The Case For An Older Woman

February 16th, 2010 by Christian Rudder

"Women older than me keep messaging me. Sorry, but that is not going to happen."—recent feedback from a male user

The above comment is typical. As it is, men between 22 and 30—nearly two-thirds of the male dating pool—focus almost exclusively on women younger than themselves. I'll be investigating this phenomenon today, with gusto and charts. Ultimately, I'll argue that they would be well-served to expand their search upwards, to women in their thirties and forties.

Because it has been a successful way to introduce previous posts, I wanted to put real faces on this demographic before I delve into a bunch of numbers. Pictured below are some single users in their mid-thirties or early forties, taken from the first couple pages of my own local match search. Nothing I'll talk about today pertains necessarily to any one of them, but I wanted to put forward some people to go with the statistical discussion.

The Back Story
Dating Preferences & Age

It's no secret that dating changes radically as you get older. As you can see below, the number of online daters peaks at 24, drops sharply at around 30, and then gradually tapers off, as the remaining singletons either find mates or withdraw themselves from contention:

The bar chart here shows how the woman to man ratio changes over time. As you can see, it's basically flat. In a better world, this would imply that older people don't necessarily have a harder time finding decent mates than younger ones, as the composition of the dating pool holds relatively steady from age to age. Put another way: a 45 year-old woman shouldn't in theory have a harder time finding a date than a 20 year-old, because the female-to-male ratios at those ages are equal (roughly 11:9).

Of course, we all know that 45 year-olds do have a much harder time, because the male fixation on youth distorts the dating pool. Look at how men have set their age preferences on OkCupid:

As you can see, a man, as he gets older, searches for relatively younger and younger women. Meanwhile his upper acceptable limit hovers only a token amount above his own age. a man, as he gets older, searches for relatively younger and younger womenThe median 31 year-old guy, for example, sets his allowable match age range from 22 to 35—nine years younger, but only four years older, than himself. This skewed mindset worsens with age; the median 42 year-old will accept a woman up to fifteen years younger, but no more than three years older.

A man's bias toward younger women becomes even more evident when we overlay his stated preferences with his actual messaging habits.

This next graph is what's called a heat map. It shows messaging concentrations by age; for each vertical age bracket, the greenest areas have the most messages, the reddest have the fewest, and the yellow have the average.

As you can see, men tend to focus on the youngest women in their already skewed preference pool, and, what's more, they spend athe median 30 year-old man spends as much time messaging teenage girls as he does women his own age significant amount of energy pursuing women even younger than their stated minimum. No matter what he's telling himself on his setting page, a 30 year-old man spends as much time messaging 18 and 19 year-olds as he does women his own age. On the other hand, women only a few years older are largely neglected.

So you can see how differently women think about dating and age, here are the corresponding charts for them:

Except in their early to mid-twenties, when they apparently want nothing to do with younger guys (i.e. guys who are still in school?), women show an admirable openness to both reasonably younger and reasonably older men. Notice also how a woman's actual messaging activity, shown in the heat map below, is roughly centered on her own age (as illustrated by the dotted "age parity" line).

This second chart also contains something very peculiar that we didn't see at all in men. Notice the vertical stripes at ages 20 and 29. These color discontinuities indicate dramatic changes in a woman's dating mentality: when a women turns 20 she decides it's okay to message significantly older men (i.e. the upper reaches of the chart suddenly become less red). At 29, a woman becomes even more open to older men and, in addition, stops writing the youngest ones. The typical 28 year-old women sends a small but significant number of messages to men too young to drink. The typical 29 year-old sends practically none.

In any event, here's what happens when we synthesize all the above data. By tallying the number of people interested in each age group and gender, we can get a dynamic picture of the dating pools. I've made a little javascript widget to illustrate what's going on.

The Shape Of The Dating Pool

a by-age distribution of men who would date an 18 year-old woman

men seeking women women seeking men

I was tempted to title this The Tides Of Longing. Move the slider to the right, toward middle age, and you can watch the pool of dating possibilities gather, crest, then drain away. Metaphors aside, we can evaluate the potential matches for a given age/gender by summing the area under the curve (AP Calculus, ftw!) I made these calculations in the chart below, and we can see that women have more pursuers than men until age 26, but thereafter a man can expect many more potential dates than a woman of the same age. At the graph's outer edge, at age 48, men are nearly twice as sought-after as women. Here's the data:

A woman's desirability peaks at 21, which, ironically enough is the age that men just begin their "prime," i.e. become more desirable than average. Following that dotted line out, statistically speaking, a woman's desirability
peaks at 21
you can see that a woman of 31 is already "past her prime," while a man doesn't become so until 36. As we mentioned above, after age 26, a man has more potential matches than his female counterparts, which is a drastic reversal of the proportion in young adulthood, when women are much more sought-after. Because men's dating preferences skew so young, and women's are age-equitable, men peak later, and have a longer plateau of desirability, than women.

