But high-profile Hollywood couples like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins (12 years her junior) -- who met and began dating while filming an on-screen romance in the 1988 movie "Bull Durham" -- have proven that life can indeed imitate art when it comes to matters of the heart.
"When I finally found out how much younger he was, I was a little shocked," says Kimberly Schmitz, a 34-year-old communications and public relations director in Tucson, Arizona, of her now-fianc, Bobby Kern, 25, owner of a feed store and pet food distribution company in the same city.
"(But) he is such an amazing man that I decided to let his actions speak more than his statistics. He is the most mature and sensitive man I have ever dated." For Kern, the attraction is mutual.
The rest of my team were married, living with someone, or dating, so they all made up fake personas.
I was single, and thought, “Well, I have to do this anyway, so why don’t I do it for real? I got an avalanche of responses, and to my surprise, the majority of them were from younger men. ” and I’ve been very happily dating younger men ever since. I have never wanted to be married, I’ve never wanted children, and I don’t want to be in a relationship in the conventional sense.
A 2003 study by AARP revealed that 34 percent of all women over 40 in the survey were dating younger men, and 35 percent preferred it to dating older men. Quite frankly, his mother made it so impossible," Winter says of the six-year relationship, which inspired her book.
"Societal attitudes have definitely changed," says Susan Winter, 52, co-author of "Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance" -- and she would know. "But (that kind of discrimination) would not be allowable now." Hollywood in particular has defied the ageism stereotype, with celebrities like Madonna and Demi Moore marrying significantly younger men (a 10- and 15-year age gap, respectively, with director Guy Ritchie and actor Ashton Kutcher), and the public has come to accept it.
"Now we have choices." But these relationships aren't always portrayed in a positive light.
Terms like "cougar" (slang for an older woman seeking a younger man) depict the woman as a predator, rather than an empowered, independent and loving person.
Jeremy Abelson, a self-styled dating impresario who organized the Natural Selection Speed Date event that paired wealthy bachelors with beautiful women this past February in New York City, can see the appeal.