Both Men and Women Prefer Dating Younger

a young man dating a young woman

Add this to the annals of studies that confirm things we already know anecdotally.

A piece in Time Magazine cites numbers from the Are You Interested Facebook app that concludes that, among 35,942 users ages 30 to 49, a woman was five times more likely to show interest in a man who was five years her junior, rather than one who was five years older.

Men’s preferences are shaped not just by looks but by fertility, which is why many have 35 as a cutoff.

Similarly, among 26,434 men ages 30 to 49, 42% wouldn’t even consider a woman if she was older than him. However, if contacted by an older woman, men wouldn’t necessarily turn her down. The data shows that a man is only 22% less likely to respond to an older woman than a younger woman if she initiates contact.

This is the exact same observation I make in Finding the One Online. Namely, that if you look at a typical 40 year old man’s search preferences, it will generally read 27-35. And if you look at a typical 40 year old woman’s search preferences, it’ll generally read 35-45. However, men’s preferences are shaped not just by looks but by fertility, which is why many have 35 as a cutoff. And while women will write 35-45, they will almost always prefer a man her age or younger.

There are WAY too many exceptions to this for us to fight about, so please, let’s not. Let’s just agree that women, like men, prefer dating younger, that men are receptive to emails from all sorts of women, and that both genders are equally driven by youth and beauty. The difference is that women also care about money, career, education and height, which makes their dating pools shrink proportionately.

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  1. 41
    Karl T

    Redbreast #36,
    I am also 39 and in the same boat as you.   I also have an age range of approx. 25-35 for the same reasons.   For someone like Paula to see that in a guy’s profile and still get angry at him without even knowing or having talked to him- well that says a lot.   Why she would be angry at a guy she don’t even know (just read his profile) shows that she has a grudge or anger inside her.   I would never date a woman like that no matter what age I am, even if I didn’t want kids.  

  2. 42

    Wow !!!! When will men who are 40 realize women in thier late twenties to very early thirties don’t want them. And please stop saying you look young for you’re age … You really don’t … Sigh .. Just be honest with yourself  

  3. 43

    Redbreast #36  
    There is a link of autism with older fathers. Logically it makes more sense that a younger guy will have healthier genes than an older guy.  
    Good luck with the younger women ….. because they prefer men their own age but maybe you can offer a great lifestyle with your income.  

  4. 44
    Karl T

    Zara #42,
    I am 39.   You seriously think a woman who is 32 is too young for me and doesn’t want me?   Really??   I’m a muscular guy who has been in shape for most of my life, I have a great job and own my own house and come from an awesome family.   I have no issues getting dates.   You sound like some jaded 40 plus  year old woman who is all ticked off, just like Paula.   I’m don’t come to this blog for help…I come because I like discussing principles and reading other people’s comments.   I will continue to date 25 to 35 year old woman and if you don’t like it, too bad!   I’m not failing at it like perhaps you hope I am!!!   Maybe you should seek counseling on why this bothers you??
    Rose #40,
    It figures you go right to the lowest age listed.   Our range is 25 to 35…we didn’t say we go only for 25 year olds!!!   She could be 35 too.   However in my expreiences, I have met girls who were 26 who were really mature and I have met 32 year olds who still act 21 and party all the time and are not serious.   So therefore, I will keep my age range wide.    My age preference is probably 29 to 33, but I’ll take a mature 26 year old over an immature 32 year old anyday…..

    1. 44.1

      I’m an attractive 32 year old woman who is dating online and I take issue with guys who refuse to date women their own age, even when I fall into their stated preferences. What’s wrong with a 39 year old woman? Why can’t you date someone the same age as you? And if you’re going to use the old fertility argument, may I point out that there are plenty of  women your age  who can have perfectly healthy babies, just as there are lots of younger women who have a hard time conceiving and/or having healthy kids. And yes, you are too old for me. I prefer men within five years of my age either way. And the reason we zero in on the lower age is because we know that’s what  most men are really after. We know that you will often even message females younger than your stated preference, because you just want the hottest, youngest girl who’ll have you.

    2. 44.2

      For what it’s worth, I’m a young woman and I don’t care if older guys want to date me (or even women younger than me!).   Everyone is entitled to their desires and policing or guilting men for being attracted to what they are attracted to is futile and unnecessary.   I’m a strong believer in that there’s a lid for every pot.   If a guy actively excludes you from his dating pool, because he has a strict age range – his loss! Move on!   Just the same as if a woman excluded a man for not being tall enough.

