If you're a heterosexual woman who cares about such things, at around what age do men stop looking at you?
March 30, 2009 12:01 PM   Subscribe

If you're a heterosexual woman who cares about such things, at around what age do men stop looking at you? I don't mean a husband, or a boyfriend - I mean men on the street.

Does it happen suddenly, or over weeks, months? How long did it take for you to notice this, and was it liberating, disheartening? Both? How does it change things? Does it change anything? Does it even matter? I am curious.
posted by Sully to Human Relations (67 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
from the way i've heard men holler at women, never! :)

i think that if you carry yourself a certain way and take care of yourself, you're bound to attract a degree of attention no matter how you old you are.

i'm sure sophia loren got cat calls pretty late in the day!
posted by sio42 at 12:12 PM on March 30, 2009

As a herosexual married man in middle age, I would suggest that men never stop looking at you, provided you have some attribute that they find attractive.

I was peronally amazed to find that after I turned about 45, I was suddenly attracted to women in their 40s. Kinda cool how that works. Women in their 20s are still attractive, but that is so out of the question that it doesn't occupy my mind much. But a fit middle aged woman in Carharts who can handle a chainsaw and knows which end of a cow to milk, well that floats my boat.
posted by csw at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2009 [17 favorites]

Age isn't the only factor. At my current weight, I get glances, but not the long looks I did when I weighed less. Most of the time, having men on the street look at me is kind of annoying, but when it's someone I know and find attractive giving me that look, well, that's a whole different ballgame.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2009

It started about 10 yrs ago for me - age 29. It coincided with when I got married. A visible wedding ring really changes the dynamics. It actually was quite depressing, because it was sudden and unexpected. Once I realized it was the ring and not me, I felt better.

Then there was the "Desperate Housewives" era. I look a bit like Terri Hatcher would if she squeezed out 2 kids and completely let herself go. I got hit on by the most dumpy middle aged men during this era. Including the postman. So if I wanted to have an affair, that's what I would have to choose from. Damn.

Now my kids are older and I am less in mommy mode, I see myself transitioning into one of those short-haired middle aged women who jogs and runs for local office and organizes the neighbors to clean up streams and rivers.

It changes things immensely. If you have ego invested in men checking you out, then it's a blow when it stops. You just have to find other things to replace it with. For example, I discovered I am surprisingly good at being a mentor to younger men (20-ish). I am like their nice aunt, their mom's younger sister. That dynamic would have been impossible when I was the same age as them.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:19 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm sure each person is different. But for me, it seemed to happen quite suddenly. And it wasn't just men that have stopped looking (because I'm not sure if they ever did), but I've noticed a shift in how people in general address me.

I always looked quite young for my age. When people would learn that I was married and had children, they were floored, telling me that I was much too young to have a husband and children. One woman at the airport told me that my baby was beautiful, then disdainfully looked at me and said, "but then you're still a baby yourself" (I was 25) and walked off.

However, over the past year, it's changed. Even when I don't have my children with me or when I'm not wearing my wedding ring, people have been referring to me as ma'am, instead of miss. When I get my haircut these days, instead of the hair dresser asking if I am still in school or not, it's "how many children do you have?"

Maybe I'm more tired looking or something; I suppose I have started looking my age (ripe old age of 33 that I am). Maybe I've gained a little weight. Maybe I'm just too tired and busy to really notice anyone noticing me anymore. But I tend to think that they are not noticing me.

And . . . it's been sad. Not liberating. It has been disheartening. I feel like I barely got a chance and now everyone is overlooking me for the tired mom I am.

At the same time, when people would mistaken me for a teenager when I was actually 30 years old, that would grate on me - I felt no one took me seriously. But now, I do wish for those days.

Disheartening . . . yes. Absolutely.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:21 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

i'm in my 40s, not married, no children. The men are still looking. I'm hoping they don't stop anytime soon.
posted by Maisie Jay at 12:25 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm pretty sure this depends on the woman- how she happens to be aging, but more importantly, how she styles herself, carries herself, makes eye contact, walks, etc. I don't think it's entirely age-related. Even a much older woman can look like a total hottie- I recently met a woman twice my age who was waaaaay hotter than me, and clearly knew it, her cleavage lit up the night- and even Angelina Jolie could have chosen, (before getting famous, I mean), to asexualize the energy she exudes and therefore, to some extent, receives. I mean for me, men didn't look at me on the street very much when I was 18 (the clothing I favoured didn't really invite it) but they did when I was 16 and they started to again at 20. I attribute this entirely to what I telegraphed, as nothing else about me really changed (same face, hair, and weight throughout).

