Liz Hoggard: The great Sam Taylor-Wood dilemma

The 42-year-old artist is dating a 19-year-old actor. Do I approve?

Share
Related Topics

Every night it's the same conversation. All women seem to want to talk about is artist Sam Taylor-Wood and her toyboy. Taylor-Wood, 42 – who has handled cancer (twice) and a marriage split with dignity – is something of a role model. She hangs out with A-listers, but never forgets her roots. She looks fantastic, but not unrealistic. She strikes you as a girl's girl.

But now here she is stepping out with a 19-year-old actor. And not just any actor – Aaron Johnson was who she cast as John Lennon in her new film, Nowhere Boy. Just to make the scenario more delicious, Taylor-Wood's ex-husband, art dealer, Jay Jopling, 45, had his own May-December romance – dating Lily Allen, 23, last year. Was it an act of revenge? Or did they both feel the need for new young flesh?

The difference is in the reporting. When Jopling was pictured frolicking in the sea with Allen, headlines were playful rather than censorious. It was a bit like watching your Dad make up for lost time. And frankly Lily always has the last word – her terrific new album, the confessional It's Not Me, It's You, must have had ex-boyfriends quaking in their boots. Never mind an old Etonian, 22 years older.

But Sam is different. We care passionately. And women's attitudes are wildly divergent. Is she a liberated sexual heroine – after all, a fling with a teenager is the perfect way to get over a marriage split (silly to tie yourself down with a grown-up when you're still processing it all). Or is it just plain wrong on every level? Sexually, morally, professionally.

Where you stand on Sam seems to depend if you define yourself as a mother or a lover. "I just feel protective of that young boy," a PR with twentysomething sons tells me. "Nonsense," disagrees another mother. "It will be the making of him."

A lot of late-night wine has been spilled over this one. "What on earth does she see in him?" asks a friend's teenage son crossly. He seems to take it personally she didn't choose him. Of course young men have always relied on older women for their "sentimental education" – just look at new movie Chéri.

I'd argue that every woman over 40 needs a man she can take to parties, who will laugh at her jokes, remember which cocktail she likes. You don't automatically sleep together (many of the best walkers are gay) but it might be quite nice if you did. Such is the prevalence of the "pragmatic" relationship, there is even a name for the sexually voracious older woman: the urban cougar. Think Sharon Stone, Kim Cattrall, Madonna.

But should the cougars be more scrupulous? Is feminism being distorted by women who are behaving as selfish indivualists? This week American columnist Linda Hirshman huffed about a new generation of "Jezebels" who promote the idea that feminism is simply "doing what feels good".

It's a thorny issue. But women have come late to pleasure. We shouldn't stop now. I wouldn't pay for sex. But I would – and do – pay for good company. Invites, careers advice, nice restaurants, why not? It's what older men have always done with younger women. Johnson will learn a hell of a lot from Taylor-Wood. And I'm not talking about sex.

So Sam, go girl! On the other hand: have you learned nothing in the last 40 years of your eventful life? What the hell will you talk about with a 19-year-old?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence