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Sleeping With Younger Men: Women’s Accounts of Sexual Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate Relationships

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Abstract

Influenced by cultural representations of “cougars,” society commonly imagines women who date younger men as challenging some of the gendered expectations regarding appropriate sexual desire and behavior. Based on 55 semi-structured interviews with women ages 30 to 60 who date younger men, I explore how having younger male partners relates to women’s desire and ability to reproduce/disrupt the traditional cultural script for heterosexual sex. I found that compared to their experiences of sex with men of their own age or older, women perceived age-hypogamous intimate relationships as a context in which they can more easily disrupt some facets of that script, namely those regarding (a) the expression of sexual desire, (b) sexual assertiveness, and/or (c) the importance of female pleasure. However, the participants reproduced certain facets of the cultural sexual script, such as the emphasis on penile–vaginal intercourse. In light of women’s experiences, I show that younger men’s stamina and erectile capacities influenced women’s ability to challenge certain facets of the script. Furthermore, I argue that women’s perceptions of younger men as fantasizing about sexually experienced women altered the gender power dynamics, ultimately facilitating the modification of interpersonal sexual scripts. This study contributes to improving our understanding of the way age, age differences, and gender interact and influence interpersonal sexual scripts.
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The Journal of Sex Research
ISSN: 0022-4499 (Print) 1559-8519 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hjsr20
Sleeping With Younger Men: Women’s Accounts
of Sexual Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate
Relationships
Milaine Alarie
To cite this article: Milaine Alarie (2019): Sleeping With Younger Men: Women’s Accounts of
Sexual Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate Relationships, The Journal of Sex Research, DOI:
10.1080/00224499.2019.1574704
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2019.1574704
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Published online: 22 Feb 2019.
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Sleeping With Younger Men: Womens Accounts of Sexual
Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate Relationships
Milaine Alarie
Partenariat de recherche Familles en Mouvance, Institut national de la recherche scientique
(INRS)
Inuenced by cultural representations of cougars,society commonly imagines women who
date younger men as challenging some of the gendered expectations regarding appropriate
sexual desire and behavior. Based on 55 semistructured interviews with women ages 30 to 60
who date younger men, I explore how having younger male partners relates to womens desire
and ability to reproduce/disrupt the traditional cultural script for heterosexual sex. I found that
compared to their experiences of sex with men of their own age or older, women perceived age-
hypogamous intimate relationships as a context in which they can more easily disrupt some
facets of that script, namely those regarding (a) the expression of sexual desire, (b) sexual
assertiveness, and/or (c) the importance of female pleasure. However, the participants repro-
duced certain facets of the cultural sexual script, such as the emphasis on penilevaginal
intercourse. In light of womens experiences, I show that younger mens stamina and erectile
capacities inuenced womens ability to challenge certain facets of the script. Furthermore,
I argue that womens perceptions of younger men as fantasizing about sexually experienced
women altered the gender power dynamics, ultimately facilitating the modication of inter-
personal sexual scripts. This study contributes to improving our understanding of the way age,
age differences, and gender interact and inuence interpersonal sexual scripts.
According to Gagnon and Simons(1973) script theory,
sexual desires and practices are not biologically determined
but rather learned through various cultural scenarios and
interactions with others. There are three types of scripts
inuencing individualssexuality: (1) cultural scripts, which
are the guidelines embedded in cultural narratives; (2)
interpersonal scripts, which are the structured patterns of
interaction found in interpersonal encounters; and (3)
intrapsychic scripts, which are individualsideas and fanta-
sies. Sexual scripts are highly gendered (Carpenter, 2010;
Masters, Casey, Wells, & Morrison, 2013; Wiederman,
2005); there are different expectations for women and men
with regard to how desiring they are expected to be, when it
is deemed appropriate for them to have sex, and how they
should behave during sex.
The traditional, mainstream cultural script for (hetero-
sexual) sex encourages men to think of themselves as sexual
subjects entitled to feel sexual desires and act on them,
while it teaches women to think of themselves as sexual
objects and to nd gratication in being the passive recipi-
ent of male sexual desire (Kurth, Spiller, & Travis, 2000;
Lang, Lebel, Lebel, Beaulieu, & Rousseau, 2011; Masters
et al., 2013; Ramsey & Hoyt, 2015; Smolak, Murnen, &
Myers, 2014). Indeed, unlike men, women are commonly
discouraged from being too sexually assertive (Morokoff,
2000)sexual assertiveness being dened as the ability to
express ones own sexual desires, to initiate desired sexual
behavior with a partner, to refuse unwanted sexual gestures,
and to communicate one's sexual history (Loshek & Terrell,
2015). Moreover, inuenced by the widespread, long-
standing assumption that menunlike womenhave
strong libidos and uncontrollablesexual impulses (Arm-
strong, England, & Fogarty, 2012; Donat & White, 2000;
Masters et al., 2013; Morokoff, 2000), this cultural script
also presents the male orgasm as more important than the
female orgasm for heterosexual sex (Fahs, 2011; Séguin,
Rodrigue, & Lavigne, 2018).
While there are clear indications that this cultural script has
lost some of its power over women (and men) over the past
60 years (Allyn, 2000;Kamen,2000;Lévy,2008;Masters
et al., 2013; Reid, Elliott, & Webber, 2011), studies show that
women are not entirely liberated from the cultural imperative to
present themselves as less desiring and less sexually assertive
than men. For instance, studies on hookups among young
Correspondence should be addressed to Milaine Alarie, Partenariat de
recherche Familles en Mouvance, Institut national de la recherche scienti-
que (INRS), 385 Sherbrooke St E, Montreal, Quebec H2X 1E3 Canada.
E-mail: milaine.alarie@ucs.inrs.ca
Supplementary material for this article can be accessed here.
THE JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH,00(00), 113, 2019
© 2019 The Society for the Scientic Study of Sexuality
ISSN: 0022-4499 print/1559-8519 online
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2019.1574704
adults show that men are still much more likely than women to
initiate rst sexual contacts (England, Shafer, & Fogarty, 2008).
Furthermore, while both young women and men are encour-
aged to partake in the hookup culture, women are more likely
than their male peers to be pejoratively labeled or negatively
judged for doing so (England et al., 2008; Heldman & Wade,
2010;Reidetal.,2011), and men are much more likely than
women to gain social status for accumulating sexual conquests
(England et al., 2008; Jonason, 2007; Jonason & Fisher, 2009).
Research also shows that women often struggle with prioritiz-
ing their own pleasure during sexual interactions with men.
Indeed, many young women feel pressured to perform sex in
a way that is intended to increase mens sexual attraction for
them and to prioritize mens sexual pleasure during sex (Fahs,
2011;Ramsey&Hoyt,2015; Ramsey, Marotta, & Hoyt, 2017).
