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October 26, 2006



Excellent post, Hugo. I've heard guys refer to the phenomenon as "bathing in the blood of virgins". (And, as I said not long ago, my husband refers to the tipping point where the cute young things you're eyeballing start responding with "Ew.")

Of course, not having "it" doesn't mean being dried-up and useless. My husband is nearing fifty, but I wouldn't trade him for a harem of men half his age.

The Chief

Or it's possible your friend just thought she was hot.

Call it evolutionary biology if you wish, but as a guy only a few months younger than Hugo I know when I look at an attractive young girl I'm not thinking to myself, "Aha! Here's a chance to ward off the Grim Reaper, to forestall my inevitable aging, to reassure myself that I am still virile and young and strong!" I'm thinking to myself, "Say, she's got a nice..."

Well, good taste forbids me to finish. Suffice it to say I believe it's possible to WAAAYY overthink these things.

L. Cougar

While I (sort of) get your point about a guy using his attractiveness to a younger woman as denial of mortality, something is still sticking in my craw about the following:

He was using  Starbucks gal as a gauge to measure whether he still had "It", and she gave him a very clear answer: No.

Whaddaya mean, "No."? Like it's a fact, that because he's not in the scope of a younger woman, he doesn't have "it"? Maybe he should meet the girl's mother before he decides whether he still has "it". The opinion of the older woman doesn't count for anything? Maybe because HE thinks SHE doesn't have "it"?

So, we're back to square 1, aren't we?


Let me be clear: "It" is not just sexual desireability -- it is linked to that sense of endless potential and promise. Of course lads our age and older can be sexy, but our sex appeal has changed considerably and, one would hope, our sense of potential mates has changed as well. The "It" of youth is one of those doors to close.


Chief, you're also not thinking "Man! Look at that symmetrical facial placement, she'd be an excellent carrier of my genes!"

Of course, I'm at the age where I see a cute young thing and wonder how much she charges for babysitting. ;)


I am absolutely convinced that many of my peers (and men older than myself) chase younger women for precisely this reason. It's not that women our own age are less attractive, it's that they lack the culturally-based power to reassure our fragile, aging egos that we are still "younger than our fathers", still hot and hip and filled with potential.

Is it even necessarily an active effort to convince yourself you're young? I'm in my late twenties, but my mind hasn't caught up to that; somehow I just don't feel, or think of myself as, that much older than the college student I was several years ago. Maybe when I'm in my thirties, I'll go through some sort of change and recognize myself as being in a different stage of life. But I suspect a lot of people's conscious perception of how old they are doesn't quite catch up with reality.


Bravo, Hugo. This post rang true to me. I've known the men you describe. And as a woman in my thirties, I also have felt similarly as they do. I have heard the doors closing softly behind me. I think I'm finally getting used to the idea that closing doors is not necessarily a bad thing, and that good things *can* happen once we stop wedging those closing doors open with our own need to cling to youth and the neverending possibility and immortality associated with it.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I'm thinking to myself, "Say, she's got a nice..."

A lot of us look at young women (OK, older women than would be columnist John Derbyshire's professed taste, but still young), and think, "Say, she's got a nice..." But that doesn't mean we'd all actually consider asking the young woman out. (Even aside from being married and all.)


I'm glad you posted this, Hugo, as I'd wondered myself (in an "ICK" way), why your 40ish friend would be interested in a 19-year-old. This explanation makes sense to me.

jt, I felt as you do only a few short years ago, and somehow around 30 suddenly found that I *liked* being older, and that there's a great deal of freedom that comes with no longer being a 20-something, complete with the must-be-hip assumption that tags along. Now, at 35 (and with a 2-year-old daughter), I *love* my age. When I angst about age at all, it's more a matter of having enough time to change the world while I still have energy...but mostly, I just enjoy finally *feeling* like an adult.

Mr. Bad

Hugo, once again I find myself groaning at the condescending and sexist tone of your post. Comments re., e.g., "the fragility of the aging male ego," comments about how stupid older guys are re. 'pickup lines' and how much smarter older women are vis-a-vis seeing through them (tell that to Hollywood types like Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, et al.), derision of the guy in the sports car, etc., suggest the strong probability that you hold men (IMO all non 'pro-feminist' and therefore 'unenlightened' men) in distain. Couple that with the predictable approach you take not only in seeing this issue as a gendered one, but further, through the grostequely distorting "gender lens," and what we have here is yet another one-sided exercise in male self-loathing.

Are we to presume that women don't go through similar - if not identical - "mid-life crises?" Does the phrase "biological clock" ring a bell? Have you ever been to a "ladies' night" at a strip club and observed the behavior of the mostly over-30 middle-aged "ladies" towards the young lads? Just who do you think are the major consumers of Botox, cosmetic surgery, etc.? (yes, I know metrosexuals are primping and creaming, but we're talking numbers and average, not exceptions and outliers) Are you seriously suggesting that those women are thoroughly comfortable with the aging process and not at all trying to keep or recapture their youth?

