Do Age Differences Matter When Meeting New Partners?
Age can be a tricky
thing when it comes to sex and dating. Culturally, we tend to pay close
attention to sexual situations in which there is a large age difference between
partners; witness the recent fascination with “cougars” (older women who are
looking for younger male partners) and media coverage of celebrity couples with
age disparities, such as Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart or Demi Moore and
Ashton Kutcher. One might argue that dating outside of your age peer group is
becoming more common and more acceptable, but it’s still something that’s
noticed and commented upon.
Traditionally, older men
have been seen in a mostly favorable light in the dating game. Older men are
typically thought to be more mature and better providers of financial and
emotional stability than younger men, and thus might be seen as a “good catch”
for a younger woman. However, times they are a-changing, and the stereotype of
older man as provider might have less and less relevance to women today, as the
economic and social playing fields continue to be leveled. This stereotype is
also specifically linked to long-term relationships rather than to casual sex.
There is a negative flip
side to the “older man” meme. Older men who hang around venues that tend to
draw a significantly younger crowd can be viewed as somewhat creepy, especially
if these men are looking for casual sex. The assumption at work here may be
that there’s something “wrong” with an older man who is not in a stable
relationship already, or that the man is seeking out younger, less experienced
women in order to con them in some way.
I don’t think that
either the older-man-as-provider or older-man-as-creep stereotypes hold a lot
of water when it comes to individual men, but those cultural assumptions are
out there, and they do affect how we view individuals in a particular
In your case, since you
look significantly younger than you are, there may be some feeling among the
women that you approach or who approach you that they have been deceived,
whether intentionally or not. It’s great that you’re honest about your age, and
I definitely think you should continue to tell the truth about it. However,
most women are operating under the assumption that you are younger, and are
entering into a conversation with you based on this premise. I’m sure there are
many younger women who would be interested in a 30-year-old man, and many women
your age and older who would be too, but you’re not attracting these women
based on your appearance—you’re attracting the ones who are interested in a
25-year-old. Thus, when they find out that you’re older, they are no longer
interested. The “older-man-as-creep” meme just adds another negative layer to
this situation, regardless of whether or not that stereotype fits you.
I don’t feel that
formulas like the one you mention for an “acceptable” dating age range are
particularly useful in these situations, as you have discovered. Your formula
puts your lower dating/sex age range at 22, but for every 22-year-old woman who
would be happy dating a 30-year-old man, there’s another who would find that
The key is for you to
find partners for dating, relationships or sex who are interested in a man your
age, regardless of their own. To do this, you’ll have to seek out situations
where appearances are not the first thing used to judge someone’s age, or
venues where the average age tends to skew a little older, so that everyone
there doesn’t automatically assume that the entire crowd is in their 20s.
Meeting potential partners through mutual friends, online or in different
places than the ones you currently frequent might help.
Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be
answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions
that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in
this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and
Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.