As for how it feels, I think again it's pretty case-by-case. At 16 I liked being looked at, at 18 I didn't, so I deliberately dressed to minimize attention (hid my figure under men's clothing in baggier styles, quieter colours, hair back, no makeup or jewellery, etc). The exact same attention at 16 and at 18 would have mad me pleased on year, irritated the next. And the attention I attracted came & went very suddenly- if I wore tight silhouettes, had my hair down, and wore eye makeup: attention. Huge men's khakis & a large Homer Simpson T-shirt, hair in a bun, no makeup? No attention. I could pretty turn it on and off by letting my hair down and changing into a tank top.

These days, sometimes I really like being looked at on the street, but sometimes it makes me want to attack people, and sometimes it makes me feel crappy & want to hide. When I've made an effort to enhance my looks & carry myself with presence- like on the way to a job interview or something- I'm thrilled when I get looks, as it makes me feel like I'm onto something. But when I'm tired and crabby, or having a bad day and some random douche tells me to "smile, you're a pretty girl" I get utterly stabby. How cute the guy is definitely makes a difference, too, and how condescending, manipulative, or creepy the attention feels.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:25 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm 38. It might be age (help my bloom is gone), or it might be that I usually have a young kid or two with me, but I'm no longer attractive to the yelling-out-of-car-windows crowd. It happened gradually over the last decade. Somehow I soldier on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think Sophia still gets those whistles! I've noticed that women who remain shapely still attract men, no matter what decade of their lives. I think that some women waste a lot of money on skin care, hair coloring, and makeup of all sorts, when all that's really necessary is to keep fit and smile! By "fit" I don't mean skinny---men like curves, ladies.
posted by ragtimepiano at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm 38 but I look about 25. That's not vanity, that's everyone who asks "How old are you?" and then doesn't believe me when I say "38." I still get looks from guys, and much younger ones at that. But only if my two kids aren't with me! I'm in shape and I wear nice clothes (meaning I don't shop in my sweats). Perhaps that and my youthful look (thanks, genetics!) helps.

Oh, and my mother, who is almost 70, doesn't look a day over 50. That makes me ridiculously happy.
posted by cooker girl at 12:35 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm in 100% agreement with csw. (I'm a 42 y.o. married man).
posted by jockc at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm late 30's no kids, no hubs and they haven't stopped yet... I won't lie when I say it's flattering to think that knocking on 40 men still perk up when they see me. For me, the interesting thing is that my response has changed and I've gone from feeling at times harassed or exposed and am now able to completely shrug it off if I want, or take it as a compliment.
posted by poissonrouge at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2009

I would challenge any woman up to age 70 who feels like she's too old for male attention to do the following one night:

Acquire hair that's below the shoulders, with some volume on top (wear a wig if needed)
Makeup, including glossy lips, black eyeliner, & lots of mascara
Bit of a tan, earrings, couple pieces of jewellery- no wedding ring
Wear a fitted business suit with the jacket nipped in at the waist and a wee bit of cleavage
shortish skirt, black nylons, ankle bracelet, 3 inch high heels
Basically, dress rather like Sarah Palin- then make eye contact and smile & laugh a lot.

If you do this, you'll get male attention. Period.

All of these cues- long hair, makeup, jewellery, legs, hourglass silhouette from the nipped-in waist (even if she's not naturally slender) combine to send out the signal, "I am eligible and have sexual energy, possibly to share". At a certain point, the flat-shoes, short hair, sensible clothes might not say that any more, but if you rock the ankle bracelet? Men's gazes will come. Not saying they're the men you want to be ogled by, and certainly not recomending this as the way all women should carry themselves-- but you sure won't feel ignored.

There's a woman I work with who's close to retirement age, and who by most standards would be past the age of male attention, but she has highlighted hair, a ton of eye makeup, and an ankle bracelet- she looks like a 57 year old party animal, and I see her get looks all the time. Meanwhile another woman in the same environment, of the same age, who kind of looks like Martha Stewart- much more "tasteful" and "classy" and in fact, probably "prettier" than the first woman, by most people's standards (bigger eyes + smoother skin)- but nobody ogles her because she dresses like someone they should be deferential to, instead. She's totally rocking the "classy aunt" look.

Again, I think the Sarah Palin costume will prove to you that it's not your looks themselves that have made the difference, but that your signalling has a profound effect. To get the same attention as you age you may need to up your signals somewhat, but it is achievable.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2009 [9 favorites]

If you're a heterosexual woman who cares about such things, at around what age do men stop looking at you?

Forgive me if the answer seems blindingly obvious, but doesn't this depend on the woman?

Does it happen suddenly, or over weeks, months? How long did it take for you to notice this, and was it liberating, disheartening? Both? How does it change things? Does it change anything? Does it even matter? I am curious.

