Hot for Grandma?
September 25, 2009 8:32 AM   Subscribe

How do men's patterns of sexual attraction change as they age? That is, are older guys really attracted to older partners, or are they just being polite/settling for what they can get?

Mostly just curious, but I've always been puzzled by the contradictory info one gets on sexuality and aging. On the one hand, related things like sexual orientation/fetishes don't magically change over the years, and since desire patterns are probably hardwired during adolescence, why would someone who's turned on by hot 20-year-olds at age 20 suddenly change that at age 40?

On the other hand, plenty of men seem to have active sexual relationships with their contemporaries well into old age-- the same guys who, presumably, would at age 20 have been horrified by the idea of sex with a 60+-year-old.

Obviously there'll be lots of individual variation, but I'm wondering-- what gives? Is it really common for men's fantasies to age as they age? Do older guys genuinely get turned on by/ desire the older women they sleep with, or is there some creative imaginative work going on to get them through the act? (Not asking about women because I am one, so I figure I'll find out firsthand as time goes by). Oh, and pls. none of the standard sentimental answers-- "sex is more about the connection," "Personality counts for more," etc., unless you (a) are a guy, and (b) can personally attest firsthand that these are accurate for you. Thanks!
posted by Bardolph to Human Relations (69 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

At some point, maturity and life experience start to count for a lot more when it comes to a long-term partner. Especially for settling down with. You'd want to have someone settled and responsible. And while 22 year old Suzy might look hot, chances are she doesn't have that package together as much as 38-year old Barbara. There are a lot of guys who appreciate what it takes to get there. What an individual values tends to shift, and this is true for many women also. It's not really a sudden change.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:41 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ooh, yes, but just to clarify, I'm interested specifically in physical desire-- visceral, biological, etc.-- not love or partnership. I totally get why a mature person's life experiences might lead a man to fall in love, want that person as a long-term partner, etc.; I'm just wondering whether those qualities also get a guy hot.
posted by Bardolph at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2009

I cannot belive that I find beautiful 20-year olds with stunning skin to be boring, but yes, it is true.

I just have real problems relating to them now. Plus I keep wanting to put the word "the" in front of everything, like "the facebook." I pretended like it was all ironic but its not.

I am looking for someone I can relate to.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2009 [13 favorites]

Well, I can tell you that I have never stopped being turned on by women my age, even as my age has increased. On the other hand, I have never stopped being turned on by a hot 20 year old.

I assume this trend will continue.

So there's a data point for what it's worth.
posted by pixlboi at 8:58 AM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

As a young person, I can say that my perspective on this has changed radically over the past year or two. For me, it's been a combination of a) spending more time with girls in friendship-only situations and b) realizing that Hollywood notions of beauty are just plain wrong. I'm sure I'll also grow a lot in the next ten or twenty years :)

I know you don't want standard sentimental answers and I know your question was only fueled by curiosity but I find it pretty presumptuous when someone tells me my feelings are just pretend.
posted by anonymuk at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2009

I'm closing in on 40. I've always found women of a wide range of ages to be attractive. That hasn't changed for me, although I look back and wish I would have had sex with more 20 year olds back when I was that age.
posted by orme at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Purely in terms of attraction, I've found that, at age 40, the 20-somethings I thought were hot are still hot, but my definition of "hot" has grown to cover women my age and even a bit older. In my case anyway, the focus hasn't shifted so much as expanded.
posted by jalexei at 9:01 AM on September 25, 2009 [8 favorites]

Of course one factor (presumably not the only one) is that there is no quality quite so hot in another person as that person thinking that you're hot. That's entirely on the level of viscerality and physicality and sexual tension. So to the extent that 20-year-old women are less likely to drool over 40-year-old men (less likely, not entirely unlikely of course) you can see how this would focus those men's attention on the women who were actually interested.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

"Well, I can tell you that I have never stopped being turned on by women my age, even as my age has increased. On the other hand, I have never stopped being turned on by a hot 20 year old.

I assume this trend will continue.

So there's a data point for what it's worth.

Make that two data points.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2009

seeing what you just wrote, let me add this--hotness is so much more than looks. I'm interacting regularly with a woman with model looks who is 20-years younger. But I just cannot connect with her. The gap just sucks the life out of the interest.

Plus older women know what they want and that is so much hotter. Their interest means so much more than a young woman's interest because it signifies somebody with a lot of experience wanting you. It just feels better.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

why would someone who's turned on by hot 20-year-olds at age 20 suddenly change that at age 40?

Does anyone claim that men actually stop being attracted to gorgeous 20-year-old women as they (men) age? Seems to me that the only real question is whether their genuine sexual interest in older women actually changes as they age or if they're just being polite/expedient/etc. I mean, let's be realistic: we can safely assume that a straight 50-year-old man watching a movie starring Scarlet Johannson in her early 20s isn't thinking, "Gee, I don't see why people say she's so attractive." (Caveat: IANAOM - I am not an older man.)

(If the answer is that, yes, men genuinely become sexually attracted to woman their age as they get older, then the 50- or 60- or whatever-year-old woman is easily more attractive overall than the 20-year-old for the reasons cmgonzalez and Ironmouth gave, but you said you're not asking about that.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2009

I'm 38, male, married 12 years. I'm going to leave my wife out of the equation for this question, because when you spend that many years with someone you don't think of them as being a particular age, you just think of them as, well, them.

For quite a long time the women I tended to be attracted to were younger, but a few years ago my pattern of attraction shifted, relatively suddenly, towards women my own age. Women in their twenties look like kids to me now; college girls look practically adolescent.

This is definitely not me being polite or sentimental; it's true in both my real-world attractions and in my inner fantasy life. A pretty young thing might still catch my eye in an abstract, aesthetic way, but not as sexual attraction

"Personality counts for more" is close, but not quite it, because that was as true when I was 18 as it is now. I think it's more that "experience counts for more." No offense to you twenty-somethings, but, well, you're usually kind of boring to talk to, and you don't know how to flirt.
posted by ook at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

It's a weird thing. I just turned 40 in June. I totally love to look at hot 20-somethings. But I have found that my motor runs even faster for hot 40-somethings (particularly, happily, my wife). It's not "settling" or anything like that.

Jesus Christ, it's only nine? I'd really like to go home and fuck my wife.
posted by Skot at 9:04 AM on September 25, 2009 [24 favorites]

Obviously i can only speak for myself, but the girls I find most attractive have definitely gotten older as I've gotten older, but not as quickly as I have. When I was 16, the hottest girls were 18. Now that I'm 30, the hottest girls are usually about 25.

