Prompted by this shift in the demographics of modern relationships, a team of sociologists at the University of Maine set about investigating the reality of older women wedded to younger men.In their 2006 study, Sandra Caron, Mary Logue and Nichole Proulx interviewed eight married couples where the wife was between 10 to 17 years older than the husband.
READ MORE: Happily in an older woman/younger man relationship? The trio behind the project were sure to report that “vast age differences, especially in woman-older relationships, clearly violate the norms of this society”. 40 years ago, writer and activist Susan Sontag penned ‘The Double Standard of Ageing’ for the now defunct .
In the native New Yorker’s opinion, older women are routinely subject to much stricter norms when it comes to picking sexual partners. Yet it’s not all cradle snatching and oedipal gloom for older women dating younger men.
Not only did they discover that middle aged women who’d been previously married were more likely to seek a younger mate, they also showed that older woman/younger man relationships are rarely brief flings (on average they last for 2 years).
Crucially, the Quebecois researchers disproved the ‘rich white’ cougar stereotype by demonstrating that many of these older women come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and also fall within lower income brackets.
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“Prejudices have a tendency to stick, even if society is changing,” she says, “calling an older woman a cougar isn’t meaningless, it’s a way of defining her as a predator who’s only interested in hunting down younger prey.” For an enlightening comparison it’s worth looking at an equivalent expression for older men who hook up with younger women.
Whilst still packed with hidden meaning, ‘sugar daddy’ isn’t nearly as derogatory as its big-cat counterpart.
“For most women, aging means a humiliating process of gradual sexual disqualification,” she scathingly wrote, “society is much more permissive about aging men.” Marine builds on Sontag’s earlier woes: “Many people are still shocked to see an older woman with a younger man,” she says, “they might think ‘what if that was my mother, or my son! In fact, research carried out last summer by Mc Gill University’s Milaine Alarie and Jason Carmichael concludes otherwise.