The Perks (And Pitfalls) Of Dating A YOUNGER Guy

Do young men seem so much more attractive to you, now that you're in your mid-20s or 30s? Learn the dirt on playing "cougar."

While it's certainly not a new phenomenon, more and more women are giving younger dudes a chance. So how did this shift come about? "Historically, women have tended to date men a couple of years older than themselves, but now a lot of the old rules of dating have broken down because we're meeting people in affinity groups rather than age-groups," says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington and author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong.

"Instead of dating and marrying their high school or college sweetheart, women are waiting longer to settle down and dating people based on common interests, not necessarily common ages." And with celebs like Demi Moore paired up with younger yummies like Ashton Kutcher, "cradle-snatching" matchups seem more popular than ever.

"Pinay women nowadays are less concerned with so-called 'social rules' and are daring to do what they want," says local life coach Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting. "What matters is that they both bring out the best in each other and are committed to making the relationship work."

Dating a bit under the same-age radar is definitely more than just shacking up with jailbait; it's about refusing to rule out a great guy simply because he's racked up fewer birthdays than you have. Cosmo decided to explore why more women are letting youngsters into their dating nets…and when the age difference can become problematic for these types of twosomes.

The Dating-Down Dynamics

"If you're talking about a three- to five-year age gap, you're [still] within the same generation, you still share most of the same goals, and you probably have the same timeline of when you're going to want to settle down and start a family. In fact, some women find they have more in common with men who are slightly younger," says Schwartz.

It also helps that we're now on a more even playing field with men careerwise, says Susan Winter, coauthor of Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance. "Today, women have more power and financial independence, so they have more options, which means the freedom to pick dates from a younger pool."

And, it's not just women's lifestyles that are more youthful. They're looking younger, too, so a slightly greener guy doesn't seem out of reach. "Because of the fitness and skin-product boom, 30 is the new 20," says Susan Basow, PhD, a professor of psychology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, who specializes in gender studies, "women are looking and feeling younger than ever and don't view themselves as age-bound."

There's another physical factor that may draw a woman to a slightly younger guy: the sexual perks. Sure, most women mature sooner than guys emotionally, but men have us beat in the sexual maturity department—at least by five to 10 years. "Most men reach their sexual peaks earlier than women because of testosterone and other physiological mechanisms," says Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, vice chairman of the department of ob-gyne at Jamaica Hospital in New York City.

"That bit of a lag means a younger man has a similar sexual appetite." Now this isn't to say that men over 30 are all washed up in the sack, but certain factors like increased work stress and hormonal changes can slow them down just as we're hitting our stride.

Why There Are More Cougars

Boj, 28, loves to date women who are in their 30s. "They say what they want and want what they say. I recently dated a girl who was younger than I am. She was so insecure, and she was always questioning herself and her own opinions. Plus, in my experience, older women are better in bed. They don't have as many hang-ups as younger girls."

Basically, it boils down to carnal confidence. "Women who are a little more experienced are usually more comfortable with their sexuality than they were when they were younger. They know what they want and make sure they get it, which is something men crave," says Michael Perry, PhD, a sex therapist in Los Angeles. "These days, most men would rather be with a woman who might be able to lead them a little bit, who isn't embarrassed to say exactly what she wants, and who could even teach them something new."

This openness to being with a slightly older, more sexually savvy woman spills over into the lifestyle arena as well. "Men in their 20s and 30s tend to have a less conventional view of gender roles than previous generations did," says Basow. "They're more comfortable with women who ask them out, who have more money and more education, and who aren't tied to traditional male roles of dominance, whereas that may have rankled men decades ago."

How Big Can The Gap Be?

While it doesn't necessarily spell disaster, if the age difference is a decade or more, you risk running into these love land mines.

You may have out-of-sync lifestyles. If he's 25, he can change jobs or move. But if you're 35, you're more likely to be established in your career. Then there's the baby issue. If he's 23 and you're 33, maybe neither of you is ready to start a family. But you may be ready at 36, and your 26-year-old man may still not be.

There could be sexual snags. The ability to maintain a rock-hard erection is easier for a 22-year-old man than for a 32-year-old man. But he may not have learned how to please a partner yet, which wouldn’t make him such a good match for a 30-something woman with more sexual experience.

You might feel social pressure. Fast-forward a bit: If he's still in his 30s when you're pushing 50 or if you look your age and he has a baby face, people might start to question the validity of your relationship...either to your face or behind your back. Fighting age prejudice can be a real challenge.

Sources: Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of Sociology at the University of Washington; Alan Altman, MD, professor of Gynecology at Harvard Medical School; Susan Basow, PHD, professor of Psychology at Lafayette College.

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