Lesbians Love Older Women, Says Survey And Our Hearts

Ellen Degeneres is 55, Portia De Rossi is 40, and they're totes in love

Ellen Degeneres is 55, Portia De Rossi is 40, and they’re totes in love

Allure Magazine, my #1 source of sunscreen reviews and inside scoops on complicated vegetable-related pedicure situations, has released its first-ever “Aging Survey.” Well, according to the press release, it’s actually an “Anti-Aging” survey, a problematic title which seems to suggest that “anti-aging” is a position human beings are capable of endorsing when, to the best of my knowledge, only face lotions can declare themselves to be “anti-aging.” If you’re anti-aging, does that mean you’re pro-death? If you’re pro-aging, can you still be anti-aging-serum? Unfortunately those questions were not asked.

Luckily many other questions were asked: important, pressing questions like “is George Clooney aging gracefully?” (He is.) Penn Schoen Berland, the intricately-named firm who conducted the National Anti-Aging Poll, surveyed 2,000 men and women, aiming to examine “how aging impacts every aspect of a person’s life, from relationships to the workplace, as well as, aging perceptions in pop culture.” I suspect the true purpose of this poll is to sell under-eye cream, but whatever.

Answers provided to questions about the attractiveness of humans at various ages apparently lead to some interesting results within the “LGBT population” (although I can assume due to my familiarity with this fantastic world of ours that they’re probably just referring to Ls and Gs and maybe Bs and didn’t account for the fact that “transgender” is not a sexual orientation), according to a press release shoved into our boxes this morning. We’ve yet to see the full survey or learn how many queers were actually surveyed, but take a gander at the following lines copy-pasted from said press release:

  • LGBT respondents are more likely to be attracted to people older than them by more than 10 years compared to straight respondents
  • LGBT respondents think they attract people younger than them by more than 10 years more so than straight respondents do
  • 73% of LGBT respondents think that women have more pressure to look young now than they did 10 years ago versus only 46% of LGBT respondents think that men have that same pressure.

The survey also found that 84 percent of all men and 91 percent of all women surveyed think “women are under more pressure to look young than men.” So in addition to being more open-minded about who we’re attracted to, queers also seem to feel less pressure to look young. That’s nice and also consistent with conclusions reached by Lindsy Van Gelder and Pamela Robin Brandt in their book The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart Of Lesbian America:

We’re sure that there must be lesbians who don’t find older women sexy, but we haven’t met them. That may be one reason why aging just isn’t the trauma for lesbians that it is for so many straight women. If anything, there are lots of women like [Gay Games weightlifter and Mount Holyoke professor] Jean [Grossholtz], who are up for new experiences because they long ago stopped caring about doing what was “appropriate.” The paradox is that because we live in a subculture that lets us age gracefully, we get to remain big kids for along time.

rosie o'donnell, 50, with her wife michelle rounds, 40

rosie o’donnell, 50, with her wife michelle rounds, 40

After scowling all the way through Allure‘s “related article” entitled “10 Hairstyles That Will Make You Look 10 Years Younger” and weeping over “10 Things Your Dermatologist Can Do To Make You Look Younger, Faster,” I did a little math of my own, comparing the ages of the Top 20 women featured on the Maxim Hot 100 2012 to those elected into the Autostraddle Hot 100 2012. The results were predictable enough: the average Maxim hottie is 28, the average Autostraddle hottie is 33.5. When you narrow it down even further, Maxim’s Top Ten ladies carry an average of 28 but Autostraddle’s Top Ten picks average out to 35.5. Furthermore, 55% of Autostraddle’s top 20 are 30 or over, as opposed to 20% of Maxim’s list.

Although there aren’t any statistics on this, anecdotal evidence suggests ladies-who-love-ladies are far more likely to negate age as a factor when selecting a partner (meanwhile, a full one-third of male baby-boomers polled by Allure said they wouldn’t date a woman their own age or older) and also that those age differences are not stigmatized in the same way that straight couples’ age differences are. There are a lot of theories regarding why this is — in an Autostraddle article about May-December relationships, Butch Wonders suggests that perhaps the prevalence of age-disparate relationships in the queer community “is because we’re already doing something that differs from the norm, so an age difference on top of it is just icing on the deviance cake.” Other theories include: the lesbian dating pool is already pretty small so a lot of factors (like age) become less important, intergenerational socializing is far more common, or our lack of compliance to traditional age-specific milestones such as marriage and baby-making mean women of vastly different ages can still be at the same life-stage. As Allure suggests, for some lesbians, a subscription to non-normative beauty standards could also play a role.