So that's the lay of the land, and now I'd like to say why I think it could be different. In the next three sections of this post, I will show that an older woman's attitudes, both about sex and life, are just as good if not better than her younger counterparts', and hopefully I'll convince more guys to venture north of their current age-limits:

Exhibit A

Articles touting a woman's mid-thirties "sexual peak" have stalked the pages of Cosmo since time immemorial, but these articles typically cite clinical testosterone/estrogen/progesterone studies and attempt to make the leap to "sexual peak" from there—if they bother to cite any data at all. I, on the other hand, can make my claim by looking at a woman's stated preferences:

Ideally, how often would you have sex?
age of the population

This is a nationwide "age progression" of American women, a normalized heat map similar to the ones you saw above, but with an added geographical component. By moving the slider you can watch how attitudes become more sex-positive as the population gets older.

This older-women-are-more-sexual pattern repeats across almost every proposition. Here are a few more data sets just as sparklines (computed, like the map above, for our sample set of 100,000 women). Again, these are just a handful of examples; whether we ask about bondage or kissing, women are the most sexual in their thirties.

Researching this post, I also came upon an interesting complementary pair of graphs illustrating sexual dominance preferences. Younger men want to be dominated. Older women are generally interested in doing just that.

In addition their lack of physical inhibitions, older women have much healthier attitudes in two other areas of sexual concern: STD testing and contraception.

Is contraception morally wrong?
age of the population
How often do you get tested for STDs?
age of the population
These maps lead directly into my next topic:
Exhibit B

There are two operative stereotypes of older single women: the sad-sack (à la Bridget Jones) and the "cougar" (à la Samantha from Sex In The City) and both, like all stereotypes, are reductionist and stupid and I've tried to avoid them. I hesitated beginning my case for older women with something about their sexuality, like I did in Exhibit A, because that territory borders right on cougar country. But the evidence there was too compelling to ignore.

On the other hand, I found no basis whatsoever for Ms. Zellweger's version of the thirty-something single woman. The data indicate that they are in fact way better adjusted than their younger counterparts. For example:

It might be hard to eyeball, because the bottom graph isn't steeply sloped, but women in their thirties are 4.0% more likely to be happy than their younger counterparts. As anyone who's been in a relationship with someone who lacks them can attest, self-sufficiency and confidence are awesome qualities in a match.

The graph below shows a similar trend, until a poignant drop at the end.

Either something very sad happens to a woman at 40, or something incredibly awesome happens at 39. Hard to tell. And I also want to say, guys, that just because a woman is older, she's not necessarily on the fast-track to marriage:

Exhibit C

The final thing I want to address is looks, because I think that is guys' most fundamental worry about dating someone older. There's no doubt that younger people are are more physically attractive—indeed in many ways beauty and youth are inextricable. That's why most of the models you see in magazines are teenagers, and turn-back-the-clock surgeries like face-lifts are so popular. There's no getting around this fact, and I don't want to hide it:

But, combing through the data, I intuitively felt like this graph didn't tell the whole story. So I dug deeper, and found something interesting. If you separate out the absolute best-looking women, almost all of whom are very young, and also remove the people you won't realistically want to date (the worst-looking women), you find that everyone else's attractiveness doesn't change much with age:

In other words, given that nobody is drop-dead gorgeous or drop-dead hideous, your average 25 year-old is roughly as good-looking as your average 35 year-old. for the vast majority of men, dating the absolute hottest girls isn't realisticYes, throwing out the prettiest of the pretty young things is a clumsy handicap to put on an age-by-age comparison. But at the same time, for the vast majority of men, the best-looking women are simply out of reach, so it's actually accurate to exclude them as possibilities. In fact, unrealistic male expectations inspired this article, so we want to do everything we can to correct for them.

Many of you are probably scoffing at the idea that many 35 year-olds are as attractive as many 25 year-olds, but there are social factors at work that you might not consider as you go through life making judgments. Most importantly: nationwide, thirtysomethings are much more likely to be married and therefore much more likely to have stopped optimizing their attractiveness. So the typical 35 year-old woman you see out in the world isn't representative of the single 35 year-olds who are still dating and looking good.

Anyhow, that just about concludes my case. Ultimately, you be the judge. Here are single women in their mid-twenties and women in their mid-thirties, all in the 70th percentile of attractiveness, side by side. The older women are on the left, in case you can't tell.

Of course, you could also do your own search and see for yourself. Thanks for reading.

721 Responses to “The Case For An Older Woman”

  1. drdonna40 says:

    Well, I do now at 25, a bisexual fem, who likes fems and I have always been attracted to women 35-45- They are sexier, have much more depth and knowledge and ten times more fun too!

  2. Gman says:

    The vertical stripes at ages 20 and 29 on the “Where Women Are Sending Their Messages” graphs indicate to me that women are reporting that they are younger by 1 year; I would assume that these shifts in dating trends are far more likely to occur at ages 21 and 30.

  3. DJDDA says:

    I’ve been looking at profiles for older women ever since this post came out, and I have concluded that this whole article is spurious.