I think it affects women are considered highly attractive much more so than your everyday Jane. I have yet to hear a beautiful woman ever say aging is "liberating." It is usually depressing, and at best, a mixed bag.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:43 PM on March 30, 2009

I take exception with pseudostrabismus's assessment that makeup, a suit, big hair, and cheap sparkles is what it takes to turn a man's eye. I don't wear makeup or "dress like Sarah Palin." I wear sweater sets and pearls and jeans, much like the mousy Martha Stewart in your description. I'm attractive, but not stunning. What I do have is a spark in my eye and a sense of fun. That works much better than an anklet.
posted by Maisie Jay at 12:54 PM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Mojo is largely in attitude and how you carry yourself. I'm 35, but have noticed for many years that being invisible and being very obviously noticed is a flippable switch that directly correlates to the strut of my step.

The decline I have noticed is that being dressed up used to guarantee a head-turn (and usually got truly obnoxious comments as well), now I can be invisible when dressed up if I lack that spring in my step, and the commentary isn't quite as vulgar. Age of ogling has increased -- the teenage boys seem to recognize that I'm too old for them, but the middle-aged men are more shameless than when I was younger. I also don't mind as much -- attention from even inappropriate men isn't as likely to spook me.

On preview: I have yet to hear a beautiful woman ever say aging is "liberating." It is usually depressing, and at best, a mixed bag.

I'll say it: Aging can be liberating. I certainly wouldn't broadly paint it as "usually depressing." Dunno if you would qualify me as "beautiful," but I have it on good authority that I'm worth a look, a not just by my SO.
posted by desuetude at 12:57 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think this is an unanswerable question unless it is a poll, because this is different for every woman and every culture.

I do want to mention that Milan Kundera wrote, in Identity:
Chantal's phrase echoed in his head and he imagined the story of her body: it was lost among millions of other bodies until the day a look of desire settled on it and drew it forth from the nebulous multitude; then the number of such looks increased and set afire this body, which ever since has been moving through the world like a torch; now is its time of radiant glory, but soon the looks will start to grow fewer, the light to dim little by little, until the day when this translucent, then transparent, then invisible body will pace the streets like a small itinerant non-being. On this journey from the first invisibility to the second, the phrase "men don't turn to look at me anymore" is the red light signaling that the body's gradual extinction has begun.
p. 37.
posted by prefpara at 1:04 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm 37, and know a lot more about how to turn it on & off than I did when I was 25. Traveling for work in an unfamiliar city, I can get a late night meal alone in a bar -- at the bar -- either with no one pestering me at all, or just friendly idle chit chat as though I were a guy. (The book I carry is a huge signal.) However, dressed the same but in a different mood, I still occasionally get strangers approaching me to tell me I'm beautiful.

And though I am unmarried, fit, and color my (short!) hair to cover the gray, I definitely don't look, act, or dress like Sarah Palin.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fortysomething here, but I'm small, and because of how I dress, I appear to look like a college student until one gets close enough to see the laugh lines. The men are still looking. And shouting things from cars when I walk down the street. My mom, at 83, even reports that *she* gets checked out by men of all ages on the bus! So I'm going to say they never really STOP looking.
posted by chez shoes at 1:14 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm so glad you asked this. As I have gotten older, I notice that I get much less attention from men in certain situations, but just as much as when I was younger in others.

But here's the thing - in a social setting or a bar, out with friends, when I've taken the time to look good, I get much fewer looks than when I was younger.

But when I'm walking the dog, in running shorts or pants and unshowered, I get the car-window shout outs or the horns (usually from guys in trucks or vans).

Up to this point, my only conclusion is that there is a smaller segment of the male population that is responsible for a disproportionate amount of bestowing of vocal attention on women. And that population drives trucks or vans and likes dirty women in running attire. But I'm very willing to be led to another conclusion.
posted by slo at 1:24 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I dunno, I'm 33, not in your question's target demographic because I'm bi and really don't care if guys look at me or not, and some kid on the street in downtown LA rolled up on me and said "Yo, shawty, how you doin'?" as I walked to the bus stop the other week.

"Shawty" almost certainly fails to describe me in any way, shape, or form, but, uh, there you go. Apparently you can still be hot to some small percentage of the downtown-LA demographic if you're 33 and not into that.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2009

The men don't stop looking. Women stop projecting desirability or approachability. If you feel closed and pulled into yourself, others see that and respond to it. Some people may still see an attractive woman, but they will be less likely to let you know. Also, if they do, you're more likely to miss it.

I can definitely turn an eye when I want it. It is totally about attitude, confidence and approachability. Eye contact and a smile is key. I'm in my mid-30's, married, kids, overweight, short hair and rarely wear make up. I am not what you consider traditionally attractive. I'm frequently described as "cute." However, I can get the reactions I want when I feel the mood. Wedding rigs and weight are not a factor in the responses I get.
posted by onhazier at 1:27 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

What Maisie Jay and desuetude said - it's all about the attitude. The Sarah Palin look evades me (could be just her, there's plenty of hot librarians out there). A confident woman who is comfortable in her own skin is attractive at any age.

