Published on 08 January 2019
A university psychologist and expert in evolution has waded into the debate triggered when a French writer said he was "incapable" of loving a woman over 50.
Yann Moix sparked international outrage when he claimed he found women of that age "too old".
"I prefer younger women's bodies, that's all. End of. The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all," he is reported as saying.
Moix’s comments sparked an angry backlash on social media and national TV in the UK.
But despite labelling his comments “divisive and contentious”, Dr Rebecca Owens, a psychologist at the University of Sunderland has looked at the evolutionary process which makes men attracted to younger women.
She said: “From an evolutionary perspective, there is something in what Moix says.
“Unconsciously we are motivated to reproduce, and biologically women's reproductive capacity is reduced in comparison to men. In the evolutionary environment, youth was one of the best proxy indicators of fertility, therefore there is an innate attraction in most men to younger women.
“What compliments this quite nicely is the innate motivation of younger women to find older men attractive. Older men are more likely to have status and resources, something that is extremely helpful for investing in and raising offspring.”
But Dr Owens warns that, in today’s society, the balance of power between the sexes has shifted.
She added: “Society has changed very much from that we evolved in. Women generally are no longer as dependent on men for resources.
“Likewise people often invest heavily in their appearance in order to appear younger - facial fillers, cosmetic surgery and enhancements are increasingly accessible and accessed. Older women now often appear much younger, but also men are often attracted to older women. This may be to do with sexual experience, but it is not as much of a niche attraction as it used to be.
“I found it interesting on TV debates that the discussion turned to examples of very attractive women who are over 50 to help develop a point about women over 50 being attractive. I felt this only supported Moix's point more because these women, for example Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Anniston, are extraordinary and look fantastic - they look much younger than their actual age. They are not representative of most women over the age of 50.
“Attraction is very much on a spectrum and is not categorical, but we are equipped with very innate mechanisms which push us towards finding certain features attractive or less attractive, around promoting reproduction in an individually adaptive way.
“It is often very difficult for us to understand this perspective because we are talking about entirely unconscious processes and thoughts, but this does not exclude us from conscious thoughts and cultural influences. Moix's comments are very divisive and contentious because they are minimising something that is very complex.”
Moix, who is himself 50 years old, has come in for a barrage of criticism from his comments, with women of all ages condemning the author’s views.
On social media, many women over 50 posted images showing off their body confidence in protest.