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As the age gap increases, Manlove explained, the likelihood of using contraceptives decreases.

Judy Prays, a 24-year-old graduate student living in Atlanta, dated older men from the time she was 16 -- intentionally. "I thought it was so romantic and glamorous and adventurous," she said. I was interested in the other person being in control of everything, being the smarter one, the stronger one.

Although adolescents know right from wrong and understand consequences, she explained, "their ability to carefully consider these matters is somewhat limited relative to adults." Sexual relationships and marriages between adult men and adolescent girls have very been common historically and continue to be in many other cultures.

She argued that these relationships are too harshly criticized."True love can be ageless," declared actor Doug Hutchison, 51, an actor who starred in the television series "Lost," when he announced his May marriage to Courtney Alexis Stodden, a 16-year-old beauty pageant queen turned aspiring country star. Kelly's rumored romance with 15-year-old singer Aaliyah to rocker Ted Nugent falling for 17-year-old Pele Massa in 1978 -- and becoming her legal guardian because she was too young to marry him -- relationships between older men and younger girls never fail to make us squirm. states, a person can't legally consent to sex until age 17, and individuals under 18 years old must have a parent's permission to marry in all states except Nebraska, where the legal marriage age is 19. Lou Ann Brizendine, who has written about brain development in males and females, says that girls' brains are as much as two years ahead of boys' during puberty and that boys may not even catch up to girls until late adolescence or their early 20s, so a few year between partners can -- and often does -- make for a compatible match.A few weeks later, ' June 16th Vows column featured the wedding of Christopher Cox, 32, the grandson of Richard Nixon and former campaign aid to John Mc Cain, to Andrea Catsimatidis, whom he met when she was a senior at an Upper East Side high school. This squeamishness is understandable: Hutchison is nearly old enough to be Stodden's grandfather. Of course, men have paired up with younger women -- often much younger women -- for all of human history. Marriage aside, the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that a significant number of girls lose their virginity to older partners.C., has looked at contraceptive use amongst teen girls and found that those dating men who are 3 to 4 years older are at higher risk of STD and pregnancy than those having sex with boys their own age."Even if the girl would prefer to be using some type of contraceptive, she's less likely to do so if the guy has more power in the relationship," said Jennifer Manlove, a senior research scientist with the organization.