Young women are also less likely than men to receive oral sex
(Armstrong, England, & Fogarty, 2015;Backstrom,Arm-
strong, & Puentes, 2012; Lewis & Marston, 2016)andto
experience an orgasm during (heterosexual) sex, especially in
the context of casual sex (Armstrong et al., 2015;Richters,de
Visser, Rissel, & Smith, 2006).
One should note that while there has been considerable
effort dedicated to understanding the sexual dynamics
between heterosexual young adults, there are relatively
few studies focusing specically on middle-aged or elderly
womens sexuality outside sexual health studies (Carpenter,
2010; Montemurro & Siefken, 2014; Rostosky & Travis,
2000; Sassler, 2010). Therefore, there is little scholarship
dedicated to understanding how aging affects womens
ability to renegotiate the boundaries of acceptable sexual
desire and behavior in the context of (heterosexual) sex. We
do know that certain physiological phenomena related to
aging can affect womens sexuality. For instance, many
women perceive the physiological changes associated with
menopause as affecting their levels of sexual desire or levels
of sexual activity (Birnbaum, Cohen, & Wertheimer, 2007;
Hinchliff, Gott, & Ingleton, 2010; Leiblum, 1990). Older
womens sexuality can also be affected by changes in mens
erectile capacities as they age (Cameron & Tomlin, 2007;
Chevret, Jaudinot, Sullivan, Marrel, & De Gendre, 2004), as
penilevaginal penetration is culturally imagined as the
most important part of heterosexual sex (Fahs, 2011; Fish-
man & Mamo, 2001; Gewirtz-Meydan et al., 2018; Koedt,
1973; Vares, Potts, Gavey, & Grace, 2007). However, many
researchers suggest that the biological effects of aging can
only partly explain changes in sexual desire and frequency
of sexual activity as women age; they argue that contextual
factorssuch as partner availability, relationship length,
relationship intimacy, and marital satisfactionplay
a signicant role as well (see Birnbaum et al., 2007; Haw-
ton, Gath, & Day, 1994).
Scholars using a life-course approach also highlight how the
transitions and turning points in an individuals life can inu-
ence his or her sexuality (Carpenter, 2010; DeLamater &
Carpenter, 2012;Lichtenstein,2012;Wade&DeLamater,
2002). For instance, studies indicate that marriage or
cohabitational relationship dissolution is often associated with
high rates of new partner acquisition in the rst year (Wade &
DeLamater, 2002). In a previous study (Alarie & Carmichael,
2015), I found that women who had experienced marriage and
were now divorced, separated, or widowed were more likely
than women who never got married to engage in an intimate
relationship with a younger man. Other scholars found that
becoming their partnerscaregiver can impact older womens
sexuality, as the caregiver identity is often perceived by women
as incompatible with their identity as sexual or desirable beings
(Drummond et al., 2013).
Research also indicates that older womens sexuality can
be affected by cultural scripts related to aging. Previous
studies demonstrated that the cultural imperative for women
to equate their value as intimate partners with their physical
appearance and youth can negatively affect womens sexu-
ality (Koch, Manseld, Thurau, & Carey, 2005; Monte-
murro & Gillen, 2013; Travis, Meginnis, & Bardari, 2000;
Wolf, 1991). For instance, in their study on middle-aged
womens sexuality, Koch et al. (2005) found that the more
a woman perceived herself as less attractive compared to
her younger years, the more likely she was to report
a temporal decline in sexual desire or frequency of sexual
activity. Considering that heterosexual older men tend to
prefer (Buunk, Dijkstra, Kenrick, & Warntjes, 2001; South,
1991) and seek female partners who are younger than
themselves (Alterovitz & Mendelsohn, 2009; Conway,
Noë, Stulp, & Pollet, 2015;Pixley, Feliciano, & Robnett,
2007; Skopek, Schmitz, & Blossfeld, 2011), aging can
complicate single womens ability to nd a similar-age
partner.
There is also evidence that older womens sexuality can
be complicated by the cultural opposition between mother-
hood and sexuality (Friedman, Weinberg, & Pines, 1998;
Montemurro & Siefken, 2012; Trice-Black, 2010). Indeed,
women have traditionally been expected to avoid dressing
in a way that would be considered too sexyand/or to
refrain from presenting themselves as too sexually active
once they become mothers (Friedman et al., 1998; Monte-
murro & Siefken, 2012). However, alongside the strong
societal tendency to depict female sexuality as more socially
acceptable for young, attractive, and childless women, one
can also nd in the media increasing cultural representations
of middle-aged women as sexual beings (Andrews, 2003;
Lavigne, Auger, Lévy, Engler, & Fernet, 2013; Tally, 2006;
Weitz, 2010), as well as messages encouraging the sexuali-
zation of older women and/or mothers, especially in porno-
graphy where cougars and MILFsare common subgenres
(Huntley, 2000; Musial, 2014; Vannier, Currie, & OSulli-
van, 2014).
Inuenced by cultural representations of cougars as highly
desiring, condent, and sexually assertive women who actively
seek younger men for temporary ings (Alarie, 2018; Aoun,
2013; Barrett & Levin, 2014;Collard,2012; Kaklamanidou,
2012; Montemurro & Siefken, 2014), society commonly ima-
gines women who date younger men as challenging some of
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2
the traditional gendered expectations regarding appropriate
sexual desire and behavior for (older) women. However, no
research so far has been conducted on the sexual dynamics
within age-hypogamous intimate relationships (i.e., relation-
ships where the woman is older than her male partner). There-
fore, it is unclear whether women who engage in such
relationships actually challenge traditional gender norms
regarding sexuality in their interactions with younger men. In
this article, I explored womens accounts of sexual interplay in
age-hypogamous intimate relationships. Based on 55 semi-
structured interviews with women ages 30 to 60 who date
younger men, I investigated how having younger male partners
relates to womens desire and ability to reproduce/disrupt the
traditional culture-level sexual script.
Method
Participants
The ndings presented in this article come from a larger
study on womens experiences with dating younger men.
This study was conducted in the Greater Montreal metro-
politan area (Canada), which includes the city of Montreal
and the suburbs surrounding it. With a population of
roughly 4.1 million (Statistics Canada, 2017), its cultural
diversity, and its vibrant nightlife, Montreal resembles many
other North American cities. Participants were recruited
through bilingual (English/French) yers that were distrib-
uted in various locations and events that attract women,
such as public talks on womens health or sexuality, semi-
private activities organized for single people in Montreal,
happy hourevents in popular bars throughout the city,
public fairs targeting female consumers, and the like. The
study was advertised on social media, including dating Web
sites and Facebook. The electronic version of the yer was
posted on the discussion board of dozens of Facebook
groups of interest to middle-aged women (e.g., groups for
single middle-aged people, groups for mothers), as well as
on my own personal page.
