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The Daily Dish Relationships

Why Is It More Socially Acceptable for Men to Have Much Younger Partners?

Pete Davidson is 25. Kate Beckinsale is 45. That age difference has people talking, but it's different when it's older men dating younger women.

By Marianne Garvey
Strange Items Kate Beckinsale Carries with Her

“Apparently, people have a crazy fascination with our age difference, but it really doesn’t bother us,” Pete Davidson said on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment on Saturday of his relationship with girlfriend Kate Beckinsale. He’s 25. She’s 45.

“But then again, I’m new to this. So, if you have questions about a relationship with a big age difference, just ask … Leonardo DiCaprio, Jason Statham, Michael Douglas, Richard Gere, Jeff Goldblum, Scott Disick, Dane Cook, Derek Jeter, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, and whoever the president of France is. Mel Gibson, Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Kelsey Grammer, Larry King, Larry King, Larry King, Rod Stewart, and Donald Trump.”

Davidson's got a point. If he were the one 20 years older, no one would care. But why is that the case?

Lauren Eavarone, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York City, explained it to Personal Space.

“During a more traditional gender norm-adhering generation, social roles pushed a specific agenda, limiting women’s access and opportunity. With minimal resources or choice, making survival a primary goal, our primitive brains kick in and our biological and evolutionary drives go to work, narrowing down mate selection based on who will increase likeliness of survival and reproductive success,” she said. Social norms, fed to society through various forms of media and represented in language through praise, permittance, and idealization, has reinforced the evolutionary drive that influences mate selection.

“An older male partner, due to what he historically represents and is able to provide (financial stability, status, safety, and in turn an increased likeliness of the survival of one's offspring) would appear as an ideal mate selection to a woman of any age. This of course greatly widened the dating age gap and pool selection for heterosexual males and limited that of heterosexual females.”

But in today’s more modern society, women now have access to education and the profession of their choosing. “Despite barriers still existing, many strides have been made for women’s rights that directly influence their independence, freedom of choice, and in turn, what they seek in a partner and when/if they seek a relationship altogether,” Eavarone said. “This is a clear demonstration of how social structures greatly influence human behavior, including mate selection that may otherwise be attributed to biology.”

The traditional image of a female as a homemaker has been redefined. But, we still have to shake old habits.

“As a culture we haven’t fully rid our expectations or ‘old brain’ perception of what is acceptable or ideal,” Eavarone said. “You can observe this social ambiguity in the negative comments and gossip surrounding a couple such as Kate and Pete; a society who uses media as a platform to empower women and encourage a progressive society and at the same time expresses discomfort and uncertainty with a 45-year-old woman’s intentions when choosing a 25-year-old partner. We as people are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. Today is an age of change, and as we encourage the empowerment of women (and also men) it is reasonable to expect some resistance. As referenced in several theories of psychology, the ‘system’ will readjust to changes eventually and that will become the new normal until the next inevitable change occurs.”

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