Survey says women over 40 looking for younger men to date

Monday, September 29, 2003

NEW YORK -- Demi Moore is not alone. Close to a third of unmarried American woman in their 40s through 60s who date are going out with younger men, according to one of the most sweeping surveys ever conducted on the dating habits and sex lives of mid-life singles.

Sex on a first date? Only 2 percent of single women in the age group approved, while 20 percent of the men were amenable. Frequency of sex? Sixty percent of the women and 45 percent of the men said they hadn't had any in the past six months.

The survey, sampling the views of 1,407 men and 2,094 women aged 40 to 69, is being released Monday in the new edition of AARP The Magazine, the flagship publication of the nation's biggest advocacy group for Americans over 50.

The magazine has conducted large-scale surveys before, said editor Steve Slon, but never specifically targeting singles.

"Usually when people talk about singles, it's about people in their 20s and 30s," he said.

According to the survey, 60 percent of singles aged 40-69 are women, a majority of them divorced. Forty-two percent of the men and 24 percent of the women had never been married.

Glamorized trend

Among the hundreds of findings in the survey, Slon said he was most surprised by the large portion of women who reported dating younger men -- a trend recently glamorized by 40-year-old Demi Moore's romance with actor Ashton Kutcher, 15 years her junior.

"There seems to be no stigma now for dating men a few years younger," Slon said. "Twenty years ago, women didn't have the jobs. Today they have the jobs, they have the money, they can call the shots."

Among the men, 66 percent said they were dating younger women.

For both men and women, the top reason for dating was to find fun and companionship. Only 11 percent of the men and 2 percent of the women cited sex as the main motive; only 10 percent of men and 7 percent of women cited marriage as the No. 1 goal.

"That reflects a very different mind-set from the past," Slon said of the relatively low yearning for marriage. "It reflects a comfort with oneself, a reluctance to get too entangled with someone else."

Other notable findings:

About 60 percent of the men felt they didn't have sex often enough, while 35 percent of the women felt that way.

More than twice as many men as women -- 46 percent to 21 percent -- said they had sexual relations with more than one person during the same time period.

Nearly 30 percent of the singles reported difficulty finding dates, and said they would be delighted to start a romance if they could find the right person. Slon said the survey indicated that many singles in the age bracket were attending mixers and using online dating services.

His magazine is trying to encourage that trend with some new dating-related features on its Web site, including an interactive area aimed at helping people compose personal ads. A message-board section will offer tips for a successful first date, as well as some first-date horror stories.

In their introduction, the survey's authors said many of the trends were linked to the increased prevalence of divorce -- a phenomenon which means the ranks of mid-life singles are no longer dominated by widows and those who never married.

"These changes in attitudes coincide with the aging of the baby boomers, the generation that first adopted liberalized sexual attitudes en masse," the survey said. "This is the same generation that became more accepting of divorce and changed the perception of older unmarried women from being 'old maids' to emancipated feminists."

The survey was conducted for the magazine in June by Knowledge Networks Inc. Its margin of error, for questions asked of the entire sampling, was 2.4 percentage points, and slightly higher for questions directed at subgroups.

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