Honestly, when I see an 18 year old girl now, it often doesn't even really occur to me that she's as a sexual entity.

I don't know if this process will continue as I age, but it doesn't seem at all impossible that at 60 I will be most turned on by forty year old women.

And you say "none of the standard sentimental answers," but I really think that you'll find, for many people that those types of statements are very true and not cop outs at all. The most beautiful woman in the world can walk by in the street and she'll only be a momentary fantasy in my mind; I'll lose interest quickly.

My real sexual desires are stirred by getting to know someone. It's not until I've had at least a few conversations with a woman and found her interesting and alluring that I really start to desire her. Certainly looks don't cease playing a role--and I acknowledge that I am probably guilty of being more interested in having those first couple of conversations with better looking women--but pretty quickly the mental aspect of the attraction grows as large as or larger than the physical.

And it doesn't seem at all unreasonable that, as a man ages, the women he finds interesting in conversation might also age.
posted by 256 at 9:06 AM on September 25, 2009

One social psychology class I took asserted that people are attracted to those with a similar level of beauty. My textbook is long gone, so [citation needed].
posted by spamguy at 9:06 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

(on not-preview, game warden makes a fine point too: being wanted is much, much sexier than wanting.)
posted by ook at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2009

"Ooh, yes, but just to clarify, I'm interested specifically in physical desire-- visceral, biological, etc.-- not love or partnership."

The problem with your question, as I read it, is that you assume that the two can be easily separated.
posted by 4ster at 9:10 AM on September 25, 2009 [6 favorites]

I was going to respond to this thread, but apparently I am Ook - same age, similar length of marriage, and his response is almost exactly what I was going to say.
posted by crocomancer at 9:12 AM on September 25, 2009

In the 10 years it took me to type this, everyone else took the good answers. Attraction, at least superficial attraction is/can be much more than just what you see. For me it's about what I hear (although I'm not quite 60 yet). Listening to a young lady talk (no offense intended young ladies) I think "What the hell" more often than not due to a lack of common interest or experiences. My brain begins to associate wrinkle-less skin and ponytail-swinging with talk about [insert conversational preferences of specific age group] and they become less attractive. Sure I can look at them and say "That is a hot [age] year old" but do I want to engage in a intimate relationship with them? Nope. I'm sure this will change as I age, I'll associate people who have all their own teeth with conversations about their kids, when in my mind that'll be so 30 years ago.
posted by syntheticfaith at 9:14 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

why would someone who's turned on by hot 20-year-olds at age 20 suddenly change that at age 40?

It's not sudden.
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

How do men's patterns of sexual attraction change as they age? That is, are older guys really attracted to older partners, or are they just being polite/settling for what they can get?

I think people here are fairly answering your question as you posed it.

But, did you really mean: How old are the women in the porn that 60 yr old men look at/desire?

Sexuality is a complex topic and what people fantasize about does not always correspond to what people would really choose in everyday life. So, you may have to be clearer on what exactly you are asking.
posted by vacapinta at 9:18 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've always perceived people that were significantly older than me as looking obviously old and harder to distinguish between. ("Significantly older" becomes a larger span of years as I age.) As I get older (I'm 32 now), I perceive people my age as not old and notice individual physical characteristics more readily. And so, I find women my age attractive, and it never occurs to me that they are old or "mature-looking" as I thought of most women in their thirties when I was, say, 20.
posted by ignignokt at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll be 60 next year and I am absolutely as interested in sex as I ever was, and maybe more so -- and although I enjoy the living hell out of looking at a hot twenty-year-old, or a hot 40-year old for that matter (and there are loads of 'em) I'm also attracted to women my own age and older... perhaps a matter of age-related perspective. It's actually kind of a great place to be, in terms of appreciating female pulchritude.

Age of women in the porn I look at -- from 18 to 60+.

Jeez, I need a cold shower right now.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

fetishes don't magically change over the years, and since desire patterns are probably hardwired during adolescence, why would someone who's turned on by hot 20-year-olds at age 20 suddenly change that at age 40?

My conception of what's attractive (and my fetishes) change (with age, new encounters, and even cultural trends) and has definitely changed since adolescence. It's not stuck in college, and while I currently have friends/acquaintances that span young to old and I might notice the physical flawlessness of someone young, I can't say that I'm attracted to them; they look and act too young, and are not alluring. They are cute, which is different from attractive. Similarly, I once met a young woman who had an "older" personality and tastes, and I did feel attraction toward her. So I guess age is not that important, and I too veer toward the "personality counts" category.
posted by That takes balls. at 9:28 AM on September 25, 2009

If you're collecting datapoints it would seem that I am also ook.
posted by merocet at 9:29 AM on September 25, 2009

My thoughts are similar to many of those already mentioned. The age range of women I find physically attractive has expanded and ratcheted up as I get older. In most cases, when I look at 18yos, my first thought is that they looks like kids (which, I am happy to say, I am not attracted to). Conversely, I know some 50+yos who I think are pretty hot. I'm 43. If you'd asked me this question 10 or 20 years ago, you'd have gotten a different answer.

And to emphasize, I am talking about visceral, physical attraction. I don't know what explains the shift, but my wild-ass guess is that it has something to do with looking in the mirror and seeing the face there as some sort of benchmark.
posted by adamrice at 9:30 AM on September 25, 2009

I am 59 and my wife is 62 and, while the frequency is not what it once was, the attraction is certainly there, and, yes, at the risk of squicking you out, we "do it" quite often. One of the ways that I torment my adult daughter is to hint around at her mom and I still being sexual beings.

I find women who let their hair go naturally grey to be extremely sexy. I find women over 40 who dye their hair and wear a lot of makeup to be extremely to the other side of sexy. Younger women are plenty attractive, but since I have a daughter, it feels too weird to lust after them and I don't go there.
posted by Danf at 9:43 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here it is from the perspective of a guy who is 80:
young tight hot firm full bodies remain very very attractive. always. Older women? You up your age of interest but never ever give up on young hot firm girls. I am not referring of course to IQ, schooling, business sense, cooking skills, athletic prowess but strictly to sexually appealing girls. Stay on the surface! Go below and you sink!

