This piece originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.

Ask VICE is a series where readers ask VICE to solve their problems, from dealing with unrequited love to handling annoying flatmates. Today, we’re hoping to help a reader who is confused about an unexpected and specific same-sex attraction.

Dear VICE,

Lately, I’ve been feeling increasingly attracted to older women, especially when they have a somewhat, er, strict vibe. I don’t understand where this comes from. My relationship with my mother is good, so I don’t think I have mommy issues.

I’m an 18-year-old woman, and I’m pretty sure I’m straight. I keep thinking about a specific type: blonde, aged between 30 and 38, and stern, like a teacher who can maintain order in a classroom. My taste in men is completely different: I’m attracted to guys my age, preferably with brown hair. I do find dominance somewhat appealing, but not necessarily “strictness”.

My question is: Where does my attraction to these types come from? Is it because my mother didn’t raise me in a strict way at all? Or is there something else at play here?



Dear A.,

Although we have some research on the attraction of young men towards older women, our understanding of lesbian attraction to MILFs is lacking. What we do know is that people in same-sex relationships are more likely to have a 10+ year age gap, and that’s true for queer women, too. 

One dataset from Canada found that 18 percent of queer women were dating someone at least ten years older, as compared to 4 percent of women in straight relationships. In another survey of queer women aged between 18 and 29, 77 percent of participants said they were open to dating someone ten years older or more.

That being said, there are nuances between being attracted to someone, having a kink involving a specific type of person and seeing someone as a potential romantic partner. Good news: You get to explore what your attraction means to you!

Let’s start with the basics: Can your sexual orientation change at 18 years old? There are different theories about that, said Yuri Ohlrichs, a sexologist at the Rutgers Center of Sexual Health. “It seems that these preferences are somewhat preprogrammed,” he explains. “But that doesn’t mean your taste can’t change as you get older.”

Most people develop what they like and don’t like in the bedroom before hitting puberty, but it’s totally possible to find out your sexuality is more fluid than you previously thought well after that. The older you get and the more you see and experience, the more you develop as a person – that includes your sexuality, too.

Ohlrichs likes to think about sexuality through the concept of a “love map”. Everyone has their own unique map of romantic and sexual preferences, and everyone decides how much or how little of that map to explore. “You may cover the whole map in your lifetime, or leave certain parts undiscovered,” he says. There’s also no golden rule about how much you should explore and at what pace, he hastens to add.

Some people are perfectly content spending their whole lives in the one zone. Others enjoy venturing out. Sometimes meeting someone can push you in a certain direction – so can reading a book, watching a movie and scrolling through your phone on Hinge.

“For example, people often say they discovered they were turned on by leather when they saw someone wearing leather pants for the first time,” he explains. “When you notice something like that for the first time, you’re exploring a new spot on your love map. That spot was always there, but apparently, you didn’t get the stimulus to discover it earlier.”

In your letter, you seem to be worrying about whether your fantasies stem from your lenient upbringing. The only way to really figure out if that is true is through sex therapy, Olrichs says. Your upbringing may certainly have something to do with it, but a kink doesn’t necessarily have to originate from your childhood.

“It’s possible you once saw a sexy music video featuring an attractive blonde teacher when you were first exploring your own sexuality,” he suggests. “If you enjoy being dominated, the idea of an older woman with more experience taking charge can be quite appealing.”

The origins of this specific attraction don’t actually matter that much at the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with being into what you’re into, so there’s no need to turn this into a problem with a supposed cause.

It’s perfectly possible that you used to fall for boys your age, but have since found out through experience that you find certain women attractive. It kind of makes sense that you’ve always seen yourself as straight – in our society, heterosexuality is the default most of us have grown up with. The reality is, sexual preferences are usually much less black and white – you might find out that you find MILFs very sexy, but you don’t see yourself falling for one in a romantic way.

Ohlrichs’s best advice for you in this case is to take your time and space to experiment. Try expanding your age range on Tinder, for example. Read, listen or watch erotic content on topics you are curious about. Flirt with an older woman if you feel like it. As long as you do it in a safe, consensual way, these can all be exciting experiences.

That being said, fantasies that involve age differences, power and dominance can sometimes veer into unhealthy territory, so making sure your relationship is safe should always be your top priority. To make sure you do that, you could refer to the Flag System to sense check what’s acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviour.

You’re already probably somewhat familiar with it: Black flag means abort mission immediately; red flag is bad; yellow flag means not great, but let’s see where it goes; and green flag is yes, yes, yes. Initially developed for children, the system rests on six pillars: mutual consent, voluntary engagement, equality, age appropriateness, appropriateness within the context and self-respect. For instance, you could use this framework to assess whether you’re OK with the power imbalance carrying through the relationship outside the bedroom or if that’s just a no-go for you.

As long as you keep checking in with yourself while you’re on this smutty little journey of exploration, you’re probably gonna have the time of your life. Enjoy it!