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Myth of the cougar: No, she prefers older men

Love & Sex

From Mrs Robinson in The Graduate to Samantha in Sex And The City, females of a certain age are supposed to have an eye on younger men.

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From Mrs Robinson in The Graduate to Samantha in Sex And The City, females of a certain age are supposed to have an eye on younger men.

But most middle-aged women, far from being "cougars" on the hunt for toy-boy lovers, actually fancy older men, research shows.

Men mostly choose sexual partners a similar age to themselves, a study of the relationship between age and attraction showed.

Although older men express a preference for women in their twenties, few act on their fantasies.

Researchers from Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, questioned 878 adult men and 1 789 women aged 18 to 50. Study author Dr Jan Antfolk said: "It is true that men, more than women, tend to maintain a sexual interest in younger partners. Contrary to what has been reported from earlier studies, most men and women are also sexually interested in partners their own age throughout life. Most sexual activity occurs between partners of approximately the same age.

"Whereas women of all ages prefer slightly older sexual partners, men, regardless of their age, have a preference for women in their twenties," said Dr Antfolk.

"Women reported a narrower age range and tended to prefer slightly older men. Men’s age range widens as they get older. Their potential interest in younger women is not likely to be converted into sexual activity."

The average age of the heterosexual male participants was 37. The youngest partner they would consider was 21. By contrast, the women, who had an average age of 35, would only "consider" partners eight years their junior. 

When it came to real relationships, men were six years older and women two years younger than their partners. The study also revealed that homosexual and bisexual men and women differ very little from their heterosexual counterparts.

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