      That being said, I still do think men shouldn’t wait too late (37+) to be “finding someone” to settle down with and start a family.   There are obvious reasons: young women want a man who is young enough to keep up with small children, won’t leave her a widow prematurely, etc.   

      But the most overlooked reason is that older guys are more set in their ways, less malleable, have more baggage, can be socially inept/weird, etc.   I’ve noticed this a lot among the older men I have gone out with who were 37+.   I’m sure there are exceptions, but experience has shaped my opinion.   

      I do find it a little odd when guys have only seriously started their search for a mate once they hit their late 30s.   To me, you should have found someone by now.   There’s some reason why you didn’t make marriage a priority in your youth.   You were too fixated on school/career (these are issues that plague everyone, you don’t get a free ‘pass’ for it) or you were a player enjoying easy hook ups instead of meaningful relationships.   Either way, both of those things aren’t attributes desirable in a potential hubby.   And I don’t really want a man who squandered his physically prime years, but now expects to get mine.   These are the reasons why I chose my 28 year old SO over suitors that were a decade older.   To each their own, I guess!   Good luck with your search. 🙂     

  5. 45

    I think people keep forgetting that we don’t all see through the same eyes. A lot of people, especially the ones who believe most in the European (white, blond, blue-eyed, really skinny) beauty standard assume that it’s what everyone else must want(it also amuses me b/c as a non-white person, it’s about as far from my ideal as you can get).   It’s like everyone goes back to the hierarchy they followed in high school.   
    So I always find the talk about people trying to date out of their league or dating out of their league to be amusing.
    You could be average, ugly, or plain, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who look like Jon Hamm or Hugh Jackman who don’t look at you and think you are beautiful.
    So while we might be trained to assume that all 5’s must date 5’s, it ignores the fact that to some people those 5’s are 10’s.   
    If you dated men that you think were better looking than you, all it means is that whatever about you makes you think you are only average (if that is what you think) looked ABOVE average to them.
    Online, we stick to the rules, b/c we get beat over the head with the idea of what we do or don’t deserve.   Of course in IRL, since people approach you, you don’t have to go through the mental gymnastics of deciding if the guy you find attractive thinks you will be acceptable too.
    Even though the investment is low, it is funny how we are too intimidated to just throw a wink out there if someone is “too good-looking”   One of my friends reminded me that you don’t know what other people think or like so you shouldn’t do that.   It’s not about dating out of your league so much as remembering that you aren’t a psychic.   Only once did I get a really nasty email from a guy more or less going off about how dare I contact him and it was amusing b/c among the insults hurled at me were my age (he was my age) and my looks (he was only average looking himself, and beauty is subjective but I’ve never felt or been told I was flat out UGLY).   It was interesting for sure though.

    1. 45.1

      Sometimes you don’t even have to wink at them. Some will get offended at you for even being on the dating site if you have no SMV. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it happen.

  6. 47
    Sparkling Emerald

    Henriette @45
    Thanks for posting this, it is refreshing to not read another article yammering away at women, telling us that we aren’t married because we are so hopelessly flawed.

  7. 48

    I’m 45. I prefer dating men 45-55. I specified my age range when I was on match and I would still get emails from really young guys (19-30) and older ones (62 and up, like my father’s age….yuck!) A 19 year old  once emailed me….and I felt compelled to respond, “does your mother know your online dating?” (and I have  a 19 yr old….too funny)
    Luckily, you can specify an age range on POF and no one can email you if not within the age range noted.
    One reason I like dating my age and older, most likely any kids are older too. Mine are older and I’m not sure I want to visit the younger years again….been there/done that.
    I was recently contacted by a 38 yr old who asked me out…..and I know it’s only 7 years younger, but I’m feeling a little weird about it….? We’ll see 🙂

  8. 49

    Most of the men I date have already had kids and have no desire for more, or have long ago decided they don’t want them. We’re talking about men in their late forties to late fifties. Even so, most of them list age ranges up to 20 years younger, and many don’t go older than their own age. At this point, it’s more about these guys trying to hang onto their youth and virility through a younger woman than anything else.