    The vast majority of older women either filter out messages from younger men (even by 1 year!) or explicitly state in their profiles that they will not respond to younger men, and the new “feature” that shows search criteria on your profile almost always shows women in their twenties and higher searching for men in age ranges starting higher than the woman’s own age.

    Many of these women still receive the usual deluge of messages expected for female profiles.

    A “case for younger men” would be *far* more relevant to conditions on the site.

  4. MissWP says:

    wow I’m 48 and according to this I should be what? dead? or not trying to date that’s for sure, some of the charts don’t even have my age on it… I have news for you, I’ve never been as active physically and sexually as I am right now at this age… and you younger men I must say you are missing out on some pretty amazing sex by overlooking us “older women”… we don’t want you as husbands… we want one thing and pretty much don’t give a shit about the rest of your life as long as you’re pleasing us…how many men dream of a woman like that???? sad to see stats like this in this day and age….

  5. Wladja says:

    I haven’t dated at all because no one that I would like has showed an interest. I have to eliminate those who want the women to be younger. So, I’m pretty much futzed.

    This is quoted from my profile at okcupid. I’m 61, I’m single after 38 years of marriage and going on 5 years to eternity of being alone.

    Men want what they want.

  6. Ardamir says:

    Why are these blog posts so USA centric? There are lots of users from other countries at this site.

  7. NoraSterlng1 says:

    I agree completely with MissWP and wish to add another observation from my own experience. California men are less interested in older women than men from around the country. I’ve received interest from men all over the country in much greater numbers than I have from California men. While I’m flattered at the attention, I can’t exactly date men from other states. My opinion is that California men only want younger Barbie dolls instead of real women.

  8. Bewitchingbabe says:

    I have been amazed by the number of California men interested in an older woman. I found the opposite of what NoraSterlng1 said to be true. Although I am not so much interested in men under 30, the majority of contacts I am getting are men under 30.

  9. Truthizer says:

    I’m a 51 year-old single man who dates often. The truth is women have put themselves in a position where youth and beauty is what defines them as women. The spend the cash on clothes, facelifts, boob jobs, etc. Of course men have been trained to believe this also and define a woman by how she looks. Once a woman hits her 30s… it’s downhill, 40s… she’s overweight and getting wrinkled, 50 and she’s just not attractive to men and if she is men are afraid she’ll “fall apart” at any moment and look old fast. Ladies, don’t blame men, we are what you’ve trained us to be driven by your youth/beauty and you used it while you could on us and you enjoyed the power of your youth… the power over men. Then, when it evaporated, you became angry and blamed men – wrong. If you don’t like the current system train your daughters differently and stop taking up 9/10 of the floor space in department stores and being so superficial. Redefine what a woman truly is and retrain men to appreciate it. You can’t have it both ways.

  10. artlover123 says:

    interesting stats. from being single for awhile, people of both sexes come to the singles scene with unrealistic expectations. People especially come to dating sites with unrealistic expectations. You are built up by the whole scenario. Add to that pics showing sexy and pretty singles on site advertisements.

    Here is the thing — from two face to face singles groups I belonged to, there were two [at least] what I’d call ‘resident’ men who’d attended for years — in the case of a church group I went to, this guy had been there for years yet never really tried to connect with any woman the whole 2-3 years I attended the group. A few women commented on it as in, he’s here but not interested in women! Why is he here?? Most the members of the group tended to be mid-30s on up. One Sunday evening, a mid-20s or so girl happened to visit [a little younger than most the usual demographic] and was also very pretty — this guy attached himself to her the whole evening.

    She was not interested in him — she spent the time talking to us (!) the women in the group. He gave her his phone number which I highly doubt she used. It was the oddest thing — we’d be talking in a group of women, and he stood behind this girl the. whole. time. I bet this guy is still there. I can imagine this is the scenario with many of these guys running after the ideal of younger women. it is kind of sad. The guy was not bad looking but obviously mid 40-ish or so. There were several women there who would have talked to him — but add to that his attitudes [just sitting there like a stone during events] didn’t really give the vibe he had a great personality or anything.

  11. Anne says:

    Truthizer, I think its fairer to say that men are looking for signs of fertility; clear skin, high breasts, shiny hair etc and, women are aware of what men are looking for, cater to it and, are doing everything in their power to maintain an edge. Who’s to blame?

    At 42 I have more wrinkles but, not any heavier than I was in my teens … so I potentially get passed by because I’m heading toward old hag territory merely because of my age? When my gawd man all I can think about is getting some.

    I thought that what y’all wanted, now I’m confused.

