Relationships with age differences have always existed. Many cultures consider it a central tenet, especially in cultures where multiple partners are tolerated. But usually, it seems to be a story of older men partnering with younger women. Recently, though, that dynamic has been challenged by the increasing frequency of romantic couples consisting of older women and younger men. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, for example, has become a poster child for the success of such relationships, married, as he is, to a woman 24 years older than himself.
The very fact I mention that fact goes some way to showcasing how unusual it is. If the roles were reversed, the age difference between them would come up far less frequently, because it’s not considered unusual for powerful men to take younger wives. The modern reversal, of older women with younger men, is a welcome paradigm shift. But why are older women taking younger men?
A recent study conducted detailed interviews with a group of women who had all been involved with significantly younger men. It identified that there were a number of factors that they sought in men, regardless of the age difference: appearance, intelligence, kindness, family background, and sense of humor. But there was another factor: subversion of convention.
Sex is heavily burdened by conventions and generalizations. Men lust, while women want to be lusted over. Sex refers to penetration. Men should initiate sex. And so on. These scripts are culturally accepted as accurate, but they’re not. Sex is a spectrum of subtle shades, and these simple conventions can easily be inverted.
Unfortunately, when they are inverted, the woman can be subject to criticism and judgment. Many older women with high sex drives often draw unflattering comparison. And when it comes to sex, many women report that it’s easier to persuade a younger lover to perform oral sex for longer, which is far more conducive to her orgasm than penetration. As a result, older women find themselves more sexually satisfied with younger men than with men of a similar age, and oftentimes the men involved appreciate having someone with more experience and confidence telling them what they like. Cunnilingus was a major part of that.
Finally, the study found evidence of the thing we all suspected all along: that younger men have more sexual energy and stamina, including the ability to get an erection sooner after orgasm than their older counterparts. This allows for more sexual experiences per session. In short, some women claim, younger men are simply better sexual partners, and society is beginning to tolerate such relationships more than they had previously.
These so-called age-gap relationships with the woman as the senior partner are more accepted now than in previous times, some observers say. Even so, making the relationship last involves tackling some thorny – and sensitive – issues. Among the common trouble spots, experts say, are differences over whether to have children, anxiety over body image and sexuality, and coping with reactions from peers and family members.
That final issue is a major hurdle for many, since the age gap is often perceived as having a sexual connotation. That’s why it’s impossible to write about this topic without using the word ‘cougar’, a term that has obvious and predatory sexual overtones. That’s a difficult perception to take off, especially when it comes from one’s very own family.
But, the research does indeed suggest that the primary factor for an older woman/younger man relationship does involve a high level of sexuality. Older men, of course, will argue vehemently that they are better equipped to satisfy a woman’s sexual needs, but the evidence doesn’t back that up: the evidence points to younger men as being better lovers.
So we want to know about your experiences. If you’ve read this far and have an opinion on the issue, please feel free to leave it in the comments and we’ll do a follow up article in the near future, compiling all the most insightful opinions we gather.
To start you off, here are a few questions to consider: are young men, or older men, better in bed? Is the attraction to younger men primarily sexual?
Facts checked by:
Dr. Laurie Mintz
Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Florida, teaching Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year. She has published over 50 research articles and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Mintz also has maintained a private practice for over 30 years, working with individuals and couples on general and sexual issues. She is also an author and speaker, spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance sexual pleasure.