Once a college teacher I noted to a colleague at a registration, where an attractive very young girl was accompanied by her mother, a very attractive women that "I must be aging because I now found the mother more attractive than the daughter." But that was a momentary lapse at some transitional spot in my life and now I revert to the younger ones.
As Darwin might have noted but did not: the young in every species are fetching and adorable. The elderly, repulsive, thus making it easier for us to adjust to their shuffling off this mortal coil. (in short: they die).
posted by Postroad at 9:55 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was attracted to more than a few women over 40 when I was in my 20s. Had a relationship with one, in fact. For exactly the same reasons straight men my age (mid-40s) are drawn to younger women (and anyone who says they're not is not being entirely truthful because *all* the concrete evidence says otherwise), only reversed. These constructions tap into deeper patterns of sexual dominance and social status (thus reproductive fitness) from which none of us are immune as primates.

Sexual attraction, as someone said above, is a complex, multifactorial phenomenon. It draws on conscious and unconscious reservoirs of cultural values, psychological drives hardwired into our brains but shaped by social forces since infancy, and physical drives that transcend the power of any social constraint placed on them.

You might as well ask, at the same time, and for related reasons, why some younger women are attracted strongly to older men, by the way, because some indeed are, and not just in cynical ways. And my impression is this dynamic is not only true for heterosexuals.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:56 AM on September 25, 2009

It is oddly reassuring that so many people seem to be me. Why are you guys posting on metafilter instead of getting my work done? We have a deadline!

How old are the women in the porn that 60 yr old men look at/desire?

I had a long bit about porn in my first comment which I wasn't sure I was clearly expressing so chose to delete; I'm going to try to tackle it now.

I think there's a shortage of good-looking older women in porn, so what I look at there probably skews younger than what appeals to me in real life or in the abstract -- but I think that may have more to do with the structure of the porn industry than anything else. What's available tends to either fetishize and therefore exaggerate characteristics of age, or to be, well, honestly used up and kind of sad people who have been in the industry too long.

I can't speak to what my tastes will be when I'm 60, but (at risk of venturing well beyond TMI) I can say that even in porn or pure abstract fantasy, if someone looks too young, or too plasticky, for me that's now a turnoff. Explicitly youth-signifying props (cheerleader costumes, schoolgirl outfits, whatever) just look goofy or ridiculous to me now, not sexy.

All the "it's about experience" or "personality" or whatever else aside, talking in the pure surface-level objectifying-women-as-physical-objects sense, if you put a hot 20-something next to a hot 40-something, all else being equal I'm probably looking at the 40-year old.

(and anyone who says they're not is not being entirely truthful because *all* the concrete evidence says otherwise)

Speak for yerself, buddy.
posted by ook at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2009

fourcheesemac: "and anyone who says they're not is not being entirely truthful because *all* the concrete evidence says otherwise"

Give me a break. Citation needed.
posted by 256 at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

My delight in getting older: as I age, the upper boundary of age for women who look good to me increases. When I'm 90, every post-puberty woman on the planet will be a hottie, and a trip down the street will be a non-stop ogglefest!

To put it another way, I've had opportunity to play with women ranging from 20s to 50s in the last few years (I'm 45), and while a smoking hot perfect young bod is certainly pornalicious, they usually look underhipped and unfilled-out. 30-49yos for the all-package win (right now).

Final data point: last night I went with some college-aged friends to their fave bar. Followed a 20something in a miniskirt & savage heels into the bar; nice eye candy... but she disappeared from my consciousness when I caught sight of the bartender. Short skirt, deep decolletage, and at first glance, thirties or so. Bam! ... A few minutes later, I reestimated her at 25, and her sex appeal dropped.

Women are beautiful (assuming they're not ugly haters, or freakish abusers). Women near my age are sexiest (with a slight bias downwards: ~MyAge-10 to ~MyAge+5).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:12 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

On the one hand, related things like sexual orientation/fetishes don't magically change over the years, and since desire patterns are probably hardwired during adolescence

Bardolph, this is contradicted by both the research data I've read (which suggests fetishism is most prevalent in middle-aged men), and my own personal datum point/data points.

My fetishes and desire patterns definitely change. Hard to tell if the change is a result of maturation/aging, or particular psychological changes in me, but your assumption is incorrect.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2009

In the 70's, I loved the movie Harold and Maude. Of course, when Harold and Maude made love, it was gross sorta wrong.

I saw that movie recently, and, heaven help me, Ruth Gordon looked sorta hot to me.

So there's that.
posted by Danf at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2009 [10 favorites]

You're going to have a slight selection bias in the question, as the responses are public and can be matched to a respondent. Not a lot of guys are going to sign up and say, "Yeah, fifteen year olds were bangin' when I was fifteen; they're still hot now that I'm fifty-five."

A psych prof of mine did this cute off the cuff bit where he had everyone write down what they thought the age of consent ought to be on a piece of paper, then everyone handed in anonymous answers. Then he asked everyone to answer out loud. Unsurprisingly, a difference in the average age was revealed between the two methods. Not terribly scientific, but illustrative.
posted by adipocere at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

You hit on the perfect word here: "Settling".

One social psychology class I took asserted that people are attracted to those with a similar level of beauty

Being wanted, also mentioned above, is a big deal. If you're good-looking there is no need to "settle" for older women. Younger women will want you, so why settle for an older model?

What's very important here is that when less-than-attractive people settle for what they can get, they also rationalize what's now "attractive" to them.

I don't believe any 40-something man who says he's not attracted to a hot 20-something. If he knows he could never attract that caliber of woman, he will rationalize and say he "only" finds women his age attractive.
posted by Zambrano at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interesting question!

Ooh, yes, but just to clarify, I'm interested specifically in physical desire-- visceral, biological, etc.-- not love or partnership.

For me -- and I suspect for most people -- there isn't a clean separation between visceral attraction and attraction based the more "sentimental" stuff. Sure, I see a nice pair of legs and my lizard brain engages. So if you want a list of what purely-physical traits turn me on when I see a woman passing me on the street, I can list them, but they have nothing to do with age. They have to do with specific physical traits. A women of almost any age might have them, though some are more common in younger women.

Getting beyond that, have you ever felt UN-attracted to someone who you intellectually knew had a nice body? An extreme example might be an ex who treated you badly. Sure, objectively he's tall, broad-shouldered, etc. But you don't get turned on when you look at him, because your brain can't separate the physical features from other stuff about him.