  9. 50

    Well damn, I never would have  expected to see such blowback to a man’s desire to date younger women.   This really puts a kink in my plans…. when my lady turns 40 one day, I was going to trade her in for two 20-year-olds.   It’s not what you think-I’ll need them to keep each other company if I fall asleep during sex.

    I think you’ll do well with the online dating because you appear to have thick skin, which is a must-have for that kind of thing.   At the end of the day, it  dramatically increases your options.
    Back to the income thing-I do think it’s in your best interest to not read into it too much if a guy doesn’t list his income.   I have to think there are a number of guys like me out there who don’t list it because they don’t want to draw women in who are only interested in money.   Besides, if you’re finding that men are lying about it anyway, what difference does it make?   You should be able to tell quickly if he’s able to take care of himself.
    When I was online, I found that eharmony had much higher-quality prospects than okcupid.   A lot of women on okcupid seemed to be unemployed or underemployed.   So maybe it is the same thing as far as men go.   Perhaps there are more successful men on eharmony?
    Hope that helps.

  10. 51

    @Maria 29 …….. 6 yrs age difference is not exactly what I was talking about. It was the the 42 yr old women that get emailed by guys under 30. Or the the 49 yr.old women that get emailed by 35 yr. olds. See the difference?

  11. 52
    Sparkling Emerald

    Zara @42 – When will men who are 40 realize women in thier late twenties to very early thirties don’t want them.
    Maybe I am the exception, but in my younger days, I was often attracted to older men.   And a 33 year old and a 40 year is not much of an eyebrow raiser in my opinion. Maybe we aren’t the majority, but I think there enough women in their early 30’s   (and even late 20’s) who would appreciate a 40 year old, if he had the other qualities she was looking for.  
    When I was 29 I was head over heels crazy for a 42 year old.     We dated for a while, but he didn’t want to commit, (he used the freshly divorced excuse).   If he had been willing to commit, believe me I would have. (yes, he broke my heart)
    My first serious boyfriend was 24 (I was 17). One of my first summer romances was with a 21 year old when I was 16.      2 of these relationships violated the “half your age + seven rule” and one just barely made it in.   In my younger days, I was often drawn to more mature men, although my first husband was just 5 years my senior and my second husband was actually 2 years younger.   I did date men closer in age also, but there was just something about a mature man that I found irresistable.  
    Of course now that I am older, I prefer men closer to my own age, and in good health and reasonably attractive. I guess I’ve always wanted a “silver fox”, and I have finally grown into what I’ve always been attracted to. At my age, men my age are mature enough for me.   At this point in my life, I don’t want to have one good year, and then be someone’s nursemaid.   So I’ll stick to men within 10 years of my age.  

  12. 53
    Soul Sister

    I am enjoying reading this blog and here is my take on it….everyone has their preferences, age, attractiveness, income level, etc. and on-line dating is sort of like “shopping for men/women” so it gets a bit skewed.   But the real truth is once you meet, if the chemistry is right (both physical and mental), a lot of your list just doesn’t seem to matter.   So when I hear someone say “he is a really great guy, I just wish he were richer/taller/better looking, the chemistry is just not there.
    I did match, and had lots of dates (tons of fun if you have the right attitude and I am 52!), and who did I end up falling for?   The guy who was unemployed and overweight (and I  am very well employed and in great shape)….why?   Because I find him very sexy and love the way I feel around him, and after two years, my heart still jumps when I see a text from him.  
    I do think women are pickier, and not just about looks or income, because we are looking for the whole package.   It reminds me of a funny saying: Women have a list of 49 things they want in a man, and he has to  meet 47 of them….men have a list of  10 things they want in a woman, and if she is hot enough the other 9 don’t count…..
    So yes, looks and money  are important initial factors, but to really understand your feelings, ask yourself if you would want to be stuck  with this person on a deserted island with no BMWs and no makeup…and if the answer is yes, they are the right person for you.

  13. 54
    Soul Sister

    One other funny thing about the expectations of men sometimes….a guy I work with was telling me he met a really great woman on match but he just didn’t want to go out with her again, she was “loose in the caboose”….I asked him what that meant and he said “she is about 20 lbs overweight so her butt is bigger than I like”
    You should have seen his face when I eyed his significant gut and sweetly asked “oh, would that be anything like staunch in the paunch?”  
    Just sayin…!!