36 year old married male here. Age is just a number, there's attractive women of ALL ages out there and men still look, they just don't tend to shout like frat boys from moving vehicles.
posted by arcticseal at 1:33 PM on March 30, 2009

In my experience, men on the street stop looking at you around the time you stop ogling them, which is usually at some point between 25 and your death - whenever there are things in your life that are more important than hot monkey sex. Somehow, men sense this slight change in your attitude and react accordingly.
(What? Yeah, I check out men. Apparently I'm the only woman who does that, all others are merely passive receptacles of the precious male gaze. Or so I am told)

[On preview: seconding onhazier]
posted by The Toad at 1:37 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm very surprised that no one has said this (forgive me if I missed you saying it): It has substantially more to do with the men than the woman. Different groups of men a. prefer certain qualities (eg "junk") and b. are more likely to say stuff or look at you obviously in the street. I noticed also that I started getting a lot more looks in the mostly-Dominican neighborhood where I work in the Bronx when I put on a little weight. Also (again, obviously) the kind of guys who are likely to make it clear they're looking at you--and therefore whose looks you're more likely to notice--may prefer a more obvious beauty than those who subtly admire you from afar.
posted by supercoollady at 1:38 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

>I take exception with pseudostrabismus's assessment that makeup, a suit, big hair, and cheap sparkles is what it takes to turn a man's eye.

I don't think "that's what it takes", and I don't do any of those things, either- I think they're super cheesy. BUT, I do think women who say "I'm just too old for male attention" would get some if they put on that costume. I thought I made that clear, maybe I should have been more explicit. The Sarah Palin suit is by no means the only getup that will attract a man's glance- yes, I totally agree that there are a million ways to attract male attention: a zest for life, a sparkling eye, etc. What I'm saying is that if all else fails, the Palin-suit is definitely a signal costume in Western culture that will work. Vice magazine once said that women who have fake'n'bake tans and long nails and impractical shoes & tight clothing aren't actually sexy, but all the effort it takes to create that look is equivalent to carrying around a heavy wooden sign that says "I like sex". So men notice, even if they don't objectively care for ankle bracelets.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:46 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm 38. I think men still look at me sometimes but I don't pay close attention anymore. For most of my life when I've found myself receiving the attention of strangers I very quickly start to feel uncomfortable with my enjoyment of that sort of affirmation. I don't want to need that in order to feel attractive. I don't like the supposition that I should want it.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:47 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Building on that Vice magazine thing--I've heard that same observation made about genital (and nipple, and oral) piercings.
posted by box at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2009

Obviously, this varies, varies, varies a lot. As others have said, age, general looks and fitness, dress choices, personality, and conscious or unconscious behaviour changes that go with being married or in a relationship all affecting the odds of getting male attention.

I stopped getting obvious attention from strange men before I turned 20, and I wasn't freaked out at all by the attention starting or stopping. I was approached by several flashers starting at age 13 or so, displaying various amounts of pathos, menace and tackle, and apart from the totally naked creepy guy who banged on the picture window when I was baby-sitting, I shrugged them off. I can remember exactly one guys-yelling-from-a-car scenario, which I remember with a great deal of fondness because I was dressed nicely in my favourite long summer dress and the guys were completely polite Canadians about it: slowed the car down, yelled "You're beautiful, we really mean it!", then drove away without hanging around or harassing me. I even got fervently chatted up by an energetic Austrian guy when I was working in the library while dressed in an incredibly boring boxy blouse and jeans, completely oblivious to anything but my books.

The attention from strangers either switched off completely or became something I was totally oblivious to by the time I got into my twenties, and I still don't know why. I was still as cute as when I was in my teens, I hadn't changed anything about the way I dressed or behaved, and I was still meeting, dating and gently rejecting guys I met socially, but there were no more flashers, wolf whistlers or smilers.

During the years I was married, I slipped even further into invisibility -- again, I just didn't care. But a couple of summers ago, shortly after my marriage ended, I was leaving the stylist after a fresh haircut that I really liked, I felt good, and I was dressed in pretty but not at all sexy or glamorous trousers and a blouse. I found myself doing the Gaston-Alphonse thing with a guy about my age as we dealt with a torn-up sidewalk. I smiled broadly at him because I was in a good mood and the sidestepping was amusing. I wound up getting throughly chatted up by this guy, with a devotion that put the Austrian of my teens to shame, even though I was more than twenty years older and not costumed at all to attract attention. I was in a good mood, and smiled genuinely at him, and that was all he needed.
posted by maudlin at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2009

50 here, and actually more now than 10 years ago. I would agree with the others that being in shape and not having small children attached to me is probably key.

