Men’s sexual desire is driven by culture, not evolution, Hugo Schwyzer argues. Here’s what young women are really looking for, and why we’re fools to think otherwise.
In my office, Amber is telling me a familiar story. She’s come to talk about her autobiography paper for my women’s studies class, and she reads part of her rough draft aloud.
“I was 12, and this car pulled up alongside me as I was walking home from school … the driver looked a little older than my dad, at least 40. He leaned out, and I thought he was going to ask me for directions, but instead he asked me how old I was. When I told him, he laughed. ‘Damn, you got some big titties for such a little girl.’ He made this gross smacking sound with his lips, and sped away. I ran all the way home.”
Amber looks up at me. “I want to know,” she asks, “why do older men hit on younger women?” She’s 20 now, tall and graceful; she tells me that for the last eight years, older men have been approaching her. “It’s not just me,” she adds, “it happens to most of my friends, almost regardless of what they look like or what they’re wearing. It makes me feel like I can’t trust anyone, like all men want just one thing. Why can’t they chase women their own age?”
I’ve been writing and researching about relationships between older men and younger women since 2005. While the media is hyping the “cougar” phenomenon, they ignore the reality that in most age-disparate affairs the man is the older (sometimes, as in the case of Hugh Hefner, astoundingly older) partner. We take it for granted that many men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s will be more sexually attracted to younger women than to their peers. While most men and women alike are appalled by stories of adult men hitting on 12-year-olds, we still assume that men will “naturally” lust after young women just a few years older.
In 2005, John Derbyshire, a much-admired right-wing pundit at the National Review, opined:
It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman’s salad days are shorter than a man’s—really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20.
Remarkably, the “family values” editors at America’s flagship conservative journal let this nonsense run, perhaps because they accepted what he was saying as gospel truth: 15- and 16-year-old girls are more sexually alluring to normal adult men than are women in their late 20s. But Derbyshire wasn’t telling us a truth about women’s beauty—he was telling us a truth about the way we’ve socialized male desire.
No one thinks babies were the first thing on the mind of Jason Statham when he started dating a 23-year-old Victoria’s Secret model, or that Sean Penn (50) is motivated by the desire to start a family with Scarlett Johansson, who’s barely half his age.
Ask any porn site operator: the “barely legal” or “teens” sections are among the most popular niches. That doesn’t sound so troubling when you imagine an army of teen boys masturbating to images and videos of their female peers. It’s considerably different to imagine men jerking off to pictures of girls young enough to be their daughters—or granddaughters. Since Hef published his first Playboy magazine in 1953, we’ve raised three generations of men to believe that women peak in desirability somewhere between 18 and 24. For many men, that peak starts much earlier. Ask a 17-year-old how often she’s been leered at (or worse) by a much older man.
For too many men, the term “jailbait” isn’t a warning. It’s an enticement.
Spare me the arguments from biology or evolutionary psychology, the ones that excuse predatory old guys from staring at “young firm flesh” because that flesh belongs to a woman near the peak of her fertility. The great lengths to which countless men go to avoid fatherhood suggests that the continued evolutionary imperative to “spread one’s seed” is oversold to the point of being illusory. No one thinks babies were the first thing on the mind of Jason Statham when he started dating a 23-year-old Victoria’s Secret model, or that Sean Penn (50) is motivated by the desire to start a family with Scarlett Johansson, who’s barely half his age. This is about the cultural cachet of dating a much younger woman—and about the difficult-to-deny reality that younger women lack the experience and wisdom to call their older lovers on their bullshit.
Two recent books do a superb job of puncturing the argument that male sexuality is primarily a creature of evolutionary programming. University of North Carolina professor Martha McGaughey’s The Caveman Mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the Debates Over Sex, Violence and Science (Routledge, 2008) makes the convincing case that our beliefs about male sexuality form the science, and not the other way around. In other words, men who want a reason to chase younger women are desperate to claim that what is a culturally constructed choice is really an unavoidable biological reality.
Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (Norton, 2010) offers a systematic debunking of the idea that men’s sexual decisions are driven largely by brain chemistry. Both Fine and McGaughey make a compelling case that the actual science doesn’t support the idea that men’s sexual desires are driven by evolutionary imperatives.
