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Leonardo DiCaprio splits from girlfriend Camila Morrone, 25, and it begs the question: are age-gap relationships steeped in misogyny, control and abuse of power?

Leonardo DiCaprio has reportedly split from his girlfriend of four years, Camila Morrone – and sadly, this news is unsurprising. The Hollywood actor has been infamous for dating women, most noticeably models, under the age of 25. And Camila turned 25 earlier this year…

The news of the 47-year-old split from the much younger Camila took the internet by storm, with one person tweeting: “There’s no phenomenon on this planet more reliable than Leonardo DiCaprio breaking up with his girl by age 25; the stats are breathtaking.” Another echoed: “The thought of Leonardo DiCaprio possibly dating someone born in the 2000s is actually terrifying.” A third distressingly joked: “The girl Leonardo DiCaprio will dump when he’s 72 was born today.”

Leo met Camila when she was 12 years old (though there’s nothing to suggest it was a sexual relationship at that stage). Her former stepdad Al Pacino (Leo’s close friend) introduced the pair. And while at the time, Camila was 20, and Leo was in his early forties, this was a legal relationship, but for me, it felt creepy. 

This is a topic of conversation that comes up time and time again. Just because it’s legal, does it mean it’s right? Where does grooming stop and consensual relationships begin? At 14, I briefly ‘dated’ a 19-year-old. It wasn’t a sexual relationship, and it ended because of this: I wasn’t ready, and he was pressuring me. I had older men tell me they’d hit me up when I was 18, counting down the days. I saw friends being groomed by male friends of their families and teachers. If I’d been given a pound for every time a man approached me when I was underage and on finding out my age, said I seemed ‘mature’, I wouldn’t need to work right now. At 21, I went on a few dates with a 30-year-old, who told me he ‘liked them young’.

So, this isn’t just happening to celebrities – but, as always, celebrity lives shine a light on issues we all face (if not glossier, richer versions). We’ve seen this with the Kardashian family, when the then 25-year-old Tyga dated then 17-year-old Kylie Jenner. On the flip side, Scott Disick, 39, was dating a then 20-year-old Amelia Gray Hamlin last year. His ex-girlfriend, Sofia Richie, was 18 when they started dating, but they had known each other for several years before she was ‘legally’ datable, as she is a close friend to Kylie.

Natalie Portman has been vocal about her ‘relationship’ with Moby, who claimed in his memoir that they dated briefly when he was 33, and she was 20. Natalie had a very different recounting of this: “I was surprised to hear that he characterised the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me,” she also clarified that she was 18 at the time, not 20.

Last year, the internet was alight with conversations about Millie Bobby Brown and Hunter Echo, because Hunter, 22, claimed he’d ‘groomed’ a then 17-year-old Millie (which she has vehemently denied). The evidence, to me, points that this is a gendered issue steeped in sexism.

And let’s not forget former failed Big Brother contestant Andrew Tate, who alarmingly admitted he would only ever date women under the age of 25 because they’re easily influenced. “The younger the girl is, the less b******* she’s been through with men, and the softer she is as a person, they’re not jaded. It’s hard to get some genuine softness out of a woman who’s 30,” he said during Off The Record with DJ Akademiks. Yes, he actually said that. His shocking sexist and misogynistic views recently got him banned from Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube – and we’re glad that active efforts are being taken to diminish his damaging opinions.

Now, before the Not All Men brigade comes for me, let me clarify some things: of course, not all men, but too many – and yes, there are examples of women engaging in this behaviour too, but those cases are rare. One study found that 7% of married heterosexual couples have an age gap of 10 years, and of that 7%, women are the older ones in old 1% of these couples. I date women and have never had a similar experience to the above with women. And finally, most of my female friends have a similar story, and we all had endless attention from adult men when we were teenagers. The men in my life don’t have similar experiences; adult women were not approaching them in a romantic manner as teenagers.

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