The yer indicated that I was conducting a study on
womens experiences of dating and/or sleeping with
younger men. It listed the eligibility criteria and provided
my contact information. To be included in the study, women
needed to have had at least one younger (male) intimate
partner within the past three years, to be age 30 to 60, and to
speak English or French uently. Because the focus of the
study was on dating, women who were cohabiting with or
married to a younger partner were excluded. The duration of
the relationship was not used as an eligibility criterion. To
alleviate the confounding effect of cultural differences, the
sample was restricted to Canadian-born women. In an effort
to align the concepts used here with those commonly found
in the literature on age heterogamy (Alarie & Carmichael,
2015; Atkinson & Glass, 1985; Hall & Zhao, 1995; Shehan,
Berardo, Vera, & Carley, 1991), and therefore facilitate
comparisons, an age-hypogamous relationship is dened
in this article as any relationship of a romantic and/or sexual
nature where there is an age gap of at least ve years
between the participant and her male partner.
To explore whether women of different ages would have
different experiences, a stratied sampling strategy based on
womens age was chosen, and three age groups with
a similar number of participants were created. The nal
sample includes 55 women: 21 women in their 30s, 19
women in their 40s, and 15 women ages 50 to 60 (the latter
of which will hereafter be referred to as women in their
50s). Roughly half of the sample had children and the rest
was childless; however, there was a larger proportion of
childless women in the age 30 to 39 group compared to the
other two age groups. Only half of the women in their 30s
had previously experienced a common-law union or been
married, whereas every woman over 40 except one had
previously experienced that type of relationship. Three out
of ve participants were college educated, with younger
participants being more educated as a group than older
participants. The sample in this study was almost exclu-
sively White; only two women reported belonging to a non-
Caucasian group.
The vast majority of women in this study had experi-
enced several age-hypogamous intimate relationships with
younger men over the years. Some women had experienced
only brief ings with younger men, while others had experi-
enced more lengthy relationships. In some casesmost
often among participants in their 30sthe age difference
between the participant and her partners was relatively
small (i.e., ve to 10 years). However, larger age gaps
were reported by most participants, most often by women
in their 40s and 50s. Overall, 35 participants reported
having had at least one partner who was more than
10 years younger than themselves, with 16 of them having
reported at least one partner being more than 20 years their
junior.
Data Collection and Analysis
Before scheduling an interview, all prospective participants
received by e-mail the Certicate of Ethical Acceptability of
Research Involving Humans,as well as the consent form,
which informed women on the goal of the study, their rights as
participants, and whom to contact if they had any questions
concerning the ethicality of the project. During the interview,
the participants signed the consent form and lled out a short
sociodemographic questionnaire. Then, I asked them ques-
tions that allowed me to understand when they began to date
younger men, how they met their younger partners, what
characteristics they considered important when evaluating
the desirability of a partner, how they interpreted younger
mens interest for them, how age-hypogamous intimate rela-
tionships differed from relationships with men their age or
older, and how they saw the future of their relationships with
younger men. Participants were also asked to elaborate on
various topics identied in the literature as potentially
SLEEPING WITH YOUNGER MEN
3
inuencing womens experiences of age-hypogamous inti-
mate relationships (Alarie & Carmichael, 2015; Aoun, 2013;
Atkinson & Glass, 1985;Boyd&Li,2003; Proulx, Caron, &
Logue, 2006; Vera, Berardo, & Berardo, 1985; Warren, 1996),
such as sexuality, body image, children and (in)fertility,
money/occupational status, and stigma. Interviews were car-
ried out in English and/or French, depending on participant
preference; they lasted 1 hour 45 minutes on average; and
they were all recorded using an audiorecording device. Inter-
views were later transcribed verbatim.
The data were analyzed using MAXQDA 11 software.
The rst round of coding was conducted with a list of
pregured codes (Creswell, 2013, p. 185), which had been
created in light of the main questions used in the interview
guide and eld notes. However, throughout the rst round of
coding, new codes were created based on emerging themes.
A second round of coding was done to ensure all pertinent
information had been classied within the appropriate
codes. Related codes were then grouped together into
themes and subthemes, which facilitated the interpretation
of the data and allowed me to develop my narrative (Cres-
well, 2013, p. 185). A detailed one-page memo was also
written for each interview in which the participants experi-
ences were summarized by theme. Last, the three age
groups were compared, one theme/subtheme at a time, to
determine whether age inuenced how common a certain
theme/subtheme was and how womens experiences could
differ depending on their age. The ndings presented here
represent the main themes addressed by the participants
when they discussed the sexual dynamics they experienced
with younger men. All information that could allow some-
one to recognize a participant was changed to maintain
condentiality, and all participantsquotes were translated
in English, if they were originally in French.
Results
Most participants believed that there are many younger
men who fantasize about older women. The majority of
participants also depicted age-hypogamous intimate rela-
tionships as a context in which women were not only
allowed to disrupt some facets of the traditional cultural
script for (heterosexual) sex but also celebrated by younger
men for doing so. Compared to their experience of sex with
men their own age or older, women described age-
hypogamous intimate relationships as a context in which
they could more easily (a) present themselves as having
a strong sex drive and act on it, (b) be sexually assertive in
bed, and/or (c) ensure that their pleasure be attended to.
Younger Men Fantasizing About Older Women
Most women in this study believed that there was
a considerable subset of younger men who fantasized
about sleeping with older women. According to them,
many younger men equated older women with sexually
experienced women and/or as women with a particularly
vibrant sex drive in search of sex partners who could satisfy
their needs. With that in mind, most womenroughly three
out of ve participantsreported feeling like their younger
partners were highly appreciative of older women and/or
stated that their younger partners were actively trying to
prove that they were deserving of older womensattention,
despite the age difference. For instance, 49-year-old
Tatianna believed that the men in their 20s and early 30s
who approached her on dating Web sites saw her as the
ultimate fantasy because of her age. When interacting with
them, she felt highly valued: Its like they are infatuated
with you. Its like you are a Wow!in their eyes. Younger
men tend to put you on a pedestal.
Roughly two out of three participants over age 40
suspected that younger menmostly those in their 20s or
early 30sapproached them precisely because they were
hoping to fulll a fantasy. In her online dating prole,
48-year-old Joanna pretended to be in her early 40s,
a strategy she believed would allow her to attract
a higher number of men. She initially thought that
revealing her real age would dissuade younger men
from continuing the conversation. However, when she
would inform them that she was older than what her
prole indicated, many of them expressed even more
interest in meeting her, which she interpreted as a proof
that some younger men are aroused by the age difference
in itself: Young guys in their twenties, itsasiftheyare
the ones who are the most interested in older women. Its
unbelievable! Its crazy! Ive gotten so many
invites! I say to them, Listen, Im not forty-two,
Im forty-eight’—to try to dissuade them, you know. And
then they are like, My God! Even better!’”