In other words, John Derbyshire (and a lot of other grown men) may be sexually attracted to underage girls—but they don’t get to blame that fetish on biology.
Even if it were “natural,” there’s nothing innocent or harmless or healthy about older men pursuing substantially younger women. The cost is high to everyone involved. While a few young women may be attracted to much older guys (often because they falsely imagine themselves to be “so much more mature” than “other girls” their age), most are like Amber—disheartened and disgusted by the endless parade of men 10, 20, or 40 years older who harass and hit on them. These young women aren’t flattered. And even if they seem flattered at the time, it doesn’t mean the attention from older men isn’t doing great harm.
Lynn Phillips, a psychology professor at New York University, did a famous study of young women (mostly under legal age) who were in relationships with significantly older men. Most of the girls she interviewed described these affairs as mutual, exciting, and fulfilling. They pushed back against the suggestion that they were being exploited, claiming in many cases to have initiated or at least welcomed the sex with older men. Phillips then interviewed a similar number of older women. Each of these was over 30, and each had been in a relationship with a much older man while still in her teens. With the benefit of hindsight and experience, these older women acknowledged that they’d been used and hurt and exploited. They admitted that their claims of maturity and sexual adventurousness were all a pretense. In other words, what Phillips found is that while there are some teen girls who are “asking for it,” it’s not what they really want. Teen girls feign sexual sophistication; men need to be able to see through that.
Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl and the forthcoming Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity, argues that “when adult men sexualize teen girls, even just by ogling them, the girls are reminded that their worth in their world is dependent on how sexy they are.” “Girls who choose men so far out of their age ranges,” Cohen writes, “tend toward low self-esteem and depression.” These aren’t sweet coming-of-age stories. And they don’t fit the pornographic story line that young girls are eager for sexual initiation at the hands of an older, wiser mentor.
Here’s the brutal truth, guys. Teen and 20-something women aren’t nearly as interested in much older men as you may think. Sure, there are high school girls with Johnny Depp fantasies, but guess what? You’re not Johnny Depp. (If you were that 48-year-old actor, you’d be devoted to your 38-year-old French girlfriend.) Yes, some young women do flirt with older men. Some do it for validation, some do it for excitement, but a hell of a lot of them do it because guys like you have already taught them that’s the only thing that older men want.
A true story about the way younger women really see “older men” (and if you’re attracted to 18- to 24-year-olds, you count as “older” if you’re on the high side of 30).
A few years ago, my friend Sean went through a rough divorce. Newly single and almost 40, he went back on the dating scene for the first time in over a decade. But the woman who caught his eye wasn’t someone he met online. She was his favorite barista at his local Starbucks. She was 19.
I’m 67 and been married for 41 years and counting. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t take a few extra seconds to look at a woman that was very attractive to me regardless of her age. But it was okay, the wife said I could look as long as I didn’t touch! Hahaha! But I never touched and hope I didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. But about 10 years ago we stopped having sex because it caused her pain. Since that time, I find it hard not to look at attractive women, of any age, and wonder what it… Read more »
and what if you are an older man that likes younger women; are you saying that he’d be a perv just because of his likes? OK then do not have sex with someone who is not 5 years older than you or are not married to or be of a same sex, etc.
Oh my goodness, thank you so much for this article. I’ve been getting hit on by older men and it’s just so creepy and I was starting to get really disheartened that most men out there are getting old but not maturing. When I’m online dating, they ALL seem to think that they’re the exception, that they’ve been told that “look younger than their age” (they don’t), that they’re “young at heart” (grow up!) and if I could make an exception for them (no, please move on – you’re creeping me out). I of course usually just delete or block… Read more »
When I was young, I lusted after young babes. Now at 50 I still lust after young babes but I do nothing about it because I know it’s wrong. I also lust after older babes as well but the best sex has always been with younger babes. Such is life for older guys. It’s like we are caught in a sexual time warp and we don’t want to come out of it.. But as long as it remains a fantasy, no problem. Also older woman are not so hot anymore because they have become over bearing in all things. Specially… Read more »
Pirip nobody is forcing you to date older women your age. Date the young girls. Simple. Why does it have to be a fantasy? Were you forced into a marriage or something? Did you not wear a condemn and now have children? If so then bad choices on your part. Don’t blame the women for your decisions in life. If you married young did you not know your girl would age??
