Harry Styles sparks trend for cougar dating as one in five men say they'd date a woman 15 years older
14:02 GMT, 13 July 2012
When it was first revealed that the then 17-year-old Harry Styles was dating 33-year-old Caroline Flack, the world was aghast that a grown woman should date a man so many years her junior.
Of course, part of the shock factor with the Styles-Flack situation arose from the fact that Styles was not yet out of his teens.
But still, history has shown that while a man dating a woman many years younger is considered the norm, for a younger man to date an older woman draws comment – most of it negative.
Paving the way: Harry Styles was 18 when he dated 33-year-old Caroline Flack/ While it caused outrage at the time, it helped normalise so-called 'cougar dating'
A lot of Flack: Caroline had to face venom from fans of her younger boyfriend who were enraged that she should be dating their teen heartthrob
But stars like Demi Moore, who dated Ashton Kutcher, 12 years her junior, and Madonna, who has a long history of dating much younger men, have gradually normalised so-called 'cougar dating.
And indeed, despite Harry Style's relationship with Caroline Flack causing initial outrage, it seems the unusual situation has paved the way for others to do the same.
One in five men asked what age gap they would consider when lookign for a girlfriend now say they would date a woman 15 years older.
The survey of 500 men, conducted by Roxy Palace revealed that 19 per cent said that they would not be bothered an age-gap of 15 years. However, the vast majority drew the line at a two-decade gap with only four per cent saying that the 20 year age difference would not faze them.
Just under a third said they would be happy with a ten year age gap, a percentage which steadily increases as the age-gap decreases year by year.
Normalised: A 15-year age gap, the difference between Demi Moore and her ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher, is more appealing to men now thanks to the trend for female stars to date younger men
A majority (53 per cent) responded that an age difference of seven years was the largest acceptable age gap which they would consider when dating.
A one, two and three year age gap scored a 98 per cent approval rating with the public, with a four and five year difference scoring 89 per cent and 74 per cent respectively. Just under two thirds (62 per cent) approved of a six year age difference.
A spokesman from RoxyPalace.com commented: 'Celebrity relationships like that of Harry Styles and Caroline Flack have brought what was considered a taboo subject into the public arena.
'Even though these relationships with large age gaps are becoming more common place there is still going to remain a stigma around them.
'What's more, women who date younger men are often seen as more predatory than men who date younger women – the fact they are called “cougars” speaks for itself.'
One 25 year old male who took part in the survey commented: 'Older women are just that bit more experienced than younger ones and I think for a lot of young men the thought of going out with an older woman is an exciting one.'
However, one 43 year old woman responded: 'It is an utter myth that older women want younger men. They are self-centred, immature and are obsessed about only one thing. They seem to think that just because you are an older woman you are somehow so starved of intimacy that you sleep with the first guy who pays you any attention.'