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



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:
Sleeping With Younger Men: Women’s Accounts
of Sexual Interplay in Age-Hypogamous Intimate
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:
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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
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.
Supplementary material for this article can be accessed here.
© 2019 The Society for the Scientic Study of Sexuality
ISSN: 0022-4499 print/1559-8519 online
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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!
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
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
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,
DeMarco, 2001).
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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Discussion of “daddies” has exploded in popular discourse, yet there is little sociological research on age-heterogenous partnerships. This paper uses data from the 2013 Midlife in the United States survey and the 2015–2016 National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project to examine age-heterogenous partnerships at older ages (63 was the approximate average age of each sample). On most measures of life satisfaction and relationship well-being, individuals in age-heterogenous partnerships—regardless of age or gender—were not very different from their counterparts in age-homogenous relationships. Some differences did emerge, however, especially related to sexual well-being. Women partnered to older men had less sex and more issues related to sexual satisfaction than their counterparts in age-homogenous relationships. Latent class analyses suggest that these differences were driven by around 40 percent of younger women partnered to older men, a minority of whom were deeply dissatisfied. This research helps address the underrepresentation of sexuality research at older ages and the sociological research gap about age-heterogenous partnerships.
... 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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In most theoretical models, sexual desire for one’s partner is predominantly conceptualized from an individual perspective. There is, however, a growing body of empirical evidence on the dyadic aspects of sexual desire. That evidence is as yet not well-integrated into theoretical conceptualizations of sexual desire. Aiming to fill this gap, we present the Dyadic Interactions Affecting DyadIC Sexual desire model (DIADICS), a new conceptual model inspired by systems theory that describes how dyadic interactions between partners influence dyadic sexual desire in romantic relationships. After defining dyadic sexual desire, we discuss (1) the structure of dyadic interactions, (2) their content, and (3) the process through which they affect dyadic sexual desire in a romantic relationship. Thereafter, we review theoretical, clinical, and empirical insights underscoring the relation between dyadic interactions and (dyadic) sexual desire, use DIADICS as a framework for understanding fluctuations in dyadic sexual desire in long-term relationships, and conclude by discussing implications of DIADICS for research and clinical practice.
... 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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While much research has explored contemporary constructions of young women’s sexuality, few studies have been sensitive to how age influences women’s sexuality in the context of mainstream nightlife. Drawing on sexual scripting theory, I investigate how 19 Norwegian women (ages 27–34 years) draw on and negotiate cultural scripts when making sense of their nightlife experiences with age. I found that nightlife was an increasingly difficult space to occupy, and that participating could cause tension with the women’s understandings of themselves, their behaviours and their desires in nightlife. While age-related scripts allowed the participants to criticise gender inequality in sexual interaction in nightlife, they simultaneously obscured how gender inequality in nightlife persisted in new forms with age.
... 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). ...
Objectives To clarify the psychosocial and behavioral factors related to women’s sexual pleasure. Methods: A search was conducted on EBSCO and Web of Science databases using the key terms “female sexual pleasure” and “women sexual pleasure” and following PRISMA guidelines. Results: 76 articles were identified, referring to sexual practices, individual factors, interpersonal factors, societal factors, and ways of enhancing sexual pleasure. Conclusions: Age, sexual experience, arousability, body-esteem, sexual autonomy, and sexual assertiveness seem to benefit women’s sexual pleasure, while sexual compliance and a gender power imbalance seem to compromise it. Additional research regarding non-western and non-heterosexual women is still required.
... 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). ...
In May 2018, an old interview resurfaced with DJ Khaled in The Breakfast Club, a popular morning radio show. In this interview, he mentioned that he does not perform cunnilingus on his wife, repeatedly stating, “I don’t do that” and explained “[there are] different rules for men.” Although depictions of oral sex are rampant in hip hop, most focus on fellatio in heterosexual relationships. Narratives are shifting both in society and within hip hop regarding female sexuality and cunnilingus, particularly with the influx of female rappers and sex positive lyricism. This chapter aims to examine the evolution of sexual scripts surrounding cunnilingus in hip hop from a sex positive framework and evaluates how toxic masculinity and misogyny negatively affect sex positive sexual scripts.
