Scott and Amelia’s relationship is controversial for a number of reasons — 18, to be exact.
That’s the number of years between 37-year old Disick and the still-teenaged Hamlin, and many online spectators have taken issue with this vast discrepancy in age.
“Does anyone else think it’s creepy that Scott Disick, 37 is dating yet another teenager who is 19?” demanded one Twitter user. “I do. To me, it just seems there is something inherently wrong there.”
“I am still so shocked that there is not more of an outrage for Scott dating girls who are barely legal,” another indignant onlooker wrote on the celeb rumor site DeuxMoi's Reddit.
Others pointed out that Amelia is closer in age to all three of Scott’s children than to him.
Dating much younger women isn’t a new preference for the reality TV personality.
Disick recently split with 22-year-old model Sophia Richie, who he was first seen with when she was just 18. Scott has also been linked to a number of other romantic interests on whom he has ten or more years.
Nor is behavior like Disick’s uncommon among other public figures and celebrities: it has been noted that Leonardo DiCaprio, now 46, refuses to date women over 25, and wide age gap relationships are prevalent in Hollywood, both on-screen and off.
But why might these relationships be so common, and so visible in popular culture? Let’s break down the reasons behind this phenomenon – and some of its unfortunate side-effects.
Some believe that there is a reason humans are attracted to younger partners, based in evolutionary psychology.
The role of biology is a commonly raised argument in debates surrounding age-gap relationships. The theory goes that human beings are wired to mate with someone who is or appears to be in their prime in order to produce healthy and sustainable offspring, and markers of such a state tend to diminish with age.
Dawn Maslar, an expert in the science of attraction, said in a TED talk that “signs of youth, fertility and good health, such as long lustrous hair, or smooth, scar-free skin, are almost always in demand because they're associated with reproductive fitness.”
These physical qualities signify reproductive ability, which also correlates with youth, as fertility declines for both sexes past a certain point, with women usually reaching peak fertility in their mid-20s. Therefore, it makes sense that one might be drawn to a younger partner.
However, other evolutionary theories complicate this justification.
For example, humans also have a biological inclination to choose partners who can be depended upon for life, and with whom one can effectively collaborate to raise and protect their young. Both of these factors would logically lead individuals to prefer romantic partners of a similar age to their own.
The popularity of age-gap couples can be further explained by social hierarchies.
Studies have found that relationships in which the woman is significantly younger are more prevalent in patriarchal societies. In this context, the woman is generally looking for a man to provide for her, since they tend to be the breadwinners.
A 2010 survey published by the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology showed “resource control” to be a vital factor in mate preference.
The study’s findings reported that “the magnitudes of sex differences in age preferences increased with resource control whereas the sex difference in preferences for ‘physical attractiveness’ over ‘good financial prospects’ disappeared when resource control was high.”
Many have posited the theory that younger women are simply more physically attractive than their older counterparts.
Ignoring its questionable factual basis, this reasoning also relies on a male-dominated structure in its inherent implication that men have a higher level of choice in their romantic partners than women. Thus, such statements are also thinly-veiled assertions of male power.
Based on these data points, the prevalence of relationships with large age gaps in which the man is older is often a marker of a male-dominated society. Accordingly, the increased visibility of such dynamics strengthens the perception of patriarchal structures.
Psychological reasons must not be overlooked in analyzing the rationale behind gender-based age gaps in relationships.
“It’s all about control,” one Redditor theorized of Scott Disick’s relationships with younger women. “They don’t have anything in common but they are easily manipulated because of their age.”
It is an observable fact that emotional maturity correlates with age, as do intelligence and decision-making ability. Young people are often told to “respect your elders,” and the belief that older people are more knowledgeable and worthy of admiration is fundamentally ingrained in our society.
A man who is narcissistic, controlling, or insecure might prefer to date younger women because he believes them less likely to question him, and more apt to afford him blind respect. He may also hope that being with a younger partner will boost his ego by making him feel more intelligent or worldly by comparison, as younger women often lack the life experience to doubt the choices or opinions of an older man.
When it comes to women like Amelia Hamlin, who are still in their teens, the potential for such deferential qualities is amplified due to incomplete cognitive development.