rachel maddow is 39, susan is 54

rachel maddow, 39, with her partner susan mikula, 54

The Allure survey also found that men believe “female beauty peaks at 29″ and women believe it “peaks at 31.” As a 31-year-old who believes solidly that I peaked at 23 or maybe at 11, I found this surprising. More importantly, as a 31-year-old who gave up my women’s magazine addiction a few years ago because I suspected it was making me hate myself, I felt very validated about that decision after spending twenty minutes on Allure‘s website.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing unattractive about aging naturally, although manufacturers of beauty products and women’s magazines rely on us believing otherwise. The fact that queer women are more aware of this than the heteros is simply another piece of evidence that queer women are smarter and better than everybody else and if we were in charge, everybody would feel a lot better about themselves!

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happy lesbians wading in a pool of happiness underneath a happy rainbow (via shutterstock)


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Profile photo of Riese

Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1762 articles for us.

111 Comments

  1. Thumb up 30

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    Maybe I’m silly, but there has to be as many older lesbians who are attracted to younger lesbians if there are younger lesbians attracted to older lesbians.

    I know I just Dr. Seussed the shit out of that statement but trust I have a valid point, somewhere in there.

      • Thumb up 8

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        no i think your first comment is accurate – “there has to be as many older lesbians who are attracted to younger lesbians if there are younger lesbians attracted to older lesbians,” because these may-december relationships do happen all the time. I think probs the thing is that just being attracted to older women doesn’t mean they aren’t also attracted to younger women? but also obviously people’s attractions change over time, or your life changes and there are differently-aged people in it. really everything changes and everything is in flux and the whole world is a big complicated place, is the takeaway

        • Thumb up 2

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          I tend to like women my own age, so I can’t speak for the apparent majority. I do think older women seem more secure. They have a better idea of what they want and decisiveness is always attractive.

          Interesting article. Woke my brain up a bit.

        • Thumb up 3

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          Maybe part of it is that queer women aren’t stuck into the whole older guy/younger woman mold. More queer women are willing to think about dating people older AND younger than them, whereas because of that strict mold re: straight relationships, straight women may be more likely to go for older guys, and men for younger women, but their preferences cancel each other out when averaged?

          I’m absolutely exhausted and this probably makes no sense, but I feel like I’m onto something.

    • Thumb up 11

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      I can only speak for myself, of course, but I am an older lesbian who was attracted to and is in a relationship with a younger woman. When we met, she was 23 and I was 37. I robbed that cradle and we’ve been together for 13 years.

      It can definitely work but communication is absolutely essential since you’re starting, basically, in totally different places and with totally different mindsets. If she didn’t communicate with me I’d have no idea what she was thinking because her points of reference are totally foreign to me as, I suspect, are mine to her.

  2. Thumb up 7

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    I think it’s no coincidence that the year I finally accepted my queerness was the same year I started feeling less panicky about getting older. And less fixated on my appearance overall, really.

    Sidenote: I don’t think Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula are married?

      • Thumb up 23

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        i have changed the caption from “wife” to “partner”! really i should’ve already known that because hello, if rachel maddow and susan had gotten married, those wedding pictures would be all over my tumblr like nobody’s business

    • Thumb up 3

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      “And less fixated on my appearance overall, really.”

      ^This is the main factor imo. I remember reading a survey/study once (pretty sure I actually found it here on AS) that concluded that lesbians were overall less insecure about their weight and found curvy women more beautiful than straight women do, and I think this ties into this survey.

      The beauty culture and standards that are force-fed to women always come from a “male gaze” point of view, the message implied (or sometimes stated bluntly) is always “this is what you need to look like if you wanna find and keep a man”. So it makes sense that queer women would come to reject those standards because they don’t give a fuck about attracting straight men, or at least those who buy into heteronormative culture.