For many of the participants in their 40s and 50s,
younger mens enthusiasm for them felt like a pleasant
contrast to middle-aged mens (perceived) disinterest for
dating women in their own age bracket. Indeed, roughly
two out of ve women over age 40 complained that in
real life, or on dating Web sites or applications, men
their own age rarely approached them, as they preferred
dating younger women. For instance, 43-year-old Caro-
line said: [Younger men], they see in forty-year-old
women something extraordinary that men my age dont
see. We have this condence, we arent afraid of saying
what we want, we know where we are going.Being
with a younger man, its good for self-esteem.In
asimilar vein, many of those who had recently experi-
enced marriage or cohabitational dissolution also talked
about how great it felt to have younger men showing
great interest in sleeping with them after years of feeling
undesirable in the eyes of their spouse. Describing her
experience of beginning to date a few months after her
divorce, 49-year-old Tatianna explained how younger
mens enthusiasm for older women allowed her to get
some of her condence back: I had lost self-condence
ALARIE
4
during my marriage. I needed to see if I still got it, if
I was still attractive and all. I found myself with
younger men who worshipped me, who found me beau-
tiful. I couldntbelieveit. Feeling desired and all,
I needed that.
However, while most women over age 40 enjoyed the
thought of being a younger mans fantasy, more than half of
them also felt that they were particularly at risk of being
targeted by men in their 20s and early 30s who were solely
trying to sleep with an older woman without any respect for
the womans feelings and expectations. Therefore, many
participants over age 40 talked about ltering younger
mens messages online to avoid those who were using
older women and who were not truly interested in getting to
know them. For instance, while 43-year-old Caroline
enjoyed the attention she was getting from younger men
online, she wondered, somewhat anxiously, whether some
of these men were approaching her solely with the hopes of
trying an unconventional sexual experience: I ask myself if
at the end of the day its just a fantasy they want to check
off: Well, I slept with a woman eighteen years older than
me yesterday! Yes! Put that in the calendar, in my list of
accomplishments.’”
In sharp contrast with older participants, very few women
in their 30s believed that their younger partners initially
approached them with the intent of fullling a fantasy. The
majority of 30-something women explained that when they
meet younger men for the rst time, those men generally
think they are talking to a woman their own age. One should
note that most participants in their 30s reported having met
some or all of their younger partners in real-life contexts, not
on dating Web sites or applications where ones age is clearly
indicated on individual proles. Reecting on why she
attracted younger men, 37-year-old Estelle argued that
while many younger men do fantasize about older women,
she personally did not look old enough to be targeted by
younger men hoping to fulll a fantasy: The guys approach
me and theyre like, How old are you, twenty-three, twenty-
four?And Imlike,Thirty-seven!’…They dont approach
me thinking Imanexperienced woman.’”
Women Expressing Their Sexual Desires
During their interview, most participants openly dis-
cussed how they placed much value in having sex partners
who possessed a comparably vibrant sex drive, who had the
physical ability required to keep up with their sexual appe-
tite, and who would not judge or criticize them for being
highly desiring. More than three out of ve women in their
30s and roughly three out of four women over age 40
depicted age-hypogamous intimate relationships as better
suited for highly desiring women like themselves; they
argued that younger men had higher sex drives and more
stamina than older men, and/or that younger mens erections
were more reliable, which ultimately made it easier for
women to act on their sexual desires.
Roughly three out of ve participants in each age group
stated that younger men were a better match for them in part
because of younger mens high sex drive and sexual endurance.
For instance, comparing her experiences with men in their 40s
to her experiences with men in their early 20s, 32-year-old
Annabelle stated: I have a big sexual appetite, very big.
I might want to do it, like, eight times a day, you know. So
with a man in his forties, he will nd that fun the rst week. But
I can tell you after the second week, he doesntnd it funny
anymore! [laughs] He will be turned off by my strong libido.
But a younger man, most often, he will be able to keep up.
Elaborating on her current preference for younger sex
partners, 45-year-old Henrietta explained that choosing an
older man meant that she would either have to sacrice her
sexual desires to respect her partners limitations or push
him too far to the point where it could be physically
dangerous for him: Sex is important in my life right now.
I mean, I have a pretty healthy libido! I dont know, an older
man? I dont want him to I dont want to kill anybody,
you know?
Some of these participants justied their preferences for
younger sex partners by arguing that women reach their
sexual peak at a later age than men, which is a widespread
cultural narrative (see Barr, Bryan, & Kenrick, 2002; Mon-
temurro & Siefken, 2014; Wiederman, 2001). This allowed
them to reconcile their nonconformist partner choices with
common assumptions regarding mens and womens sex-
ualities. For instance, reecting on why almost all of her
recent lovers had been much younger than her, 36-year-old
Uma stated: Being in my midthirties, Id say that Iminmy
sexual peak. And with guys in their midtwenties, its like we
are compatible on that level. Its pure bliss. Its a good
match.However, it is worth noting that for a minority of
women, younger mens (perceived) high sex drive was
depicted as unt for their own sexual libido, as it made
them feel pressured to increase the frequency of sexual
intercourse in their lives.
In line with the traditional cultural script for heterosexual
sex where penilevaginal intercourse is considered the most
important part of the sexual interaction (Fahs, 2011; Fish-
man & Mamo, 2001; Gewirtz-Meydan et al., 2018; Koedt,
1973; Vares et al., 2007), the topic of mens erectile func-
tions was also a recurrent theme in most womens dis-
courses. Because of their erectile capacities, many
participantsone-third of the women in their 30s, more
than two out of ve women in their 40s, and three out of
ve women in their 50sperceived younger men as better
physically equipped to satisfy womens strong sexual appe-
tite. Many women were impressed with younger mens
ability to have multiple erections during the same night. In
fact, many participantsmostly those over age 40com-
plained about men in their own age bracket experiencing
difculties with achieving and maintaining strong erections.
Although they expressed sympathy for those mens difcul-
ties, they also felt that they should not have to repress their
sexual desires and endure an unsatisfying sex life to
SLEEPING WITH YOUNGER MEN
5
preserve older mens masculinity. These women talked
about younger menerectile capacities as facilitating
womens ability to act on their own sexual desires. Elabor-
ating on why in past years she had mostly dated men 10 to
20 years younger than her, 53-year-old Lana said: If its
just for sex, Id rather go towards a younger man that will
satisfy me. The younger he is, on a sexual level well,
the machinery still works! Men my age, it doesnt always
work. Once its started, it doesnt last long. Because they
have more difculty maintaining an erection and all that.
