Monday, April 03, 2006

Double Standard?

So, you guys remember that post that started because someone wrote me a letter suggesting that women in their 30s consider dating men in their 40s and 50s? Well, we determined that some of those men feel that they "deserve" a woman who's young and pretty, who can wear the designer fashions that they want to see their woman in...and the truth is that for some of these men, 30s is too old...they skew toward late twenties... The other night, at Blog Night, a reader told me that she read somewhere that some ridiculously high number of older woman-younger man relationships fail. But we didn't have any stats about the older man-younger woman dynamic, probably because it's more common and no one cares. But if Demi dates Ashton, or Cameron dates Justin, everyone's like..."ooh...she's old enough to be his mother!" So my question is: is there a double standard in effect, or am I (this is the theoretical "I", of course) "allowed" to date someone ten years younger than I am? And if not, is the double standard biological in origin--that men have a biological drive to procreate, so they seek out those likely to be the most fertile? And what about that possible-myth about women reaching their sexual peak in their thirties, while men peak at 18? Is there any truth to that, and if so, what's the big deal with women dating younger men? And now I step back graciously, as the discussion commences.


MLK said...

Philosophically, I'm all for the idea of women dating younger men, it expands dating options (no more of saying "all the goods ones are taken" when new good ones are becoming legal daily). However, from a personal standpoint, its easier for me to date someone who is in a similar life situation. If I'm 30 and in the working world 5+ years, I can't imagine having that much in common with a 20 year old college kid or even a 24 year old fresh graduate. Its not all about age, I wouldn't want a 30 year old who'd never worked a day in his life either, but age does play a factor in the probability that someone will be around where I am in life. I think men care less about that, which is why they can date far younger women.

annabel lee said...

Women live longer than men. Therefore, it makes sense for women to date younger man, because statistically speaking, you'll have more time together.

And the sexual peak thing is another very good argument, I'd say...

Drew_Kaplan said...

I think that it's fine for women to date younger men (no, I'm not asking you out, Esther), but I think one problem might be that the women are much more mature (depending, of course, on their age and personal maturity differences) than the men. Another could be a money factor.

Mike said...

There's definitely a double standard. Unfortunately part of it is biological. If the guy really wants to have children. Who can he marry (or date with the intention of marrying in a few years?) Who can the woman date or marry? It's very depressing.

VJ said...

Double standard? Why yes, alive & well as always.

Sexual peaks? Inaccurately and sloppily measured, and then cited and recited from a minor, half baked study of perhaps 30+ years ago. It can happen at any age, for any number of reasons. The 'classic' case of the 'frigid housewife' who rediscovers her sexuality in her 50's when all the kids leave, and she finally has time alone to herself & her partner. The perennial grump of a very busy business executive who enjoys his 2nd chance at adolescence with that much younger trophy wife. He went to work in dad's business at 13, and never had time for such frivolity in his youth, & he's been working 80 hours a week ever since. He's retired early and now with the help of Big Pharma, he can hit his peak at least every other week, which is an improvement over his previous perfunctory once every quarter with the first wife. (Frustrated at 40, with 2 lovely kids, she finally divorced him over the issue). So it really depends on the circumstances, and if you are willing to work at it, if it's important to you. Your peak can come at any time, really. It just depends on some basic minimal amount of bodily maintenance.

Getting around to statistics, (cause you knew we would), the Census does not accurately report on 'hookups', 'sugar babies' or 'sugar daddies' . It mostly just covers the basics that we as civilians can follow mainly by reading the newspapers. Births, deaths, marriages, age at first birth etc. So know that as common as divorce is, 2nd marriages of any type actually fail at higher rates. There are many reasons for this (and personality is among the main movers here too), it is also true for all subsequent marriages. 3rd's fail at higher rates than 2nds. And yes, having little in common with your spouse often leads to difficulties, no matter how rich you are. Ask Mr. Trump on that score.

It is no surprise that older prospective partners would value the fecundity or fertility of their younger prospective mates. This has been true for time immemorial, why should expect otherwise today? Marriage often is about getting or begetting children. It's a common goal for most married people the world over. (Again, MOST NOT ALL).

So it all comes down to some of the kind of things we mentioned of the 2nd chance daddies set in the first series of posts here. As I said then, this can easily apply to women as well, and statistically this has been increasing steadily if slowly in the last few generations. Older brides are more common today, as are brides older than their respective partners. Now truth be told this was never an 'uncommon' marriage type even perhaps as far back as 100 or 150 years ago. We just see more of it at first marriages today, and it's probably an experience that's more common than it has been in the immediate past.

But to restate the central premise, men at All ages are more likely to marry women who are the same age or a bit younger than them. This is perhaps for the same primary reasons as they always has been. Some of it is certainly psychological. But still, all things being equal, younger women are much more likely to conceive children more easily than older women. There's some serious math that can be added here, but suffice to say it's not as pretty as imagined. That's biology, and nothing in the modern world has yet been invented to repeal some of the more persistent, nastier effects of aging. And no, Viagra does not cover the half of it.

