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Why do men prefer younger women?

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Across the world, and across religions, cultures and societies, age gap relationships are common. On average, women are younger than their male partners.

This comes from a new study by Pew Research Center. But why is this?

Exploring the dynamics of age preferences in relationships is a fascinating, complex, and often controversial topic. It’s important to approach this subject with sensitivity, as individuals’ preferences and motivations can vary greatly. A degree of tact and caution is needed.

One only need to look at the attention Leonardo DiCaprio has received for his obvious preferences in age to realise there is considerable controversy surrounding the topic. Someone even made a chart to highlight the pattern. Displayed in this way, it’s easy to understand the criticism. He gets older, and they stay the same age.

Celebrity individuals and cultural practices alike have received criticism. Some, rightfully so.

In our exploration, we’ll delve into various factors that shed light on to why this is. Why is an age gap in relationships not only accepted, but often sought after?

The scientific answer  

One perspective that sheds light on age gaps in relationships is evolutionary psychology. This field suggests that a lot of human behaviour can be traced back to our ancestors and their survival strategies. From an evolutionary standpoint, men’s attraction to younger women may be linked to reproductive fitness. Throughout history, a younger partner has been associated with increased fertility, increasing the likelihood of passing on genes to future generations.

Women tend to enter menopause at around ages 45-50, after which she is no longer biologically viable to reproduce children. Therefore, from the point of view of DNA, the younger the woman, and the further away she is from menopause age, the more sexually attractive she is.

On the other hand, a woman’s fertility is at her peak in her early to mid-20’s. Again, from a purely biological point of view, this would appear to be the most attractive age to form a sexual relationship with a woman.

Ironically, the sexual peak in many individuals doesn’t seem to line up with this fact. Many studies seem to tell us women reach a peak in sexual drive and desire between ages 27 and 45.

But a relationship isn’t just about sexual attraction and reproduction – is it? Clearly, something else is going on.

The societal answer  

Societal norms and expectations also shape our perception of relationships and may contribute to some men’s preference for younger partners. In some cultures, there is a conventional notion that a larger age gap is more socially acceptable. These ingrained beliefs can influence individuals’ preferences and perpetuate the idea that men naturally gravitate towards younger women.

For example, arranged marriages can sometimes involve a significant age gap, even leading to child marriage in extreme cases. The familial guardians involved in arranging a marriage may feel like an older man is a better choice for their daughter. He’s more likely to have his life sorted out, with money and a house, so is more likely to provide. An impoverished family looking to change their lot in life could also be tempted by a massive dowry.

Why is the opposite not true? Why would the parents of a younger man not seek an older woman to marry their son? These countries are often more patriarchal, with women traditionally taking a more domestic position while men dominate the political and business spheres. So, an older woman is less likely to have a substantive income than an older man.

To those raised in these cultures, arranged marriage is a fact of life. In fact, derision and criticism can provoke strong reactions. Criticism of arranged marriage often focuses on how it doesn’t allow for important Eurocentric values like individualism, with the implication that these values are intrinsically more progressive and moral.

It fails to acknowledge that in arranged marriage cultures, importance is instead placed on community and duty. Marriage is seen as an alliance between families, rather than just between two individuals. If a potential partner doesn’t match up with these values then the guardians of the arranged marriage will see fit to search for another.

But cultural practices aren’t the only way society can influence personal preferences.

Beauty standards  

We should consider the influence of evolving beauty standards. Societal beauty ideals, perpetuated through media and popular culture, often emphasise youthfulness and vitality. Men’s preference for younger partners may, in part, be influenced by these standards. However, it’s essential to recognise that beauty is subjective, and individuals have diverse tastes that go beyond conventional ideals.

First, it’s worth mentioning that, especially in western media, the older woman is being celebrated more and more. Age is but another category, the stereotypes of which are being smashed in the modern world. Plenty of articles applaud how beautiful or able an older woman still is (though sometimes with a patronising hint of astonishment).

Despite this, the media is still more likely to jump on an older celebrity who has visibly – shock, horror – aged. Even those articles that list the most beautiful celebrities over 50, base it on the fact that they look younger than they actually are. Youth is equated to beauty and beauty is equated to youth.

