The so-called "Mrs. Robinson phenomenon" — older women dating younger men — has made its way out of Hollywood and into the "real world," according to a recent survey.
Dr. Jennifer Berman, a urologist whose husband is four years her junior, says ladies aren't ruling younger men out anymore for various reasons.
"Women are definitely feeling more empowered, younger, more vital and want to live that through all aspects of their life. Not only the workplace but the bedroom," said Dr. Berman, co-director for the female sexual medicine center at UCLA.
Dr. Jennifer Berman's sister, Laura Berman, a sex therapist and director of the Berman Center at Northwestern University in Chicago, says that while sex is a part of the reason women choose younger men, it's not the whole reason.
"She's emotionally secure. She doesn't need a man to give her status. She wants to have fun and romance," Laura Berman said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
The AARP survey, published in the organization's October 2003 magazine issue, found that, among those polled, 34 percent of women ages 40 to 69 have dated younger men
Bye Bye Boundaries
Dr. Jennifer Berman says she believes the increase in the number of women dating younger men has more to do with the destruction of old-fashioned boundaries.
"Compatibility doesn't have anything do with age," Dr. Jennifer Berman said. "It all depends on the couple, and I think now there is not a barrier or a taboo for a woman to be dating a younger man," she said.
Obviously it's not taboo in Hollywood, where Cameron Diaz, 30, and Justin Timberlake, 22, are now catching up to Demi Moore, 40, and Aston Kutcher, 25, as the most celebrated gender-reversed May-December relationship out there.
But Dr. Jennifer Berman says people shouldn't get too caught up with what's going on in Hollywood and whether or not those relationships last. She says many of the non-Hollywood relationships between an older woman and a younger man last a very long time.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures show that 12 percent of all marriages were between older women and younger men.
Laura Berman says that older men don't always experience an enormous decrease in their sex drive. So women aren't necessarily seeking out younger men because older ones can't give them sexual satisfaction. She says the relationship between a younger man and an older woman is likely to last for reasons that go beyond their daily sex life.
Jennifer Berman agrees that while the longevity of the relationship has more to do with the couple than anything else, she says huge age gaps will sometimes present more difficult issues. But this would apply to older men with younger women as well.
"A woman that's 70 dating a 50-year-old, the 50-year-old will definitely become a caregiver at some time. Sex is not going to last into the grave," she said. "Goals have to be the same and compatibility is important, whether you are young, old or middle-aged."