  3. Thumb up 3

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    Oh, yes. I do not date women who are younger than me. I tend to go for women 3-5 years older, and I think I’ll stick to that for awhile. I did have a brief affair with a married twenty-nine year old, when I was nineteen. It just felt…weird? Slightly creepy? Maybe it was because her daughter was nine, so I was both ten years younger than her and ten years older than her daughter.
    My celebrity crushes are definitely older, though. First and foremost: Olivia Benson.
    But yea, I’ve seen this happen. Most of my lesbian friends do not go after girls their age. I knew one twenty-three year old who was dating a fifty year old. That seemed a little…trophy wife-esque? Other than that, I find it normal.
    It’s weird because in the straight community girls are constantly told to date boys that are older than them because boys mature slower, and I’ve always wondered if the effect of being told that again and again when I was younger has been that I date girls that are older than me.
    Idk.

    • Thumb up 5

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      I’m a perpetual lurker, but I had to comment on this because you just summed up some of my first childhood inklings of my lesbian-ism (although, to be fair, I asked for a picture of a female lifeguard from the pool for Christmas when I was barely 4, so that should’ve been a tip-off to my parents). I also wouldn’t kick Kate Mulgrew out of bed for eating crackers… So glad to know I’m not the only one who had a minor Star Trek fetish!

        • Thumb up 2

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          OMG Gates McFadden yes. :)
          Fun thing to do, watch the Making of Labyrinth to see a short interview with a young Gates McFadden who was the dance choreographer for that movie. I had no idea!

        • Thumb up 1

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          YES! The day I discovered that my love for her and that movie grew 3x. Muppets + McFadden + Bowie + baby Jennifer Connelly = asfkglslsjdjfk

        • Thumb up 1

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          I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before. Just found the “Making of Labyrinth” on YouTube and plan to curl up with a cup of tea and watch it along with episodes of TNG once I take a study break (er, another one).

          May the gods of the queer-muppet-sci-fi universe bless you both!

          P.S. We should start a club.

  4. Thumb up 16

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    I’m so confused! I’m 40-something so should I be looking for 30-somethings who want to date “older” women, or should I be looking for someone 10 years older than me? Am I supposed to be the “older” woman or the one looking for the “older” woman?

  5. Thumb up 8

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    My wife is 20 years older than me and the people I have been/am attracted to are almost always at least 12+ years older than I am at the time. This made me feel so much less weird!

  6. Thumb up 6

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    I’m 22 and most of my crushes are at least 40: Tilda, Katey Sagal, Patti Smith, Sue Perkins. Recently, I’ve really developed a thing for Andrea Mitchell.

    I want to be with a woman who’s been places.

  7. Thumb up 12

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    Remember the time when Miles told Rose on Golden Girls that (i’m paraphrasing here) “beauty in a young woman is an accident of nature but when an older woman is beautiful it’s earned/magical/eternal.” Yes/No?

    That is how I feel about older women so Angela Basset will always be my #1.

  8. Thumb up 8

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    it’s kind of ridiculous how much better this article is making me feel about my age; the last person i dated is ten years younger than me, and i adore them still, but it was really difficult to deal with both the realities of the different places we’re at in our lives, and my insecurity about being, you know, a crone…so here’s to trying to be less insecure about that!

  9. Thumb up 9

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    Oh thank gull! This article and comments could not be more timely or reassuring to me. I have a first date (first first date in like 6 years y’all. Omgdontfreakoutdontthrowup)) next week with a woman who is 9 years older – I don’t think she knows how old I am but Internet sleuthing is easy and totally not creepy at all, AMIRIGHT- and I was just lamenting to my straight friend today at lunch how probably Hottie won’t go for it with me because of the age diff. Thank you lawd for uplifting me!

    …now who wants to give me first date advice? I’m waaaay out of practice

  10. Thumb up 4

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    One aspect that has yet to be mentioned is children. Straight men often will date younger women (and marry and procreate with) younger women because they want biological children.

    If queers enter into relationships long term (or otherwise), wanting children isn’t always a given and so this can mean a lot more freedom when it comes to age spread and ages. Being 34 and wanting to be a parent with a partner who is 50 is really different than being 34 and just wanting to be in a relationship. Of course, I am speaking in broad strokes and there are certainly examples people can post that do not follow my logic.

    I’m a parent and I do know a few lesbian and straight couples with 15 yr age spreads and children, it is rare. Most of the queer couples I know with large age spreads do not have children together…maybe from a previous relationship…but not with one another.

    Since I am in the throes of parenthood now, the queer couples we know have young kids too and they are roughly the same age (within 5yrs, which I don’t think of a difference at all).

  11. Thumb up 2

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    It’s true. I have a crush on a few older (married to a man, with kids) women in my meditation class. There’s definitely something alluring about older women. Though I tend to be mostly attracted to women my age, it’s still nice to dream.