Women Being Sexually Assertive
Most women in this study also depicted sex with younger
men as a context where women were particularly encour-
aged to disrupt traditional expectations of sexual passivity
for women. These women talked about younger men as
preferring sex partners who could express themselves and
steer the sexual interaction in the desired direction. More
than two-thirds of the women in their 30s and roughly four
out of ve women over age 40 stated that older womens
ability to express themselves and play an active role during
sex was one of the main reasons why many younger men
sought older women as intimate partners. Indeed, most par-
ticipants imagined women in their 20s as being rather
passive in bed. Perceiving younger men as unsatised with
young womens sexual performances, the women in this
study felt particularly valued for their ability to assert
themselves during sexual interactions with younger men.
For instance, reporting on the discussion she had with Jean-
François, the 28-year-old lover she had been dating over the
past two months, one participant said:
[He said that] the best sex is with older women. He says its
not all younger women that are passive. But there are some
thatand this is his expression—“lay on their back, like
a starsh, and expect you to do all the work.Im like, That
still exists?! Young women do that?!Its so far from my
reality now, but I was probably like that in the beginning as
well [when I was young].
(Xana, 54 years old)
The vast majority of participants talked about being
sexually assertive as something that does not come natu-
rally for women; they saw it as something that tends to
develop with age, experience, and personal effort. A large
portion of womenroughly half of women in their 30s
and 40s and one-third of women in their 50sassociated
their ability to be sexually assertive with the body con-
dence they had acquired with age. According to these
womeninthestudy,aswomengetoldertheybecome
more accepting of their bodies and therefore more con-
dent in bed. This does not mean that women were
completely immune to the cultural narrative equating
womens worth with youth and beauty (Montemurro &
Gillen, 2013;Travisetal.,2000;Wolf,1991). In fact,
most women revealed that they at times wondered
whether younger men truly found them physically attrac-
tive despite the visible signs of aging on their bodies.
However, they explained that, compared to young
women, they were less preoccupied with corresponding
to rigid standards of beauty, which ultimately made them
feel liberated during sex.
[Older women,] were more, you know, condent about
ourselves. And we are going to walk into the room in our
lingerie, if we have cellulite or not, you know? And
a younger woman would be like, Oh my God! I cant
wear this in front of him! Turn the lights off in case he
sees me! Hes not going to like it!Just thinking about what
position shes in, because What if he sees my fat!?And
we [older women] are just like, Whatever, Ive got fat.
Whatever. [laughs] I dont care!
(Olivia, 42 years old)
Most womenroughly three quarters of the participantsalso
believed that young women did not express their sexual pre-
ferences for fear of being judged by their male partners, or that
young women had simply not accumulated enough sexual
experience yet to really know what they preferred in bed. Far
from being ashamed or uncomfortable with their sexual history,
these participants presented their sexual experience as what
made them particularly valuable in the eyes of younger men.
For instance, elaborating on the reasons why men in their 20s
sought older female partners like herself, 40-year-old Felicity
said, [Younger men like] that were more comfortable with
our bodies, and that we know what we like.Mybody,
Iknowit;IknowwhatIlikeinbed.Im not afraid to say it.
Thats what they tell me.
The participantsperceptions of younger men as unsa-
tised with young womens sexual performances and as
preferring sexually experienced, condent women created
an environment where they felt particularly welcome to
express their sexual preferences and steer the sexual inter-
action in the desired direction. Describing the sexual inter-
play with younger men, 32-year-old Ashley said: [I feel]
empowered to talk about my desires and my boundaries.
I kind of like the idea of me being, like, fetishized as an
older woman with more experience, like, Ouuh! Tell me
what to do![imitating her partners voice; laughs] I kind of
enjoy that.In contrast, very few women talked about men
their own age or older as showing the same level of awe or
appreciation for women who can play an active role in bed
and express their sexual desires. In fact, some women felt
that many older men were somewhat judgemental of women
who appeared to have a lot of sexual knowledge, or that they
were uncomfortable with women expressing sexual fanta-
sies that were less common. For those women, expressing
their preferences or fantasies was perceived as a riskier
endeavor in the arms of older men. For instance, discussing
the reasons why she preferred younger sex partners to older
ones, 37-year-old Fiona said: [Younger men] arent afraid
to try new things, to dare. While an older man, he looks
ALARIE
6
at you like youre an alien or a slut. If it knocks them out
of their comfort zone, then they arent into it. They imagine
that you are a slut who has tried everything.
Women Seeking Maximal Sexual Pleasure
While the women in this study expressed a certain level
of pride in thinking of themselves as better lovers than
young women, one should abstain from interpreting this as
an indication that they were once again caught up in the
cultural imperative for women to prioritize mens pleasure
during sex. On the contrary, these women talked about
expressing themselves in bed rst and foremost as a way
for them to have more control over the sexual interaction
and to amplify their own pleasure. In fact, when discussing
(heterosexual) sex, the women in this study placed a lot of
importance on ensuring that their pleasure would be
attended to. On that note, the majority of themtwo-
thirds of women in their 30s and three out of four women
over age 40depicted the dynamic found in age-
hypogamous intimate relationships as facilitating female
pleasure. These women pointed to younger mens sexual
stamina, sexual openness, and/or conscious attempt to prior-
itize female pleasure during sex as impacting their own
pleasure during sex.
As discussed earlier, younger mens strong sex drives
and reliable erectile capacities were rather common topics
during womens interviews. A majority of women in all
three age groups perceived these traits as necessary for them
not only to act on their own sex drives, but also to reach
maximal pleasure during sex. For instance, younger mens
abilities to have multiple erections meant for many women
that their own pleasure would not be automatically cut short
because of their partnersorgasm. Lana, age 53, who had
recently dated a few men 10 to 20 years her junior, elabo-
rated on how younger mens stamina inuenced her plea-
sure: On a sexual note, obviously theres a difference, its
clear. The guy who is [a] thirty-year-old, or forty-year-old,
he will be more able to maintain the energy level. So, hell
be able to pleasure you longer, to keep you in a state of bliss
longer, to make it last. So it has a big impact.Some women
in their 50s described men in their own age bracket as
focusing much energy on trying to maintain their erection,
therefore dedicating little attention toward female pleasure.
For instance, 51-year-old Ariel said: I dont want men my
age. I dont feel like spending a million years focusing on
his erection. You know, the guy who rubs himself down
there, everything has to be focused on him, because he has
to get hard. I cant stand that, you know!
While mens physical capacities were important factors
inuencing womens ability to reach maximal pleasure,
many women also perceived mens openness with regard
to sexual practices as affecting their own sexual satisfaction.
These women stated that they preferred their intimate part-
ners to be as open and sexually adventurous as they were.