  12. artlover123 says:

    This is like the ‘resident men’ phenomena I’ve seen in some face to face singles groups — guys who come, hang out, but never touch base or socialize with any of the available women there, because none of them appeal. In one group I attended [church group] there was one guy who had been going several years yet never approached most the women. We wondered why he came, we thought he wasn’t interested in women lol. One sunday evening a younger, very pretty 20-ish woman came [a bit younger than our demo which tended to mid 30s on up]
    This guy would not leave her alone. Obviously, after years of attending this group he’d found ‘the one’ lol! She was not interested I remember distinctly — he offered her his phone number, which I doubt she ever used. The girl mainly talked to us — the women – the whole 2-3 hours. At one point this guy stood, *outside* our group, behind her, he would not leave her alone. I have seen this same guy at another group that many of the church group went to, he’s still ou there [this was four years ago with the young woman]

  13. renaessance_wmn says:

    Truthizer, first of all I agree that we have on our modern hands an issue of being excessively superficial. However, putting all the blame on women is not truthful, because it is short sighted and biased. There are many factors which play into the sociological development of the fashion phenomenon. Its roots have a great deal to do with men making money and women making money, especially men in the early days. Do some research on econimic/cultural shifts related to this topic after say WWII. Start there & consider how women’s roles changed. Consider how they have continued changing. Consider how men have steered women.

    Please, explain how it is you think the nip/tuck syndrom came to be? And let me point out it is not just women. Men are also vain. Steroids, hello. Which, btw, most women I know do not appreciate at all.

    About the rearing of children and attitudes. Right off, I will point out that your directions for the mother to teach the daughter is indicative of a shitload of problems. Perhaps, even the root of some pretty important ones. Where have all the fathers gone? Maybe they are chasing young skirts. Hey dads, don’t forget she’s someones daughter, too. And much more importantly, don’t forget that your daughter is watching. Your little girl watches everything you do, and don’t do. She will be informed by your attitude toward women as much as anything. Fuck, are you even around for her to observe? Check the data, man.

    To wrap up, I would like to address the attitudes of blaming the victim & the labeling of so-called uppity women. YOU, my friend, can’t have it both ways. You blamed older women’s dating woes on young women’s vainity. You left male responsibility out entirely, rationalizing it away in the name of “truth”. So, I did what any smart broad would do, and defended my gender -not for its own sake, but because you are mistaken. And when this happens, someone like you will often decide someone like me is an uppity bitch. To prove this, I will point out your thoughtless implication that all a woman really has to offer is superficial (despite your coondescending framework of challenging us to step up). YOU STATED THAT OUR REDUCTIONIST BEHAVIOR REGARDING BEAUTY IS OUR ONLY POWER OVER YOU! Yes, it was a complaint & challenge, but you need to dig deeper into your own hidden rhetoric. You also failed to mention a damn thing about what the almighty male child should be taught, or by whom. Am I uppity for questioning you? You tell me. I mean, you wanted us dames to use our brains, right. Men often don’t like it when we do, so if you wanna talk about power plays, let’s start with the frail male ego.


  14. Fyl says:

    “Reported ages” 27, 29, and 35 are indeed the prime hunting ground for an educated young male ~20 years old looking for a safe, interesting, and drama-free casual fling, sans bs or posing (except for those ages actually corresponding to 29-30, 30-34, and 36-39 respectively).

    Serious relationships? Probably not, except for the +/- 3 years difference. The NICE thing, though, is that a significant number of 30-something women are simply looking for fun, at least the ones on the internet. There’s nothing that messes up a perfectly good fling worse than misplaced jealousy, possessiveness, or expectations; older women who are out to play almost always know that. Hence, no one’s karma has to suffer and no one gets hurt from a little harmless fun.

  15. c says:

    This article explains exactly why most men DON’T want to date older women, especially if they are interested in marriage. The statistics above seem to indicate that once women get in their thirties they don’t want marriage and are having a lot of casual sex. Evidenced by lack of preference on dates that lead to marriage, their excessive STD testing and their increased interest in kink (most people only get into kink because they are bored) . These older women are single women that either never sought marriage or are women who are too damaged to maintain a long term relationship. The graph of 18 year old men and 40 year old women and domination is a little silly.
    Also, speaking for me, I want marriage but don’t really want it with someone that HAS to have a baby in the next 3 years or the option goes away. I want to be young with my mate and have years to get to know them, more than 3.
    Sorry, not sold on 35 year olds, thanks

  16. Liz says:

    “These older women are single women that either never sought marriage or are women who are too damaged to maintain a long term relationship.”

    Your age is showing…or your brain is damaged.

    “Sorry, not sold on 35 year olds, thanks”

    Thank god!

  17. tony says:

    I am mid thirties guy and it seems there is a large number of younger (20-25) and older (44-50) ladies but nothing in between. Most profiles do not want a guy age 32-39 and he must be 5’9″.
    Why do guys go to the 20 year olds? Because there is none at 30 to 40 and anyone over 40 will not respond to a mid thirties guy.
    I have left online dating, is no one out there. Instead I go out and meet new people hoping to find that special one.

  18. Trace says:

    This blog is appropriately titled; in that it is merely suggestion or ‘food for thought.’ this article justifiably makes its case with supporting data. AND they were smart enough to only include groups there was sufficient raw data for, while occasionally excluding those that significantly skewed the results. To those of you who had issues with this blog I say; STFU or get over it.

    I personally thought it was a good read. I would definitely say though, that using this information in practice, for young men like myself (27), is most effective live and in person.(lets say, at a bar) So I am agreeing with an earlier comment…

    DJDDA says: A “case for younger men” would be *far* more relevant to conditions on the site.