That's how 20-year-olds affect me. If you show me a picture of a pretty, young girl and ask me if I think she's attractive, I have to be very specific: "If you're asking me whether or not she has physical traits that I generally find attractive, then yes. If you're asking me if I'm turned on by her, then no." I'm not turned on by her, because I have a host of associations with being 20 (some of which are unfair prejudices) that block my lizard brain.

This works in reverse with older women. Yes, objectively I find smooth faces more attractive than wrinkled ones. But there are positive associations that I have with older women that override that. And please note that I'm NOT saying that I'm attracted to older women in spite of the fact that their complexions show signs of age. I'm saying that I'm attracted to them BECAUSE their complexions show signs of age. Those signs trigger something in my brain that says "She's older, therefor she's attractive."

So, again, I'm in this weird place where wrinkles are unattractive in some objective sense but attractive in a more important -- more emotional -- sense.

Here's a hypothesis of what's going on in my brain: multiple modules compete to rate how attractive a woman is. There is some base, inbred level -- which I call the Lizard Brain -- that likes a cliche set of traits (smooth skin, etc.). When I have no time at all to think, it wins. So this module rules when I see women pass me on the street. When I have more time to think -- especially when I get to know a woman (even slightly) then "higher" modules tend to win.

I feel a bit silly, because I'm trying to introspect something that is really just a feeling. So I want to be clear that none of this is some sort of justification or "settling." I really FEEL attracted to older women; I really don't feel attracted to younger ones. (These feelings are defaults; they can be easily overturned in specific cases.)

I'm in my early 40s. Hollywood actresses I find attractive include Sigourney Weaver and Emma Thompson. I am not attracted to Megan Fox.
posted by grumblebee at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

What's very important here is that when less-than-attractive people settle for what they can get, they also rationalize what's now "attractive" to them.

But what is the difference between successfully persuading yourself that you find someone attractive, and finding someone attractive?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2009

I don't believe any 40-something man who says he's not attracted to a hot 20-something.

Based on WHAT? Based on the way you feel?

I am not attracted to "hot" 20-somethings because they're not hot. They were hot to me when I was in my 20s, but they're not hot to me now. They look like kids to me. Do you find 10-year-olds attractive?

We could (in theory) do a very crude, very simple test. Take the twenty-year-old me, the thirty-year-old me and the forty-year-old me into a strip club where I can "get" any woman I want and where all women seem to be equally attracted to me (e.g. via acting). I can pick women of any age, and it's purely for sexual pleasure. I SWEAR to you that the 40-year-old me would not ask the 20-year-olds for lap dances.

Sorry for the crude example. I'm trying to make clear that I'm not settling. I'm going after what I find attractive at this age. I've met older men who are into really young girls. I'm as baffled by them as they are by me. But I would never claim that they are lying.

Any claim about how ALL men are built sexually is false. Just as there are straight men, bi men, and gay men, there are many variations of men within each of those categories. There are even men who have specific fetishes for very old women. There are "chubby chasers." Etc. So your claim is just wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't believe any 40-something man who says he's not attracted to a hot 20-something. If he knows he could never attract that caliber of woman, he will rationalize and say he "only" finds women his age attractive.

It is a lot more complicated than that. I do find 20-year old women attractive, but it feels like they are missing something now, like something I didn't know about before but know now. Everybody "settles" in one way or the other, because there are no perfect people--a fact you don't learn until you get older.

I don't think we're saying we don't find those women attractive--far from it. But I've been fortunate enough to have "spent time" with some very beautiful women in my time and somehow what I find hot has changed over time.

The other thing is that the whole high-school sense of rating people has changed immensely over time. I think when you are younger and you lack experience, you sort of go along with the flow, and it seems like there is this huge hierarchy of hotness and everyone fits on that scale. People look for easy ways to figure out the world and to convince themselves that they have it all under control. As you get older, that hierarchical way of looking at things sorta loses its usefulness because you learn about people a lot more and you can see under the surface to get a better picture of who people are and realize there are things that a beautiful young face can't hide. Thus there really are no "calibers" of women and men and the people I know who continue to use that paradigm at my age are usually trying desperately to believe that there is some sort of universal rating system and that they are high up there in that system.

As I get older, I still do have beautiful women from their early 20s take runs at me from time to time. But they seem less hot, or maybe I'm more self-assured, I'm not sure which. I guess, in the end, I'm able to see the other stuff that would make them hotter in a longer-term sense and I value those things more from the get-go, unlike when I was younger.

Let me give a list to give you a sense:

What I thought was hot when I was 21:


What I think is hot now:

Excellent conversation indicating they are stable and nice

Note: Popularity now a turn-off
posted by Ironmouth at 10:50 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't believe any 40-something man who says he's not attracted to a hot 20-something. If he knows he could never attract that caliber of woman, he will rationalize and say he "only" finds women his age attractive.

See, the "that caliber of woman" part is the whole issue. I don't think you could attract the caliber of woman I'm interested in. (Based on your verging-on-self-parody posting history in relationship questions here, in fact, I'm certain of it.)
posted by ook at 11:00 AM on September 25, 2009 [13 favorites]

Getting beyond that, have you ever felt UN-attracted to someone who you intellectually knew had a nice body?

I have to say, in my youth, I saw a Jerry Springer in which a girl was presented, and I thought "DAG, YO!" Then a second later, she started talking and a bunch of her belligerent idiocy spilled out of her mouth. It had an amazingly instant transforming effect. As Butt-head might say, my boner was sent crashing to the ground.

So, I'm reminded: aspects other than looks are most certainly connected to visceral sexual attraction.
posted by ignignokt at 11:01 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Am I going to go to jail if I mention that I used to be attracted to young girls? OK, sorry for not being more specific but .... the point being, it's true but that was back when I was 11 years old. Things change.
posted by Wood at 11:02 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is true that some peripheral items--talk, looks--can be offputting. I recall once having a yoga teqacher who was into her 70s. she had an amazing body. But once I glanced above her shoulders to her neck--ah, age had set in and that got me out of any fantasies.
posted by Postroad at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2009

I find women who let their hair go naturally grey to be extremely sexy.

This, indeed...