Roughly one-third of the participants felt that it was easier
to push the boundaries of acceptable sexual practices with
younger men, as they were perceived to be more open
sexually than older men. Reecting on why she preferred
young sex partners, 43-year-old Yvonne explained that she
felt somewhat conned to a rigid sexual repertoire when
partnered with men her own age or older: I dont know
how to explain the fun of being with younger men. Its that
theyre ready to experiment with new things, sexually and
all. While with older men, its like they think its behind
them or theyre too conservative to go there.
Roughly one-third of the women in each age group
perceived younger men as placing more importance on
female pleasure during sexual interactions than older men.
They described younger men as more attentive to womens
desires and preferences, and as putting more energy than
older men into ensuring women were truly enjoying them-
selves. Many participants were also positively surprised to
see that their younger partners wanted them to have an
orgasm before they did, a dynamic they rarely experienced
with men their own age or older. In the arms of younger
men, 49-year-old Rachel felt like her sexual pleasure really
mattered, which was one of the main reasons why she
preferred sex with younger men: [My younger partners]
wanted to satisfy my needs before theirs. They were happy
that I had an orgasm or that I had pleasure. It was the
opposite for the older ones; they will think of their pleasure
rst. Im maybe generalizing, but that is pretty much how it
was in my case.
Considering their perceptions of younger men as fanta-
sizing about older, sexually experienced women, many
participants described the power dynamic at play with
younger men as different from what they experienced with
older men. For instance, describing her recent sexual experi-
ences with men in their early 20s, one participant stated:
[Younger men] try a bit harderthey try to impress you
with their skills, and their prowess, what they are able to do,
and to what extent they can pleasure you. I have the feeling
that they try harder than older men. You know, the older
man, hes like, Been there, done that.[] I feel like
younger men are a little intimidated by sexually experienced
women, that there is a bit of pressure on them [to impress
us]. So they use all of their skills, they bring their A-game!
(Annabelle, 32 years old)
It is worth noting, however, that while most women per-
ceived sex with younger men to be more pleasurable than
with men their age or older, several women also specied that
not all younger men were generous or skilled lovers and that
one should be careful with generalizations. For instance, 40-
year old Felicity stated that, generally speaking, younger men
tried harder than older men to please their female partners.
However, she did have one negative experience with a 26-
year-old man who cared very little about her pleasure during
sex. Despite her attempts to guide him and make him a more
attentive lover, he would not change his ways. Refusing to
see her sexual pleasure be so blatantly ignored during sex,
SLEEPING WITH YOUNGER MEN
7
she ended their short-lived ing: I only saw him twice. Ah!
He was selsh in bed! It wasnt good. And I told him quite
clearly. I told him, If I have a younger lover, itsbecause
I want to have fun.I told him, You, it doesntwork.
[laughs] I tried to teach him a little bit, but no luck.
Similarly, based on her experience with David, her current
30-year-old partner, 53-year-old Helene explained that
younger mens ability to have strong erections was not
a guarantee of sexual bliss: David told me, Youll see,
Im a great lover.But the last time we had sex, yes, he
was hard and all, but it was more robotic than anything else.
It wasnt good. Okay, its great that he has strong erections,
but there is more to sex than just penetration!
Discussion
In line with some aspects of common cultural represen-
tations of cougars (Alarie, 2018; Aoun, 2013; Barrett &
Levin, 2014; Collard, 2012; Kaklamanidou, 2012; Monte-
murro & Siefken, 2014), the women in this study presented
themselves as condent, sexually assertive women with
strong sex drives. Based on their accounts of sex with
younger men, it appears that the sexual dynamic within age-
hypogamous intimate relationships departs, to some level,
from the traditional cultural script for (heterosexual) sex.
Indeed, age-hypogamous intimate relationships were
depicted as a context where women are encouraged to
present themselves as highly desiring and sexually assertive,
and where they can easily ensure that their pleasure will be
attended to.
This study shows that womens ability to destabilize the
traditional cultural script for heterosexual sex was facili-
tated in part by younger mens stamina and erectile capa-
cities. Most women talked about younger mens high sex
drive, sexual endurance, and reliable erections as facilitating
their efforts to present themselves as highly desiring, to act
on their sexual desires, and to ensure that they could reach
maximal pleasure. Indeed, many women described being at
times uncomfortable with acting on their strong libido when
partnered with men their own age or older, as they perceived
the risk of being criticized for being highly desiring and/or
the risk of hurting a partners masculinity to be higher than
in age-hypogamous intimate relationships.
Older participantsdiscussion of how older men experien-
cing erectile dysfunction affects their sexual satisfaction
resonates with contemporary research on the topic. Indeed,
research shows that many women report that their partners
erectile dysfunction has a negative impact on their sexual
satisfaction (Cameron & Tomlin, 2007; Chevret et al., 2004).
There is clear evidence that the likelihood of erectile dys-
function among men increases with age (Laumann, Paik, &
Rosen, 1999; Rosen et al., 2004). However, one should note
that only a minority (roughly 18% to 22%) of middle-aged
men suffer from erectile dysfunctions (Laumann et al., 1999;
Rosen et al., 2004). It is also worth reiterating that a mans
erectile capacities are not the sole factor contributing to
womens sexual pleasure (Armstrong et al., 2012;Hite,
1976;Koedt,1973; Richters et al., 2006;Rostosky&Travis,
2000). In fact, studies show that not all women are happy to
see penilevaginal intercourse being reintroduced into their
sex lives once their partners start using sexual enhancement
drugs (Meika, 2004; Potts, Gavey, Grace, & Vares, 2003;
Vares et al., 2007).
Based on womens discourses, I also suggest that most
women felt comfortable to disrupt certain aspects of the
traditional script for (heterosexual) sex with younger men in
part because they perceived younger men as preferring
sexually experienced and assertive women with high sex
drives. Indeed, many participants reported that their
younger partners had complained about young womens
lack of sexual experience, lack of condence, and/or pas-
sivity in bed. According to the participants, younger men
often emphasized how pleasant it was for them to be with
women who were condent in their own skins, who knew
what they liked in bed and who were not afraid to say it.
Furthermore, a large portion of women felt that younger
men were more open-minded with regard to sexuality,
which made it easier for them to express their sexual desires
and fantasies and to act on them. In comparison, many of
the participants felt that men their own age or older were
often uncomfortable or judgmental if women presented
themselves as highly desiring, as having accumulated
much sexual experience, and/or as interested in exploring
unconventional sexual practices. With that in mind, most
women felt it was easier to express their sexual desires and
steer sexual interactions in ways that would increase their
pleasure when they were with younger men.