It kind of takes me by surprise, getting this kind of attention at this age. But as others have said, I have grown my hair longer and dress in skirts to work. A shorter skirt and boots seem to make quite a difference. I'm kind of smiley and outgoing, the same as I've always been, but with make up and jewelry, men rush to open doors and hold elevators, etc.
But definitely men over 35 in my case.
And I like it.
posted by readery at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2009

Thirding csw (single 45 yo man), although I'm not so particular about cow milking.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:00 PM on March 30, 2009

Is 40 the new 20? [endure 30 sec. commercial]
posted by netbros at 2:03 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just entering a datapoint for any other woman who reads this thread and feels like a space alien: Didn't notice it in the past, don't notice it now.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:06 PM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

WHAT????? I'm 53, are you saying it's gonna stop?? No. Way. Come to NYC, it's a freakin' loudmouth looky-looky men-agerie of all flavas, and it's glorious. The sun's shining today, the men are all revved up -- pop on some big ole sunglasses, get your groove thang going, smile instead of bark, bring the kids leave the kids, haul weight or no weight, have a swing in your step, it never stops, it's inside you.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2009 [13 favorites]

(realise this has been said but the more samples the more accurate your survey)

However, whether men signal to you that they are paying you attention is a different thing altogether. There are three big reasons that the guys are not letting you know that there are checking you out:

If everything about you indicates that you are not available:
you of an age where you are probably married,
dressed and styled like you're trying to blend in an not attract attention,
paying little attention to the strangers around you - then quite reasonably fewer of the men around you are going to flirt with you.
But don't think this means that they aren't paying any attention.

As I get older so do the women I check out, I am attracted to women who I can imagine having good conversations with, so I can guarantee that guys are still checking you out.
But I'm settled down now too, as are lots of men my age, which even further reduces the likelihood of the men who are checking you out doing anything to let you know it.

Whatever cruelties time has inflicted upon your appearance, we men have also been similarly afflicted, and like you it's damped our self confidence as objects as desire, the youthful arrogant swagger now has sore hips and stiff lower back.

we don't think your available
fewer of us are available anyway
we don't know whether you would be interested anymore

but I promise we are still checking you out
posted by compound eye at 2:18 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

On my way back to the office from lunch today I saw a young man checking out a woman who had to be 55 years old. I thought it was funny that a guy was taking such obvious carnal interest in a woman who was clearly old enough to be his grandma.
posted by jayder at 2:22 PM on March 30, 2009

My mother's 46, and continues to have men hit on her. She also looks fairly young, such that people think she's my older sister, or refuse to believe she's her real age. However, when I looked after my siblings, people thought I was their mother, and now, three years later I get told to bring my ID card because I look really young.
posted by Phalene at 2:25 PM on March 30, 2009

My mother is 65, and she still gets propositioned from time to time, and my grandmother had a boyfriend or two in her nursing home before she died.

That said, I'm 33 - I've gone through bewildering phases where no one knew I was alive, and since I turned 30 I've gotten more male attention than I ever have in my life, ring on my finger notwithstanding. To me, this is still bewildering, as in terms of cultural stereotypes I was much more attractive in my 20s but I am attracting more people in my 30s.
posted by medea42 at 2:27 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to answer this from the opposite end of the age spectrum.

I am 26. I have never been the type who gets honked at or yelled at from cars (I am small-chested?)

Sometimes men don't seem to be paying much attention. But then one day I will look around and notice that everyone is looking at me, as I walk down the street, in the grocery aisle, everywhere. The difference on those days is confidence (it often coincides with me having a new man in my life).

If you are willing to believe in your own attractiveness, others will notice it too, no matter how you look or what your age.
posted by mai at 2:56 PM on March 30, 2009

It never stops.

One thing though: I've never been a cat-call kind of guy, but I'm sure I'm MUCH more subtle in my 40s than I was in my 20s. If I walk by you -- and you're 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 -- I may well find you attractive. But, sorry, you probably won't know. When I was younger, though I didn't cat call, you probably would have known by my stare. But I purposefully don't give girls "the look" these days. It seems a little invasive and I'm in a relationship.

So though there certainly are wolfish older men, please factor into all this the fact that many middle-aged guys are (a) married and (b) a little more in control of themselves.

Also, OP, can you be super-honest about what you're asking? Are you asking (a) when do men stop staring or (b) when do YOUNG men stop staring? It makes a big difference. Sure, there are young guys who are into "milfs," but most people are into people roughly in their own age bracket.

When I was 22, I wouldn't have been interested in a 50-year-old woman. Now, I wouldn't be interested in a 22-year-old girl. (I can still get turned on by a young girl's body, but I find that happening less and less. If you're under 25, ogling you seems a big like ogling a child. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth that cancels out the sexiness.)
posted by grumblebee at 2:56 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I first moved into my neighbourhood I was walking behind a woman in shorts and a t-shirt and I was totally checking her out. She just had a certain charisma. She looked over her shoulder at me and I smiled and I registered that she was in her seventies but it didn't stop me from smiling back. Since then I have talked to a lot of people that have noticed and appreciated her. She likes the attention, we like giving it to her. Win-win for everyone. I could only dream to to be as sexy at seventy as she is.
posted by saucysault at 2:56 PM on March 30, 2009

What I find in America is that when my accent gets noticed, guys look longer than they normally would. But I haven't noticed much change as I get older, except I got a kind of pixie cut that made me look younger than I had with long hair, and that got some extra attention.

