It’s one of the few age-old sexual stereotypes based on scientifically-proven fact: heterosexual men prefer younger women, regardless of their own age.
However, a new study into age limits of considered and actual sexual partners has found that contrary to popular belief, men’s preferred age-range actually expands as they get older, in other words, it’s not just younger women they’re attracted to.
That’s not to say men don’t still have a penchant for women in their twenties, in fact, the research revealed that the youngest age men claim to be attracted to remains the same no matter how old they are i.e. a 40-year-old man would still consider a relationship with a 22-year-old woman when he turns 50 and 60 and so on.
Published in the journal PsyArXiv, psychologists at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, confirmed that women have a much narrower age range, preferring male partners who are either older than them or close to their own age.
When it comes to explaining these key distinctions between the genders, lead author Jan Antfolk said that men’s preference for younger women can be understood in terms of basic evolutionary theory.
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“Natural selection has probably shaped men’s sexual strategies to include a particular interest in highly fertile, young women,” he said.
“But because women, in many cases, are more picky with respect to sexual partners, most men could not find a partner unless their sexual motivation would be more inclusive.
“Humans tend to have long-lasting sexual relationships and this would not be possible if all men were [only] interested in young women.”
Antfolk and his team gathered their findings based on a sample of 2,655 adults and also found that despite men's interest in younger women, their sexual activity reflects their own age range i.e. even though male participants preferred women in their twenties, they may not necessarily be sexually compatible with them.
However, Antfolk added that the findings illustrate that men are less obsessed with youth than stereotypes would suggest, writing: “The findings might help relax the belief that men are mainly interested in young women.”