Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do Women Prefer Older Men, But Men Prefer One Age of Women?

David Buss, the author of The Evolution of Desire, a mainstay of my "Family Life" class, gave a lecture at Centre College tonight on "Human Mating Strategies."

He reported the familiar data that women seek men who are a little older than they are, whereas men prefer women who are a little younger. He showed that there is more variation in how much younger the men want to go, depending on the culture.  The women do not vary as much.

I had a thought as I was listening to him.  It is a hunch, but is worth testing.

Women prefer to marry men who are a little older than they are.

Men prefer to marry women who are in their early twenties.

A way to test this would be to ask the absolute age of a preferred mate, not the age relative to the person being asked.

Another way would be to ask teenage boys, to see if they, uniquely, are more attracted to women older than themselves.


lianemiller said...

My husband is five years older than me and when we got married I was 24 :)

gruntled said...

Buss came to class this morning, so I asked him if he had further data. He said as men get older, the age of their preferred brides gets older to - but only within the fertile range.

Diane M said...

I don't go for your theory that men go for women in their 20s. Buss's finding seems to be that culture is affecting how much younger men want their wives to be. How would that fit in with liking women in their 20s?

Diane M. said...

So did Buss look at whether men's preferred age of brides changes if the men already have kids?

Did he talk about differences in preferred age of marriage partners versus preferred age of romantic partners?

gruntled said...

Buss' argument is a sociobiological one. Sociobiology would lead us to expect that men would find fertile women attractive, and all the signals of fertility are the very stuff of what "attractive" means. Thus, we would expect that women in their most fertile years - their early twenties - would be most attractive, with a bell curve tailing off into the late teens and early thirties.

From what he presented in his lecture and in class, this expectation matches Buss' findings. Of course their are individual men and women who make fine romances outside of that range and outside of fertility. But if we are looking at the mate preferences of whole populations, I would expect them to be within the fertility range of women and men.

Diane M. said...

So here's my hunch:

Women find men in their 20s more attractive than any other group. Given relative ages of reaching physical maturity, this means young women are interested in men 4 to 6 years older than them.

The attraction to men in their 20s never changes. Young men are still stronger, healthier, more likely to produce children, etc.

However, when looking for mates, women look at things other than physical attractiveness. A man who is slightly older than her is a good bet - he will have a little more property/money/power than her and his attractiveness/health is reasonably close to hers.

Most of this applies to men, too. They're physically attracted to women who are healthy and fertile and that doesn't change with age. Like women, men also take other cultural factors into account. A woman older than them may not want them, a woman younger than them won't be as good a mate in terms of the jobs wives do - caring for young, making your clothes, earning money, talking to you, whatever.

The main difference is probably due to difference in cultural variability. Men have more power across cultures and so the women always need a guy who is a little older. Women's roles and power vary more, so guys in some cultures are more interested in an equal wife close to their age.

Or perhaps men adjust their desires to reality - young women in all cultures don't want to mate with men who are more than 6 years older than them. Cultures where men go for a mate much younger than them are just cultures where women have no say.

Diane M said...

But who did Buss talk to and how?

You have to be very careful with sociobiology - it's so easy to make an argument of what people would or should like. The question is what do they like, does it hold true across cultures, and is there anything else that's constant in the cultures that could account for it?

Animals often prefer older females as mates. It's hard to compare to humans since we get much older than they do, but it is something that is different about humans.

Solomon Kleinsmith said...

I can't speak to other guys, but at 32 I'm more attracted to mid to late 20's, more because of personality than anything else. I'm SUPER picky when it comes to personality though... Maybe this makes me a judgemental arse, but most people bore the hell outta me, and more often than not, it seems like gals in their early 20's are wrapped up in stuff that is boring as can be to me.