Also, I always laugh when I see women from 30-50 who bleach their hair - the "bleached blonde soccer mom" demographic. Why? Every guy I know finds it a turn-off, and invariably the one "honest" (or semi-honest) brunette in the group is often judged the most attractive. Ditto "coiffed" hairstyles; women who keep their hair long and natural or sort of 'messy' seem to get more looks than women who do their hair in middle-aged hairstyles - even if they are older. Here in Austin, I'm surprised at the many hippie women who are probably in their 50s or 60s and still look really great and cool - I see them and hope I still look so full-of-life at that age.

Having kids tends to age a person a lot, at least in terms of the vibe one casts off, which I think has as much to do with guys checking you out as anything. I don't have kids, and I've noticed that my age-group peers with kids just come across as older than me and my non-kid-having friends. Even if they still superficially look great, there's a kind of fatigued or stressed or serious look that moms share, which puts guys off (I suspect.)

But to answer the question specifically, I think it's got a lot to do with one's attitude and situation more than chronological age. I see a lot of women who just try too hard to look great, and they seem to come across as unappealing as a result . . . or at least that's how it would seem to me if I were a guy.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

the guys shouted out car windows like frat boys at me from ages 13-19. ( I developed early, am on the tall side, and sort of always looked older.) They obviously didn't know I was so young, but I still found it pretty creepy. I don't know the last time a guy checked me out (I'm turning 28 on Sunday), but I do put off a "don't fuck with me" vibe. (I'm pretty sure I picked that up working the security desk in college-- in the most dangerous city in the US!)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm finding this thread quite interesting, partly because the women who are responding take the idea of "male attention" in two quite different ways. (1) Honking & shouting from cars, etc. (2) Subtly looking at, well, the goods, possibly with eye contact and a smile, and possibly not.

These are pretty different things! I can do without the former, but here's hoping I got enough zing that the latter never stops.
posted by kestrel251 at 3:52 PM on March 30, 2009

This thread makes me sad and wistful. I'm 27, but am not and have never been looked at by men because I'm not physically attractive.

For those of you who have gotten positive attention from men at some point of your lives but don't anymore, I'd just say, maybe consider counting yourselves lucky that you did at some point. Some of us never get to.
posted by hazelshade at 3:58 PM on March 30, 2009 [10 favorites]

This thread is useless without pics.

As a man, I tend to think that men will always look at you provided there's something attractive or interesting for them to look at. I've seen knee-weakening stunners that were fifty years old. At the same time, I've seen girls my age or younger who are considered attractive in general - blond, good legs, pretty face, etc. - but have found them to be completely uninteresting.

I think it's mainly how women carry themselves. Confidence, but not narcissism. Approachability. Something like that.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vice magazine once said that women who have fake'n'bake tans and long nails and impractical shoes & tight clothing aren't actually sexy, but all the effort it takes to create that look is equivalent to carrying around a heavy wooden sign that says "I like sex".

Could I just carry the sign instead? It would be a lot less trouble.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:43 PM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

When I gained weight. Sad, shallow, but true.
posted by Billegible at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2009

Men don't stop looking - women stop noticing.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2009

I've never attracted much attention (male or female) and I prefer it that way. I'm like a ninja, seeing without being seen. I'm not pretty and don't bother to dress nicely most of the time, so peoples' eyes just slide right off me.

However, when I do dress up I still sense some attention. I'm 48 and by some lucky genetics I'm aging well, despite not putting much daily effort into my appearance. I think it's mostly a projection of confidence, as others have said - walk into a room with your head up and spine straight, make eye contact, be calm, avoid coy giggles and silly mannerisms, and you'll look like a person worthy of attention. Not wolf whistles, but a sort of respectful intrigue. Like "Wow, didn't know she could look that good. What other pleasant surprises are in store?"

I think men - heck, people in general - never really stop looking. We're social animals and we like to know what's up with our tribe. We just get more subtle and discreet as we get older, so youthful leers are replaced by middle-aged appreciative glances.

Aw, hazelshade, internet hug coming your way. Being an invisible ninja has some definite advantages - you never get groped or harassed. And in 20 years you might find that your formerly beautiful peers are losing their looks and plunging into an existential panic about it. But people who don't define themselves by their appearance find other, longer-lasting, qualities to hang their self-esteem on. Intelligence, wit, compassion - those last a lot longer than smooth skin and luxuriant hair.
posted by Quietgal at 4:54 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Flashers are certainly not people expressing a healthy appreciation for your self-presentation. People catcalling at you--especially people catcalling crudely--are generally not people expressing a healthy appreciation for your self-presentation. Subway frotteurs are certainly not people expressing a healthy appreciation for your self-presentation. Teenaged boys driving by in a pick-up truck...well, you get my point.