Too much of attraction, for me, is tied up in a personal connection. Banter, repartee... whatever it is, that sort of compatibility goes a lot farther than a young fresh face, or any other bits. Laugh lines and grey hair are sexysex.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:11 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

When you were 14, you thought that 14 year old girls were super-hot, and you wanted to make out with them all the time, right? And now, (I hope) you don't want to make out with 14 year old girls. Same thing.
posted by decathecting at 11:20 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love women, and occasionally, I am attracted to them. While some are young, and some much older, the mix has a lot more to do with how we relate than to what they look like. I NOTICE younger women, because like a loud noise, biology demands it, but I think a similar biological switch is thrown that makes me put the new adult female in the same pile as my mind puts the adolescent girl... someone to be protected and not exploited. That said, the younger-ish, late 20's women I am attracted to I KNOW, and relate to. That's a major part of any attraction for me. (I'm 55. I'm married to a 35 y/o, and her brains, character, and personality are every bit as attractive as her cute corpus!)
posted by FauxScot at 11:38 AM on September 25, 2009

It's a really individual thing, I'm afraid, no blanket answer is going to cover it.

At the risk of "ew" I'll share this: my father is in his late 50s, and still picking up women in the 18-26 range with regularity (cuter than I could attract even when I WAS that age, too). His tastes/attitudes have not changed at all as long that I can tell: he still goes for the same ages, looks and attitudes in a woman now that he did when he met my mom, and when he met my aforementioned sister's mom, and etc. He talks way too openly about this stuff, so there's 35+ years of chatter and dating history to back that he rarely finds anyone outside his range interesting at all. He even dated UP into that range when he wasn't 18 yet.

And me... couldn't be more opposite. When I was a teen, I was absolutely certain that nothing was hotter than 16 year olds. In college, 16 started looking childish to me and 18-19 was best. Mid-twenties, the freshmen look like kids to me and the senior/graduate age women are most interesting. Break 30, and the classic 6-7 years younger range started looking right, and all the college women look too young. And now that I'm past 35, I find women around 30 the most appealing.

So I guess I'd say that yes, men's tastes CAN evolve... but not all of them DO.
posted by Pufferish at 11:55 AM on September 25, 2009

Just an anecdotal point of data, I'm a 28 year old male currently surrounded by 19-22 year old women. They are certainly attractive, but, for whatever reason, I'm just not as attracted to them as I am to the far fewer 25-29 year old women I get to see everyday.

I understand that physical attractiveness in women is supposed to peak around 22, but apparently there is just more to it than that for me. I'm pretty sure that isn't the sentimental side of me speaking.
posted by 517 at 11:58 AM on September 25, 2009

One problem I had with staying attracted to younger people is that I started to feel all parental about them instead. Taught love handles on an 18 year old boy was once so hot, but now I'm thinking, "Hope he wears sunscreen on that sensitive skin down there."
posted by agentwills at 12:48 PM on September 25, 2009

Mrs Jones never ages.

I wouldn't know about other women.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:06 PM on September 25, 2009

As a 50 year old woman, I have to say that I find the answers here encouraging. It's hard, sometimes, in the face of the deluge of perfect/photoshopped young bodies displayed everywhere to remember that they don't reflect the only possible shape of desire. Thanks, guys. You've put a little spring in my step today.
posted by jokeefe at 1:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [21 favorites]

Here's another issue I have with the "guys who claim to prefer 40-somethings to 20-somethings are settling" comment:

Though I am not the most confident guy romantically, I feel MUCH more confident that I could snag a 20-something woman now (in my 40s) when I did when I was younger. Though I have some self-image issues, I'm way more confident than I was in my 20s. I'm successful, I'm often in a position of authority, and I've met many young women who are attracted to older men.

So, given that, why am I not interested in younger women?

I don't want to offend anyone, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but most of young-babe-chasing men I've met are a little immature. They seem to hook up with women who are mentally the same age that they are.
posted by grumblebee at 1:38 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

As an old broad who just passed 52 yesterday I can only thank you adorable fellas for cheering me the fuck up! I guess I'll always be a big fan of men in general.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:27 PM on September 25, 2009

Sounds like I'm the same as a lot of people here.

When I was fairly young, only my contemporaries were attractive. More than a little bit older was often unappealing. As I got older, my range expanded. The younger girls I'd always found attractive remained so, but in a less active way. More like a recognition of beauty rather than attraction. Meanwhile older ones started to become attractive because of "realness," the same flaws that formerly disqualified them. At some point the gates blew wide open, and suddenly the cougar demographic was in there. Realistically I'm still most likely to be attracted to women within a few years of me either way, but the range is still much wider than in the past. Fertility age limits can kind of screw up the pattern a bit in some ways.

The perfect 18-20 year old body will always look perfect. I suspect it'll be that way when I'm 99. But as time passes, it fades into more of an abstract fantasy zone. It's fun to look at, but it's not attractive in the same way a whole person is, one you can connect with. Perky boobs beat droopy or post-breastfeeding boobs any day of the week, butts too, but an imperfect older body attached to a mind I can connect with is hot in a more realistic way.

When you're young, the idea of two old people having sex is the grossest thing imaginable. And then one day you're old, at least relative to some, and you're still human and still attracted to your contemporaries. The younger ones never stopped being good looking, but it's a lot less likely you'd shoot for them, not for more than sport purposes if at all, not for most people, I imagine.
posted by Askr at 3:08 PM on September 25, 2009

I will say that while in the abstract I still find young women physically attractive, as potential sexual partners (and I'm happily married and not shopping) I'd definitely be more attracted to someone closer to my own age than I would to a 19-year-old.

I have a friend my age (42) who only dates "girls" who are 18 - 25. He is not a particularly mature individual, mentally--he acts and lives life like a 21 year old, and not in a good way. He tends to think of women as prizes--tokens to measure his own self-worth, right down to valuing stupid superficial stuff like "model," "c-cup," "blonde" over way more interesting qualities (he's actually shared his list of important qualities in a woman, and that sort of stuff was literally the only stuff on it). He also, frankly, only dates women with absolutely no self-esteem...easier to find in a younger woman than an older one.

None of the women he dates are appealing to me at all, even if a few of them look fine at a glance.
posted by maxwelton at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2009

Grumblebee, you're my hero.
posted by annabkr at 4:04 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there are different types of sexual attraction and that sexual attraction is more complex than your question assumes.

In my early twenties I was walking down the street with a friend and two guys drove by and catcalled at us. This happened at least once or twice a year in college. And although the guys were jerks and they were "objectifying" women, there's something a little flattering about it. As in "I'm hawt and he knows it" kind of flattering....