The idea that such things as "fragile aging egos" and 'bioligical clocks' are somehow gendered is ludicrous, and frankly, laughable.

And finally, predictably, you dismiss the biological factors involved, but nonetheless, they exist whether you like them, acknowledge them or not. I don't care how much you and your ilk try to implement 'social change' vis-a-vis men's choices for mates, us regular guys are still going to be more attracted to characteristics that suggest health and fertility than we are to age and infertility, characteristics which just so happen to be found mostly in younger women. Sure, I can appreciate that some older women are "hot," but put an average younger woman next to her and I suspect that more times than not a regular man - young or old - will choose the younger woman. And no amount of shaming, cajoling and lecturing from the feminist and 'pro-feminist men' crowd is going to change that. IMO this has little to do with cultural conditioning and is predominantly due to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. And sure, an older guy's going to think that it sucks when a young woman turns down his advances, but have you ever witnessed the scene that occurs when a guy, no matter how old, turns a woman down, no matter how old she is? Heh, your friend Sean's reaction would pale in comparison.

My point is that this phenomenon isn't gendered, but the way you make it sound it's all about 'weak, self-absorbed men' and 'strong, smart women.' Or perhaps you're just using this issue as a foil in yet another jab at men and normal healthy masculinity? How very predictable and IMO sexist. And so it goes.


Fortunately, the beleaguered men of the world have you, Mr. Bad, to come to their defense, and set the record straight in the face of my unrelenting nastiness towards all things masculine, honorable, and good. Surely, my brother, when you reach that final gate, you'll hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Seriously, my female friends aren't telling me stories of hitting on guys half their age. When my buddy Seanette details the saga of her Starbucks flirtations with a virile young hot male barista, I'll blog it. Promise.

Jeremy Henty

My own experience fits with Hugo's thoughts about the attractiveness of inexperience. A few years ago I felt very strongly about someone who was the better part of 20 years younger than me. Looking back I realise that a lot of that attraction was rooted in my own insecurity - I felt that I didn't have much to offer so I was more comfortable with someone inexperienced. I wasn't trying to deceive, but I (unconsciously) thought someone who literally didn't know any better would be less likely to be disappointed in me. (I wish I could have known this at the time - it would have given me a chance of acting more wisely.)

To quote some advice I saw on another blog - "Girls, if you're dating an older man, you're dating someone that more experienced women had the sense to avoid".


R. Giskard

Fortunately, the beleaguered men of the world have you, Mr. Bad, to come to their defense....

Thanks Bad... it is much appreciated..


Wow, Mr. Bad. When Hugo was telling his story, I wasn't really thinking of it as gendered at all. Women have the same desires for eternally open possibilities. I can see myself in a few more years being in the same place as Hugo and Hugo's friend, just maybe not with the same metaphorical slap in the face.

In this case, I rather thought Hugo was talking to everyone, regardless of gender typing. The anecdots are male, because Hugo is male and so is this friend. It doesn't mean that women see this story and don't see themselves.

Hugo, this is a post to bookmark and mull over. Thanks!

Stephen Frug

I can't help but think of this as the Moonstruck theory, based on these two (more memorable as delivered) scenes:

Rose: [frustrated] But why would a man need more than one woman?
Johnny: I don't know. Maybe because he fears death.
[Rose looks up, eyes wide, suspicions confirmed]
Rose: That's it! That's the reason!
Johnny: I don't know...
Rose: No! That's it! Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!


[This is to her philandering husband and is, if memory serves, out of nowhere:]
Rose: I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else.


Thanks, Technocracygirl -

Some random thoughts:

Unlike Mr Bad, I do recognize that Hugo's focus, in this and other similar posts, on the phenomenon of Older Men/Younger Women has a legitimate point to it. After all, OM/YW thang is practically an *industry. "Girls Gone Wild" may appeal to younger men, too, but the marketing, emphasizing as it does the youth of the girls depicted, is directed at men more my age (45). Evolutionary Biology be damned - the most important thing I took away from reading Dorothy Dinnerstein's _The Mermaid and the Minotaur_ was that since we humans evolved a brain, we are meant to *use it.* Just because she's younger doesn't mean she's any more fun.

Now, I don't think - despite his snarky, dismissive reply to Mr Bad - that Hugo is unaware of older women lusting after younger men. They seldom "hit on" younger men, because, for the most part, straight women in their thirties and older don't "hit on" potential sexual partners. They drop hints/send signals/present themselves as available and expect the guy to pick up on it. That's how I hooked up with my professor/now-ex-wife. (In restrospect, I can see there were other offers of a similar kind made me at that little state college in the South, other faculty women who dangled something in my face, only I was just too obtuse at the time to realize it was for real.) I tend to like women my age now. I tended to like women in their late-thirties, early-forties then, too. I expect my taste will be about the same when I'm 80.

"Ew." I got that when I was fourteen. Should I have given up then?