  19. orfunanny says:

    Hey, I’m 50 and having a blast. But I don’t solely rely on a dating site for meeting people. I still like the old-school way of meeting by chance, face to face. I only joined this site because I wanted to meet more guys my age. Very hard to find. But the younger guys are crawling out of the woodwork, and I like it!

  20. Jan says:

    I’m really impressed at this analysis and it’s making me take a hard look as some dating habits have that perhaps don’t serve me well. I’m 52, my fiancé and stepdaughter very tragically died some years ago, and I would still like to have a family.

    I think my ideal partner would be a single mom of a young child, who had some chance of still having a biological child with me. I’ve done serious hunting on how female fertility falls above age 35, and the best numbers I can find say a random 40 year old woman, who tries for 2 years to conceive, will have about a 50% chance of getting pregnant. IVF with her egg only helps a little. IVF with a donor egg helps a lot, and woman up to about 50 often have no problem being pregnant . The costs of IVF with a donor egg is like in the $35K range.

    So, some my my realities are, the ONLY way to assure I will have a FAMILY, is to marry a woman who has a child, AND, I still could have a biological child with a partner up to 49 or so, provided she was ok having a child that did not have her DNA. Kelly Preston at age 47, very likely used a donor egg. The chances of a 45 year old woman conceiving with her own egg are something like 1%.

    So now the sole searching part, my match age range has been set to 42 as an upper bound, for reasons that at the moment don’t make much sense. Part of the reason is yes I could in theory have a biological child with a 49 year old woman, but a) it would cost $35k for a 60%-70% chance of success, b) how on earth do I filter potential dates for women less than 50 which would be ok having a child via donor egg.

    It occurs to me, that since we get to add our own questions to OkCupid, it would be easy to create a question that asks if a woman over 40 is ok using a donor egg, and then I require a yes answer. This doesn’t help how to come up with $35K, although in the big picture of having a child, $35K is a small fraction of the total cost, so a $35K home equity loan would likely be my only option. Of course if I married a 45 year old established professional, I might be financially WAY better off in the long run than marrying a 25 year old who could instantly conceive, but may never have a well-paying career. Letting go of previous beliefs of what the mother of my child should be like is hard.

    So to summarize, I would need OkCupid to help me find: A) a single mom (assuring I have some sort of family) AND B) EITHER a woman young enough to still conceive naturally (35 would be great 40 is getting pretty iffy) OR a woman in her 40’s who is ok conceiving with a donor egg AND who is not a financial disaster. I know some men will not be ok with part A, and to be truthful I waffle back and forth, as it depends on WHICH woman and child we are talking about. Part B is also not without risk, as a 45 year old woman and I might create a child, who is born with a serous birth defect (young woman’s child have birth defects too, there is an age factor though), although I believe it’s the age of the egg (and the sperm), not the womb that determines the risk level. So a 45 year old woman with a donor egg might actually be lower risk than a 42 year old woman with her own egg.

    Given what I’ve said, is there more that can be seen in the numbers to help the men and women here find happiness in a partner? Like, what are the woman’s age vs current child spread? And would those single moms trade a few years in age for a right partner vs non-parent’s? I’ve noticed lots of really young attractive women will date me, provided I give a lot of financial support. I end up feeling used, not loved. I’m looking to find a partner to love, and be adult equals with, not be some sugar daddy to a young baby machine. My mom was a stay at home mother to 4 kids, and my father worked hard and owned a business, so my parents were role models for the wife is baby machine husband is sugar daddy model (although their age spread was only 7 years, so perhaps sugar daddy is a not a good term). Seems like OkCupid could analyze or collect data that could give a good view on how money fits into the relationship picture.

  21. Jraine says:

    Well what I’ve suspected IS true! I’m 42, most people guess I’m in my late 30’s…at this age,it seems like men have two roles of expectation from me:Desperate for Sex/Booty-Rag or Second Mommy.
    I exercise for an hour every day. I am only two sizes bigger (now a size 7) than I was in my twenties. I color my hair, use sunscreen,etc. And the guys my age ,which is whom I’m attracted to JUST DON’T WANT ME!
    IT SUCKS. Especially for the guys who want to lay on the couch after a hard day’s work and not go out and hit the clubs(just a taste of reality),’cause reality is NOT what we see on the media…well, I was suspect and this article proves it…

  22. LovesCatsNDogs says:

    Wow, as a 47-year-old woman, this article has depressed me to no end. I suppose I should just give up trying to find a good man online. How very very sad when we have so much to offer.

  23. Danger says:

    This is a bit skewed against men don’t you think?

    You state yourself that 20 year old women are ok with message men that are a decade older, but when men look for women that are younger suddenly it’s bad?

    This shows the ultimate truth that older women are loathe to admit. They had the dating power when they were in their early 20’s and squandered it away. Men gain the upper hand in dating later in life and the smart one’s do not waste their time on the woman who could not see ahead far enough to find a good mate when her chips had value. They know that she instead chose to sleep around for a decade before giving her old shriveled self to some poor man who doesn’t know any better.

