According to the law of the land (La La Land, that is), wherever celebrities go, we mere mortals must follow. How else to justify the sequined Harry Styles-esque jumpsuit I recently purchased?
The latest message we have received from on high involves older women going out with younger men. Kim Kardashian, 41, recently dated actor Pete Davidson – 13 years her junior. Styles, 28, is in a much-dissected relationship with Olivia Wilde, 38, having met on the set of Don’t Worry Darling. Britney Spears, 40, has just married her long-term boyfriend Sam Asghari, who is 12 years younger. Meanwhile, Sam Taylor-Johnson, 55, and husband Aaron, 32, renewed their vows this summer after 10 years of marriage.
In the real world, Tinder has also seen a rise in searches for age-gap relationships this year, with half of its users globally having matched with a younger person in May alone. On TikTok, the hashtag #datingyoungermen has had 560 million views. And according to a recent analysis of US Census Bureau data, 14.8 per cent of women are now married to or in a committed relationship with men between two and 20 years younger than them.
On the face of it, then, we are at a tipping point when it comes to the normalisation of age-gap relationships – specifically those in which the woman is older. No longer will they be called demeaning names and treated like pariahs. Their love stories won’t be labelled as “taboo” or be greeted with widespread disapproval. Nothing to see here – move along please.
That’s the Hollywood ending, anyway. The truth? Our attitudes still need to catch up with what, for rising numbers of people, is becoming a reality. Despite the upwards trend for age-gap relationships, an Ipsos poll this year found that while 70 per cent of women agree it’s socially acceptable for an older man to be with a younger woman, just 56 per cent of women think it’s acceptable when the age gap is female-led.
And we don’t keep those opinions to ourselves. Women who date younger men are, it’s no exaggeration to say, vilified. The venom is unbelievable. Calling them “cougars” and other unflattering nicknames is just the start – though a friend, whose husband is three years younger than her, still bridles at being called a “cradle snatcher” several years into their marriage.