After reading this article about women in their 40s and 50s and their dating experiences, I had to seek out one of the mentioned sources – The Plankton: Life at the bottom of the sexual food chain. It’s viciously pessimistic, funny and insightful. I’m not convinced by all of the author’s opinions, but I don’t discount the veracity of her experiences. What follows began as a comment on one post that, on reflection, I wanted to amend.

Leaving aside many of the complexities of contemporary heterosexual relationships, I think the author of Plankton is wrong about the common age difference phenomenon between men and women in relationships, where men supposedly always prefer younger women and, as they age, lose interest in women their own age.

I also think she is unfairly negative about men. All men are not the same. I think there is a fundamental double standard in society about age differences in relationships. It is obvious that men have long had relationships with women significantly younger than themselves, whereas women have not, until quite recently, enjoyed the opportunity (the social freedom and economic power) to have relationships with men significantly younger than themselves.

I find it particularly unreasonable when women accuse all men of only wanting younger women, and when women attribute all responsibility for the older man – younger woman relationship on men. From my experience, women perpetuate the older man – younger woman partnership as much as men do.

On their profiles on dating websites, most women do not appear to be looking for or want attention from younger men. They list their age preferences for their own age – older. Rarely do they seem accept or initiate contact with men younger than themselves.

As a tertiary educated, professionally employed and financially independent man, I prefer relationships with similarly educated and cultured partners and I often feel women older than me are socially the best match. But I find it very difficult to meet them, either in the real world or online.

In my early to mid 30s I had a couple of relationships with women in their mid 40s. More recently I have had relationships with women very close to my own age simply because they appear to like themselves and want to communicate and flirt to establish a new partnership, whereas women in their mid – late 40s dismiss me.

So many women seem neurotically insecure and self-doubting and simply can’t or won’t believe that a younger man is genuinely interested in them. It’s frustrating and insulting therefore to be told that this is my fault. I think many women simply don’t give men a chance before rushing to stereotype them.

Age may be an important indicator of compatibility, but I think social status and personal values are even more important.

the age difference double standard

5 thoughts on “the age difference double standard

  • 21 July 2011 at 8:20 am
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    Dear Brian – You’re one in a million you are !! Thanks for restoring our hope :) My mother talked about being invisible all the time – standing at a counter at DJs and waiting and waiting and waiting to be served….it happened to me the other day….I’m not quite sure what was going on but it was quite extraordinary…even a kid came up to the counter well after me and was served…and then the woman said…”Oh I thought he was with you…do you need something?”…..!!! I wasn’t offended – just interested….maybe as we get older we get lets rushed and don’t look like we’ll kill someone if we don’t get served NOW!! Who knows what signals we send out when we’re 50 ?- I’m kinda glad to be left alone now – to be able to walk into a restaurant/bar/coffee whop without being checked out – it’s kinda relaxing really….but then maybe that’s because I’ve got a partner…maybe I’d feel different if I didn’t.

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    • 21 July 2011 at 11:13 am
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      Yes I think if you’re not looking then it’s a very different experience.

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  • 21 July 2011 at 10:45 am
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    Well those sorts of articles are media beat-ups like a lot of journalism… but it is somewhat disconcerting to experience the vast gap between articles like that and the reality of um… mature-age… internet dating.

    FWIW there are female behavioural patterns that exist and could be made into stereotypes pretty easily. The main one I encountered was this: a lot of young women dream of meeting Prince Charming but end up only ever meeting Barry Bogan from East Beeristan. After a while, they end up marrying Barry to get the 2.4 kids cranked out, but hate the whole experience. Then they get divorced in their mid-40s and vow “never again – I’m only going to live with Mr Perfect”. So they sign up for online dating and spend the next 10 years waiting for him to come along. Funny that he never does. The other factor is that these women have a companionship circle anchored by their kids and are not lonely. And by this stage they are generally not terribly interested in sex. This removes two key pressures to bust a move, relationship-wise, which reinforces the fishing-expedition mentality.

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  • 21 July 2011 at 7:07 pm
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    The age difference is only relevant if you give a damn. I’ve always looked for people who are confident, interesting, creative and fun, and have been with some totally beautiful people ranging from 20ish-50ish. In my experience, people don’t focus on finding younger (or older) partners, but get together via social compatability/personality. Stereotyping all men is neither accurate or helpful.

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  • 21 July 2011 at 11:13 pm
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    We’re still living in a world where the social norm is older man + younger woman – there are lots of reasons for this but for some of us, it’s about finding the right partner irrespective of age.

    Since my early twenties I’ve found that it’s mostly younger men who asked me out – and the men my age and older that I was interested in were looking for younger women. I’ve always found it odd, but seen no barrier to happiness with someone younger, so for me, it’s not important – if I preferred to have a partner my age or older though, I would have been single pretty much constantly!

    There are drawbacks in bucking the trend though – twice strangers have embarrassed themselves by assuming my husband is my son! If he were the older, no one would even notice the age gap.

    Oddly, since my late thirties I seem to have become hot property for men in their fifties – I get asked out fairly often, less often now I have a wedding ring but it doesn’t put them all off. I can’t imagine becoming “invisible”. My most recent attention was from a chap in his early twenties :) what’s attractive is personality, not age.

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