None of that stuff should be taken as a compliment, because it isn't, any more than a dog humping your leg is a compliment. People who say "Oh, you should be flattered" about inappropriate bullshit like that are either suffering from terminal Stockholm Syndrome or inoperable cluelessness.

Now, actual compliments--a meaningful smile from a passerby, a courteously flirtatious "Hey, pretty lady!" from the hot-dog-cart guy, a co-worker telling you that you always look stylish--those are great and I welcome those as friendly feedback from my fellow humans.

And as others have said, I don't see any signs of it slowing down now that I'm in my mid-40s. My aunt certainly got plenty of appropriately appreciative attention in her 60s; one of the deli guys at her supermarket said to her, "Your smile always lights up my day!" which I thought was really sweet.

I see seniors flirting with each other in nursing homes. Heck, I've seen people flirting with each other in the hospice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:10 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I asked my wife about this. She's middle-aged and quite happy that she doesn't get much male attention any more; she says she never liked it. She's Peruvian, so this may have something to do with Peruvian men being more, mm, upfront.
posted by zompist at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2009

Thirding hazelshad and Quietgal, men pay more attention to some women more than others, regardless of age. Also: I've never thought of myself as a ninja before, but I'm going to now.
posted by entropyiswinning at 6:00 PM on March 30, 2009

None of that stuff should be taken as a compliment, because it isn't, any more than a dog humping your leg is a compliment. People who say "Oh, you should be flattered" about inappropriate bullshit like that are either suffering from terminal Stockholm Syndrome or inoperable cluelessness.

A-men. I do not like it. I had a guy cat call me very loudly once when I was 15. He thought I had a nice ass, but the way he phrased was actually a little scarring. The whole of 16th Street got to hear about what we wanted to do my backside. It was crude, he was approximately older than the Sun, I was young and I was with a friend who was also horrified. Thanks, pedo-grandpa.

I really prefer that men just be generally nice to me, and I say that because I know I'm not the prettiest thing on Earth and there have been times when men were more than happy to let me know that. Examples: Will you hold the door even when I'm not terribly close? Thanks! Will you help me get my things on the subway? Awesome! Will you smile a real smile when I say thank you for your help even though I'm actually in a rush and this moment is really going to be just this moment? Seriously dude, I'm supposed to be on another train/plane/car ride right now. Brilliant. My day is made.

However, I have a friend that used to be considered exceptionally pretty and she really exuded sexual energy in a way that you could not miss. Amazing, amazing energy just radiating off this girl. She ended up having a kid (that I adore) and a lot of drama. But, guys don't pay her a lot of attention anymore. I really don't know what the difference is. Anyway, she cannot handle the loss of attention. She will take the most vile cat call in the world and love it, store it away in a mental locket to think about all the time. It's crazy how different we are, and I worry about her.

We're in our mid-20s.
posted by fujiko at 7:47 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I stopped getting unwanted, creepy attention at about 29. But I still get more subtle attention (now 35). God forbid it ever stops. My mother, who was a looker, said it was shocking when it stopped.
posted by Ollie at 7:53 PM on March 30, 2009

shit. i've never had men look at me, unless it was to say something (positive) about my tattoos.

so really, i think this question depends way more on physical factors (weight, dress, the way you carry yourself) than age.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:02 PM on March 30, 2009

Men, in general, look at woman all the time and will continue to 24 -7.

Just because a woman doesn't realize it, doesn't mean they aren't being looked at. Some woman are too busy to notice, some don't care, some don't want to be noticed, some take it for granted they're being noticed. Sometimes, its the ones who have the least self confidence that are the most attractive. Nothing worse than a woman who takes her beauty for granted and is full of herself. IMO

And what The Light Fantastic said earlier.
posted by Taurid at 9:32 PM on March 30, 2009

How long did it take for you to notice this, and was it liberating, disheartening?

I really, really, really hate any sort of street harassment--and that's what I consider this sort of behavior. I scream and curse back at men who do it.

I'm 34 and haven't noticed much of it in the past couple of years. I hope it's my anger showing through.
posted by Violet Hour at 1:01 AM on March 31, 2009

(For the above, I mean catcalls and the like, not discreet "checking out," which I doubt I would even notice.)
posted by Violet Hour at 1:02 AM on March 31, 2009

OK, 37 y/o old guy here, echoing other guys that it never really stops, at least so far, for me. I have never been a wolf-whistler type of guy, but have always loved to look at women. As you get older, the guys who are checking you out get older, and more subtle, so, if you're interested you have to learn how to pick up on that subtlety. But the appreciation is always there, whether you notice it or not.
posted by Diag at 4:28 AM on March 31, 2009

Men my age and younger stopped flirting with me in public places (waiters, business meetings, parties, etc.) in my mid to late 30s. Men older than me started flirting around this same time. Men's idiocy on this is universal and unending.