  12. Thumb up 8

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    I’m one of the youngest members of an extremely multigenerational street band, and at music festival/band conventions I always end up awkwardly crushing on older musicians. Thirtyish musical ladies with badass instrumental skills, a wild wardrobe carefully assembled across decades, and a few cool tattoos just make me melt.

    I look forward to aging, in part because I’m genderqueer and observation of folks in my family indicates that I’ll probably get at least a little more facial hair and a deeper voice as I age even if I don’t take any hormones. Plus my mom has a white skunk stripe in her hair and I’m really hoping I’ll inherit that.

  13. Thumb up 3

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    I dated someone who was 10 years older than me once. I figured out our age difference before our first date because her high school graduation year was on Facebook. I remember thinking “Oh my god… I was in fourth grade when she graduated high school!

  14. Thumb up 1

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    totally fell in love with a 30 year old as someone who is barely legal. this validates me hahahahha. though to be honest, she looked my age.. and she was the only one I fell in love with outside of my age range. I guess to me age is just a number. I really like the emotional maturity and stability that more mature women have vs young women who have a tendency to be very insecure and unpredictable

  15. Thumb up 5

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    I think older women look amazing. I’ve always wondered why women want to dye their hair when they get older, natural gray hair is SO pretty. I totally relate to having a crush on an older lesbian, my english teacher is so cute and smart.

  16. Thumb up 5

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    I love the idea that having a broader vision of beauty can make us more accepting of our own aging. God grant me the fortune and grace to age like Emmylou Harris! She’s more of a style icon/heroine than a crush for me, since she’s straight and, yes, a wee bit too old for me. (I’m 25.) But she is in her 60s, is absolutely gorgeous, and has the most amazing hair. Natural white or gray hair can be stunning on someone with the confidence to pull it off.

  17. Thumb up 25

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    Speaking as one of the “older women” who frequents this site, I can assure you of the accuracy of this. There were a number of jokes made at Camp about the “Golden Girls”. About the “older lesbians”. I’ll leave you with the same words I shared with a few of the adorable baby campers: It’s true. We’re older. But with age comes experience. We know “things”. Lots of “things”. And I’m not talking about things you’ve heard about. Or read about. Or even fantasized about. I’m talking about shit your brains haven’t even conceived of yet.

  18. Thumb up 3

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    ‘Answers provided to questions about the attractiveness of humans at various ages apparently lead to some interesting results within the “LGBT population” (although I can assume due to my familiarity with this fantastic world of ours that they’re probably just referring to Ls and Gs and maybe Bs and didn’t account for the fact that “transgender” is not a sexual orientation)’

    But if they selected a random group of people and asked them a bunch of questions – among them, whether they identify as ‘LGBT’ – instead of rounding up a specific group of ‘LGBT’ people and asking them questions – chances are there are at least as many Bs as Ls and Gs in the survey since, statistically, there are just as many, if not more Bs in the general population? I guess I’m just trying to be optimistic.

  19. Thumb up 2

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    This is really great to hear!! Anti-aging sucks, I’ve always hated the term, the commercials, it’s all BS. I’m glad we’re more open-minded. For later in life queers it’s a very good thing!

  20. Thumb up 8

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    But, wait, what does it say about me if I currently have a small crush on someone ~8 years older but who honestly looks as if she’s the same age as me (24)? Am I a stereotypical gay lady, or am I an anti-aging prick?

    Whatever, Allure can go f*** itself, I don’t care. She’s so cute, y’all. And that totally trumps everything else.

  21. Thumb up 7

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    I skipped a few grades really early in my life, so people in my grade and my “age group” are, on average, 2-3 years older than me. Add to that the fact that I’m actually a grumpy old cat at heart, and suddenly every other crush I get seems wildly inappropriate.

  22. Thumb up 6

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    Oh hells yes, I’m 24 and my girlfriend is 49 and she is so hot. Sometimes people don’t know what to do with that information – when we’re out in public, people will ask if she’s my teacher or my aunt, or sometimes straight men will wink at her like she’s done well for herself (maybe because she’s a boi and I’m femme so it juuust fits into their heteronormative paradigm). When things get weird I like to play the “how old was I when she had done ____ in her life?” game, and then watch people squirm when the answer is “not born yet”. (i.e. moved into her first apartment, dated someone for five years, graduated college.)