We can also see this in the difference between adverts aimed at men and adverts aimed at women. Women are told to make themselves look younger and hide the fact that they’re ageing.

With such focus on youth and vitality, these values are placed in high esteem. Young and beautiful actresses and singers achieve the most success and screen time. We’re bombarded with images of gorgeous celebrities who can afford the most expensive health products, and are sometimes digitally enhanced – all to make them look younger. Values such as experience and maturity aren’t appreciated in the same way.

Personal Connection 

However, beyond biological and societal factors, the appeal of younger partners can also stem from shared interests and a similar lifestyle. Despite the generational gap, people with substantial age differences may find common ground in activities, hobbies, or cultural references. This shared compatibility can create a strong bond between partners, regardless of age.

Two people may be at a similar stage of their life which they just happen to have found themselves in at the same time, despite having found themselves there at different ages. Personal development and growth can be a big source of attraction between two people.

Younger individuals often experiment more, explore their interests, and experience personal growth. If an older man has just left a long term job or relationship, or looking for a change in his life, he might behave similarly and the two would understand each other.

On the other hand, life experiences aren’t tied to a specific age like legal requirements are. Once you reach the age of 18, you can expect to be able to drink alcohol, open a bank account, and get married. But at what age can we expect to experience grief for the first time? At what age do we truly reach financial independence? When will we have first lead a team?

These kind of life experiences and the growth that comes from them are what leads to maturity, and can happen at any age. It’s just that the older you get, the more likely they are to happen, and the more mature you’re likely to be. If a younger woman has happened to have these experiences, the resulting maturity could attract an older man.

So does an age gap matter?

Whether age gap relationships are healthy or not, younger female partners are the norm, the world over. Older female partners are rarer. The only thing that changes is the size of the age gap. So what age gap is too big?

Some quote a formula for working this out, such as half your age, plus 7. While this may give you a rough age range to date between, it doesn’t account for all factors. In fact the average age preference for men usually falls above the age range that this formula suggests. Perhaps we shouldn’t follow random rules we read on the internet.

Some age gap relationships are just inherently at risk of abuse. Abuse is a misuse of authority, and a betrayal of trust. Between a teacher and a student or employer and employee, for example, there is implied authority, which comes with an implicit trust. To misuse this authority is abuse, whether you use it for sex or any other kind of personal gain.

Lonely and vulnerable women, such as those suffering with mental health issues, disability, addiction, or those without a healthy support network, are likewise particularly at risk of being taken advantage of by older men. It’s important to learn the red flags and listen to advice given by the people around us. If all your friends are telling you this guy is bad news, maybe it’s worth investigating.

Whenever such an asymmetrical power dynamic exists, there is the potential for abuse. This includes relationships with a significant age gap. However, with respect, honesty and communication, an age gap doesn’t have to be an inherently toxic thing.

Any relationship consisting of two consenting adults, who are mindful of any obstacles the relationship may face, and communicate openly and honestly, stands a good chance of succeeding – regardless of age gap.

The dynamics of age preferences in relationships come from evolutionary, cultural, societal and personal factors. It’s crucial to approach discussions about age preferences with empathy and understanding, as motivations behind these preferences can vary greatly.

An age gap doesn’t have to be an obstacle, although together they will have to overcome the unique ways how an age gap can affect a relationship. There may be a difference in maturity and life experience.

Ultimately, successful and fulfilling relationships are built on mutual respect, shared values, and a deep emotional connection through which the age gap can be bridged.

If you’re looking to improve your success with women, whether you’re an older gentleman, middle-aged or younger, look no further than one of my coaching courses. I’ve worked with countless men just like you for over a decade, transforming their dating lives and finding fulfilling relationships – we’ve even had marriages as a direct result of my course!

If you’re looking for personalized coaching sessions, guidance on building confidence, effective communication strategies, and insights as to what women really want, then contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your dating and relationship goals.

If you want to read more on a whole host of topics related to lifestyle and dating, check out the wealth of articles on my website.

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