally left. He moved in with me and my parents and couldn’t even be bothered to ask them; he made me do it. I bought a car because he refused to fix his. I pawned my jewelry for him, and he didn’t help me get it back. Since this was my first relationship, I didn’t know how to end it. I began cheating on him, knowing that he knew. I wanted to break him, and I did. He turned me into this person whom I hated. But why would he leave? I was pulling money out of my ass for him.”

“I was figuring it out so that he didn’t have to. I saved him from eviction only for him to be evicted months later. Guess who conned me out of the car because I knew he ‘could use it?’

I now know why he only dates younger women. I didn’t know what I wanted in life or in a relationship. I know I wasn’t the only fresh out of high school girl who never had a boyfriend. He dates younger girls because he has nothing to offer, and it is how he controls the relationship.” —Anonymous, Texas

15. Didn’t understand

I was 12 when I got my first boyfriend. He had, had a very complicated life and was only in ninth grade despite being 19. It’s not that rare where we’re from, so it never weirded me out. He was nice. A friend of my older sister’s dated a classmate of mine, so I didn’t see any problem in dating him. He ended up convincing me to hang at his place once. He touched me and rubbed himself against me. I thought nothing of it because I was not raped per se. I hadn’t felt forced, and I didn’t understand the meaning of what had happened. I remember him finishing in his pants, and I asked him what it was because I didn’t understand what ejaculation actually meant.”

“It took six years and the Me Too movement for me to realize that I was sexually abused.” —Anonymous, Unknown

16. Surfing lessons

I was 16 years old on summer holiday with my family. I took surfing lessons, and there I met a 27-year-old Dutch man. We became close, and we spent the night in a bed together at a friend’s place. I was a virgin and not comfortable with anything other than kissing. He tried to force my hand on his genitals, but I resisted and excused it as a miscommunication issue. I’m so thankful that my friends were in another room that shared a wall with mine — meaning they could hear everything, and I could go see them easily. Back home, we stayed in touch. I felt weird about it, but I was happy to be getting attention from a guy. When he wanted me to send sexual images, I stopped communicating with him and eventually blocked him. Looking back — I am 23 now — this is very disturbing considering he knew how old I was.”

“I got a Facebook at 18, and he messaged me, but I blocked him. At the time, I found this exciting, but now I’m so creeped out.”  —Anonymous, United Kingdom

17. Mature for your age

I dated a 29-year-old man at 18. I had a huge crush on him at work but had never thought it was a real possibility because of the age difference. I didn’t even realize our first date was a date until he kissed me out of the blue. After that, he told me it would be fun to keep it a secret, and that this would be a good experience for me to learn about casual dating. He told me I was so mature for my age that he understood me. I was a kid with deep trauma and abandonment issues, and he made me feel special — like he cared — in a way that I felt nobody had in a long long while. He would always get me high at the beginning of all our dates because he said it would help me relax. He then would become upset when I wasn’t comfortable moving past making out and would stop contacting me for weeks until, I assume, he would get lonely or bored again.”

“Eventually, he stopped calling, and I was left with even more trauma and abandonment issues than when he found me.” —Anonymous, Nevada

18. Confusion

We had family friends whose youngest son was four years older than me. We hung out a lot, and our parents thought nothing of it. His mom called me the little sister he never had. By the time I was 14 (he was 18), he’d kiss, grope, and do sexual things with me whenever we were alone. He’d always talk about having a future with me; getting married, having kids, and arguing about where to live. Yet, he never seemed to want to be with me. We were never officially a couple. I always knew without him having to tell me that I wasn’t to tell our families. When I was about to turn 18 (he was 22 and had finished university) I met a guy my age, and it was all just so simple: I liked him, he liked me. I didn’t feel confused by his behavior, and I didn’t feel pressured into anything. It then hit me how much I’d gone along that I hadn’t wanted to do but that he’d pressured me into doing gently, subtly, and over a long period of time.”

“On my 18th birthday, he arrived and kissed my cheek in front of my parents. I felt hugely panicked. I had this feeling like he’d been waiting for me to turn 18 so he could ‘go public,’ and that he was going to keep on being with me like he had been — only now we could tell people. It made me feel inexplicably awful. I lashed out, and we had a dreadful row that night. I told him I’d met someone else who didn’t make me feel emotional whiplash like he did, and that I wanted him to leave me alone. 

When I was in my early twenties and effectively at the same life point that he’d been then — out of university, getting a grown-up job — it really hit me how young I’d been at 17 (when he was 21), and how he knew how young I’d been. He was a family friend. He knew I didn’t have experience with other guys, he knew I’d had a fairly sheltered upbringing, and he knew that I’d idolized him as a child. Then he’d do things with me, and I’d find out he was dating someone his own age. I never knew where I stood.

I always thought he was my friend, but I realized he never cared about me at all. I was just convenient to him. I cut that guy out of my life brutally. Both my and his parents just think that we’d always been great friends until I suddenly became a massive bitch to him when I was 18. I still frequently get updated by my-mom-via-his-mom on him, his wife, and their children. I’m sure they report back to him about me and my family, too. We met up a few years ago at a family event, and he was laughing and joking with my parents, my brother, and my partner. I sometimes wish I could scream and shout at him. Doesn’t he even feel guilty at all about how much he took advantage of me? Then made me out to be the bad guy? 

I feel very lucky that I met my first proper boyfriend just before that incident on my 18th. It didn’t last long, but I don’t think I’d have realized how wrong it had been if I hadn’t had a nice, fun, straightforward, face-value flirtation and relationship that I could be open with people about and stuff. I know that if my ‘friend’ had really announced our ‘relationship’ to our families, I’d never have been able to get away from him. They’re so close that I’d never have been able to break up with him — and I think he knew that, too.” —Anonymous, United Kingdom

19. It’s not okay.

It took me 15 years and therapy to realize it was not okay. It was easy for older men to get me into the multiple relationships I had with them from the ages of 15 to 18. I wanted attention, and I was praised for being so mature. I was the cool friend for being able to get us alcohol and so much fun and not like other girls my age. I so desperately wanted to be loved that I would accept it anywhere I could get it. I did things that I thought were my choice but I now know were not. It’s hard, even today, to accept the fact that I was not responsible for their actions. ‘Making myself available’ is not an excuse for someone who very much knew it was wrong it take advantage of me.”

“Growing up in an abusive family is like a one-way street to being taken advantage of as a teenager.” —Anonymous, California

20. He choked me

I got kicked out of school my senior year and was going through it. I coped by sleeping with much older dudes. (Obviously, I would never recommend that as a coping method.) Long story short, it stopped when I went on a date with a 31-year-old. I was 19. He planned something outside, but it was starting to rain, so we just went back to his place. He gave me two drinks. At the end of the second one, I was completely blacked out. I only remember flashes, but one of them was just him saying, ‘I was 12 when you were born, isn’t that sexy?’ while choking me. When I could walk enough to leave, he got mad that I wouldn’t stay and for was ‘acting as if he hurt me.’ He put me on a bus into the city and blocked my number. I had no idea where I was, couldn’t reach anyone, and, honestly, it’s a miracle I got home.”

“I have never been able to forget him saying the 12-year-old comment, and it turned me off from older men forever. It didn’t matter that I was 19, he was still a pedophile at heart.” —Anonymous, Washington