Do not settle for a women your age if you can’t stand them. They will sense it and may BECOME overbearing. Nobody wants to be the consolation prize.
maybe your just a sad old perv, and you have never been able to be with a women of your age. because she sees what a sad old perv lurking in the shadows you are. your balls need to be cut off and soon sad old bastard
What a crock — you just sound like a miserable old git whose partnered up a women of your own age you don t like….I want to vomit because of your attitude — it would be like me saying young men are like play things immature but virile and older men should just be binned as they are usually bitter and can t get it up !! good day !!!
This is the same Hugo Schwyzer who pretended he had a degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, pretended he was a pastor, blatantly lied in his lectures while at Pasadena City College, attempted to stage a pornography session with a pornstar in front of a class of studies in his “sex studies” class which was promptly dismissed, then found to be cheating on his wife by SOLICITING SEX with his STUDENTS in return for grades, and was eventually fired from PCC despite being tenured, and has been a nervous wreck ever since enough people realized how utterly batshit insane he was.… Read more »
If what you say is true, then I’m laughing my head out! These moralists who do the opposite of what they preach are a joke. He probably thinks he’s one of the privileged men to whom the rule doesn’t apply. Lol.
I lust after much younger women because they’re sexy and attractive. I know I’m way older than they, and I know nothing will ever materialize but I fantasize anyway. It’s a nice but obviously misguided fantasy.
go for it then see how long you last with them, when a hot younger sexy guy comes up . you will be dropped like a shitty piece of loo roll
LOL. Sounds like the author lost his girlfriend to an older guy, and this is his self-justification for why he’s not a loser.
you realize all of these girls that go after older disgusting men are doing it because they either forced
I’m 29 and my husband is 40, I met him when I was 19. I fell in love instantly, we married after 11 months together. We have five children and have been together ten years. We never fight, and have never spent a night apart.
I knew what I wanted at age 17, I went out met the one and made it happen.
Just so you know 35 is considered old lady porn. If your husband was that into younger girls at 30 it may not change. Once you hit 35 or 40 he may still want a 19 year old. Not saying this to be mean. Just be aware and stay sexy. It’s all they want really.
give it time love, he will be looking for a replacement
Per previous comments, like Jesse’s.. hate to break it to you but I think you’re very arrogant and lacking in empathy traits that even a 17-24 year Would find unbecoming and just secretly laugh to themselves. believe or not Jesse 30 year old women do not have saggy skin. They just aren’t teeny boppers anymore. And while we may pretend to be flattered, secretly we are opening the car door as soon as we go and sticking our fingers in our mouths making vomit sounds. So no matter how much you think Hugo is off, he has your best interest…… Read more »
You silly girl. Whatever you may think you know, you know nothing about the real Hugo Schwyzer. I don’t know about the other Jesse, but let me tell you, the author of this article is nothing short of a molester and a pedophile. He is an utterly disgusting scumbag and if you do a little research my dear, you will find Hugo Schwyzer has quite an unsavory reputation among his former students (like myself, from Pasadena), and those who employed him. Look at my own comment above yours for clarification.
You really are talking out your ass. Why we find young woman attractive isn’t societal it’s physical. Youth is generally more beautiful based on health and ability to breed and bear children for years. Men want to fk n woman and men can choose to raise the kids or not but the natural desire to breed is not about raising kids it’s about fucking a desirable mate. Maybe cloths and hair style have a factor in our taste in lovers but young healthy skin is genetically more desirable the baggy skin and fat bodies. Also young woman are more willing… Read more »
Which is why you sit at home fapping to porn
Jesse the same goes for women and young guys. Do you think we want to see your beer belly and gray hair over a buff 20 year old guy? Do you think our porn choices consist of wrinkly men? Is it your believe that an 18 year old wants the father of her baby to be hairy and 50?
are you a phillipino or thi scroat on the make. will you not get old or will your older husband pay for your treatments, and the rest.oh will be really fun to see you posting on here in another 10years when your even older old husband, if youve not fuckjed the life out of him is senile. and will you care for him or just reap your rewards you dirty prostitute bitch.and have gave him umpteen kids that arent really his. dont play your youth games you glorified prostitute.