Anyways, I turned to my friend and said "won't it be kind of sad when we're so old that no one catcalls at us..." And she said, "I think you're underestimating how much sex old people have..." And I said, "well sure, you can have sex, but nobody's going to catcall at you when you're old."

I think as you age the superficial catcalling kind of sexual attraction might fade, but the deeper, flirtier, kind of interpersonal attraction sticks around. Why does it stick around? Probably because there's more to sexual attraction than just how the person looks. It's also about whether the other person understands you and gets you and can make you laugh. Someone who is your own age is going to "get you" and understand you more than someone twenty years your junior.
posted by bananafish at 4:46 PM on September 25, 2009

I should have been more careful in my phrasing. I am sure there are straight men in their 40s who don't find younger women attractive on a visceral level. And for some reason all 19 of them appear to be MeFites this afternoon. (You want citations? It's basic primate biology, folks.) (Although, fuck, in nature none of us were meant to live past about 35 or so, and if we did, we didn't tend to be reproducing that late in life. It's why old women are the bawdy figures in folklore that they are. Hell, The Wife of Bath was practically MILF porn.)

BUT that does not exhaust the issue, as most of us are saying and as I emphasized in my original response. Like I said, I also found 40-something women "hot" when I was 22 -- hot enough to pass up my female age-mates for one for a while.

Any well balanced man finds women attractive, in general, for many reasons. "Attraction" is so much more than sexual chemistry or evolutionary advantage calculation. It's chemical, neurobiological, hormonal, social, cultural, psychological, physical, intellectual, visceral, sexual, olafactory, visual, explicit, sublimated, conscious, denied, and more. All at once.

The poster was very specific about his (?) question, but even so, the fact is that as social primates with a highly evolved faculty for culture, language, memory, and imagination we never experience "pure" sexual attraction toward a real other person. If we did, we'd behave very differently (like Bonobos, for the most part, I suspect). In the aggregate, in general, the vast storehouse of human cultural history and the plain evidence of everyday life suggests that women at the height of fertility are, *all other things being equal,* more sexually attractive to men of any age than older women, and to some extent the reverse is true as well -- young men are "hotter" to women, as far as I've observed, on a purely "physical level."

But as this thread has shown in ample terms, all other things are NOT equal, and there are no "pure" levels to be accessed either through conscious introspection or the observation of other peoples' behavior.

You can go all evolutionary psychology on this one, or you can go all ethology and primate biology, or you can go all humanistic and literary, or you can go all cultural critiquey and constructionist.

You still won't touch the core of the question. Because in a fundamental way it is the problem of consciousness itself. We forget, sometimes, why we're here.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2009

(I will add that I think of culture as a biological adaptation for reproductive fitness; it's been around perhaps 50-100K years, which ain't long, but long enough to say that culture is more than an overlay on biology; it is intertwined with our biology.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:13 PM on September 25, 2009

why would someone who's turned on by hot 20-year-olds at age 20 suddenly change that at age 40?

Because they've raised female children. To even dream of messing around with a 20 year old just invokes waves of "EWWW, SHE'S MY DAUGHTERS AGE" in me personally.

Another reason is that 20 year olds are still finding themselves (male and female) so usually full of all sorts of natural. At 40, you've had enough drama and just want to have fun and surprise, surprise, you've got enough experience and confidence to not only cut loose but really know what you're doing.

If I were single would I ignore a hot 20 year old woman flinging herself at me? Probably not , but I can't imagine actually chasing, let alone dating anyone under 30 at this point. They may be hot, but they're pretty empty inside and don't know much (just like most people at 20). Experience makes people more interesting and lively and therefore hotter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Any well balanced man finds women attractive

A gay man is "unbalanced"? Really?

The poster was very specific about his (?) question

The poster states their gender in the question: she is a woman.

In regards to the question, I think people both male and female definitely do find different people attractive depending on what life stage they're in. When you first go through puberty you most likely start off being attracted to your peer group, but you're (most likely) not going to find a 12 year old sexually attractive in your later teens.

I know quite a few late-twenties and early-thirties men and they almost all exclusively pursue women that are within about five years either way of their own age.
posted by lwb at 12:25 AM on September 26, 2009

A gay man is "unbalanced"? Really?

Aw chill the f**k out dude. I qualified it as "straight man" half a dozen times elsewhere in the same post. I even said, in my earlier comment, that I thought the dynamics were the same for gay men.

A well balanced gay man is attracted to other men for lots of different reasons too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:51 AM on September 26, 2009

I'm 30 now.

When I was younger (15-23), I was typically attracted to women much older than me (19-38). My physical attraction at that time was to curvy women.

I think my attraction to older women was definitely partially motivated by ego, e.g. look i'm young I can still seduce these older women. I'm not sure that drove my level of attraction, persay, but it certainly was a component.

When I finally dated a couple of thinner women towards the end of this cycle, I found the dynamic changed somewhat, probably because the sex was better. This doesn't imply that the sex couldn't have been better with curvy girls, just that at the time I had better sex with the couple of thinner women I dated at the time.

As I got older I found a reversal in my age-related attraction. While I think maybe i'd always been tangentially attracted to women my age or women younger than me, the attraction got more serious as I got older, perhaps a sign of not getting enough of women my age when I was younger. On the other hand, my primary significant other (i'm poly) is older than me by five years, and I am incredibly happy with her. That doesn't mean we don't spend time with people younger than us. I think it has something to do with a sense of perversion, the "guilty" feeling of "robbing the cradle". That makes things more hot.

Lately I find myself attracted to a huge number of college-aged women. I haven't quite decided if this makes me a creepy predator or it's just a natural outgrowth of getting older.
posted by arimathea at 9:27 AM on September 26, 2009

When I was 20, there were a lot of qualities about 20 year old women that I didn't find particularly appealing. Acne, over-oily skin and hair, gawkish uncoordination from late growth spurts, a tendency to clique social behavior, a general personal insecurity about their appearance (particularly the more neurotic ones, who had little basis in reality for such insecurity), etc. were all qualities I've never been able to appreciate in young women. But, when I was 20, most 30+ year old women were just out of my league; I didn't have the money, social position, looks, panache, skills, accomplishments, or sexual technique to get anywhere with them. Moreover, at 20, I quickly learned that the vast majority of attractive, accomplished 30+ year old women already had husbands or boy friends that were apt to see any attentions by me towards their wives or girlfriends as reason for beatin' on me. So, that made finding the comparatively few 30+ year old single women left, a pretty risky and unrewarding proposition, simply because even if I did find an unattached female in that age group, I might have had to risk a number of fisted altercations to do so, and even then, I could not expect to long survive the unfavorable comparisons and back channel gossip that her peer social circle would heap on me/us, over time, regarding my lack of cash, social standing, and accomplishments.

