From an academic stand point, there is surprisingly little research on the topic of younger women seeking older men. Research in fields such as sociology and psychology, the areas of study most likely to take on such a topic, seem to largely ignore the issue altogether. A look through the scholarly literature reveals a number of studies that explore issues and problems that attend relationships between older women and younger men. The so-called “cougar” phenomenon is obviously under the microscope, as it were. But younger women seeking older men would appear to be something of a non-issue in the world of scholarship and research.
However, one prominent study in The Journal of Family Issues reveals a number of issues on the topic of relationships between younger women and older men. After studying four different groups of partners they discovered that there was a tendency for many of these relationships to become male dominated. This is to say that the roles the partners tended to assume were extremely traditional and old-fashioned. The older men became the dominant partner in the relationship, exerting greater authority and power in most matters that affected the two partners. Younger women tended to take on more passive roles in the relationship.
However, this seemingly predictable result was complicated immediately by the fact that in nearly as many partners, the relationship became far more egalitarian, with equal sharing of all roles whether or not these roles were traditionally male or traditionally female. They found ample evidence to demonstrate that in these relationships “(a) husbands’ older age does not automatically translate into male dominance and rigid gender arrangements” (Pyke and Adams). While there were expectations that older men would obviously take on the strict gender roles that defined the time-period they grew up in, many of the men in this study defied that expectation.
Still further, this same study showed that over time, “men can experience a shift toward more marital sharing and androgyny upon remarriage to a younger woman” (Ibid). More than simply giving way on their traditional masculine roles in these relationships, older men, particularly older divorced men, tended to be more fluid in their participation in their relationships with younger women. This could be what is behind the appeal for younger women. These younger women, this study may imply, are finding greater satisfaction in relationships with older men because these men tend to be more willing to be fluid with their roles in long-term relationships.
Two curious things emerge from this: first, the pre-conceived notion that men who are much older than their female partners become dominant or even domineering is simply not true. The research cited here suggests the opposite is true and that older men are open to and will to become far more fluid in their roles as partners with younger women. Second, there needs to be more research on this topic in general. Older men younger women relationships seem to be taken as given for researchers. The good news for the short term is that relationships between younger women and older men seem to benefit younger women more often than not. Certainly, there will be men who demand traditional gender roles in relationships and marriages, but this crosses ages and age differences. Men who feel they need to occupy a traditional role of dominance over their partners are not necessarily a function of specific age groups.