I can say at 48 an 18 year old said she would sleep with me. I met her in a Holiday Inn Express. Someone she knew worked there and she felt embarrassed She was a bit immature for her age, she didnt brush her teeth just ugh bleh until I screamed at her and I would not do it again after the experience. I did not finish because I have a rule about if I cannot make her Orgasm I do not get to either she had some crazy injected birth control that basically ruined her ability. So after 3… Read more »
You’re a sad case.
what a shame dont be such a prick next time your face probably look like a asshole having a shit, same a so many men that think they are gorgeous, so funny you prob look like shit, a sad old git no one wants to date and pays for it. enjoy ship the next one in. ugly and a idiot is the same from any country. have a good look in the mirror. then go hire a local prossie that will shag you whatever sad shit
Surely our sexual desires are a result of culture and evolution. Hugo seems to miss that the reason humans evolved to have a sex drive is because it creates babies. Male preference for females at peek fertility cannot be dismissed by pointing out many men try to avoid parenthood. A want for children is not required, if the behavior results in producing children (having sex with fertile women), the traits that led to that behavior are likely to be passed on. This article seems a backlash to “Red Pill” style thinking that claims everything is biological/evolutionary. Attempts at understanding this… Read more »
Omg! This resonated with me. Good on you Hugh, first of all, you have called these men out on their bullshit! I am a 26 year old woman, I was in a heavy relationship with a 39 year old when I was 16 years old. I loved him! I idolised him! It was magic (in my teenage mind we were meant to be) but I fell pregnant not once but TWICE within 6 months, and had to have an abortion. I wanted to keep this baby but he decided it was too risky for him if I kept my baby… Read more »
Lol sorry Hugo!
This is a major problem today, and I’m 61. I worked as a public librarian for 25 years. In the last few years of my career, I had several teen girls get aroused or interested in me. Why I don’t know. I’m lean, five ft. seven inches tall, and wear glasses–very nerdy. Some girls flirt with men just to validate their sexual powers. I also had a few middle age women come on to me also. Lots of women are looking for men out there and they come in all ages. We live in a highly sexualized culture. Remember lots… Read more »
Michael, While I agree with a lot of what you said, I highly doubt teenage girls are aroused by you! Trust me, as a former teenage girl, we don’t like old men unless they are rich or famous or our daddies never loved us. It’s a fact, my daddy was absent from when I was 5 years old, that’s why I loved my dickhead man when he was 39. No teenage girls likes a 61 year old! Unless they have serious issues with their grandpa! Lol!
Jordan–Tom Leykis–radio DJ says women respond to three things in men: money, power, and fame. If a man has that, women overlook many other things including age. You just proved his point.
Sad outlook on the world.
My friends and I have had our fair share of harassment from an early age. Men shouting “Check those tits!” to my 12 year old friend, teachers pursuing sexual relationships , a family friend calling me while he was having sex so I can have a listen. This type of attention from much older men scare you for life, and it shapes the way you view men, sex and relationships. And yes girls “mature” much earlier than boys, but maybe it’s because they are flung into the adult world as soon as they hit puberty?! This “as long as it’s… Read more »
Most of the comments from men are quite negative of this article and most comments from women seem to relate to it. Now if we all think carefully, we can figure out why this is..
I have know my boyfriend since I was 25. I’m now 50 he 72. He is infatuated with a young girl 18-19. I’m livid. Litterly sick to my stomach. Like I’m to old now…I’m so turned off.
Oh, no I’m no longer with him. Its obviously sexual n not maturity or love or companionship. Nasty
Exactly Mimi. A lot of these men WANT to be in denial… They’ve like completely ignored the article while us girls know the truth! So annoying.
This has disgusted me for 15 years, and is why I have not dated for more years than that. The men here want a fashion accessory, not a relationship. Very boring. I am now of an age where no one would find me attractive in Los Angeles, and I rather like it. I feel safer now.