... Likely factors that could influence this might be linked to sexual satisfaction. Some studies conducted in Australia and the United Kingdom have shown that men in older-womenyounger-male marital relationships were not sexually satisfied (Alarie, 2019;Erens et al., 2019). This obviously could lead to multiple sexual partners among men in such marriage with serious implications for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or infections. ...
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This study investigates age disparity in marriage and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections among spouses in Shomolu, Lagos State Nigeria.The study adopted a descriptive and cross-sectional design in which a multi-stage sampling method comprising cluster sampling, simple random sampling and the convenience sampling techniques were used to select 400 married women in Shomolu, Lagos State. A structured, close ended questionnaire was used in a researcher administered survey to elicit responses. Descriptive statistics and the Chi-square test guided data analysis. Data show a high prevalence of older male-younger female marriage (n=365; 93.5%) and older-women-younger-male marriage (n = 14; 3.7%). Some women (n=48; 13.8%) had ever been infected with STIs such as Gonorrhea (n = 31; 64.5%), syphilis (n = 14; 29.2%) and chlamydia (n = 3; 6.3%). There was a statistically significant association between age disparity (χ2 = 4.266; df = 1; p<0.05), polygamy (χ2 =4.308; df = 1; p<0.05) and incidence of STIs among spouses, particularly women in older women-younger male marriage.The corresponding consequences for increased incidence of STIs among women in older women-younger male relationships should underscore social interventions that might reduce the incidence and consequences of STIs among this population.
This review explores research over the past quarter century on couples with age differences. I present recent global trends in age‐dissimilar couplings, illustrating a shift away from statistical marriage studies focusing on relationships' motivations, inequalities, and challenges, and largely underpinned by biological, economic, or demographic outlooks. Since the last review of age‐dissimilar couples in 1993, there have been substantive qualitative developments. Scholarship looking beyond Euro‐American contexts is increasingly common, as are approaches examining class, race, sexuality, culture, religion, and nationality, as well as age, marital status, education, and employment. This transformation informs new perspectives on power and partner choice. I argue that research now needs more fluid definitions of age differences, greater range in qualitative studies' geographies and methodologies, and continued consideration of the life course and intersecting differences. Examinations of age‐dissimilar couples should thus focus on these relationships' varied configurations, explored through a range of social analyses.
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Older man-younger woman romantic relationship is a cultural normative relationship in all societies. A reversal characterized by an older woman-younger man intimancy is regarded as an offensive counterfeit of the genuine former. A woman found in this kind of a relationship, sleepy society wakes up, picks up verbal stones and breathes denunciations against the older woman and labels her a moral rebel for changing social norm-goal posts. The objective of this study was to investigate existence of large age-gap romantic relationships and to explore under what socio-economic climate did they emerge and thrive. The study was conducted between October to December, 2020. It was conducted in Chipata- Zambia. The study used a crosssectional design with a qualitative approach. A total of 30 participants were individually interviewed through the singleper-interview method. The study found that large age-gap older woman relationships were common, rampant and universal in both rural and urban areas with the latter scoring first. The study found that society defined large age-gap intimate heterosexual relationship involving an older woman as one where the woman was older than her male partner by 5 or more years. The study also found that some older women especially in villages engaged in romantic relationships with younger males because traditionally it was believed that younger men’s semen had special properties that arrested the aging process and reyouthed the aging skin and the entire aged body. The study also found that absent husbands, drunkenness, women empowerment/ change of lifestyle, women/male youth vulnerability including the internet and social media created a perfect socioeconomic environment in which large age-gap taboo relationships emerged and flourished. Key words: society, age-gap, heterosexual, romance,
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Commonly referred to as “cougars,” women who date younger men are often imagined as sexually assertive women who actively seek out and seduce younger men, therefore challenging major pillars of the traditional heterosexual dating script. Drawing on 55 semi-structured interviews with women aged 30-60 who date younger men, I explore the relationship formation process women experienced with younger men with the intent of shedding light on women’s behavior in that context. I found that, contrary to common cultural representations of “cougars,” very few women depicted themselves as seductresses who pursued younger men, with younger men passively waiting to be courted. However, the tendency to present oneself as having played a rather passive role during the relationship formation process was more pronounced among participants over 40 than among 30-something women. I argue that in the context of age-hypogamous dating, women’s ability/desire to renegotiate the gendered script for relationship formation is constrained by the common cultural discourse indicating that a woman’s worth declines with age, as well as by the cultural discomfort toward older women’s sexuality.