  14. 55

    Ah the age issue is always fun to discuss. My take on it is that it doesn’t really matter what any particular individual wants; it’s what they can get.
    I bought a house last year, and it took me about nine months of looking to get the right one. Like everyone else I wanted a big house in a nice neighborhood. Unfortunately these are expensive and out of by range so I had to buy a house that matched my budget. People with deeper pockets get to buy nicer houses. I used to get so frustrated when I saw the prices people were looking for, until I realized it didn’t matter what they wanted, or what I wanted — it’s what the market wants that will determine the price.
    The same applies in dating. An individual can want whatever they want but who cares what they want — it’s whether they’ve got the goods to get what they want that counts. Rich famous people date younger — because they can.
    If you want to date younger you just have to bring the goods that the younger person is looking for.
    Paula 23
    “I really can’t stand when a man who is 40 is listing 25-35”
    I don’t understand why it bothers you what they’re looking for really? Let them look for models if they want – we can all dream 🙂
    The same applies for women who only  want men with certain attributes — let them look for those men, but can they get them is what matters.
    Kathleen 43
    “Good luck with the younger women…because they prefer men their own age
    Here’s the problem though: I’m a guy their age and what do I prefer? (slightly) younger women too!
    Karmic Equation
    I always love the way you roll with the punches so well here – I found your comments on your experience of online dating interesting. I’ve been thinking of giving it a shot myself too — I just don’t think I’d be able to cope with so many women though, ha ha.

  15. 56

    Soul Sister #53
    You are hilarious!!!    I think you have a future writing rap! Yes Ive noticed many overweight men specify not just younger but slender or athletic…the illusion of choice, right!
    I think you are absolutely right about just being open because for me finding a guy who I have enough chemistry and makes me feel good is so rare.   

  16. 57

    Honestly people ! People are entitled to what they want from a mate. Sure it may be unrealistic (ie fat man asking for slender beauty) and even unattainable but the proof of the pudding is in its eating.
    Unrealistic expectations will be met with zero responses. So if it is unrealistic for a 40+ man to only date 20 year olds, he will get zero responses and will have to adjust his expectations accordingly. The fact that he doesn’t means that he IS getting his 20 plus year olds. And if not, then he is simply not “desperate” enough to adjust his requirements.
    Moaning and groaning about the “unrealistic” expectations of others is totally unproductive and achieves nothing for yourself and does not bring you closer to your goal.

  17. 58

    well the article is a no brainer, of course we would prefer someone younger as you get youthful looks and vitality. Who wants to be widowed because they died of old age or end up a nurse maid.

  18. 59

    oops problem is you can meet people in real life, and assume they are within a certain age bracket and then discover once you have been going out with them a while that they are not. e.g. you join a singles group with a specified age range and find that people older join thinking it doesn’t matter that they are 5 , 10 , years older.
    and of course people online lie about their age. I met on guy online who lied about his age and I only discovered this because I googled his name and found a newspaper article from his local paper saying his age   and revealing he had had a heart attack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. 60
    Little Wing

    @  Androgynous
    That’s a very valid point you make!
    Men are free to request whatever criteria they like; it’s what they desire for a mate. At times, it may be  obvious to anyone around him that it’s just not viable.
    Should the criteria be met, then good for him! But if he’s not getting positive results, then it’s definitely time he re-evaluate his criteria and re-assess his reality. Provided of course, he is self-aware enough to see that his particular criteria is limiting and the root cause of his singledom.  
    Sounds so obvious when you give the example of a 40+ male wanting a 20 something girlfriend, or a man with a staunch in the paunch seeking a fit woman.
    It’s harder to swallow when you apply the ‘time to adjust requirements’ and ‘open up your scope’ to  our own dating lives, particularly when the criteria is not so obvious or visual 😉
    Tall, handsome, successful, smooth talker, ivy league, higher income, never married, no kids, older but not by much, a good cook, fit-ish, full head of hair, well travelled, etc etc.
    I will remind myself of this when I start picking holes through candidates.  I’ll ask myself, am I being the 40+ year old man with a paunch seeking a 20 year old model? Could I let go of some criteria and stubbornness in order to open up the playing field? Would it be beneficial to cast a wider net?
    Yes 🙂
    Makes me wonder WHY men lie on their profiles. They think we won’t accept them as is. And it’s probably true.

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