Why Women Don’t Date Younger Men
Maybe it's society, maybe it's just you
Everybody loves an eyebrow-raising age gap, and for every Scott Disick dating a Sophia Richie, there’s a Priyanka Chopra making some young Nick Jonas’s dreams come true.
Or is there?
According to Dating.com, a relic of the pre-swiping world of internet love, women aren’t pairing up with younger men — or at least not as much as they want to.
While it may sound reasonable that an older, established woman wouldn’t be interested in babysitting a younger boyfriend, the experts over at Dating.com disagree. Last month, the site declared June 5 the “Official International Day of Women’s Dating Rights,” issuing a call for women everywhere to pursue the relationships of their choice regardless of outside opinions.
According to the site, women face disproportionate discrimination when it comes to their romantic preferences, with three out of five female users reportedly claiming that preconceived societal norms limit their choice of dating partners. Dating.com frames this issue as particularly pressing among straight women who may secretly prefer to date younger male partners, with only 78 percent women pursuing a younger partner compared to 89 percent of men.
While this may not be the “whopping” statistical gap Dating.com makes it out to be, it’s notable that measurably fewer women seek younger partners. Potentially more surprising is the fact that, according to the dating site anyway, women aren’t just forgoing younger men in favor of adults with full-time jobs and actual bed frames. Apparently, “a majority of both men and women welcome younger partners.”
The difference, as Dating.com vice president Maria Sullivan tells InsideHook, is that men in hetero relationships tend to be congratulated for seeking and securing younger partners (hence the “trophy wife” stereotype) while women are not so much.
“I think stigma definitely falls more heavily on the women in these relationships,” echoes certified sex coach and sexologist Gigi Engle. “The whole ‘sugar mama’ thing has a range of connotations from the negative ‘desperate older woman’ motif to the positive ‘cougar’ motif,” she tells InsideHook.
However, as Engle’s reference to the “cougar” cliché suggests, while a woman dating a younger man is subject to no shortage of stereotypes, they’re not all necessarily negative. For some women, the cougar identity can be a source of sexual empowerment.
“Gender norms still exist in a huge way, and a woman taking a younger male lover is both a slap in the face to that gendered norm, as well as a power-move,” says Engle.
So if women are confidently backhanding gender norms by heading to bed with younger men, what’s all the reservation Sullivan is seeing over at Dating.com about?
According to Engle, while women may be going to bed with younger men, that dynamic doesn’t tend to have much longevity outside the bedroom.
“I think we’re starting to move into a new world of sexy older women taking younger male lovers, but it hinges more on the sex aspect than the potential to be in a serious relationship,” says Engle. While Sullivan maintains that societal stigma is the “top catalyst” for women to resist pursuing relationships with younger men, that may not be the whole story.
Although Engle calls the common notion of women maturing faster than men “a bit overblown,” she does note that many women seeking hetero relationships may be more likely to find their emotional and intellectual equal in an older partner.
“A younger guy might be fun for a sexual fling, but for longer commitment, many women want someone who is their equal emotionally and financially,” says Engle. In other words, “There is only so much bullshit a woman wants to put up with before she realizes she wants to be someone’s partner, not someone’s mommy.”
Then again, as Engle notes, it’s important to remember these are all just generalizations. Whether more women aren’t dating younger men due to societal stigma, the rumored uselessness of all men under 33 or some other reason you haven’t even considered, any one woman may have as many reasons to date a younger guy as the next woman has to avoid it. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference.
“Age is just a number,” says Engle. “We fall for who we fall for. In the end, we just want to be with someone who makes us laugh and who gets us.” That said, a normal age-to-maturity-level ratio and something separating your mattress from the floor can’t hurt.