A reader writes:
Several years ago my current wife summed up for me nicely a general sense of what many women find attractive in men: status. This explanation works pretty well to tie together the responses you've gotten from your female readers. It explains why many women (younger and older) find mature, successful men desirable; it explains why many women find rock stars who are not "conventionally attractive", like Billy Joe Armstrong, desirable; it explains why many women find buff and ripped men desirable.
What they all have in common is some easily discernible display of status: "I am accomplished, I have resources, I am respected"; "I am a rock star, I am the center of attention, people heap adulation at my feet"; "I am an adonis, my physical fitness is impressive, I have the resources to spend many hours a week refining the beauty and prowess you see before you". I would also imagine that it is an explanation that an evolutionary biologist could easily make sense of.
Forget the mega muscles! You know what served as the equivalent of porn for me and most of my girl friends? "The West Wing"! Smart men who were also funny and wore awesome SUITS! They had the added benefit of looking like they smelled good too. It's not just money that can make an older man attractive to a younger woman; it's also that he probably has a job that requires him to wear a SUIT instead of ratty jeans and a T-shirt that has a stupid slogan on it or some guy who only talks about his workout routine.
I have to say that I'm a little disappointed in the simplicity presented by you and your reader about why younger women may want to date older men. It's not necessarily a product of sexism or simple resource hunting. It's also an issue of maturity.
I'm 25 years old and mature for my age. I have a steady job with benefits that challenges me and that I've done a lot to acquire and keep. I do my laundry, can cook, and can make a budget that I stick to. I've dated men my age, and frankly I've found that I need to date "up" to find someone who similarly has his shit together.
This is of course my specific experience and I'm drawing from a particular pool of young men, but I really appreciate my current partner (47 years old) for the fact that he's housebroken! His apartment is clean and he's a responsible and considerate human being. Those are of course not the only reasons I appreciate him – the comfort level, confidence, wealth of experience, ability to make me feel at ease, other attraction, etc etc – but it's only now after I've effectively left the dating pool for men my age that I've realized how aggravating it is to constantly feel more adult and responsible than the person I am with. I know that my partner went through his young and stupid years too, and I'm perfectly fine with meeting him on the other side.
To read the full discussion thread, go here.