    I’m in my mid thirties and I love fooling around with the 20 somethings, why would I settle for a woman who is well past her attrativeness peak and carries two or more decades of baggage? Especially when the younger woman are willing to date guy who is ten years older?

    I hope you ladies learned your lesson, life can be a cruel teacher.

  24. ATM says:

    I’m a single 30-year-old and this post only reminds me why I hate dating so much! Where are the single 29-34 year olds?! They do not exist.

  25. An Anon says:

    Your ‘Zone of Greatness’ works well for sex and a mature 1-on-1 relationship, but for continuing your genes it’s statistically the ‘Zone of Retardation’, for your kid’s condition that is.

    So people really need to know what they’re looking for before entering The Zone.

  26. Carolina Boy says:

    It would be interesting to see a comparison of whether the men want children and the age range they would like to date.

    A woman’s fertility takes a significant drop at age 35, so if a man wants to have children, he is going to look for someone younger.

  27. moi says:

    An interesting thing to add would be income. Dudes, not only are older women hot and ready to go, they have loads of cash to spend. Vacations, electronics, dinners out, sports tickets – don’t overlook earning power here. Being broke’s no fun, and money comes in way handy.

  28. Good genes says:

    I’m a single mum of three of four still at home 42 and in a serious relationship with a 29 year old man. He’s stood by me through a cerebral haemorrhage and shown incredible maturity intelligence and truly treats me better than any man I’ve been with before. The sex is absolutely amazing. He’s an old soul and I am a young progressive thinking degree educated professional. No one can even tell there’s a significant age difference between us. Although I think most would consider me attractive I am by no means some plastic surgery junkie but in actuality have suffered several injuries and sport some scars and inevitably a little sag in the bosom. It’s not all about perfection for some special men. I am the first person he’s introduced to family and I am who I am and he loves me.

  29. gaiagal says:

    well, guess who goes the most tantra? the over 40 set. many of these women are simply astounding in their “sacred sex” abilities, in addition to just being great human beings.

  30. Shakti says:

    I found this very interesting, because I’ve actually been shocked at the number of younger men who have messaged me the many times I’ve been on this site. Guys ages 18 through their 20’s were for a long time the majority of messages I got, so I was surprised to see this is not the norm.

  31. Fifi says:

    It is an interesting article but I really do not think that there are that many women out there willing to date younger men. I got divorced in my early 30ies and entered the online dating jungle at age of 34 with the only desire to re-marry, so I was looking for a man who would want to start a family. I NEVER contacted anybody younger then me. The age range of potential matches specified in my profiles started with men my age and the upper limit was ten years older. I got messages from younger men though. All my online dating experience was EXTREMELY disappointing and utterly unpleasant. Some men I communicated with assumed that any female dating site user was only looking for fun. Many guys apparently believed that women who registered for these services were desperate not good looking losers – otherwise they would have already found somebody in the real life (see Mr. Danger’s post above). Others were there to play around and had no serious intentions at all but they would tell you that they were interested in a relationship and more just to hook you up. After all, this is what most girls would like to hear, right? I am 43 now and look pretty much the same way I used to look 15 years ago – I am on a diet and exercise a lot. Well, a few more wrinkles probably. Nevertheless I realize that I fall under the old hag category and my chances are even lower. So, after my unsuccessful attempts to find a man I decided never to look online again. Two years ago I was very fortunate to meet a great man at a concert through friends. He has never ever tried Internet dating, so there would be no chance for us to meet online. We are happy together. Bottom line is that I don’t believe in online dating. I still wish luck to everyone who hopes to find love and/or friends online but I remain skeptically yours, a former, E-harmony and user.

  32. Trudith says:

    It is evident to me, that the age groups need to be separated by ability to reproduce, care-take children, be grandparents, or great-grandparents. There is too much of an overlap, men are fooling themselves running after younger women, a good companion is what everyone really wants. The rest is just Dessert, basic trust, love, and loyalty is what makes a good relationship. Oh yes, communication, humor, and commonality are at play here as well. I have been pursued by younger men on this site, I am over 54. My photo is current, my thoughts are youthful, and my appreciation of life genuine. That may be what men want, not a fake, fictitious, boob-job. Too many younger women are so materially superficial is exudes from them like oil; they are judged before they even say a word! Scary! Become real and you will have appeal.

  33. Erin says:

    There is alot of bitterness in this thread. Mostly by the guys that have a “stick it to the woman” attitude. I’m not sure where it comes from but there isn’t one of us on here that doesn’t want to be come irrevelant because we got older. Basically laughing at women and saying it’s their “fault” for being “shallow” is wrong and cruel. Women want to be and feel beautiful and men want beautiful women. That isn’t shallow. What is shallow is objectifying women and then telling them it’s their fault because they want to feel beautiful. Because to be a woman, is to be beautiful.

