According to the rule, for example, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22, while a 50-year-old’s dating partner must be at least 32 to not attract (presumed) social sanction. Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) asked men and women to identify the ages they would consider when evaluating someone for relationships of different levels of involvement.
People reported distinct age preferences for marriage; a serious relationship; falling in love; casual sex; and sexual fantasies. Based on the figures Buunk and colleagues (2000) provided (and thus the numbers are only informed approximations), I replotted their data superimposing the max and min age ranges defined by the half-your-age-plus-7 rule.
After 40, maximum age preferences for most categories remain lower than their own age.
The rule’s calculated minimum acceptable partner ages seem to fit men better than women.For example, this sample of 60-year-old men report that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable.But fantasies, of course, are not generally subject to public scrutiny and the rule is only designed to calculate what is socially acceptable —so this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule.Clooney has been scrutinized at times for dating younger women, though not consistently, and this pattern is nicely reflected in a graph of his own age, his partners’ ages, and the rule’s calculations for minimum and maximum acceptable ages.Only twice has he become involved with women whose ages were outside the rule’s guideline.The rule underestimates women’s reported preferences in their 20s, but the gap between reports of what is socially acceptable and the rule itself widen over time. Let’s take a look at Demi Moore, who at times has been criticized for dating men who differ substantially from her own age.