Accordingly, as a 20 year old, my only hopes for female company lay with 18 to 22 year old women, and so those were the women I dated. My first wife was a week older than I was, and we married at 20, with our first child on the way. That marriage was over in 5 years, after the birth of our second child, and as I aged into my late 20s, I found that I was easily taken a lot more seriously, by seriously interesting older women. Fairly suddenly, at about 28, I had the money and self-assuredness to approach almost any woman I found interesting, and be seen for myself. Unfortunately, I was working a lot then, and didn't have the personal time to devote to all that, as I now, in retrospect, wish I had. But I never lacked for female companionship, and although I didn't marry again until I was 33, I had a number of good relationships, and the good fortune and personal satisfaction to introduce a number of great women to good male friends of mine. In my second marriage, I married a woman 8 years older than I was, and that marriage lasted 7 years, ending, regretfully, for mutual career reasons, as much as anything else. My third marriage, to a woman 8 years my junior, happened because she wanted a way out of a small Southern town - it was fun, but short lived, and she went off to have a child with a man nearer her age, when it was finally clear to her that I wasn't interested in more children.

From my mid-20s to my present late 50s, I don't think my personal tastes in women have changed much at all. I've never considered myself much of an ageist, but I do think my attractiveness to women of varying ages has changed markedly with the years. 18 to 22 year olds never see me now, unless I run over them in a car accident. Conversely, 60 year old women mostly size me up, these days, like a big old rib roast on sale, which I never recall happening, at all, when I was 25. 35 to 55 year old women check me out, depending on how I'm dressed, the social setting, and their own interests, as they will. And as male mortality curves continue with each year I age, I have a slight, but statistically noticeable advantage in being a live, older, single man, which grows a little greater with each passing year.

I think women are actually much more selective in regards to age, than are men, and that most men tend to respond to cues that they get from women, regarding age appropriate behavior, than is generally understood, particularly by women. These days, I'd generally feel foolish chatting up a 20 year old girl, because odds are, she'd be looking to escape that conversation most of the time, but more importantly, I don't ever start such conversations, because I'm not attracted to pimples, gawkishness and oily hair any more now, than I was 30+ years ago. Now, I can interest at least some 35 and 45 and 55 year old women, as I choose, and so, as they interest me, I do; I would have been doing this, when I was 19 or 20, if women in these age groups would have given me the time of day, back then.

Another female moderated influence on men's behavior toward women, whether feminists among us like it or not, is still clothing, jewelry, make-up and footwear fashion. Women do tend to dress very differently, and in different social settings, in every decade of their life; personally, I believe this mediates responding male interest more than women understand. Here in Florida, in particular, the bikini is the proud announcement of teenage girls and women under 25. Few women over 25 wear a bikini outside Miami Beach, if they live in this state, since social pressure from their peers is fairly strong against doing so. And by 30, most women with children will no longer wear a two piece bathing suit of any cut, around here. So, generally, from more than 100 yards away, on virtually any Atlantic or Gulf beach in this state, most men can get an approximate age classification of women they might meet, just from the kind of bathing suits being worn. And similar style breaks exist, in the main, for hem lengths, necklines, shoe heel heights, jewelry, makeup, and the thousand other little details of dress that women use to present themselves in the world. The lighter fabrics and constructions of women's clothing are designed to display the underlying body shape more than are men's clothes, generally. Most men may be only dimly aware of such things in explicit detail, but even as dimwitted as we generally are, the combinations of such details aren't lost on us. We do get the meaning of many ensembles accurately, even if women have to be more overt in the details to be clearly understood by men, than they do to be understood by other women. But we men get, I think, over all, a much more nuanced view of what a woman thinks of herself, and more particularly, how she would like to be seen by us, from her dress, than women do of men. Women who want to incite male interest have a broad vocabulary of dress, and decorum, not generally available to most men who like to stimulate female interest.

That's because, in my experience, men, on the other hand, are generally a lot less distinguishable in dress. A suit on a 20 year old man may not need to camouflage the belly most of us have by 40, but, we hem our trousers pretty much the same at 25 as we do at 65. Our lapels may vary in width over the decades, but someone will always be wearing a double breasted suit, and others 2 button classics, in every gathering of suited men more than 100 strong. And for every 97 guys wearing four-in-hand tied neckties, there will be, on average, 3 guys in bowties in a crowd 100 strong. Our jeans are generally smaller and tighter at 20 than at 60, but we still wear jeans; the only question is whether our bellies still go behind our waistbands, or over them, with advancing age. Shirts are shirts, whether tucked in, or not. Etc. So, I think women, and to a lesser extent, other men, get used to ignoring a lot of messages men may try send by dress, in the general sameness of men's fashion. To dress really well as a man, i.e. for it to be really noticeable that you are a sharp dresser, you have to spend a lot more, and be a lot more discerning, than I think you do, generally, as a woman, due to that general social insensitivity to men's fashions.
posted by paulsc at 12:03 PM on September 26, 2009

20 year olds are still finding themselves

Yes. There's an amazing kind of vulnerability that, in my experience, only comes with age. Of course, young people are deeply vulnerable, but they generally work hard to cover their confusions and fears with a veneer -- usually bravado, sexual acting out, emo dramatics or whatever. It's sometimes sweet to see, but more often it's irritating. I want to say, "Contact me in ten years, okay, kid?" (I was just as irritating when I was in my 20s, so I'm not judging. It's just how I feel.)

Gradually people -- not all people, but many -- gain experience and confidence. In some, that confidence leads to arrogance and a feeling of entitlement. That's unappealing. In the rest, it allows them to remove their masks (most of the time) and say, "Yup, this is who I am, warts and all." THAT'S the kind of vulnerability I love, and I don't see how someone in her 20s can have it. Show me that 20-year-old and I WILL find her sexy.

It's what I find hot, and one doesn't need to be an anthropologist to see it. It's apparent really quickly. So it's possible to react to it almost as quickly as one reacts to large breasts or whatever.

