Indeed, the very fact that middle-aged women are more likely to have a high status can drive them to seek out younger partners.According to dating coach and behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, living in a youth-driven world puts new pressures on women.‘There’s a constant need to reinvent themselves, to ensure they’re being current and still relevant,’ says Hemmings.‘And one way to get this validation — to hold onto their prime and to prove they’re still desirable — is to be seen with someone much younger.’This is not to suggest, says Hemmings, that the likes of Madonna are acting cynically in their choice of lovers.
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My peers in their 50s and 60s are far more outward-looking and dynamic than those of our mothers’ generation, who would have been utterly shocked by any relationship that didn’t have the man firmly in the senior position.
With the armoury of tweaks and tucks at their disposal, and booming gym memberships — not to mention perked-up sex drives and plumped-up skin courtesy of HRT — older women today are looking and feeling a lot more youthful than our mothers were at the same age. It’s a fascinating change in gender relations — and one rooted in economic and sociological realities.
Eventually, she says, it will seem utterly natural for older women to enjoy the social status that was previously reserved for men.
And with this increase in power, many middle-aged females will adopt previously ‘male’ behaviours.
Many of the newly retired men I meet are content with their comfy slippers just as their wives are bursting forth with a post-menopausal, post-empty nest lease of life, taking on new challenges and seeing the next stage as something to look forward to rather than the slippery slope into dotage.
So it’s not surprising if more and more middle-aged women hanker, a little wistfully, after younger men.
According to Eagly, the impact of this could be vast, turning the world on its head and causing our whole definition of femininity to change.
So the latest spate of cougar A-listers could be seen as the vanguard for this new mode of femininity — one where it’s ladylike to pay your man’s bills, flaunt a pretty young male thing on one’s arm and choose your mate on the basis of his cheekbones rather than his chequebook.
For a whole raft of middle-aged female celebrities, there’s only one fashionable accessory you need to dangle on your arm — and that’s a toyboy.
From Madonna to Susan Sarandon, Kylie Minogue to Wendi Deng, Kate Moss to Mariah Carey, it seems more and more women of a certain age are falling for the charms of men years — and in some cases, decades — their junior.
Little wonder that this generation of Mrs Robinsons is proving so alluringly sexy and sophisticated that bedazzled young boys are seemingly becoming their willing slaves. Because with the rise of the potency of middle-aged women comes an equal and opposite reaction: the infantilisation of men. One of the fundamental tenets of evolution — men being attracted to younger women because they are fertile and women being drawn to older, higher-status males who are in a better position to provide for offspring — is slowly being eroded.