Individuals below their mid-20s are still in the process of developing certain regions of their brains, a process that is especially unfinished in younger years. Areas that are not yet fully formed include those that regulate decision-making and impulse control.
Research has shown that labeling 18 as the age of consent and adulthood is largely an arbitrary distinction.
“To have a definition of when you move from childhood to adulthood looks increasingly absurd,” said Peter Jones, a psychiatry professor at Cambridge University. “It's a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades.”
Of the benchmarks represented by certain ages, Jones said, “I guess systems like the education system, the health system and the legal system make it convenient for themselves by having definitions.”
Incomplete brain development is part of the reason why, at 19, Amelia Hamlin is not yet old enough to legally drink. It has also been argued that the justice system should apply more lenience to criminal cases in which the perpetrator is under the age of 25, as these individuals generally have impaired judgment and foresight due to their lower levels of cognitive development.
In light of this information, teenagers might not be fully equipped to understand the implications of a relationship with an older adult or to safely navigate the balance of power in love and sexuality. These qualities would make them more susceptible to manipulation and abuse.
Despite such moral quandaries, women and girls have long-since been sexualized from a young age in the public eye.
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Modern mass media culture has had the opportunity to reverse this trend and so far has shown little effort in doing so. Rather, research has shown that the portrayal of young girls in film and television is disproportionately sexual and objectifying.
A study by the Parents Television Council on popular television for teens in the 2009-2010 season showed that underage girls were more likely to be depicted in sexual situations than grown women – 47 percent of the scenes involved underage females, with adults comprising only 29 percent.
“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls,” said the organization’s president, Tim Winter, “but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality.
“This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave.”
Studies have also shown that teenage girls tend to appear in more revealing clothing on-screen in popular films.
This fetishization of female youth and innocence can have a profound effect on its subjects.
Female former child stars such as Natalie Portman have spoken publicly about the trauma of being portrayed in sexual roles at a young age.
At the 2018 women’s march, Portman’s speech referenced her breakout role in the film The Professional, in which she plays a precocious 12-year-old who makes advances towards an adult man, and the negative impact playing the part had on her as an adolescent.
“At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” the actress said. “I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and work in order to send my own message to the world: That I’m someone worthy of safety and respect.”
In terms of newer trends, the popular social media platform TikTok has been accused of sexualizing young teens.
The app is largely populated by young people who post videos of themselves dancing, often scantily clad or in a sexual manner – content that provides fodder for pedophilic fantasies.
The objectification of female children and teenagers in the media is perpetuated by the same perverse patriarchal values that revere relationships between young women and much-older men.
Such age gaps have long-since been accepted in society and are often dismissed as human nature, but this outlook can have harmful consequences.
Scott Disick might just be looking for a romantic partner naive enough to ignore his shortcomings or to boost his ego.
A source told Entertainment Tonight that “Scott was lonely when he and Sofia [Richie] broke up, which is one of the reasons he and Amelia got together so quickly.”
Based on this information, one might conclude that Disick is looking for a way to quickly and easily fill a void of companionship; rather than for a lasting, mutually beneficial, mature relationship. He might be taking advantage of the naivety that comes with youth to prevent Amelia from realizing this, as a more experienced woman would potentially be more difficult to dupe into an unfulfilling romance.
Although a relationship between two consenting adults of any age is legal and often morally sound; when one of these adults is still a teenager, it raises ethical concerns about consent and judgment ability.
Furthermore, the growth of age gaps in both distance and visibility indicates male domination in both financial and romantic areas.
The normalization of relationships between young women and much older men upholds the patriarchy, and encouraging or romanticizing such connections can lead to sexualizing underage girls and enabling a pedophilic obsession with youth.
The narrative of age gap relationships is often referenced in order to disempower women – it instills a fear of being “replaced” by a younger woman, evoking deeply-rooted systems of ageism and dehumanization.
Whatever the cause and whatever personal relationship might exist between Disick and Hamlin, the visible acceptance of such relationships contributes to an environment of female subordination – one that continues to be promoted by popular media.
Allie McGlone is a writer who covers a variety of topics for YourTango, including pop culture and entertainment.