Men May Prefer Beauty Over Youth

L O N D O N, July 2, 2001 -- From the countless music videos portraying young buxom beauties to a flourishing cosmetics industry that promises to slow aging, women are lead to believe men lust primarily after youth, not beauty.

But a new study from Britain suggests men may be more choosy than they're usually given credit for, preferring older attractive woman to younger plain-looking ones.

Human sexual behavior often mirrors that of other animal species, say researchers. In many animal species, males seek to mate with as many females as possible to increase their number of offspring. Females however, usually choose the best quality mate they can find, one that can provide good genes and resources for their young.

Men Select Women From Photos

The new study by evolutionary psychologist Dr. George Fieldman of Chiterns University College in England, shows that up to a certain age, men find attractiveness more important than youth when considering potential mates

"Older woman, up to a certain age, can compete with younger women based purely on physical attractiveness," says Fieldman.

He and a colleague took a photo of a 36-year-old woman who was very attractive in the eyes of a group of men. They showed the picture to three other groups in their early 20s along with pictures of eight women aged 20-45 who'd been rated less attractive.

The researchers told the group the beautiful woman was either 36, 41 or 45 years old. When asked who they'd prefer as a long-term partner, all three groups of men chose her, regardless of how old they thought she was.

Men Not Considering Offspring

Dr. Fieldman concludes the study shows beauty counts. He says men are not so concerned with the number of offspring they can have. They are more prone to choose a beautiful woman, regardless of her age, if it means increasing the chances their offspring will have a better chance in life later on.

Many people think that men would always go for the 20-year-olds, but they don't, he said.

"If you think of the kind of women that men on a building site may whistle at, they tend to whistle at beautiful women, he told the BBC. "They don't whistle at a perfectly healthy and fecund 20-year-old."

"The younger, plainer women will give them more children, but the fact that they're going for the "aging beauty" is indicative that beauty is more important at some level."

Older women, up to a certain age, have as good a chance of attracting men. Fieldman stressed mid-to-late 30s would be the maximum.

But Fieldman also stressed the study was based only on physical attractiveness and didn't factor in other characteristic traits like kindness, generosity, and caring, which were just as, if not equally more important, in determining long-term relationships.