Sexual attractiveness as a function of age

Sexual attractiveness varies as a function of age for both men and women. However, the curves must look very different for males and females. Let’s define sexual attractiveness as the percentage of people of the opposite sex that would enjoy having sex with a person. I haven’t checked the literature on this, but I suspect the curves (averaged across individuals) may look something like this…

Note the sudden rise for the female during her teens and the delayed rise for the male. Note also the sudden drop for the female during her thirties and the much later drop for the male. Further note that I’ve drawn the peak lower and wider for the male. This is consistent with the idea that a girl at 20 is desired by a larger proportion of the opposite sex than a guy at his peak.

If we were to define sexual attractiveness as the frequency of consensual heterosexual sex acts, then the integral (i.e. the total count of consensual heterosexual sex acts) would by definition be equal for both sexes – consistent with the curves as shown, where the female’s peak is higher but also narrower, yielding a similar integral over the lifespan.

The sudden rise and fall of the female’s attractiveness may pose challenges to her character and development that the male does not face.

If we were to zoom in on a particular individual’s attractiveness across a few days spanning a range of emotional states and changes of status, I think we’d see a nearly constant curve for the female. A hot girl can be happy and perky or crying in a corner of the room – she is still hot. This constancy of sexual power confers the immense emotional freedom that women enjoy: emotional instability is less of a liability if it does not compromise sexual power.

Not so for a guy. If he breaks down emotionally, he loses all masculine appeal. His sexual power similarly declines when he fails professionally and loses status.

A woman’s attrativeness, though it fades with age, is stable like the price of gold locally in time. A man’s attractiveness is fickle by comparison – more like the market value of modern art or popmusic: largely a social construction arising in an unpredictable process of recurrent message passing.

Does this have implications for mating and long-term partnerships?

Let’s go with the conventional notion that a stable match is one in which both partners are similarly attractive – and neither is too tempted by more attractive alternative options.

But a stable match at one point in time is not necessarily a stable match at a different point, if attractiveness varies differentially for the sexes.

For an age-matched couple, the woman will be more attractive in younger years and the man more attractive in later years, leading to instability over essentially the entire course of the relationship (with a short moment of balance in the middle). If they meet young and she has more alternative options than he does, but sticks with him regardless, she could be thought of as investing in his potential. When the tables turn, he may repay her loyality. Alternatively, he may defect and leave her for someone younger and more attractive. So an age-matched early commitment is risky for the woman in the long term.

This assumes that the particular two people have an equal lifespan integral of sexual attractiveness. If a young age-matched couple is matched in attractiveness as well when they meet, then her risk of losing him is even greater.

If she waits until her 30s to find an age-matched partner for the long term, her chances of getting someone of equal lifespan attractiveness are slim, as her best years are past. For the long term, she is a definite bad deal for an age-matched male partner who is currently or over the lifespan equally attractive. However, he may be interested in the short term, while the match is stable.

If the male is 10-20 years older, then the attractiveness curves are in better alignment and the match is more stable over the long term. This is a common scenario and advantageous to both sides.

Conversely, consider the case where the female is 10-20 years older. His attractiveness at 22 may be a match for hers at 37 – for a short, sweet moment.

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12 Responses to “Sexual attractiveness as a function of age”

  1. Linkage is Good for You: Had to Get Away Edition Says:

    […] – “Sexual Attractiveness as a Function of Age“, “Control, the Male Dilemma, and the Eerie Parallelism Between Sex and […]

  2. Marc Says:

    OKCupid has extensive data on this, and has plotted the actual curves. See link below. The curves are actually more similar than you think, although you are right that male attractivenss peaks later.

    http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-case-for-an-older-woman/

    (scroll down to see plotted curves of attractiveness versus time).

  3. Steve Says:

    Interesting and enlightening

  4. Doug1 Says:

    Females should be crossing the male line at about 28 on average, rather than the 33 or so you have here. That’s way to late for her. Not even close.

    More broadly the obvious solution is for a 35 year old man to marry a 25 yo girl. At the very least a 7 year age gap.

  5. Mr Peepers Says:

    I doubt that the area under the curve is nearly equal for men and women. The exchange is inherently unequal, and it’s a seller’s market. What might constitute “interest” for him is a willingness to buy her a drink, for her, it’s a willingness to accept his drink. He buys her a ring, she takes his ring. He pays the mortgage, she might be willing to shave her legs for him.

    Just compare how many drinks men will buy a woman during her peak (or even off-peak), compared to how many drinks women will buy for a man in his entire lifetime.

  6. X Says:

    I hate the ageing process 😦

  7. XxX Says:

    The sudden drop for the female during her 30s is disturbing.

  8. Me Says:

    the graph is bs

    that line should drop off a cliff at 30 for both men and women.

  9. Heather Says:

    Yes that graph is wrong both men and women are less overall attractive at 35

  10. Robert Says:

    You raise some good points, and good use of math and graphing. But I wonder how accurate those attraction statistics actually are.

    • stagetwo Says:

      these are not scientific results, but illustrations of my intuitive understanding based on personal experience. take them with a grain of salt and test them against your own experience.

  11. Qazi Says:

    This is very interesting and good observation. To sum up the study and there is an inner advice that the age deference between Male and Female should be 20 years gap in order to make a happy family life. As per my observation in Bangladesh perspective it should be 15 years. This Age differences makes a male very happy and protect him to take extra sexual relation. If there in any possibility to conduct any research I want to be a associates from Bangladesh. Thanks to read this note.

    Qazi M Rahman
    Educationist, Counselor, Psychotherapist (BT, EMDR & CBT)
    Psychotherapy Services
    Bangladesh

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