The participantsinterpretations of younger mens appre-
ciation of sexually assertive women resonate with recent
research on young mens sexual desires and practices. Indeed,
based on 32 interviews with young men aged 18 to 24 years
old, Dworkin and OSullivan (2005) found that although the
majority of young men tended to initiate sexual practices with
their female partners, only some of them reported preferring
male-dominated patterns of initiation. In fact, most young
men indicated that their ideal sexual interaction would be one
where the two partners shared the responsibility of sexual
initiation, and one out of four young men actually preferred
a female-dominated pattern of initiation. Other studies show
that a large portion of young men wish their partners would
take more initiative in signaling what they like in bed, such as
asking them to perform clitoral stimulation or touching
themselves if they wanted to (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014).
Overall, it appears that many younger men would prefer
women to be more assertive in bed.
While the dichotomized view of older versus younger
women presented by the women in this study is arguably an
exaggerated portrait of how aging affects womens sex
performances, the literature on young adultssexual prac-
tices supports, to a certain extent, these participants
ALARIE
8
perceptions of young women. Indeed, research shows that
young women are often too shy to ask men to do certain
sexual acts that they enjoy (i.e., manual stimulation of the
clitoris, cunnilingus) or to take the matter into their own
hands and self-stimulate, especially in the context of casual
sex (Backstrom et al., 2012; Salisbury & Fisher, 2014).
Other research shows that most young women believe that
it is mens responsibility to physically stimulate women
until they reach orgasm, and that they therefore often wait
for men to provide them with pleasure (Salisbury & Fisher,
2014). Research on young womens experiences of hetero-
sexual sex also shows that many of them have insecurities
about their physical appearance and that these body image
issues inuence their behavior during sex (Weaver & Byers,
2018). Ultimately, womens (in)ability to assert themselves
during sexual interactions with men has considerable impact
on their sexual satisfaction, as communicating their desires
and preferences plays an important role in maximizing their
own sexual pleasure (Armstrong et al., 2012; Bridges,
Lease, & Ellison, 2004; Ménard & Offman, 2009).
The participantsdepiction of younger men as particu-
larly generous lovers also merits discussion. This result is
particularly intriguing considering that previous studies
depicted a rather disappointing portrait of young adults
ability to reach an egalitarian dynamic with regard to
female/male sexual pleasure. Indeed, many studies show
that while young women often perform fellatio on men, it is
much less common for young men to perform cunnilingus
on their female partners (Armstrong et al., 2015; Backstrom
et al., 2012; Lewis & Marston, 2016). There is in fact
a well-documented gap between young mens and young
womens frequency of orgasm during heterosexual sex
(Armstrong et al., 2015; Richters et al., 2006). Therefore,
one cannot conclude that younger men are inherently atten-
tive and generous lovers in every context. Instead, based on
womens discourses, I argue that womens perceptions of
younger men as fantasizing about older women combined
with womens perceptions of young women as passive sex
partners contribute to shifting the gender power dynamics at
play during sexual interactions, ultimately facilitating
womens ability to renegotiate interpersonal sexual scripts
with younger men. Womens perceptions of younger men as
fantasizing about older women provided women with more
condence in themselves, which then facilitated their ability
to assert and enjoy themselves sexually.
It is worth highlighting that womens appreciations of
age-hypogamous sex was also inuenced, especially in the
case of women over age 40, by the perception of middle-
aged men as showing little interest in women in their own
age bracket, a perception which is supported by empirical
evidence (Alterovitz & Mendelsohn, 2009; Buunk et al.,
2001; Conway et al., 2015; Pixley et al., 2007; South, 1991).
For those who had recently divorced or separated and had
felt undesired in the last years of their marriage or cohabita-
tional relationship, the perception of younger men as fanta-
sizing about older women felt particularly empowering.
This study shows that in a culture where aging is depicted
as having a much stronger devaluation effect on women
than on men (Carpenter, Nathanson, & Kim, 2006; England
& McClintock, 2009; Wolf, 1991), younger mens enthu-
siasm for older womens sexual experience, condence, and
high sex drive has a particularly positive effect on older
womens ability/desire to renegotiate the terms of the gen-
dered sexual script.
It is difcult to speculate on whether the participants
younger partners (perceived) appreciation for older women
will last as they age. It is unclear whether young men today
are less likely to internalize ageist conceptions of womens
worth as intimate partners and therefore less likely than men
from previous generations to prefer younger women to
women their age once they reach middle age. The current
study adds to the conversation by suggesting that younger
mens appreciation of older women is partly inuenced by
their (disappointing) experiences with women their own age
and by their desire to have sexually experienced and con-
dent sex partners. Arguably, as they advance in age and
accumulate new experiences, these mens sexual desires,
preferences, and expectations might evolve. This area of
inquiry denitely deserves more attention in the future.
One should note that while the women in this study
challenged certain aspects of the traditional cultural script
for (heterosexual) sex when partnered with younger men,
they also reproduced other aspects of the script. For
instance, the women in this study placed a great value on
mens erectile capacities, reproducing the idea that penile
vaginal intercourse is the most important part of the sexual
interaction (Fahs, 2011; Fishman & Mamo, 2001; Gewirtz-
Meydan et al., 2018; Vares et al., 2007). Furthermore, many
womenmostly women in their 40s and 50ssaw the
careful ltering of potential younger sex partners as
a crucial step they had to go through to nd men who
would provide them with a respectful and pleasurable
experience, one where they would not feel reduced to
a sex object of temporary value. This last discourse high-
lights how gender power dynamics inuencing heterosexual
sex are not automatically removed because of an age dif-
ference between partners, and that women often feel like
they must deploy strategies to avoid being potentially
usedby younger men.
It is also important to mention that, during their interview,
most participants talked about the stigma associated with
being read as a cougar, and that many expressed a certain
level of caution with regard to how sexual they wanted to be
perceived by others. Navigating the sexist and ageist concep-
tions of womens sexuality appeared to be particularly chal-
lenging for women in their 40s and 50s, as they often seemed
torn between their desire to present themselves as sexually
empowered women and their desire to avoid being associated
with negative cultural representations of cougars. Arguably,
older participantsfear of stigmatization is inuenced not
only by the cultural taboo for age-hypogamous intimate
relationships but also by the cultural representation of female
SLEEPING WITH YOUNGER MEN
9
sexuality as more acceptable for the younger, more physically
attractive, or childless woman (Friedman et al., 1998;Mon-
temurro & Siefken, 2012; Travis et al., 2000). That said, it
can also reect generational differences with regard to per-
ceptions of acceptable sexual desire and conduct for women,
as there have been signicant changes in terms of gendered
norms regarding sexuality over the past 60 years (Allyn,
2000;Kamen,2000;Lévy,2008;Thornton&Young-
DeMarco, 2001).