    This thread is kind of disheartening as a woman though I have to say. I didn’t abuse men in my teens and early 20s. I didn’t laugh at them or reject them for the sake of rejection. I picked my partners just like they picked me. This atttiude that women “deserve” to be objectified and degraded while men can run around playing the field and abusing women and never settling down until they hit 40 and then try to seriously date 18 year olds is messed up thinking.

  34. Mel says:

    This is quite interesting. I’m 39 and joined OK Cupid two weeks ago. So far my responses have been rather strange, mostly coming from sad sounding older men. I’m separated from my husband, a rather beautiful 37 year old man with a full head of hair and a good BMI, and have never been involved with anyone who wasn’t near my age. Perhaps I need to send out more messages, but I suspect that men my age are still trying to meet someone whose ovaries aren’t on their last legs, trying to give that dad thing one more shot (assuming they’ve failed this long). I don’t see anything inherently wrong with older men writing me, but they really should allow women their age or older to fall within their age range. Otherwise it just looks ridiculous.

  35. nearavalon says:

    Another case of “it’s not for lack of trying!” I just don’t get messages from, or replies from, women older than me. Or women that I’m upwards of 90% compatible with according to the stats. I must extra odious or something!

  36. Chris says:


    You make some really good points that I didn’t consider (in addition to some assinine conclusions). I was thinking that going for older women would be a great idea, since I tend to find most girls my own age and younger to be immature drama queens who like to chase bad boys. But you can’t deny this evidence, which basically shows that most older women on dating sites (Note that this is not older women in general) seem to be much more promiscuous and happy to have a bunch of hookups that don’t go anywhere (even many of the comments in this post are from 40 something women who are saying “please, i just want to get laid”). This makes sense when you think about it. Most other women would have settled down by now, even if that means “settling” in terms of what they are looking for in a man. Whereas men are happy to keep going later into life trying to find that perfect someone, because they believe they can still have a family later in life, even if that means chasing after women half their age. It seems to me that the single older women, whether they are divorced or never married, realize that they are past their baby-making and attractiveness prime, and are looking to have a good time with a guy that appreciates them for who they are. To assume that they never wanted to get married in the first place or that they are “damaged” has no basis in the evidence provided, and doesn’t seem logical from my perspective. In fact, they may be more well-adjusted than all of us young people running around trying to find a mate to “complete” us.

    That said, it’s possible that the goals of most younger guys, myself included, may not line up with the older generation of women. Sure, a lot of guys are just looking to get some action, and as the comments above attest, older women will get messages from these guys. However, the guys that actually are looking for something more serious, something that could lead to a family in a few years, are probably justified in sticking to women within a few years of their own age. At 26, I would definitely still consider women in their early, maybe even mid-thirties. But realistically, the data and my intuition suggest that women older than that are unlikely to share my own goals for a relationship.

  37. cscottchurch says:

    At 53 I’m one of those “older” men and ladies, I can tell you that I understand your frustration. For what it’s worth, I’ll share my take on it.

    As a man, I tend to message women that are somewhat younger than me also (4-7 years on average), but age has nothing to do with why. I message women that I’ve found to be both compatible emotionally and spiritually, and who are fairly attractive to me. By attractive, I do NOT mean gorgeous, but women who are attractive (as per the median standards discussed in this article), take reasonably good care of themselves and are not hideously obese. In other words, a very respectable percentage of you. If I don’t message as many women older than me it’s only because I’ve found fewer women older than me for whom this has been true (although there have been some). And for the record, I tend not to respond to women in their 20’s and 30’s (although I’ve been messaged by a number of them, largely because I doubt they’re at a similar place in life as I. My preference?… A woman my own age, give or take, who takes care of herself and has some depth. Age alone has nothing to do with it.

  38. recluse666 says:

    If a man doesn’t like me for my age or any other reason, he is doing ME a favor to stay away. Likewise, I would tend to avoid a guy that I did not like for whatever reason. If he’s after young women, then I am not interested — no problem.

  39. alphaego says:


  40. Plantgal says:

    I’m an older woman, 56, looking for generally younger men. I set my age range from 45 to 60. It’s hard to find men at my age because many of them want a younger woman, or–sorry guys–they just look too dreadful in their pics.

    I would love to be able to search by age preference, because then I could ignore the men that don’t want women my age.

    I do think, however, that there are plenty of men out there who would be happy to be with an older woman, it’s just a matter of getting man and woman together.

  41. Nicole says:

    Since joining OKC, I have been astonished at the number of much younger — often VERY young — men who have messaged me. Some are just on the prowl, but some are quite clear that they are interested specifically in more mature women. The problem is, I’ve tried dating much younger men. At some point we’re having an expensive dinner (that I’m buying), and I realize we have absolutely nothing in common except that they are cute… and when I was that age dating older men they were thinking the same thing.

    Or I get messages from significantly older men, as someone said above, they all seem sad. Sad is not attractive. And when I see a 60 year old who wants a 30-40 year old, I can’t even take that seriously. Nor a 40 year old whose age cutoff is 35.