Maybe, just maybe an older man can fall in love with a younger woman. Maybe she can fall in love with an old man. You are making sweeping generalizations. Maybe a 35 year old can be with a 25 year old and they live happily ever after. Maybe a 50 year old man dating an 18 year old is gross. Your site, from what I have read is very judgemental. Dont sit on your perch making sweeping generalizations about adults lives and call it truth. Maybe the girls are tired of being cheated on by young misogonyst kids. Maybe they… Read more »
If it was about real ‘love’ then there would be equal numbers of younger men and older women doing the same. The inequality in ratios reflects that this is in fact about inequality.
Bravo…yoir the first one to mention the generalizations…the accusations. How can one scorn woman know what the while you g woman population wants…what they need….want…i say if an older guy is attracted to a younger woman and she feels the same way, it’s no one else’s business. That’s a big problem in this world today everyone wants to. it noses I other people’s. Business. No one has mentioned the older women who chase young men..the “cougar”…what are they after..love…? I don’t think the majority is…no one is up in arms about that…my opinion is that they are mostly looking for… Read more »
I am 45 and I am attracted to perky, firm body, young women have that body, I am like all men, visual, as long as she is of legal age is all fair
You may be attracted to them but statistically they are not attracted to you. Deal
Yeah but you have to admit if it was legal….15, 14, ect…youd be in..just like the majority of us men…we just can’t help what we are attracted to…look at all the other countries where getting married to young teen girls is nirmal…it used to be that way here too…so it’s not just today’s social norm for older men to want young girls…its been that way since the beginning..we’re human…
This man is brilliant!
I have been trying for years to tell
Older men they look like nasty creepy old pervs when they act like that towards younger women.
I’m sharing this on Fb and I pray it spreads like fire!
Thank you Hugo Schwyzer!!!!
Yes! Yes! Yes! I agree whole heartedly with everything in this article! Older men/ women who lust after teens and young adults are quite frankly, disgusting. I find myself asking the question “why do the majority of men only care about sex/ lust?” All the time! I hate that society has objectified women and used sex appeal as a way to attract people, and I think that men and women should inform themselves that just because sex sells in the media doesn’t mean it’s warranted by the rest of society. I’m a fairly young female and there have been countless… Read more »
Why because you older women act like you dont want us…… !!!!!!!!!
I’m not sure how to respond. I’m an educated, successful, 65 year old man and I like looking at much younger women. I find them beautiful. Yes, I do fantasize about sex but I know that it’s a fantasy and would never act on it. What’s wrong with this? Don’t women look at beautiful younger men and enjoy it? I suspect they do.
Coraline–I’m 61, and our culture has changed drastically over the past 40 years. Boundaries of appropriate behavior disappeared long ago. We live in highly sexualized culture. It damages relationships greatly.
It’s tough to have romance anymore, courtship is gone. We are left at the lowest level of personal interaction–that is–relating to each other only a physical level.
It’s funny how just men are pigs. When in fact women list after your young boys all the time as well. I see so many moms at the male and stores who lust after young boys. It’s on the news all to often now. Women are just as bad as men in every way that men are. So when you write a post you need to include the women as well. If a man is 40 and he has an 18 year old girlfriend who cares. We see older women with young boys for arm candy as well. But it’s… Read more »
The Sean story happened to me, I’m in my mid fifties I would go to same subway once a week in the weekend. There was an attractive girl there I didn’t know it at the time she was 19. We hardly said a word to each other for 4 months. Then got talking after a month out of the blue she asked me for my number, she was very keen on me. She wasn’t an oddity she was mature for her age, studying veterinary science. She hasn’t been the only one to have shown an interest. My point is there… Read more »
Yes, sweetie it is. You are simply trying to justify your actions.
Disgusting article full of garbage
In other words, you are one.
Lol Tana, they are so quick to shit all over the article but they don’t even listen when real girls tell them “WE DONT LIKE THEM!” They just keep making excuses for themselves and their shitty creepy behaviour. Have you noticed not one girl on this site has agreed with them?? They are disgusting shit smears and they know it ✊🏼