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09.29.11

Do Cougar Couples Survive?

Amid rumors that Ashton Kutcher, 33, and Demi Moore, 48, have split after six years of marriage, May-December relationships still keep everyone guessing: Who chose whom? And how long will it last once buttocks sag and double chins set in? Anneli Rufus finds 15 statistics on couples far apart in age, from mortality risks to gay men’s preference for older partners.

1. Women who marry men seven to nine years their junior have a 20 percent higher mortality risk than women who marry men their own age.

Cougarship could cost you your life, according to the study that yielded this stat. “The probability of a woman marrying a much younger man rises significantly as women get older,” says psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum, author of I Love You But I Don’t Trust You and Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. “Twenty-four-year-old women don’t marry 15-year-old boys. The higher mortality rate may come from the fact that the women in this group are just older.”

Sven Drefahl, et al. “How Does the Age Gap Between Partners Affect Their Survival?” Demography, 47 (2): 313-326

2. Men whose wives are seven to nine years younger than they are have an 11 percent lower mortality risk than men with same-age wives.

And men who are between 15 and 17 years older than their wives have a 4 percent lower mortality rate than men with same-age partners. “The younger the wife is compared to her spouse, the lower the mortality in the husband, and vice versa,” writes the lead author of the study that yielded this statistic.

Sven Drefahl, et al. “How Does the Age Gap Between Partners Affect Their Survival?” Demography, 47 (2): 313-326

3. Catherine Zeta-Jones, 25 years younger than her husband, Michael Douglas, won top honors—scoring 31 percent—in a survey of American plastic surgeons seeking the “ideal face of female beauty.”

Participating surgeons praised Jones for her “short delicate jaw with small chin and nose.” In the same survey, Hugh Jackman—who is 13 years younger than his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness—won top honors (scoring 26 percent) among male celebrities.

“New Poll: Facial Plastic Surgeons Reveal Top Celebrity Faces Through the Decades” AAFPRS Press Release, 2004

4. The number of 40-year-old female New Zealanders with partners five or more years younger than they are has nearly doubled since 1986.

This figure has soared from 3.8 percent to 5.8 percent. In the U.K., the percentage of women marrying men at least six years younger than they are more than doubled between 1963 and 1998, from 3 percent to 7 percent. “The real point here is that since 1986 the number of women doing all kinds of things that used to be nonstandard has doubled or more than doubled,” Kirshenbaum tells The Daily Beast. “It’s not about the age of the men women choose. It’s about the greater freedom women have to make choices. Plus, empowered women have, since 1986, been increasingly shown to be sexy and interesting. Plus, it is now much less the norm for women to be supported by men.”

Zoe Lawton and Callister, Paul. “Older Women/Younger Men Relationships: the Social Phenomenon of ’Cougars’”: Institute of Policy Studies Working Paper, January 2010. (PDF), and Michael Dunn, et al. “Universal Sex Differences in Online Advertisers’ Age Preferences”: Evolution and Human Behavior, 31 (6): 383-393

5. When a man is over 10 years older than a woman he wants to pursue, he must spend 13 percent more money on his first date with her for each of those years beyond 10 as would a man her own age.

A man who is 40 years older than the desired woman “will need to offer 400 percent more than the man who is 10 years older to convince the same woman to go out on a first date with him,” writes the researcher who created this analysis for the dating website, WhatsYourPrice.com. The report also concludes that, on average, women are attracted to men six years older than themselves, so “if you are a guy and you are about six years older than the woman you are trying to ask out, she is most likely to accept the lowest price for a first date.”

Brandon Wade. “Buying Down the Age-Gap Disadvantage”: a report for WhatsYourPrice.com, September 2011

6. Thirteen-year-old girls with 19-year-old boyfriends are more than six times as likely to have intercourse as 13-year-old girls with 13-year-old boyfriends.

“This is a huge Duh! It’s exactly why parents get more and more freaked out the older the guy their teenage daughter is dating,” Kirshenbaum says. “A 19-year-old is more likely to want sex, expect sex, and demand sex than a 13-year-old.”

Christine E. Kaestle, et al. “Sexual Intercourse and the Age Difference Between AdolescentFemales and Their Romantic Partners”: Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 34 (6): 304-305

7. Gay men who identify as “bottoms”—preferring receptive anal intercourse—are twice as likely to desire partners 10 years older than themselves as partners 10 years younger.

