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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Dating TrApps




I begin this post with a couple of personal anecdotes. The first relates to my time in Brasil when serving a diplomatic security post as a United States (U.S.) Marine.


Assigned to an all-male detachment of Marines, I received the welcome aboard brief that addressed acceptable and unacceptable standards of behavior. Upon my arrival in Rio de Janeiro, I was advised to check identification (ID) of anyone I chose to date.


Serving under the Department of Defense’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, I was instructed to assume that any youthful-appearing female (girl or woman) I met outside of the U.S. consulate was presumed to be under the age of 18-years-old. There was rationale for this lawful order.


Just as there’s a warning label affixed to blow dryers, advising against use while showering, the ID rule was present for a reason. Apparently, at some point, Marines got themselves into situations in which they were engaging in sexual activity with girls who looked like women.


Therefore, when I met a woman and romantic interest was expressed, I followed orders and ID’d her. Allegedly, one of the Marines with whom I served discovered that the 14-year-old he met, and whose ID he verified, used a fraudulent ID that represented her as 18.


The second anecdote relates to my time in graduate school for counseling. A professor arranged for a man who was a registered sex offender (RSO) to speak with the class.


The purpose of the discussion was to destigmatize mental, emotional, and behavioral health care administration to RSOs, as the majority of my peers in the counseling program refused to work with this population. I found the man’s story compelling.


He’d met his girlfriend while they were both in high school, him being 17-years-old at the time and his girlfriend being 15. They continued their intimate partner relationship after he graduated high school, which made him 18 and her 16.


Notably, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17-years-old. This scenario isn’t as uncommon as one may think. Although there were no sexual relations between us, I had a 17-year-old girlfriend when I was 18-years-old. It was considered an appropriate and legal relationship at the time.


Still, pertaining to the speaker’s case, there was no Romeo and Juliet law in existence during that period. According to one source, “Essentially, the Texas Romeo and Juliet law exempts teenagers and young adults who engage in sexual relations with teens under the age of consent from being classified as sex offenders.”


When his romantic relationship soured, the male speaker’s ex allegedly filed charges. After being found guilty, he was placed on RSO status. Regarding this situation, one source states:


Sex offender registration is a requirement imposed on people convicted of certain sex crimes. The registry is accessible to the public. The people listed often experience stigmatization. They can lose a job or be kept from living where they want to live. Sex offenders have to verify their record at least once a year. Certain convictions require lifetime registration. Failing to register as a sex offender is a felony. Failing to verify registration is a felony, as well.


In a blogpost entitled Normalcy Bias, focused mainly on women, I addressed the topic of adults who engage in sexual activity with minors. Herein, I’ll discuss a trend that facilitates such behavior and which could lead to RSO status if found guilty for having committed a crime – even if unknowingly – largely aimed at men.


Heterosexual male attraction


In this blogpost, I’m speaking in general terms and with the understanding that there is no global assessment rating used, whereby I claim that data presented herein apply to all or most men while moralistically declaring that males are bad or evil for suggested patterns of sexual attraction.


Unique disclaimer aside, a 2001 study reported, “Men of 40, 50, and 60 all seemed to show an interest in partners for sexual fantasies and casual affairs that extended down into the mid to late 20s.” Regarding age differences of this sort, I stated in a blog entry entitled What’s It to You?:


If a man and woman engage in an intimate relationship with a 30-year age difference between them, why ought they not to do so? What is it to the uninvolved person regarding John Doe’s relationship?


The key distinction in that post was sexual attraction between men and women. Nevertheless, I’m not unaware of a 2013 study that found, “Overall, these data suggest that men find pubescent girls identified as being under the age of consent sexually attractive, but inhibit their willingness to report this; the greater the attraction, the greater the inhibition.”


One imagines the topic of men being attracted to teenage girls and younger women is nothing new from a human evolutionary perspective. This isn’t to rationalize or excuse such attraction, though to suggest that it’s likely not a novel topic.


Correlated with the aforementioned 2013 study, I recall years ago having watched a documentary entitled Are All Men Pedophiles? (2013). Regarding the film, one source states:


The documentary explores what it regards as a “pedophilia hysteria” and argues there is a “witch-hunt” against men. Furthermore, it argues that in an effort to protect children, society has begun to isolate men. The film suggests that all men are viewed as potential pedophiles and examines the political and social consequences of that assumption.


For the record, I don’t believe all men have pedophilic, hebophilic, or ephebophilic desire. Nevertheless, and regarding desirability, one 2018 study suggested, “The average woman’s desirability drops from the time she is 18 until she is 60. For men, desirability peaks around 50 and then declines.”