Conclusion
This study contributes in important ways to understand-
ing womens negotiation of normative expectations regard-
ing sexual behavior. Specically, it claries whether the
traditional cultural script for heterosexual sex is reproduced
within interpersonal sexual scripts at play between younger
men and older women. This study demonstrates that
younger mens stamina and erectile capacities can facilitate
womens efforts to challenge normative expectations
regarding female sexual desire and conduct. Furthermore,
it shows that womens perceptions of younger men as
fantasizing about older, sexually experienced women and
their perceptions of young women as passive sex partners
contribute to shifting the gender power dynamics, conse-
quently facilitating the renegotiation of interpersonal sexual
scripts within age-hypogamous intimate relationships.
While this study contributes in important ways to a better
understanding of the gender dynamics found in age-
hypogamous intimate relationships, it is important to recog-
nize its limitations. First, this study was based solely on
womens experiences of age-hypogamous intimate relation-
ships. While many of the results presented here touch on
mens preferences, motivations, and expectations, one must
keep in mind that these ndings solely reect womens
perceptions of younger mens experiences. To fully under-
stand the gender dynamics in age-hypogamous intimate
relationships, it is important to investigate mens experi-
ences as well.
Second, the sample in this study was almost exclusively
White. While the two participants of color did not talk
about their race/ethnicity as an element inuencing their
experiences of sex with younger men, and while their
discourses did not appear to be different from those of
White participants, the lack of racial/ethnic diversity in
this sample is an important limitation one should keep in
mind when considering the applicability of these results to
non-White women who choose younger intimate partners.
For instance, we know that in the United States, higher
mortality rates and higher incarceration rates for Black
men compared to White men exacerbate the already unba-
lanced nature of the men-to-women ratio single older
women experience on the dating market (England &
McClintock, 2009;Shehanetal.,1991). Interestingly,
previous studies found that Black women were more likely
than White women to marry a younger man (Atkinson &
Glass, 1985;Shehanetal.,1991). However, there appears
to be no signicant differences between White and Black
middle-aged women with regard to the odds of choosing
younger men as sex partners (Alarie & Carmichael, 2015).
Third, the sample used in this study included only
women ages 30 to 60 years old. It is unclear how women
under 30 or over 60 compare to the women in this study
with regard to their experience of age-hypogamous intimate
relationships. One should abstain from applying the ndings
of this study to young adult women or elderly women.
Finally, the results presented here emerged from the stories
of women who have experienced the dating market in a big
city. Considering the cultural taboo surrounding age-
hypogamous intimate relationships, it is likely that trying
to date younger men is a different reality when one resides
in a small town where most people know one another.
This area of inquiry is ripe for future research, with many
questions still unanswered. For instance, how do younger
men feel with regard to older womens perceptions of
younger men as having impressive erectile capacities and
a strong sex drive? Do they feel pressured by these high
expectations? Do men dating older women feel objectied?
How does sleeping with older women inuence a mans
reputation among his male peers? Researchers should also
explore the interpersonal sexual scripts at play in age-
discrepant same-sex relationships. More broadly, more
scholars should investigate the dating and sexual experi-
ences of women at midlife and senior years.
Funding and Acknowledgments
This study was conducted with the support of the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
(SSHRC). The author is grateful to Elaine Weiner, Eran
Shor, Jason Carmichael, Bonnie Fox, Francine Descarries,
Céline LeBourdais, anonymous reviewers, and the editors
for their comments and suggestions.
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... While discussion of daddies in popular culture has exploded, there has been less coverage of women partnered to younger men ("cougars") and even less of women partnered to older men and men partnered to older women. Differential coverage of daddies and cougars reflects gender inequalities: It is rarer for women than men to be considered desirable as they age, and there is more stigma attached to woman-older relationships than man-older relationships (Alarie 2019a(Alarie , 2019bWarren 1996). While many consider it appropriate and desirable for older men to pursue younger women, the same is generally not true for women, and there are misconceptions and stigmas about women who partner with younger men (Alarie 2019b). ...
... While many consider it appropriate and desirable for older men to pursue younger women, the same is generally not true for women, and there are misconceptions and stigmas about women who partner with younger men (Alarie 2019b). Evaluation of age-heterogenous partnerships is imbued with gendered inequalities that reflect women's devaluation in society more broadly, especially as they age (Alarie 2019a(Alarie , 2019bWarren 1996). ...
... It is likely related to stigma: There are substantial differences in how manolder and woman-older relationships are evaluated and perceived. Women who partner with younger men are devalued and stigmatized in ways that men who partner with younger women are not, reflecting women's devaluation in society, particularly as they age (Alarie 2019a(Alarie , 2019bMontemurro and Siefken 2014;Warren 1996). Stigmas attached to women partnered to younger men may affect relationship quality; external prejudice, in other words, may negatively affect the relationship well-being of women partnered to younger men. ...
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... On an empirical level, research has revealed that adopting self-focused approach goals for engaging in sex (e.g., "I have sex because it feels good") significantly predicts daily sexual desire for one's partner (Impett et al., 2008a(Impett et al., , 2008b. Research on highly desiring women dating younger men has additionally shown that these women reported doing so (partly) because they felt that their pleasure was best attended to by younger men's sexual endurance and erectile capacities (Alarie, 2020), an observation in line with empirical evidence linking sexual desire of women to the erectile functioning of their male partners (Goldstein et al., 2005). On the contrary, the inability to achieve sexual fulfillment with one's partner has been reported to lead to sexual boredom and a decline of sexual desire for this partner in both women and men (Tunariu & Reavey, 2007). ...
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... While most of the participants drew on a cultural script which reproduced notions of women as less sexual with age, some also challenged this. The presence of an alternative script reflects how cultural representations of women's sexuality in adulthood and later are becoming more diverse (see Alarie, 2019Alarie, , 2020Montemurro and Siefken, 2014). Since these scripts often refer to women in midlife and later, they may have been less relevant for the participants in their late twenties and early thirties. ...
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... This accounts for what was already discussed in the literature as the pleasure gap (Crutcher, 2012;Laumann et al., 2006;Mahar et al., 2020), a symptom of mismatched sexual rights and equity between women and men. On the other hand, sexual assertiveness may be an element counteracting these outcomes as it seems to enhance women's sexual pleasure and sexual self-efficacy (e.g., Alarie, 2020;Mastro & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2015), drawing attention to the need to further promote the rights to sexual autonomy and sexual pleasure (Kism€ odi et al., 2017). ...
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... Sexual scripts are highly gendered, providing different expectations for women and men on what is sexually appropriate and how to behave during sex (Masters et al. 2013;Wiederman 2005). Heterosexual cultural scripts encourage men to think of themselves as entitled to feel sexual desire and act on those desires while simultaneously teaching women to think of themselves as objects and find gratification in being the passive recipient of male sexual desire (Alarie 2019). While men's sexual scripts are more direct, proactive, highly sexualized, and aimed at obtaining intercourse, women's scripts are more passive, indirect, and aimed at avoiding intercourse (Morrison et al. 2015). ...
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