Quite a number of my close women friends have, from time to time, expressed *very visceral* interest in men (and sometimes women) considerably their junior. What holds them back is social embarassment. There's not a level playing field for men and women here *socially. There's a stigma attached to women expressing their sexual appetites/desires (being a sexual subject) which does not, generally (except in certain fundamentalist Christian households, in my experience) attach to men's expressing their sexual appetites/desires. (By expression, I don't necessarily mean action, but simply expression.) The opposite is true, to an extent, in Oprah-land, but in most of the Western world, Stimmt.

Mr Bad had me laughing out loud with his observation about what happens when a man turns down a woman... Been there, bubba. Nobody holds such an outraged sense of entitlement as a woman whose close male friend finds her sexually unattractive.. Maybe this is just something that happens to us chunky guys who ought to know better than to aspire above our station...


Nobody holds such an outraged sense of entitlement as a woman whose close male friend finds her sexually unattractive

Except, perhaps, for the close male friend who can't understand why his female friend won't sleep with him--after all, he's such a nice guy! and he listens to her problems! and he's so much better than that jerk she's dating!

Of course it's true that a lot of middle-aged women drool over young guys; it's not just social embarassment, though, that holds them back. Our culture doesn't exactly encourage women to think they ever have "it", much less when they are past the bloom of youth. The "MILF" phenomenon isn't about your best friend's mother hitting on you; the middle-aged woman in that fantasy is passively being judged.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Nobody holds such an outraged sense of entitlement as a woman whose close male friend finds her sexually unattractive.

I always kind of expected my close male friends that I was attracted to not to find me attractive. And I don't think I ever got angry with them about it, except for once in high school (and even then it was more that he said he would call and didn't than that he didn't reciprocate by itself). But, for those who do have that sense of entitlement, I think one of the things that hurts this situation is the way we're all told again and again that men want to have sex with anyone, anyone at all, at the drop of a hat.

But I totally agree with you about older women lusting after younger men as well, and also about the difference in the way women have learned to signal their interest.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

and even then it was more that he said he would call and didn't than that he didn't reciprocate by itself

But I was also, as a teenager, immature in how I responded to his failure to call, so we're sort of even.


I think you've it the nail on the head with this one Hugo. Here's a story for you, seems like kind of a tangent, but actually isn’t.

Imagine you're a single guy, late 30's, party animal, straight and 'successful' with women but no steady girlfriend, good-looking, witty, well-educated, smart but no steady job (you do a bit of this, bit of that). Real 'man-about-town' character.

Most mornings you heave yourself out of bed at 10-ish and pop out to the local coffee-bar for your morning caffeine hit. There's a male barrista just started working there. He looks early twenties and he too often has 'was out all night partying' look about him. You often exchange a few words, commiserating with each other on the state of your hang-over, discussing women, moaning about up-tight parents, all young-bloods together.

Then one morning the barrista is slightly more awake than usual. He looks at you harder than normal and then laughs. "Mikey!" he says (you never told him your name), "You're a mate of my parents!" and your youthful world crashes about your ears.

The barrista was my then-17 year old son who was frequently mistaken for much older. I had him when I was 19. Mikey (name changed to minimize his still considerable embarrassment) a friend approximately the same as me who comes to our occasional parties. He still hasn't really got over my son ageing him 20 years in one sentence. And he's still trying to come to terms with the fact that he just isn't young anymore, that he's old enough to have a son who's the age he mentally sees himself as.

Jeremy Henty


... my female friends aren't telling me stories of hitting on guys half their age.

They're keeping quiet to preserve your ego! :-) Actually, two good friends of mine each have a long-term partner 20+ years their senior. And in at least one case she was much more pro-active about starting it than he was. So it does happen.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

Hugo, with all due respect, if you and your friends really do feel this way about aging, in that you have to give closing the door to youth much thought, then you have way too much time on your hands.
Lynn Gazis-Sax, you make a good point. A lot of what some folks mistake for actual desire is really momentary infatuation that the infatuated sees for what it is. I suspect you also realize that there are a lot of men willing to say that they can have their ridiculous "possibility."

Jeremy Henty

Douglas, what is it with you people who try that tired old "if you have to think about it you've got too much time on your hands" smackdown? You talk as though using your head was a last-gasp act of desperation - "Crap! The Viagra hasn't worked, neither has the hair transplant or the medallion and there isn't even any wrestling on TV. There's nothing I can do ... but ... think! ARRGH, THE PAIN!". :-)

I'm with Oriscus on this one - you're lucky enough to have a brain, so you're a fool if you choose not to use it.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

Jeremy, we'll undoubtedly differ on this, but in my opinion, most men take advancing age with the grace it warrants. They don't need to think much about doing so. How hard is it to shrug the shoulders and say, "Well, it had to happen sometime"? And yes, of course, some men, perhaps many, don't accept reality, in this case aging (this assumes OM hitting on YW is strictly a form of Botox). But there's no epidemic of this sort of man, however ubiquitous he may be; if there were, the L.L. Bean catalog would've gone out of business years ago. Sorry, I think the issue is simply disgust that OM feel any attraction at all for YW. Such disgust says more about the people who entertain it than it does about the OM.


Relax, Douglas, nobody will take away your copy of Barely Legal.

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