Since I was young, the relationship of older women to younger man has always intrigued me. As a member of the dating pool, I always dated younger men and in turn married one. As a writer, it’s one of my favorite relationships to write. Why I’ve been intrigued and why I like to write those relationships comes down to the same reason. There’s always been a slight taboo, a naughtiness, to a woman dating or marrying a younger man—at least that’s perception prevalent in society. Things are changing. An informal survey of the contributors to this blog will tell you that four of the five are in an older woman/younger man relationship. Granted in some cases, the age span is small, but whether there’s a difference of three weeks or three years or thirty years, women often gets teased or looked down upon for robbing the cradle or having a boy toy. Not always, but it happens.
As Anny mentioned, the sort of relationship isn’t a new thing, though people tend to believe it is. So I hit the books:
Did you know that Catherine II of Russia created the role of Queen’s Consort during her reign? The position was always filled by young twenty-somethings who went through a rigorous screening, including testing in bed by her appointed test-woman, in order to get the…um…position. The role was filled on a rotating basis until she was sixty-seven.
Well-known Cleopatra had a temple built where she kept young male lovers. Of course, she kept them drugged—not with snake venom—to increase their lust.
Oooh…a whole temple full of young lovers? Sign me up! But then there’s Empress Theodora. This lusty older woman was well-known for taking ten young men to her bed in an evening. Did they have a number system do you think? Traffic lights?
Queen Zingua of Angola had young warriors fight to the death for her. And they got the prize of bedding her. She had them killed in the morning, but that’s another story.
These were all short term (very short in some cases) relationships. What about the long haul? In romantic fiction, the older woman, younger man scenario has grown in popularity over the last few year. As I mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed it—three of the books on my keeper shelf are early Harlequin Temptations which covered that relationship and the neurotic reactions to it. Woman were afraid they’d be shunned and looked down on…
Do we still have those same fears? My husband is younger than I am, and believe me back when we dated and got married in the early 90’s, I downplayed that as much as possible. It takes a lot of strength to brave a plethora of robbing the cradle jokes. It takes a lot of will power not to get peeved too. Who’s right is it to say who we can and can’t fall in love with?
There’s some sort of unspoken mainstream rule that has always said the man must be older. Why? Who knows?
Societally, this is just what we’ve been told. It might stem back to the middle ages (or earlier) when progeny was imperative. A young woman who could bear lots of kids was the ticket. It’s about time to kick that bucket.
Psychologically speaking, the man being older stems from instinct. Woman have instinctively sought a protector. It goes back to the whole hunt and gather thing. Men provided. Women bore the young. A younger woman was better equipped. (Oh see, we’re there again)
Physically, the older man/much younger woman set-up makes little sense. While female fertility drops in their thirties, male fertility drops then as well. Women tend to have about a seven year longer life expectancy too. Excuse me, but wouldn’t a man with good swimmers who can accompany you into your later years seem a good choice. Well, you know…if that kid thing is important to you. Today, in many cases it’s not. It doesn’t play a role in our mating game.
As women, we are free to choose who we want as mates. More and more, we’re exercising that right. Books about these relationships are helping change traditional mindsets. So is Hollywood. Do these couplings sound familiar? Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Madonna and Guy Ritchie…these are just a few.
Woman aren’t necessarily looking for younger men. We demand what we want and don’t necessarily sit back and let society tell us how things should be. There are options we were never “allowed” to consider. Good options. Men who might just end up being the love of our lives. We’re looking for fun, interesting, exciting and yes, just a little taboo. A guy who feels…great. A partner. A mate. And when it comes down to that, well age doesn’t really matter. In real life or on the pages of a book.