Here in the sprawling offices of the Guruplex, we are continually fascinated by human behavior. Dating itself is one big experiment in human relations. Being professional dating expert people-guru-types, we are at the forefront of the latest trends. Which leads us to the serious academic question: Are the mature women of the online dating world really hot for all those younger guys?
Reality? Or Just a Marketing Fantasy?
If you've been stuck on a desert island for the last 12 years, you may not know of the phenomenon called the cougar and the younger guy. A cougar is a mature woman who, depending on your view of such things, is around 45 years and older. The guy would be at least 10 years younger, but usually far younger than that.
According to popular lore, mature women are insatiable. Because they apparently cannot be sated by men of their own age and thus become lonely housewives, they must--yes, they are forced--to turn to much younger men for satisfaction. We all know the statistics that men hit their sexual prime in their 20s, and women begin their prime at age 40. We said: begin. You can interpret this as meaning that men hit their prime and then it's curtains for them. Done. Over. Yet women begin their prime at 40 years old and just keep on going, Energizer Bunny-style.
We cannot even begin to enumerate how this idea has spread throughout culture. It first entered genteel culture in 1967 with the release of The Graduate, depicting the 22 year-old Dustin Hoffman having an affair with a women in her 40s (Ann Bancroft). Now we've got shows like Cougar Town and the reality show The Cougar.
Pulling the Numbers: Do Women Want to Date Younger Men?
But what's the real reality? We ran some numbers to find out.
We processed a sampling of mature women from the OKCupid dating site against high and low ranges of desired men. We did have some anomalies and outliers, such as the woman who claimed to be 42 years old but was more like 55. Either that or she was a hard-ridden 42. Yet we took information at face value. Look at the chart we created from the information:
What This Information Means
- Mature Women Always Want to Date Younger Men. It's just a matter of how much of an age difference they are looking for. A few are looking for cougar-worthy relationships with men about 15 years younger. Most are looking for a less pronounced age disparity (see below).
- Mature Women Nearly Always Want to Date Older Men. This is where men and women differ. Men tend to choose their own age, or a bit higher, as the top range of desired women. Women, on the other hand, create a comfortable buffer zone of older men and younger men, thus increasing the pool of available men.
- Mature Women Want to Date Men Up to 9 Years Younger Than They Are. On average, mature women stated that they wished to date men who are up to, but no more than, 8.78 years younger than themselves.
- Mature Women Want to Date Men Up to 6 Years Older Than They Are. This statistic was a bit of a surprise. We expected that the high and low ranges of desired men would closely resemble each other. For example, if the woman wanted to date men up to 9 years younger, she would also date men up to 9 years older. But clearly the balance is shifted toward dating younger men.
Women in the 45 year-old and up class definitely are open to dating younger men. Whether they actually go on dates or end up in relationships with these younger men is unknown. This is just their stated preference.
One misunderstanding we can identify, though, is when younger men interpret the older woman's desire to "date" as being a cougar's howl to be bedded by the closest young stud. Dating and sex are not necessarily analogous.