- A new study found that many women enjoy dating younger men because it breaks down social barriers they traditionally face in relationships.
- Women in the study tended to assert their sexual needs and often experienced heightened levels of sexual pleasure with younger male partners.
- In the study, women reported that they were drawn to younger men's sexual stamina.
When an older man is in an intimate relationship with a younger woman, we rarely bat an eye. It's a relationship structure that we have become used to seeing in our culture. George and Amal Clooney, Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones — the list goes on and on. However, we are much less accustomed to seeing relationships in which the woman is noticeably older than the man.
When we do see these relationships, we tend to think of her as an object of his sexual fantasy (think of Stifler's mom in American Pie). Older women are also sometimes fetishized (there are "MILF" categories in pornography, for example).
But a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research challenges what we might think we know about "cougars" by asking women who date younger men about their experiences and motivations.
The research suggests that not only does dating younger men allow women to break down some social norms and barriers that might otherwise be present during heterosexual sexual interactions, but women reported high levels of sexual pleasure and satisfaction within these intimate partnerships.
Milaine Alarie at the Institut National de la Research Scientifique, in Montreal, interviewed 55 women aged 30 to 60 who reported having relationships with younger men (termed "age-hypogamous intimate relationships"). In order to be eligible for this study, women had to be in a relationship with a man at least five years younger than her. There was no criterion related to the length of the relationship. In that sense, women reported on their experience of dating as well as casually sleeping with partners.
1. Women were attracted to younger men's sexual stamina.
Over the course of the interviews, women in the study reported that they were more sexually drawn to younger men because they believed younger partners had more to offer sexually. Specifically, women indicated that compared to men their own age, they felt younger men tended to have higher sex drives, could last longer during sex (or be physically ready to have sex again sooner), and had more reliable erections.
Given that many women in this study described having a fairly high level of sexual desire, they saw this as a very positive aspect of dating younger men. As one woman said: "I have a big sexual appetite, very big. I might want to do it, like eight times a day, you know. So with a man in his 40s, he will find that fun the first week. But I can tell you after the second week, he doesn't find it funny anymore."
2. Women felt more comfortable embracing their sexual assertiveness.
Women in the study also described how dating someone younger than them allowed for the disruption of certain restrictive gender roles. That is, in traditional heterosexual partnerships, the man is expected to be more sexually experienced, while the woman is typically more passive and receptive to his advances. Women in this study, however, felt that being older than their male partner allowed them to embrace their sexual assertiveness. Many women felt that younger men fantasized about older, sexually assertive, and experienced women and said their younger male partners were often appreciative of them taking a more active role.
Women also described feeling less preoccupied about rigid beauty standards that may have been restrictive earlier on in their lives. Some women described feeling more comfortable with their bodies now than they might have been when they were younger, which they described as translating into more sexual confidence. As one participant said: "Older women, we're more, you know, confident about ourselves. And we are going to walk into the room in our lingerie, if we have cellulite or not, you know? And a younger woman would be like, 'Oh my god! I can't wear this in front of him!'"
3. Women felt able to place greater importance on their own sexual pleasure.
Women in this study often described the importance of prioritizing their own pleasure during sex. Women said they liked dating younger men, because, from their experience, younger partners were more motivated to provide pleasure and satisfy them before they satisfied themselves.
As outlined previously, women described how they believed younger men had a higher level of sexual stamina, sexual openness, and perceived ability to have and maintain erections for longer and more enjoyable sexual encounters. Because of this, women felt they could ask for more of their sexual needs to be met. Some women also indicated (again, from their personal experience) that men their own age could be more preoccupied with their own erections and sexual pleasure than providing it. In that sense, women in this study indicated that they believed younger men were more motivated to please. As one participant shared: "Younger men try a bit harder — they want to impress you with their skills and their prowess, what they are able to do, and to what extent they can pleasure you. I have the feeling that they try harder than older men."
Women who date younger men go against traditional sexual scripts. The findings from this study suggest that women who participate in age-discordant relationships may be more comfortable asserting their sexual needs, and they may experience heightened levels of sexual pleasure. Notably, the sample was largely Caucasian and highly educated, so it would be important to study a more diverse sample to better understand the full range of women's experiences.
Facebook image: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock
Milaine Alarie (2019): Sleeping With Younger Men: Women’s Accounts of Sexual Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate Relationships, The Journal of Sex Research, DOI:10.1080/00224499.2019.1574704