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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
The lure of the older woman
Stone PA
Actress Sharon Stone represents the "attractive older woman"
In what could be a blow to the self-esteem of younger but perhaps less attractive women, men appear to prefer "ageing beauties".

It may come as no surprise that women such as Sharon Stone and Julianne Moore would be seen as attractive.

But Dr George Fieldman, an evolutionary psychologist from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, UK, says that goes against the biological assumption that men would go for younger women who could bear them more children.

In most animal species, including humans, males are thought to go for "quantity over quality" to increase the maximum number of offspring they can have.

You'd think men would always go for 20-year-olds, but they don't

Dr George Fieldman
Females, however, are thought to go for the best quality mate they can find.

In research, reported in New Scientist, images of different women were shown to almost 200 men, with an average age of 30.

Attractiveness rating

A picture of a 36-year-old woman, who a separate group of men had found attractive, was shown along with eight other photos of women aged 20 to 45 who had been rated as less attractive.

Moore PA
Julianne Moore, 40, would be more attractive to men than a younger, plainer woman, the research suggests
The men were told that the beautiful woman was either 36, 41 or 45.

Asked to choose one woman as a long-term partner, all three groups chose the "beautiful" one, no matter how old they thought she was.

Dr Fieldman said the findings showed men chose older beautiful women instead of younger plainer ones because they thought their children would therefore be more attractive and would do better in life.

He told BBC News Online: "You'd think men would always go for 20-year-olds, but they don't.

'Pleasure not reproduction'

"If you think of the kind of women that men on a building site may wolf-whistle at, they tend to wolf-whistle at beautiful women.

"They won't whistle at a perfectly healthy and fecund 20-year-old."

They won't whistle at a perfectly healthy and fecund 20-year-old

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

He said men chose partners for sexual relationships for their attractiveness rather than their ability to have children: "It's a pleasure urge, rather than a reproductive one."

And in a comment that will please men whose eyes, and perhaps more, stray he added: "One could be led from one's genes".

But he swiftly added: "That's not an excuse."

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See also:

26 Jun 01 | Health
Sex a turn-off for many UK women
07 Jun 01 | Health
Cuddles 'more important than sex'
24 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
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26 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Beautiful people 'ruin' lives
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