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When older men date much younger women, they cheat themselves out of an opportunity to be matched with a partner with the maturity to see them as they really are.Depression, the research shows, peaks for men in their mid-to-late 40s.So if older men aren't pursuing much younger women because of evolutionary hardwiring, why do they?It's hard not to conclude that much of the appeal is about the hope of finding someone less demanding.If men over 40 spent half as much time mentoring guys under 30 as they do chasing women in that age bracket, more young men might prove excellent partners to their female peers.Many people who concede that older men's obsession with younger women is disillusioning and destabilizing insist that the sexual choices of men like Johnny Depp are driven by natural imperatives. Research on age disparate relationships does find a biological case for older men choosing slightly younger women; a 2007 study of 11,000 Swedes found that the most fecund men were those with partners six years younger than themselves.
It's certainly not just graying celebrities like Depp who rob the cradle.Research on the preferences of users of OK Cupid, one of America's most popular dating sites, indicates that "men show a decided preference for younger women, especially as the men get older...so, even though men and women are more-or-less proportionately represented on the site, men's decided preference for younger women makes for many fewer potential dates for women." The culturally prescribed response to stories like Depp's or that of the OK Cupid data is a knowing nod: Older men chasing young women is a tale as old as time.That callowness is often oversold by too many aging Lotharios wanting to emphasize the difference between their own supposed expertise and young men's clumsiness.The reality is that just as many young women "grow up too quickly" as a result of older men's attention, many young men grow up too slowly because of a lack of it.
It's not just women who lose out as a consequence of this fixation on the older man, younger woman ideal.