One imagines the sort of person who is surprised by this proposal. After all, a 2020 study spanning across 45 countries reported, “Men, more than women, prefer attractive, young mates, and women, more than men, prefer older mates with financial prospects.” One already presumed this was common knowledge.


In a 2023 blogpost entitled Passing the Baton, I discussed once having had a conversation with a stripper friend of mine, informing her about how with each graduating high school class her job was in jeopardy. I was being truthful, not cruel, when having the discussion.


After all, my proposal was supported by a 2023 study that suggested, “When dating, women seek men slightly older than themselves while men typically prefer younger women.” Generally speaking, heterosexual male attraction favors youthful presentation.


Dating apps


I’ve thankfully not participated in the dating market for over a decade. However, the approximated mean age of clients with whom I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is 32-years old, and most of these individuals are single and dating.


Hearing their accounts of dating apps, I’m relieved to no longer be in the position of my clients. Still, to better inform me of what challenges people experience when dating, I consume content from dating podcasts and online streams.


Recently, I learned of an apparently ongoing issue whereby single men who use dating apps inadvertently maintain contact with underage females. For context, consider that one source reports, “Three-in-ten U.S. adults say they have ever used a dating site or app.”


If one imagines that each person who uses these sites or apps has been authenticated for appropriate age, one would be mistaken. According to one source:


Most popular dating apps (including Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, and Her) mandate that users be at least 18 to join. ​​When signing up, users must provide their birthday or link a social-media profile that includes their date of birth. But they are not required to provide any proof of their age; Facebook and Instagram, which they may connect to their online-dating account, also don’t ask for evidence of a user’s age. Stopping someone from lying about their birthday is virtually impossible, and other safeguards appear to be minimal at best. Anyone who says that they’re 18 or older is free to start adding photos, customizing a profile, and connecting with other users—mostly adults—in their area.


I’ve been informed by clients that social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are utilized for dating opportunities similar to marketed apps designed for dating activity. Alarmingly, one source reports that one in six teens and young adults signed up for dating apps when underage.


If men tend to prefer youthful-appearing females and there’s no absolute certainty for age verification, as was the case when I was in Rio, obvious problems arise when considering the potential for sexual relations with minors. Some adults may unintentionally wind up as RSOs.


Consider that one source reports, “Gen Z [born 1997 to 2013] men are more than twice as likely as baby boomer men to report that they did not have a significant other as a teenager (44 percent vs. 20 percent).” With fewer male dating prospects, one can understand – without excusing – how adolescent females may turn to dating apps for intimate partner relationships.


For instance, one source reports that seven percent of Tinder users are between 13-17-years-old. Aside from an adult unwittingly engaging in an inappropriate or even illegal romantic relationship with a minor – which could result in RSO designation – what are the consequences for minors?


One source claims, “The use of dating apps by adolescents, online privacy victimization, cyberbullying victimization, and online sexual harassment were associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.” It would appear that for the man and girl alike, dating of this sort is a no-win situation.


In this way, it stands to reason that for some people, dating apps may function as little more than dating traps. Not one to blame social media sites and the dating apps themselves, I instead invite people to consider the information offered herein.


Although the end result of males and females who are ensnared by deception provides opportunity for my work as a psychotherapist, I’d rather preemptively address the matter so that people can make well-informed decisions and perhaps forego the need for my services in this regard. The choice is yours to make.




When serving in Rio de Janeiro as a Marine, I was made aware of underage females who intentionally deceived men by lying about their age in order to form intimate partner bonds. As a counseling graduate student, I also became acquainted with the difficulty of RSO status concerning underage sexual relationships.


Considering research and statistical data, on average, heterosexual men tend to be sexually attracted to younger females. One imagines the suggested female peak age of 18-years-old is set at the age of majority, because ethical concerns arise with assessing the suspected actual age which is likely lower.


In any case, I recently became aware of how some adolescents are increasingly turning to dating apps for romantic and sexual relationships. As I recently wrote about women who engage in sexual assault and rape of children, I wanted to balance my perspective by addressing men as RSOs herein.


Even if an adult male meets up with a minor-aged female from use with a dating app, and the girl has falsely presented herself within the age of majority, that’s one dating trApp the man may not have bargained for. This matter becomes even more complicated with sugaring arrangements.


Because I practice REBT and understand the various forms of should statements, and how absolutistic shoulds serve as a form of demandingness, I’ll leave it to the reader to determine what you should do in relation to the topic addressed herein.


If you irrationally believe it serves your interests and goals to become entangled in dating trApps, and wind up with RSO status – perhaps for life, I remain prepared to assist you with psychotherapy regarding how your unproductive assumption led to severe consequences.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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