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Au cours des deux dernières décennies, les femmes entretenant des relations intimes avec des hommes plus jeunes ont fait couler beaucoup d’encre. De par leurs comportements, elles défient certaines normes sociales associées au genre féminin en matière de séduction, de sexualité et de choix de partenaire. De plus, elles chamboulent le discours dominant indiquant que la valeur des femmes en tant que partenaire diminue avec l’âge. Dans ce chapitre, l'auteure présente les principales idées reçues au sujet des relations hypogamiques en termes d'âge, elle explore les origines du mythe de la "femme cougar" et elle présente les plus récentes données au sujets des relations intimes hypogamiques en termes d'âge.
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Social representations, which appear in a variety of media, can influence the way sexual experiences are perceived and understood. While pornography is not the only medium in which orgasm is portrayed, it is the most explicit, and it is widespread and easily accessible. As such, pornography is an ideal medium for examining representations of male and female orgasm. PornHub’s 50 most viewed videos of all time were viewed and coded for the frequency of male and female orgasm, orgasm-inducing sex acts (and whether activity inducing female orgasms included some form of clitoral stimulation), and auditory (verbal, vocal) and visual (bodily) indicators of orgasm. Content analysis was used to code and analyze the data. Results were analyzed in light of sexual script theory and previous orgasm research. Only 18.3% of women, compared to 78.0% of men, were shown reaching orgasm. Sex differences in depictions of orgasm, beyond the appearance of semen, were documented. Results support the male performance script as evident in pornographic depictions of orgasm, as well as coital and orgasm imperatives. As a result, representations of male and female orgasm in mainstream pornography may serve to perpetuate unrealistic beliefs and expectations in relation to female orgasm and male sexual performance.
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Open access full-text available: Young people in many countries report gender differences in giving and receiving oral sex, yet examination of young people's own perspectives on gender dynamics in oral heterosex are relatively rare. We explored the constructs and discourses 16- to 18-year-old men and women in England used in their accounts of oral sex during in-depth interviews. Two contrasting constructs were in circulation in the accounts: on one hand, oral sex on men and women was narrated as equivalent, while on the other, oral sex on women was seen as "a bigger deal" than oral sex on men. Young men and women used a "give and take" discourse, which constructed the mutual exchange of oral sex as "fair." Appeals to an ethic of reciprocity in oral sex enabled women to present themselves as demanding equality in their sexual interactions, and men as supporting mutuality. However, we show how these ostensibly positive discourses about equality also worked in narratives to obscure women's constrained agency and work with respect to giving oral sex. Open access full-text available:
This study captured older people’s attitudes and concerns about sex and sexuality in later life by synthesising qualitative research published on this issue. The systematic review was conducted between November 2015 and June 2016 based on a pre-determined protocol. Key words were used to ensure a precise search strategy. Empirically based, qualitative literature from 18 databases was found. Twenty studies met the inclusion criteria. Thomas and Harden’s thematic synthesis was used to generate ‘analytical themes’ which summarise this body of literature. Three main themes were identified: (a) social legitimacy for sexuality in later life; (b) health, not age, is what truly impacts sexuality, and (c) the hegemony of penetrative sex. The themes illustrate the complex and delicate relation between ageing and sexuality. Older adults facing health issues that affect sexual function adopt broader definitions of sexuality and sexual activity.
