Do women become less desirable the older and more accomplished they get?

A group of friends on the streets of New York
A group of friends on the streets of New York

When the Guardian reported that French author Yann Moix unapologetically declared in an interview with the French edition of Marie Claire magazine that "women over 50 are too old to love" and "invisible" to him, it was not only perplexing, but somewhat laughable too. 

Of course, it's common for older men to date younger women, but as has been reiterated multiple times - some preferences are just a scapegoat for unwarranted discrimination. 

“I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of. The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all,” the novelist told the magazine, illustrating the point mentioned above.

We may make light of ageism, but sometimes when it's expressed in a body-shaming manner such as that of Yann's, it makes one wonder what the genuine reason behind men's general aversion to dating women their age or older is. It might be slightly deeper than just plain age preference. 

Is it blatant misogyny? Is it insecurity? Or is it the fact that men only peak at age 50?

READ MORE: 5 dating lessons we can all learn from this secret 'Sugar Baby' website

A dating study reported in BusinessTech might have the answers for us single, ambitious, over-25s. 

According to BusinessTech, around one in three South Africans are using some kind of dating app or service. That means that 31% of the population are swiping right or liking someone’s profile online. 

Which seems to be the way dating is going nowadays. We hardly meet people in bars or randomly in supermarkets anymore. 

But a new study confirms what we already know about dating (especially when you’re a cisgender, heterosexual female) and also adds a new level of urgh. 

READ MORE: This woman tricked dozens of her Tinder matches into competing for her love in a Hunger Games style competition

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that for online daters, women peak at age 18, while men peak at age 50.

The study looked at the “desirability” of male and female users based on how many messages nearly 200 000 users (all seeking opposite-sex partners) got over one month on a popular online dating service. They also looked at whether or not the people sending the message were “desirable” based on the same criteria. And based on this researchers found that men don’t peak until they’re 50, but women peak at age 18.

But this isn’t the first time we've heard results like this from a study.

In 2010, research from OkCupid found that men from the ages of 22 to 30 were almost completely focused on meeting women who were younger than them. A line from an OkCupid blog post reads: “The median 30-year-old man spends as much time messaging teenage girls as he does women his own age.”

READ MORE: Why dating your 'type' may be a red flag

The researchers for this study were actually surprised by the results (maybe they haven’t been swiping as long as some of us and seen the results for themselves). 

“The age gradient for women definitely surprised us - both in terms of the fact that it steadily declined from the time women were 18 to the time they were 65, and also how steep it was,” said Elizabeth Bruch, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan and an author of the study, The New York Times reports.

So why exactly are older men so intent on meeting, dating, and/or hooking up with younger women? One psychologist, Michelle Drouin, told The New York Times it has to do with evolution. Apparently, males seek out younger women for fertility reasons they don’t even realise. Dr. Drouin also said that men could just be more interested in how younger women look.

But as if that isn’t enough, if you’re educated, you might be at a disadvantage too. The study found that men weren’t as interested in women with undergraduate degrees. Dr. Drouin believes that may be because men think women who are educated with higher degrees have “more work commitment and less relationship and family commitment.”

READ MORE: Is being Instagram official the new Facebook relationship status?

But there is a silver lining – the research might not be entirely accurate. 

It is possible that older men might be messaging younger women just to see what would happen. You know, taking their chances. And Dr Drouin says she believes that what people look for in online dating reflects aspiration more than what they actually want. This is based on the fact that most users in the study messaged people who were more desirable than themselves, representing dating preferences more than reality.

So if you’re an educated woman in her mid 20s to 30s then it looks like you’re less interesting to men your own age or older even if you are looking for a man with a bit of experience. But that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. 

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