It’s an age-old dating cliché: The older, silver fox dating the 20-something female bombshell (Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, anyone?). And yes, there’s some scientific truth to that stereotype — but surprising new research shows that women and men are sexually interested in partners their own age as they get older and that the most sexual activity happens between partners who are about the same age.
The large study was published in Evolutionary Psychology and involved researchers in Finland studying 1,789 adult women and 878 adult men of various sexual orientations: heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual. The study author, Jan Antfolk, expected the research to align with the following findings from previous studies: “Whereas women of all ages prefer slightly older sexual partners, men — regardless of their age — have a preference for women in their 20s.”
What the study actually revealed: While yes, it’s true that men are likelier to be sexually interested in younger partners than women are, as both genders age, they’re more interested in sleeping with partners their own age. This is especially true for men, whose age range of partners widens as they age (whereas women had a narrower age range and tend to prefer slightly older men). In terms of differences between people of various sexual orientations, the age preferences were generally the same among groups, with one exception: Gay men are slightly likelier than bi or straight men to prefer younger partners.
The takeaway: If you’re paranoid that your partner is going to leave you for someone younger or older than you are (for looks, wisdom, wealth, whatever) those fears are probably unfounded. On the flip side, if you’re unhappy in your relationship and wondering if it’s because you need to be with someone younger and more spontaneous, or older and more stable, think again. According to this study, sexual chemistry is less age-based than our culture would have us believe — and that should be a relief.