For a while it seemed like older women dating or marrying younger men was becoming more acceptable. Beautiful celebrities like Demi Moore and Madonna married much younger men and the press seem to accept this rather than criticize it like they did years before when celebrities like Cher were involved with younger men. It even seemed like this positive view of older women and younger men might carry over into everyday life, but then a series of television shows with the word “cougar” in them seemed to declare that women dating younger men was still not as acceptable as men dating younger women.
So just where did we get this notion that the man should always be older than the women? And why is there such a double standard when it comes to women dating younger men? Here are some points that I’ve come across as I’ve taken a closer look at why we tend to view a man dating a younger woman as more acceptable than a woman dating a younger man.
The Maturity Factor
When they’re growing up, girls mature a few years earlier than boys. In previous generations, it was common for women to get married anywhere from their late teens into their early twenties. It makes sense that women tended to marry men a few years older than they were because these men were mature enough to marry.
Of course these days, the average age for women to marry is nearly twenty-seven, and by this age, men have long since caught up with their maturity level (and the few that haven’t caught up most likely never will). The maturity factor is not an important factor like it used to be, but the notion that the man should be older than the woman has not caught up with the times.
Man as the Provider
Another big factor in how the tradition of the man being older than the woman came to be is due to simple economics. Back then, the man was the provider, and even if a wife did work she was not the primary bread winner. The need to find a man who was financially able to support a wife and family drove many women to find a man who was more established rather than one who was just getting started in the work force. Of course just like the maturity factor, all this has changed with women having careers where they earn a large portion or maybe the largest portion of the family’s income.
One thing that has not changed with the times is the simple biological fact that a woman only has a certain amount of childbearing years. A women who is getting to be forty is running out of time to have children despite some advances in science, whereas a man in his forties has no such limitations. For this reason, men who want children are often willing to get involved only with older women who are still in the middle of their prime childbearing years rather than nearing the end of those years.
Standards for Dating a “Younger” Person Vary Depending on Who is Older
When we think of men dating a younger woman, we usually think of an age gap that is somewhere around 8 to 10 years. If the man is only 4 or 5 years older than the woman he’s dating, then we tend to think of them as being the “same age.” This is not so for women, where it is not uncommon to hear a women say that she is dating a younger man even if she is only 2 or 3 years older than him.
So yes, there are many double standards when it comes to older women dating younger men. Many of the double standards are a throwback to an older time when couples married much younger and life was very different. Of course there is still a double standard that is very much alive today, as proven by the popular term “cougar.” I don’t find the term offensive, but it certainly is a negative term which makes it sound like the older woman is just waiting to pounce on and rip apart these younger men.
What do you think? Is there still a double standard when it comes to women dating younger men? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.