With the armoury of tweaks and tucks at their disposal, and booming gym memberships — not to mention perked-up sex drives and plumped-up skin courtesy of HRT — older women today are looking and feeling a lot more youthful than our mothers were at the same age. It’s a fascinating change in gender relations — and one rooted in economic and sociological realities.
Little wonder that this generation of Mrs Robinsons is proving so alluringly sexy and sophisticated that bedazzled young boys are seemingly becoming their willing slaves. Because with the rise of the potency of middle-aged women comes an equal and opposite reaction: the infantilisation of men. One of the fundamental tenets of evolution — men being attracted to younger women because they are fertile and women being drawn to older, higher-status males who are in a better position to provide for offspring — is slowly being eroded.
Meanwhile, attractive younger males, who are more likely to fit in with their super-successful female partner’s schedule than an equal player with his own established work patterns and responsibilities, will be more sought after in the middle-aged dating marketplace.
Indeed, the very fact that middle-aged women are more likely to have a high status can drive them to seek out younger partners.
My peers in their 50s and 60s are far more outward-looking and dynamic than those of our mothers’ generation, who would have been utterly shocked by any relationship that didn’t have the man firmly in the senior position.
According to dating coach and behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, living in a youth-driven world puts new pressures on women.‘There’s a constant need to reinvent themselves, to ensure they’re being current and still relevant,’ says Hemmings.‘And one way to get this validation — to hold onto their prime and to prove they’re still desirable — is to be seen with someone much younger.’This is not to suggest, says Hemmings, that the likes of Madonna are acting cynically in their choice of lovers.
Rather they’re drawn to the kind of young men who can trick them into believing that the years are standing still.
For the first time, they’re an attractive sexual proposition — and this, says Eagly, will create a permanent difference in the way we live.
Eventually, she says, it will seem utterly natural for older women to enjoy the social status that was previously reserved for men.