In the study that yielded this statistic, 11.6 percent of “bottoms” desired partners at least 10 years older; 4.7 percent of “bottoms” desired partners at least 10 years younger. Also in this study, twice as many “tops”—men who prefer insertive anal intercourse—desired partners 10 years younger than themselves as 10 years older. “Critics may point out that maybe Bottoms who prefer older partners become Tops who prefer younger partners as they get older, or that Tops in general are older than Bottoms,” notes the researcher who presented this data.

Nicholas Yee. “Beyond Tops and Bottoms: Correlations Between Sex-Role Preference and Physical Preferences for Partners Among Gay Men.” Independent research project (PDF)

8. Children whose parents are aged at least 11 years apart are more than three times as likely to experience mental disorders as are children born to parents closer in age.

And this risk factor doubles yet again when parents are at least 11 years apart and the father is at least 50 years old, according to a study headed by a professor of genetic engineering.

S. Krishnaswamy, et al. “Delayed Fathering and Risk of Mental Disorders in Adult Offspring.” Early Human Development, 87 (3): 171-5

The younger the wife is compared to her spouse, the lower the mortality in the husband, and vice versa.

9. More than 60 percent of “cougars” are seeking serious relationships.

According to a survey compiled by the online dating website Cougared.com, “Cougar women aren’t all just looking for casual fun,” as 61 percent described themselves as seeking serious, exclusive, long-term relationships, 13 percent as seeking exclusive, short-term relationships, 16 percent as seeking “no-strings fun with one partner,” 10 percent as seeking “no-strings fun with several partners.”

Cougar Report: The Findings, 2009

10. Nearly one-third of “cougars” plan never again to seek relationships with men their own age.

According to the Cougared.com survey, 63 percent of cougars say they “might” return to men their own age. Let’s ask them the same question after they turn 60.

Cougar Report: The Findings, 2009

11. In Egypt, 24 percent of adolescent girls marry men at least 10 years their senior.

And 65 percent marry men at least five years their senior, according to the report that includes this statistic. According to UNICEF statistics, 79 percent of women in Yemen who are wedded by the age of 18 marry men 10 to 14 years older than themselves; that figure is 66 percent in India, 54 percent in Brazil, and 49 percent in Zimbabwe.

Ruth Hope. “Addressing Cross-Generational Sex.” Population Reference Bureau Report, 2007, and Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice: A Statistical Exploration, prepared by the United Nations Children’s Fund, 2005 (PDF)

12. Of Canadian men who are at at least 10 years older than their wives, 27 percent have less than a high-school education, as do 20 percent of women in such relationships.

The study that yielded this statistic also found that couples who are widely disparate in age also tend to earn less money than same-age couples. “Unions in which women are substantially older than their partners fare the least well, earning average combined incomes at 83 percent of the overall average,” the authors write.

Monica Boyd and Li, Anne. “May-December: Canadians in Age-Discrepant Relationships.” Canadian Social Trends, Autumn 2003 (PDF)

13. Newt Gingrich, who is 22 years older than his wife, Callista Gingrich, has an 11 percent share in Republican support this week, according to a Fox News Poll.

The poll sandwiches Gingrich between Herman Cain and Ron Paul. A recent University of New Hampshire survey calls Gingrich one of the six “least popular Republicans,” a distinction he shares with Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin.

“Fox News Poll: GOP Race Top Tier”: Sept. 28, 2011

14. Sixty-six percent of women under 18 who become pregnant and whose partners are six or more years older practice contraception.

That’s compared with 78 percent of women under 18 whose partners are within two years of themselves in age. According to the study that yielded these figures, the pregnancy rate among women under 18 with male partners six or more years older than themselves is nearly four times as high as the pregnancy rate among women under 18 separated in age from their male partners by only two years or less.

J.E. Darroch, et al. “Age Differences Between Sexual Partners in the United States.” Family Planning Perspectives, 31 (4), 160-167

15. The official contract for Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita, based on Vladimir Nabokov’s iconic 1955 novel about a relationship between a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old girl, called for Nabokov to receive 15 percent of the profits.

The film, whose cast included Peter Sellers, James Mason, Sue Lyons, and Shelley Winters, was rated X upon its original release.

Vincent LoBrutto. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. Boston: Da Capo, 1999, page 162