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The unspoken reassurance of chronophilias

Photo – Actress Edwige Fenech, in a movie still from the Italian “aunties genre”

One of the many unexpected side effects of the global pivot to the internet, circa 1990, was to introduce the world to tagging. What had been just a librarian’s wet dream thus far become more and more commonplace online as the Web first nudged, then demanded to catalogue every little piece of digital information as precisely as possible. Soon, ‘porn’ didn’t cut it anymore: that pixelated video you hid in a boring-named folder on your laptop was “#kink, #furry, #interracial, #bondage” too, for easy searching and better online monetization. The filing frenzy, in turn, gave rise to an astounding number of hashtags even professional pornographers rarely used before. And if you were a data analyst you would easily notice one of them appearing over and over: ‘nude MILFs pictures’, actually the third most used porn-related online search terms ever. The first? ‘Teen’, cementing the worldwide success of chronophilias.

In sexology, ‘chronophilia’ indicates a sexual preference for a certain age group. Reading down that list of search terms, compiled in the inestimable book A Billion Wicked Thoughts, we find #mature in the ninth place, #grannies (20), #daddies (60) and more. They are also overwhelmingly allophilias, meaning that those who enjoy these genres would almost never be part of them: for example, the ‘mature’ tag is mostly sought by people under 30, barely legal performers generally have middle-aged fans, and so on. By the way, since mainstream porn tends toward the younger side of the spectrum, it is somewhat funny to learn that MILFs (for ‘Mother I’d Love to Fuck’) are often aged 25 to 30, while in tubeland being thirty makes you mature like a wise old relic.

What this teaches us is that humans are hardwired to be attracted by differences – not only in age, but even in erotic experience. There is a strong appeal in fantasizing about learning new sexual tricks from an expert, as much as in teaching what libertines do to a naïve partner. For those who grew up in a sexually repressive environment, the idea of “corrupting” innocents can also be a big turn on, as proven by the timeless success of kinky classics ranging from De Sade’s works to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and more. I’ll skip on the obvious overlapping with incest fantasies and the awkward consequent proliferation of all those “stepsomething” videos on every porn site, clearly to fulfill the demand in a relatively acceptable fashion.

Today, chronophilias tend to be more present in those countries where the population’s average age is more slanted toward extremes. Italy and Japan, for example, have a very high median age of about 46 years and appear to be obsessed with very young heartthrobs, so to speak – while mature characters are the rage in many youth-filled territories such as several African countries. However, such erotic fetishes have always existed. Just think of ancient Greek myths (Oedipus, anyone?) and epics, or even of the intergenerational encounters so common in many religious texts. During the Seventies of the Twenthieth century, the so-called “aunties genre” was even one of the most popular in Italian cinema – entirely based on the seduction of nephews and nieces by unscrupulous relatives.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is probably the patent difference between the normative standards imposed by “proper” – morals and market-driven – culture, and the actual behavior of people when they are free to express their desire. Also, it is perhaps reassuring to know that in spite of all the impossibly high models pushed by the media, in the real world we are surrounded by persons who will always find us hot, no matter our age and looks.

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