Is Leonardo DiCaprio afraid of women over the age of 25?

As the Hollywood actor splits from his model girlfriend, Camila Morrone, months after she turned 25, Olivia Petter asks why some men exclusively date younger women

Thursday 01 September 2022 04:59 BST
Leonardo DiCaprio attends the Oscars in 2020
Leonardo DiCaprio attends the Oscars in 2020 (AFP via Getty)

If you’ve been on Twitter today, you will have seen the graph. You know the one. It crops up once every four-ish years, sort of like the Olympics. Except the participants are a little more famous, the results much more predictable. Titled “As Leonardo DiCaprio ages, his girlfriends’ ages stay exactly the same”, the graph does what it says on the tin. And the internet adores it.

In case you missed it, Leonardo DiCaprio has broken up with his girlfriend Camila Morrone. Unlike other celebrity splits, though, this one is an event. At least on social media. Not because people are particularly obsessed with DiCaprio’s love life – at least, no more so than any other Hollywood actor – or because he has an utterly unsurprising penchant for Victoria’s Secret models. No. It’s because for the last 23 years, the Titanic star’s dating life has followed the same rigorous pattern: meet a woman in her early twenties, date her for several months or years, then break up with her before, or just after, she reaches 25 and presumably turns into a pumpkin.

Of course, we have no idea why the actor and Morrone broke up, nor is it any of our business. But that hasn’t stopped the internet from having a lot of fun pointing out the fact that she turned 25 last month, meaning DiCaprio appears to be upholding his now-infamous age limit – sorry, pattern of behaviour.

He dated Gisele Bundchen up until she turned 23. Bar Rafaeli until she was 25. Blake Lively when she was 23. Erin Heatherton was 22. Toni Garn, 21. Kelly Rohrbach, 25. Nina Agdal, 25. And now Morrone.

“Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio feels bad for all the women who can’t rent a car until they are 25 and is actually a really good guy,” teased one person on Twitter today (31 August). “December 19th will mark the 25th anniversary of Titanic being released in US theatres,” added another, “which means it still has almost four months of eligibility left to go on a date with Leonardo DiCaprio.” A third joked: “The girl Leonardo DiCaprio will dump when he’s 72 was born today”. There is also an influx of women sharing that they marked their 26th birthday with cakes stating that they are now “officially too old to date Leonardo DiCaprio”.

It’s very easy to poke fun at all this. And quite frankly, it is funny. But will we carry on laughing if DiCaprio is still only dating 24-year-old women in his seventies? What is it about 25 that he apparently finds so off-putting? At what point do we stop giggling and start asking what it says about a man who exclusively dates younger women?

There are some obvious reasons why men may prefer to date women in their twenties. In a world that fetishises youth – and consequently demonises women for showing signs of ageing – it simply makes sense. After all, this is what society has taught us is the paragon of beauty. Perhaps some men are too myopic to look beyond that.

But I suspect there is something more insidious going on than mere socially conditioned sexual preferences. Let’s consider what it’s like to be a woman under the age of 25. You’re in the early stages of your career. You’re figuring out who you are. You’re not financially stable. Your housing situation isn’t very nice. And most importantly, you’re eager to please others, even if that means compromising your own needs and desires in order to satisfy theirs. In short, everything is in flux.

At least, this is what it was like for me and my friends. All that is to say that there are substantial differences between women in their early twenties and men upwards of 30. The power dynamic is clear as day: a younger, more insecure and less financially established woman is far more likely to bend to the will of an older man than someone his own age. That’s not to say younger women don’t have autonomy, but they are arguably easier to control. And if that’s what is attracting DiCaprio and co to them, well, that’s deeply concerning.

When I was in my early twenties, I put up with a lot of behaviour from men that I wouldn’t dream of tolerating now that I’m 28. It’s not that I was particularly malleable. It’s just that at that age, I and many of the women I know were ridden with insecurities and, as a result, were easily manipulated by men. We’d spent our teenage years obsessing over our bodies and being told we weren’t good enough. That we needed to take up less space. Change who we are in order to fit in and, crucially, be desired. Hence why a man who wanted you instantly had power over you.

This becomes a problem if and when that man behaves badly. It’s basic sexism that teaches women to dismiss toxic male behaviour, to genuflect at the will of the patriarchy. But they are far more likely to do it when they are younger and singing songs of innocence, as opposed to experience.

For myriad reasons, it can take time for women to acquire the agency they deserve. With this in mind, then, the question remains: do older men avoid dating women over the age of 25 because they’re threatened by them? Does it boost their ego to be with someone younger who is likely to be less secure, emotionally and financially? Are they really that unhappy in themselves?

As Naomi Wolf put it in her 1990 feminist classic The Beauty Myth: “Youth and (until recently) virginity have been ‘beautiful’ in women since they stand for experiential and sexual ignorance. Ageing in women is ‘unbeautiful’ since women grow more powerful with time.”

This is why the criticism angled at men who date younger women is not the same as that which is angled at women who date younger men. Every time that graph surfaces, DiCaprio fans are quick to point out so-called double standards, arguing that women are rarely called out for dating men who are younger than them. This logic is neither sensical nor true – just look at the ongoing furore surrounding Olivia Wilde, 38, and her relationship with Harry Styles, who is 10 years her junior.

None of this is to say DiCaprio’s love life warrants constant critique. And, frankly, who knows what he has against women over the age of 25. But there’s only so long he can continue to date women half his age without scrutiny. In three years, he’ll be 50. Perhaps by then he’ll realise what he’s been missing out on. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing the next updated version of the graph.

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