Half of men would have sex with a 21-year-old

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
February 14, 2020, 9:22 AM UTC

British men of all ages are happy to sleep with young partners – but not necessarily date them – while women prefer age-appropriate partners

When Keanu Reeves (55) was dating visual artist Alexandra Grant (46) many praised the rare example of a Hollywood star being in an age-appropriate relationship.

Nobody typifies the stereotype of the Hollywood ‘manther’ – a man who dates younger women – more than Leonardo DiCaprio (45). The actor has never dated a woman older than 25, despite having had eight girlfriends since he himself was that age.

There is no hard and fast rule on where the boundaries stand so YouGov RealTime decided to investigate, asking more than 18,000 Britons what age of partner they would be willing to sleep with, or enter into a relationship with.

People in their 30s are most widely desired

In news that will surprise no-one, the results show that men are far less restrained when it comes to age.

Half (49%) of all British men are willing to have sex with a 21-year-old, and three in ten are happy to sleep with an 18-year-old. Among British women these figures stand at just 15% and 6% respectively.

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Peak appeal is for a sexual partner in their thirties, however, with fully seven in ten men (69% to 71% of all age groups) saying they’d be happy to sleep with someone this age.

To put that in context, only 13% of adult men in Britain are themselves in their 30s, and only 33% are aged 25 to 49, so more than half of the men willing to sleep with people in their 30s are well outside that age range themselves.

For women the most appealing age is slightly higher, with sex partners aged from 35 to 44 the most widely desired. The peak is much lower than among men, however, with only 44% to 46% of women from all ages saying they’d want to sleep with someone in this range.

Both genders are more selective when it comes to the age of someone they would enter into a relationship with. For instance, while 69% to 71% of men from all age groups would be willing to have sex with someone in their 30s, this falls to between 55% and 57% for a relationship.

Likewise, while 44% to 46% of women would sleep with someone aged from 35 to 44, this falls to between 36% and 38% when it comes to dating them. The fact that the two sets of figures are so much closer together for women than they are for men shows that fewer women are willing to stray outside their preferred relationship age for the sake of a sexual dalliance.

Men may get older, but they are still willing to sleep with young partners

The results show that men are far more willing to stray from their own age range than women are. Specifically, they continue to be interested in having sex with younger women even as their own age ticks up.

For instance, while 92% of 30- to 39-year-old women would be willing to have sex with a 35-year-old partner, so too are 91% of men in their thirties.

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However, the majority of men in their sixties (57%) would also be willing to have sex with a 35-year-old. Among women in their sixties this figure is a mere 13%.

Far fewer Britons are willing to date much older than themselves.

From age 50 men become increasingly unwilling to want sex or a relationship with someone their own age

Some people are so uninterested in notions of age-appropriate relationships that they are genuinely unwilling to sleep with or be in a relationship with someone their own age.

Again, the culprits are primarily men, but age may actually be the bigger factor. Up until the age of 50 for men, and 60 for women, few people – generally less than 10% – wouldn’t date or sleep with someone their own age.

After these points, however, unwillingness to be with someone your own age starts to rise – rapidly in the case of men. Among men in their 60s, between 41% and 70% wouldn’t sleep with someone their own age, and between 28% and 53% wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone their age.

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This increase is much lower among women, and unlike men there is effectively zero difference in the sex versus relationship age preferences. Only between 19% and 35% of women in their late 60s wouldn’t sleep with or romance someone their own age.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here