When I try to think of examples in pop culture, the best I can think of is Emma Thompson in "Remains of the Day" (or almost any movie). She is sexy as hell in that movie without trying to be sexy. She's sexy because she's totally open. When I compare her to younger actresses, Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie, she wins. The younger set don masks of "sexiness," which is basically a set of mannerisms.

Anyway, this gets as close as I can to why I prefer older women.

I think as you age the superficial catcalling kind of sexual attraction might fade...

(Some) 20-year-old guys make catcalls. Those young guys are generally not attracted to 40 and 50-year-old women. As many people have noted here, most of us are attracted to people in our age range.

So the fact that you don't get whistled at when you're walking down the street does not mean that you're not sexy in that "superficial" way. It means that you're not what the catcall guys are looking for. I see sexy older women on the street all the time, but I don't whistle at them. I don't show them how I feel in any way, because it's not appropriate. But the feelings are there.

(I wish our culture was different. I wish there was a way to say or show someone that you think she is hot -- a way that doesn't imply any base motives. I think many of us could use that kind of ego boost from time to time. It's sad that we don't get it because people are trying to be polite.)

I am sure there are straight men in their 40s who don't find younger women attractive on a visceral level. And for some reason all 19 of them appear to be MeFites this afternoon.

Are you sure that we're in such a tiny minority? How often do you discuss women with 40-year-olds? And what kind of men are those 40-year-olds? I've met so many guys my age (who aren't on Metafilter) who prefer older women. Maybe they are in a minority, but it's not a small one.

You want citations? It's basic primate biology, folks.

What is? That older men prefer younger women? I WOULD like to see the citation. Yes, there is some science that suggests men are attracted to certain traits (smooth skin, a specific hip-to-waist ratio, etc.) But due to the malleable nature of the human brain, this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that tends to get overridden in specific individuals. You might as well say that men who don't like sugar are not "well balanced" (what does that mean, anyway?). We are prompted to have a sweet tooth by our biology. Still, I've met plenty of people who don't like sweet things.

(How many 40+ men have participated in scientific studies about attraction? Most subjects of studies are undergraduates.)

People tend to run from anything that's complex. Sorry, but sexuality is EXTREMELY complex and varied. "Well balanced" is meaningless. The OP wants a simple way to understand men. Sorry. It doesn't exist. There is no such thing as "men." There are just individual people with male genitalia. There are some generally shared traits and desires in that group, but there are also plenty of individuals who have different traits and desires.
posted by grumblebee at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

I really, really, really wanted to be the guy who added to this thread by saying that 18-year-olds are always hottest and everyone else is just lying...but I can't. Something about aging (I'm 42) changes something. Frankly, I wish that thing didn't change, 'cuz I still feel younger than my chronological age in my head, but unless it changes in 18-year-olds anytime soon (i.e., they become more complex, smarter, worldly, sensual) it doesn't matter.

And heck, if I were single, an older woman will have more sexual experience generally. As Dennis Miller once said, in reference to terrorists getting 72 virgins in the afterlife, "Virgins are great, but after 6-7, I'm ready for a pro.
posted by teg4rvn at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2009

I am sure there are straight men in their 40s who don't find younger women attractive on a visceral level. And for some reason all 19 of them appear to be MeFites this afternoon.

You're right, it could be a bizarre statistical anomaly. Or it could just be that you're wrong.

I kid, I kid. I'm sure at least part of the apparent consensus here is selection bias, as adipocere pointed out way up there -- though for what it's worth when I started typing my first comment into this thread nobody else had responded yet and I was expecting that I was going to be the weird outlier and everyone else would be all "no way, anyone over 30 is saggy and gross".

Looking at the thread and discounting the posts from guys in their 20s or below who are just guessing, it seems like we have a roughly even split between those who claim to be attracted only to women their own age or slightly younger, and guys who claim to be attracted both to women their own age and to significantly younger women, plus a handful of guys mentioned who are stuck on younger women only.

Which even allowing for selection bias suggests that the effect you're talking about does exist, but is by no means universal.

I'm not sure it's worth dragging in too much cultural, let alone anthropological, history into the discussion, given that average lifespans up until very recently would've made the whole question pretty much moot. And it's a bit much to be countering direct evidence with armwaving about "but... but... basic primate biology!!"
posted by ook at 10:44 AM on September 27, 2009

This is a fascinating topic for me (as I love women of all ages), and I find myself in an almost unique position--at least in relation to most of the posters--concerning this topic, so I guess I'll relate my personal feelings on the subject.

I have almost never been attracted to women my own age, when I was 18 I preferred women who were either slightly younger (15-16) or older (20-25). I did not attend college, so I was never surrounded by women in my peer group the way most people I knew were, so nothing really changed that taste. In my twenties I was very attracted to older women (late 30's on up to late 40's/early 50's). I feel like not being attracted to my age group is a big product of me not really identifying with my age group. When I was younger, I felt like everyone my age was immature, superficial and socially awkward. Plus, most of the women just didn't have the body. I LOVE some curves on a woman, it's my chief physical turn on (eyes, skin and voice pulling in close behind).

Oddly enough I married a woman exactly the same age as me, and remained married and faithful to her for five years. However, I constantly found myself attracted to younger or older women. I think this has less to do with the physical aspect though, like most posters here. I think it has to do with "phase of life" or something like that. My wife and I divorced because she came to want to own a home and have children and I didn't.

A year later I find myself very happily dating a woman ten years younger than me (she's a very hot 22). While I definitely found her physically attractive at our first meeting, I almost immediately wrote her off as too young and probably not that interesting. I was wrong, however, as she turned out to be incredibly mature, capable, and interesting in many ways to me. Honestly, in our day to day life together, the age thing never comes up. It only becomes obvious when we hang out with friends my age as she looks younger than every woman in the room. Her personality however leads most of the women to comment that she looks very young for her age--in conversation, they mistake her for an older woman.

I guess the point of this infinitely long post is that I find myself attracted to women first based on their physical traits. It doesn't matter if they're 19 or 52--hot is hot, and I fantasize just as much about older women as I do younger ones. I enjoy porn that includes both. I am however, almost never attracted to women my own age, and currently very happy with someone much younger than me in every way and can't see myself wishing for anything else.

This however probably has more to do with the fact that my partner is really goddamn great, warm, loving, and sexy as hell. As someone posted earlier, one of the most attractive things about her, is that she is attracted to me.
posted by kaiseki at 1:34 PM on October 16, 2009

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