I found that random men on the street stopped wolf whistling at me (I never understood why they looked in the first place, as I'm not a stand-out beauty by any means) when my daughter reached about the age of 15. Then if we were together they looked at her which was all kinds of weird. However, now that she's moved on, they're looking at me again. The assessments seem positive, which to me basically proves that men are idiots.

I only find this annoying when in a mixed-age crowd, especially business situations, where all the younger men are flirting with the cute young things and ignoring all us former breeders. It reduces every women in the room to a uterus. I pray for my cronehood when my sexual attractiveness is put to rest as a reason to talk to me once and for all.

I'm 53.
posted by nax at 5:08 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was in college, I had a guy ask me if I was a prostitute - does that count?
posted by Lucinda at 6:22 AM on March 31, 2009

It's funny that women who supposedly "don't care" about not getting attention are responding to a thread that clearly says in the title if you "CARE ABOUT SUCH THINGS." lol Anyway, I don't buy that women don't care, I think we all do. I realized back in college that even when I thought I didn't like getting the honks from the creepy guys on the street, on those days, when I didn't, I missed it! And I talked about this with other girls too. It's a weird phenomenon. On one hand, you hate it, on the other, you crave it. It validates your attractiveness as a woman, I guess (and don't we all want to be thought of as attractive?) So anyway, I'm 29 now, and I still get a good amount of attention, and I've come to appreciate it more than I used to. For the past five years or so, I've wondered, "when will I be too old to get this attention?" I kept waiting for it to come around the corner, but it hasn't yet, and that's great because I think when I hit 30, I'll be needing it even more to combat the "I'm OLD!" obsessive thoughts, lol.

But that said, I tend to agree with some others. It's more about what's on the inside. Your attitude, how receptive you are to your outside world and the people in it. There's something about being content that draws others, especially men. I think age is way down on the list of things that make one stop getting attention.

Just my 2 cents...
posted by GeniPalm at 7:14 AM on March 31, 2009

My mom is in her 60's and she still gets looks/attention from older men. She's no great beauty, but she has nice skin with few wrinkles for her age. She wears jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts. Nothing flashy or even form fitting really. She's a little overweight, but not obese or anything. *shrugs*
posted by CoralAmber at 11:36 AM on March 31, 2009

This thread makes me sad and wistful. I'm 27, but am not and have never been looked at by men because I'm not physically attractive.

hazelshade-don't be so sure about that. I was the girl that never got looked at or hit on in bars. I thought I was too overweight and ugly, but in all actuality, i just wasn't noticing. I also tended to be a little shy and would sit back and watch the action going on around me rather than participating.

Now, I'm 42 with 4 kids and y'know, I get check out A LOT. Now, granted, my kids are older and it doesn't happen when the youngest is with me (it happens when the older kids are with me though), but I guess what I'm saying is I sort of "grew into myself" in my mid 30s and now I'm hot. Not just hot but HAWT. And i'm still overweight but in a sexy curvy way. This past Friday night I went to a concert and was in VIP afterwards. I was sitting by myself quietly watching everyone (it was my night to drive so everyone else could drink) and I had a photographer come up and ask to take my picture because "you look like you're on a movie set" and then a very young guy keep asking me to dance. I honestly don't think I'm getting noticed suddenly or in the recent past. I think it's always been there, I just wasn't emotionally in a place to see it myself.
posted by hollygoheavy at 11:37 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll say it: Aging can be liberating. I certainly wouldn't broadly paint it as "usually depressing." Dunno if you would qualify me as "beautiful," but I have it on good authority that I'm worth a look, a not just by my SO.

Just to qualify, I used a poor choice of words. I didn't mean aging, per se, is depressing for conventionally beautiful (or otherwise) women. Aging can often be often wonderful. It's the "losing your fertile looks" part that doesn't feel quite so good. And yes, as someone stated earlier, this could be different in other countries, especially in parts of Latin America or Southern Europe where the male attention can be extremely aggressive.

And maybe I was thinking more about general work and relationship scenarios as opposed to the strangers on the street (which admittedly, is a small part of life for many people). My eyes have really opened to how differently my "hot" friends are treated differently than my "not so hot" friends. How easily people (especially young men) will not even extend basic social decency (eye contact, small talk) to someone who isn't considered do-able!

It's as if there's a unstated royalty of beautiful people that exists that everyone speaks about offhand, but nobody ever discusses directly. If you are considered to be extremely beautiful, I doubt you can easily be indifferent to this loss of power. Unless you may be one of the few who get "spiritual" about it, or what not.

If there was ever an indicator, for me, of a man's level of decency, it's how he treats a woman who does not appeal to him sexually.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:18 PM on March 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

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