Age disparity in sexual relationships

Age disparity in sexual relationships
The Unequal Marriage by Vasili Pukirev, 1862

Age disparity in sexual relationships refers to sexual relations between people with a significant difference in age. Whether these relationships are accepted and the question of what counts as a significant difference in age has varied over time;[1] and varies over cultures,[2] different legal systems,[3] and different ethical systems. It often depends on differing attitudes towards perceived social and economic differences between age groups and how consent is viewed, and sometimes whether or not the relationship is part of a spiritual or legal marriage.


Ethical considerations

In a Brown University study, it has been noted that the social structure of a country determines the age difference between spouses more than any other factor.[2] One of the concerns of relationships with age disparities in some cultures is a perceived difference between people of different age ranges. These differences may be sexual, financial, and/or social in nature. Gender roles may complicate this even further. Socially, a society with a difference in wealth distribution between older and younger people that may affect the dynamics of the relationship.[4] Sexually, it is noted that older people tend to have lower sex drives,[5] and younger people tend to be sexually inexperienced. Legally, there is the issue of consent, where minors (see Age of Consent) and older people with certain health problems are considered unable to consent to a relationship.


Relationships with age disparity of all kinds have been observed with both men and women as the older or younger significant other. In the modern Western culture, older men often seek younger women.[6] Older women often date younger men as well,[7] and in both cases wealth and physical attractiveness are often relevant.

On average in Europe, most men marry women around three years younger.[8] A study released in 2003 by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics concluded that the proportion of women in England and Wales marrying younger men rose from 15% to 26% between 1963 and 1998.[9]

In August 2010, Dr. Michael Dunn of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff completed and released the results of a study on age disparity in dating. Dr. Dunn concluded that "Not once across all ages and countries...did females show a preference for males significantly younger than male preferences for females" and that there was a "consistent cross-cultural preference by women for at least same-age or significantly older men." A 2003 AARP study had previously brought results that 34% of forty-year and older women were dating younger men.[10]

Sociobiological considerations

On average humans reach the age of reproduction starting at ages 11–14 for girls and 12-16 for boys.[11] For women the average age of menopause is in their late forties and early fifties, and before that infertility is known to increase with age.[12] While men do not necessarily become sterile with age, infertility does go up with age.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Median Age at First Marriage, 1890–2010 —
  2. ^ a b Casterline, John; Williams, Lindy; McDonald, Peter (1986). "The Age Difference Between Spouses: Variations among Developing Countries". Population Studies 40 (3): 353. doi:10.1080/0032472031000142296. 
  3. ^ Worldwide Ages of Consent
  4. ^ Luke, N. (2005). "Confronting the 'Sugar Daddy' Stereotype: Age and Economic Asymmetries and Risky Sexual Behavior in Urban Kenya". International Family Planning Perspectives 31 (1): 6–14. doi:10.1363/3100605. JSTOR 3649496. PMID 15888404. 
  5. ^ Loss of sex drive in men: Natural with aging? -
  6. ^ Kenrick, Douglas; Keefe, Richard; Gabrielidis, Cristina; Comelius, Jeffrey (1996). "Adolescents' Age Preferences for Dating Partners: Support for an Evolutionary Model of Life-History Strategies". Child Development 67 (4): 1499–1511. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01810.x. PMID 8890497. 
  7. ^ Hakim, Catherine (2010). "Erotic Capital". European Sociological Review 26(5) (5): 499–518. doi:10.1093/esr/jcq014. 
  8. ^ Men 'live longer' if they marry a younger woman - Telegraph
  9. ^ "More women marrying younger men". BBC News. 12 December 2003. 
  10. ^ "New Study Claims No Cougar Trend, Dating Websites Attempt To Show Otherwise". Huffington Post. August 22, 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  11. ^ For Parents - Teenage Growth & Development: 11-14 Years
  12. ^ Dunson, DB; Baird, DD; Colombo, B (2004). "Increased infertility with age in men and women". Obstetrics and gynecology 103 (1): 51–6. doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000100153.24061.45. PMID 14704244. 
  13. ^ Age Raises Infertility Risk in Men, Too

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