Should a younger man have sex with an older woman?

Dear Alice,

All my friends are always telling me that I should try having sex with a girl who is ten years older than me. I am 22 years old and my sexual partners have always been my own age or even a few years younger than me. Personally, I don't fancy the thought of going to bed with an older woman, even though my friends tell me that I would learn a lot and would enjoy the experience. What do you think? I really can't bring myself to have sex with an older person. Am I abnormal or do you think I am right? Have you ever come across this type of problem before and, if so, what have you advised the people to do?

— Love the young one

Dear Love the young one, 

It seems like your friends are trying to convince you of the many advantages they believe exist for a younger man to have sex with an older woman. They may be using the logic that experience comes with age, which they may believe translates to an older woman’s sexual experience. However, you’re the one in control of what you do with your body. Different people are turned on by all sorts of experiences. If the thought of sleeping with an older woman really holds no interest for you, then there’s no need to force it, despite the suggestions of your friends. 

One way to find out what excites you is to try a variety of different sexual experiences. But that’s not the only way. It's not necessary to try out a bunch of activities or partners to anticipate what you'll be into or not. It seems like you know what turns you on and what you find arousing. What works for your friends may not work for you. After all, there are as many different sexual needs and desires as there are people. Most critically, there’s no need to participate in any sexual activity with which you aren’t comfortable. Discovering what you find pleasurable, no matter if it aligns with what your friends find pleasurable or not, is key.   

However, despite your initial misgivings, you may still decide to explore being with older women at some point or even simply be curious as to whether it truly is appealing for you. If you’d like to dive a little deeper into why you don’t seem as excited about an older woman compared to those who are your age or younger, examining some societal trends may lend some answers. For Western heterosexual couples, the norm is for the man to be older and the woman to be younger. In fact, a study found that, on average, women tend to be more satisfied when involved with older men. If they’re involved with younger men, a common stereotype is that they’re too aggressive or clinging to their youth. They’re often negatively labeled as “cougars,” and their behavior tends to deviate from socially accepted norms of the man being older in a partnership. Do these perceptions contribute to your aversion of having sex with older women? How much of your opinion on older women is formed from outside influences? You may find that pushing against these societal norms could be rewarding. For some women, as they age, they prefer to be with a man who is younger than them. You may find that you enjoy an experience that is different from one that you’ve experienced in the past with a different type of person and preferences.  

So, where does this idea that a man is supposed to be older than a woman come from? Well, there’s an idea in evolutionary studies that the age preferences of heterosexual people may come from centuries of selection. A woman may want a man who’s older and therefore more able to provide resources to support children. Comparatively, a man may want a younger woman who’s more likely to be able to have multiple healthy children. However, this evolutionary perspective can be a crude way of looking at age preferences. After all, people are more than their biological impulses. Still, many may have this vague notion of the “best mate,” and this may linger in the psyche. 

Regardless of what your preferences for age in a partner are, the reality is that age plays a key part for most people whether they’re trying to hookup or marry. Age gaps in general can be difficult to overcome, no matter your gender. Do you have a clear upper limit in mind in terms of age? Or what about a lower limit? People have different reasons for these age preferences. For example, some people prefer to only have sex with someone they could see themselves connecting with outside the bedroom. Some feel that a large age difference means being in different life stages and thus not able to connect as deeply. Other people find that they connect more with people older than them. Your feelings about age may be about your sexual desires, or age may have some other, perhaps deeper, meaning to you. Exploring this with a trusted confidante or mental health professional may be helpful or interesting to you, as well. But whatever your reasons, know there’s nothing “abnormal” about having some limits about age, even if those limits are different from others around you. 

Last updated Jun 25, 2021
Originally published Jan 09, 1996

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