The goal of this study was to explore women’s perceptions of their body within the context of their sexual relationship with a male partner. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 young women (ages 19 to 29). Thematic analysis revealed that women described a fluctuating body image that influences their behaviour and experience of sexual activity including initiating or avoiding, openness or inhibition, and feeling engaged or distracted. They described contextual factors that affect their body image in sexual situations (e.g., lighting, sexual position) as well as strategies they used to ameliorate the impact of body image concerns (e.g., self-talk, shifting focus), to varying degrees of success. Most indicated that they were able to enjoy partnered sexual activity despite their insecurities. Thus, women viewed their sexual experiences as influenced by body image in dynamic, fluctuating ways, with numerous influencing factors. Strategies for mitigating these perceived negative effects are discussed.
How do sexual and social experiences-childhood sex play, immigration, or divorce, for example-at one point in a person's life affect his or her sexual beliefs and behaviors later on? How are individuals' sexual biographies shaped by broader cultural and historical changes, such as the sexual "revolution" of the late 1960s and the early 1970s or the increasing availability of same-sex marriage? In what ways do intersections among gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation influence these life course processes, even as life course processes influence those intersecting social statuses in turn? We explore these questions in this book.
Although the objectification of women is pervasive, it has not been studied extensively in the context of romantic relationships. This is a curious oversight, given that physical appearance is considered a prominent factor in romantic attraction and conceptualizations of objectification tend to involve an exaggerated emphasis on physical appearance. Thus, objectification theory may have interesting implications for romantic relationships. Women who enjoy sexualization may be more likely to have a partner who objectifies them, which could have negative implications for the relationship, as objectification research has generally found that the experience of objectification has negative consequences for women. Across three studies of heterosexual women in relationships (N = 114, N = 196, and N = 208), results showed that those who enjoyed sexualization tended to feel more objectified by their partner, which in turn related to lowered relationship satisfaction. These findings persisted even when controlling for perceptions of partner’s sexual desire, self-objectification, and objectification from strangers. Furthermore, Study 3 provides preliminary evidence that self-objectification may be a precursor to this mediation in that self-objectification was associated with higher enjoyment of sexualization, which was associated with higher partner-objectification, which in turn was associated with lower relationship satisfaction. This research sheds light on how the objectification of women operates within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship.
In this founding article first published in 1968, Anne Koedt underlines the androcentric and heteronormative quality of the definition of women's sexual pleasure. The focus on vaginal orgasm and the disqualification of clitoral orgasm, supported in particular by Freud's psychoanalytic texts, thus dismisses many women as belonging to the «frigid» category. Women, encouraged to seek desperately for vaginal sexual pleasure, try to overcome a problem that does not exist but which can lead to «the ultimate degree of self-hate and insecurity». For Koedt, knowledge of the female body is concealed on purpose: the clitoris rehabilitation would lead to undermine men as «sexually facultative» and would represent, thus, a real threat against the heterosexual institution.
A candid and provocative critique of women's sexual liberation in America. Although conventional wisdom holds that women in the United States today are more sexually liberated than ever before, a number of startling statistics call into question this perceived victory: over half of all women report having faked orgasms; 45 percent of women find rape fantasies erotic; a growing number of women perform same-sex eroticism for the viewing benefit of men; and recent clinical studies label 40 percent of women as "sexually dysfunctional." Caught between postsexual revolution celebrations of progress and alarmingly regressive new modes of disempowerment, the forty women interviewed in Performing Sex offer a candid and provocative portrait of "liberated" sex in America. Through this nuanced and complex study, Breanne Fahs demonstrates that despite the constant cooptation of the terms of sexual freedom, women's sexual subjectivities-and the ways they continually grapple with shifting definitions of liberation-represent provocative spaces for critical inquiry and personal discovery, ultimately generating novel ways of imagining and reimagining power, pleasure, and resistance.