      • Thumb up 3

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        My sex drive entirely revolves around her right now. Kind of a problem. I just can’t find anyone else with such amazing curls and curves.

        And yes, space suits, and space guns, and jean jackets, and red heels, and Cleopatra costumes.

      • Thumb up 2

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        You know Bra, while I have some issues with the writing for the character River Song I ADORE Alex Kingston! :) She is so sassy and bad-ass. Looks good in everything pretty much.

        And yup, her pistols are Nerf Mavericks (I AM GEEKASUARUS REX)!

        • Thumb up 2

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          Shelby, my dream is to steal the character of River Song from Steven “can’t write a full-rounded female character to save his life” Moffat and write her an awesome spin-off webseries about her kicking ass by herself all the time.

          Alex Kingston is the best. Bi archaeologist in Doctor Who, lesbian archaeologist in Upstairs, Downstairs – my dream is to meet her and tell her “If you ever want to research being a queer archaeologist, here’s my number…”

  23. Thumb up 6

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    Another point to add to the conversation:

    I find queer older women tend to be more lively/strong/active than most straight women of equivalent age. I always thought this was because straight women in most western cultures are (subconsciously or not) beaten over the head with the idea that they’re pretty much useless and unattractive after they’ve married and had kids (which explains the obsession with youth.)

    In the queer community, however, a partner and children aren’t seen as an end goal for women. If they want to have that life, sweet! If not, also sweet! It spreads the subconscious message that women are worth more than the families they can create. This may translate into more hope/activity in later years and the mindset in the queer women community that women are amazing, interesting and capable no matter what age because a woman’s success doesn’t automatically end at menopause/when the children leave the house. That continuation of hope/passion/activity leads to more women being attracted to/respecting older women and it creates this amazing cycle of acceptance and passion.

    Does that make sense? It makes sense to me. Just something to add to the conversation. :)

    Also older women are frickin’ sexy.

  24. Thumb up 1

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    I think I have had maybe 2 crushes ever that were younger than me, and one of those is less than a year younger than me so we’re pretty much the same age. All others were on women who were 5-17 years older.

  25. Thumb up 3

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    Do you ladies who have crushes on older women also have the be/do complex? My crushes on older women definitely have that complex going on but some are just “Damn you just have too much sexy/power *Angela Basset*”

  26. Thumb up 3

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    Also, wrinkles? You know those delicate lines that appear more prominently when they smile/laugh *cue picture of Rachel Maddow*, or talk *cue picture of Andrea Gibson*, or just making a face *cue picture of certain professors*. Ugh so attractive. Just putting it out there because my friends always make fun of me for this and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds wrinkles to be attractive.

  27. Thumb up 1

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    Aaaand bam! Add another stereotype to the list in this pet-filled-vegan-feminist-may/december household!

    Really though, am I the only one with a SERIOUS crush on Jessica Lange? 60’s never looked so good!

  28. Thumb up 4

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    I have to say my smallish list just to say I said it.
    I Like:
    Sigourney Weaver
    Olivia Benson
    Kate Mulgrew
    Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary Season 4! loved the kiss)
    Bridget Regan (Legend Of The Seeker, Kahlan)
    Tabrett Bethell (Legend Of The Seeker, Cara)
    Lisa Edelstein
    Jennifer Morrison
    Emma Thompson
    Lana Parrilla
    River Song (as previously stated)
    Too Many come to mind of Beautiful…*sigh*

  29. Thumb up 2

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    I couldn’t agree more. I am 21 and I’m involved with a woman who is 31. 10 years would seem like so much more if we were a straight couple, but we don’t even notice the age difference, unless she’s teasing me about being a kid :P

  30. Thumb up 2

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    I agree with this 100 %!

    When lifetime had that movie “an unexpected love” (not that great of a movie, but since it was the first lesbian movie I had ever seen and I was 12, it has a special place in my heart) on TV, I was in love with Wendy Crewson.. still kind of am lol.

    I would date older in a heart beat. <3

  31. Thumb up 2

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    I have always been attracted to older ladies; and I am not ashamed to admit that at the age of fifteen/sixteen I was crushing on ladies in their sixties. (In fact, I still crush on those ladies).

    Age comes with its own very unique type of sexiness. It’s this combination of wisdom, experience, and confidence that I think really does it for me.

    Now, if Helen Mirren wants a twenty-one year old girlfriend, I’m her lady. ;)

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