Me, I find it strange to think of 50 something guys with 20 something babes, but hey it happens. I own precious few if any designer fashions, as does my spouse. I deserve a women who well understands what I'm talking about. There were & are precious few of them around. I still have mine, and I'm still glad for that. None of us would be mistaken for 'fashion plates', and there's many good reasons why we don't live in and around NYC.

Cheers & I hope this helps some. 'VJ', ga.

ptwelve said...

hey esther, i found it!
here's the piece that mentions the older woman-younger man age problem as a predictor of divorce, along with some others.

ptwelve said...

this link was supposed to appear with my comment above:

The piece was called "computing the mysteries of attraction" by david leonhardt, pub date march 29th.

ptwelve said...

And here is another story about the weirdos you encounter via online dating sites. The guy is a cop named, ahem, Valentine. The headline says Match.creep, but I prefer Match.con.

The girl dumped the guy, so he hacked into her match account, impersonated her, and arranged dates so that strange men turned up at her home.

VJ said...

Thanks Ptwelve, I'm reasonably familiar with that kind of research & findings. It's nothing that has not been known for about 20 years or more. You just need to sit down and aggregate it all. Still, this can not imply that someone can not find his/her true love outside of these common categories, and indeed this happens every day. Most interfaith couples do fine, ditto for interracial couples too. They have a slightly advanced to somewhat more likely chance of having more difficulties (all things being equal), than do other more similar married couples. But often, all too often, 'all things are NOT equal', and there may be many other factors playing in your favor no matter how 'strange' or 'dissimilar' the union.

Love & understanding may not conquer all, but respect, kindness, thoughtfulness and moderation may win the field for another day of play. That's what I think many couples are missing today, the knowledge of how to put it all together on a continuing basis as a loving couple, and how to prevail in the miseries, trials & triumpths of life together. Without the wack jobs mind you! Thanks for the articles. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

Well ... I just couldn't let this one go by without adding my 2 cents. Yes, there is a double-standard. And yes, women should be able to date younger men. However, I would question how likely it would be for a serious LTR or marriage to come of it. A man can always turn around and move on to a woman who is younger ... and he knows that. How many successful marriages do you know of where the woman is significantly older than the man (and please don't cite me the one or two Hollywood examples like Demi/Ashton) ... I'm talking about how many regular couples do you know like this relative to the "norm"? Some of the ads I see on jdate border on the ridiculous. Women who clearly list their age as 3-5 years younger (or more) than they really are (sometimes even openly admitting it in the ad) who then advertise for men who are 5-10 years younger than their "lowered" age! Most of them are still on jdate after many months or years.

So ... fine ... I'm ok with women dating younger men. I'm only asking where it can go.

Annabel says:

"Women live longer than men. Therefore, it makes sense for women to date younger man, because statistically speaking, you'll have more time together."

Annabel ... respectfully ... it's not about who lives longer statistically. And it's not about sexual peak. Sooner or later, both will pass their sexual peak. And if you think it's impossible for the woman to die before the man, you're wrong (and even if the woman outlives the man ... in the grand scheme of things, it's not like the woman is going to be along for another 50 years ... and let's not make it sound like all widows are helpless to meet someone else). But ... what is IS all about is falling in love, about a connection, about compatibility, and about finding someone who can be a friend for life. I, for one, would consider myself lucky to be blessed with such a person ... even if I knew that I may outlive her ... not everyone is so lucky. By only dating younger men, you eliminate many wonderful men who might fit these criteria.

I agree with the points made by mlk and Drew ... who speak about maturity level matching.

I also agree with Mike, who talks about the biology of it. I also feel saddened by this, because I'm a little older than most of you, and I'm terribly sad about the prospect of not having my own children ... something I've been dreaming about for a long time.

VJ makes some good points (as usual) and I think is telling us NOT to generalize and leave ourselves vulnerable to biases, prejudices, and stereotypes ... something that I've been trying to point out in the past is a major flaw in our society today.

In any case, best of luck to all in finding their partners.

Blogger S.

Anonymous said...

why would anyone want to date someone who is generations removed from their life and perspective...male or female... it is actually like dating your mother/daughter or father/son.. and you want to have sex with them?... sorry if you have to resort to that to have a relationship, you had best examine the reasons you can't relate to someone your own age... yes it does mean you are deficient in a mental way....

Anonymous said...

From Mike:

"There's definitely a double standard. Unfortunately part of it is biological. If the guy really wants to have children."

1. The average age of menopause is 51. Certainly, before a woman reaches menopause, there are issues of declining fertility and increased risk of genetic defects to her offspring as her age advances. BUT...

2. There is mounting evidence that older fathers have an increased risk of passing on genetic defects to their offspring. This effect is INDEPENDENT of the mother's age, and is seen even in a man's 30s.

Given this, what is the justification for a man in his 30's or 30's claiming he must have a 20-something or early-30-something bride if he wants to have children? Given paternal age effects, such a man ought to be wondering if *he* is fit to sire biological offspring.