    There aren’t many men within a decade or so of my age (39) looking for someone my age to have a genuine relationship with, especially those who don’t want children. But there are a few good ones on OKC. Nothing has clicked for me yet, but I consider online dating just one tool in the toolbox, and those few good men weren’t ones I was likely to meet elsewhere.

  42. violet-flame says:

    i’m constantly amazed by the number of 20-somethings who message me. granted, these are IMs and they’re going by looks–i get ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ alot. most hadn’t even read my profile yet, which clearly states i’m not interested in younger men. they all think for some reason they are the exception. they are NOT. all they are looking for is a roll in the hay which i clearly state i am NOT interested in. i am NOT desperate or just looking for fun. most have been rude and crude. if there were some way of automatically pre-block messages from 20-somethings i would use it in a flash.

  43. carl jung says:

    I find the gender clash sort of odd/amusing. I think it would be helpful to look at the chart that stipulates that “in their early to mid-twenties, when they [women] apparently want nothing to do with younger guys.” Let’s stop and think about what that implies for the male mentality. It tells young men, like myself (22), that our only method of getting a date is (realistically) to shoot younger, because women always skew older to some extent. This is basically the situation for the first 7 years or so of a male’s adult dating life, wherein he learns/matures somewhat and begins to figure out his method of dating and learning what kind of woman he actually wants.
    Essentially, men skew younger not only because of societal/evo-psychological reasons, but because that’s what’s practical and that’s what tends to work. Personally, what would possess a 21 year old girl to date a 30 year old guy is beyond me, but I would love to date a 25 or a 26 year old, and I’d hate to date anybody under 21. But that’s just me.

  44. nushytini says:

    I do not understand why fertility should be a problem. I am 33 and I have frozen 5 grade A eggs already. This means even a 50 year old with not optional sperm count can still make a perfectly healthy beautiful baby with me at ANY age. I have also saved up enough for a surrogate if needed. Isn’t this fertility issue a bit dated? Come on it’s 2010

  45. tara says:

    Interesting. I’m thinking the staffer who wrote this is either single and childless, or, if a mother, is married. Here’s why:

    I’m mid-40s, in reasonably good shape, no shortage of contacts. But. I’m completely uninterested in looking at anyone under 45 or so, and north of 50 is probably a better bet. Why? Because I’m a single mother, and grown men of any age are a rarity, but at least the older ones are over the testosterone poisoning (more or less) and have experience on their side. The very last thing I need is another person to take care of, which is what young men are.

    Also, to be perfectly frank, as far as sex with younger men goes…I’ve already paid it forward, and he was a sweet boy, but my God, that was a lot of work. A grown man for me, please.

    Now: If the older man is looking for something serious…that’s fine, but I’m also not interested in raising my kids and then nursing a man fulltime. Take care of your bod, older guys, and have money for your own nursing care.

  46. Linda Long says:

    I am the older woman.
    On dating sites when I list my age as 50 I get few replies but when I list it as 49 the replies almost double.
    It tells me man in my age group can’t bring themselfs to type in that 5…… not unless there is a 2 in front of it. LOL LOL

  47. Hugo says:

    The first graph perfectly corresponds to the widely known minimum age formula :

    (Age / 2) + 7 = Minimum dating age

    If you aren’t aware of this rule just google “divided by 2 plus 7″.

    The fact that the graph follows this formula is pretty amazing!

  48. There is life after... says:

    Wow. I feel so sorry for you people…really. Sucked into the Facebook, Twitter…sexting era that is afraid to meet people, touch people….I say get offlin (if you are on any of the sites mentioned)..go to the grocery store and to the meat department..there you will find life. I am also confused about what women really want (I am one) it sex..attention or a husband? And men…I don’t even try anymore…it is all about sex…quick sex and fantasies..because without viagra…most of you young and old go limp. People stop buying the line….life is about is short and can be sweet, you stop texting…turn offf your cellphone (addicts) and take a walk around the corner…go to the coffee shop…or the park. YOU HAVE BE DUBBED! Internet, email and cellphones were designed to keep you out of touch! Start living please “b 4 its is 2 LTE”!

  49. beets says:

    I am a single straight woman of 28 years old almost 29 and i have to say that I even like to make friends with women that are at least 27 and above, young girls and stupid and immature and please lease the high school mannerisms in high school! I for one cannot understand why any man would want to date an 18 year old unless you are 18 as well…I mean there’s no depth, no experience, no maturity (and this goes for guys as well) and there are plenty of mid 30s women that are attractive and beautiful, and so much more tasteful…

  50. Allan says:

    Try turning the graphs for men and women sideways. Or check a few key ages.

    For instance 28 year old guys searces for girls 20-34. Looking up 28 year-old guys you will fing that that it is the oldest acceptable age for 20 year old girls, and the youngest acceptable age for 32 year old girls.

    In other words guys searches for as young girls as they can get, and actually searches for women up to 2 years old than he can get.

    So men have less of an age problem than girls do, and this is can be proven using the very same graphs and data represented here. WTF is wrong with the auther of this shit?