Are women over 30 less attractive?

Emma Leaning
I just turned 39. And while I can’t say I’m thrilled by that, I’m bored of tired ideas about aging women.
Emma Leaning

I just turned 39. And while I can’t say I’m thrilled by that, I’m bored of tired ideas about aging women.

Full disclosure, the older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve felt seen in society. When I was younger, I got chatted up whereas I can’t remember the last time someone nervously approached me or held eye contact long enough to make me blush. I’m not actively seeking attention; it’s just nice to know you’re hot.

Are women over 30 less attractive?
Hu Jun / SHINE

As I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I wish for a world that celebrates women for who they are at every stage of life.

Growing up my worth was placed in my looks rather than who I was. Now I no longer feel attractive; I no longer feel of value — meaning the issue may have more to do with self-esteem than years on the planet or the love I receive from Shane. But a comment I read online suggests not:

“Women over 30 are less attractive. Fact.”

Reading this I felt a cocktail of anger, disbelief and sadness. What a grossly misinformed thing to say! Or is it?

I reached out to friends for counterarguments, but the first response spoke to a hard truth. If attraction is about sex and sex is about reproduction, then younger women are more desirable because on average they’re better at making babies. It’s a fair point and one that aligns with basic biology. But I take issue with it.

Why should motherhood be the primary determinant of a woman’s desirability, especially when many delay having kids or opt out altogether? If you’re sleeping with someone purely to reproduce, you’re missing out on a fulfilling experience comprised of emotional intimacy, shared pleasure and mutual respect. When you reduce a woman’s sexuality down to her ability to make babies, you reduce the woman into a baby-making machine.

Still, we like looking at pretty things, and the media is unhelpful when it comes to age. Walk around any big city and look up. Looking down at you from a billboard will be a 20-something-year-old. It doesn’t stop at advertising. Popular culture is packed with sexualized references to youth. OK, you don’t have to watch the shows or listen to the songs, but they are omnipresent, whereas age is rarely celebrated.

Even the language we use around women is demeaning. One subtle but not insignificant issue is the common reference to girls rather than women in music. It sustains the infantilization of adult females and reinforces power imbalances. It’s lame. Why can’t society handle a woman?

Thankfully, I’ve found that life doesn’t always imitate art.

“I wouldn’t go below 30 as a 39-year-old male. The older I get, the more I appreciate experience, loyalty, care and maturity. What do I have in common with a woman more than 10 years younger than me? Not much. I think happiness exists in my own generation.” (Ben)

“Women under 30 aren’t attractive. Appeal is about more than outer appearance. Maturity, intellect and life experience are what matters.” (Mark)

“A positive thing about aging is that you crystallize into the real you. You care less what others think. If growing up is the same as discovering what’s important, I think that’s attractive.” (Jaap)

“If you like who you are when you’re alone, if you’re happy with whom you see in the mirror, that will show in your smile and people on a similar wavelength will find you attractive, be it age 30, 50 or beyond.” (Chris)

As Chris says, what matters is how women feel about themselves. And of course, I came to you about aging.

“I have enjoyed and still enjoy getting older. I’m less tolerant of people and things that don’t uplift me, and I care less about what people think. I value myself differently.” (Lorraine)

“At 51, I can feel the young girl of my youth, tearful, vulnerable and unsettled. But I still feel gorgeous!” (Nila)

“I can’t believe my age. But as long as the love of my life thinks I’m the most gorgeous one in the room, I don’t care.” (Ans)

“I’m going to be 55 this year, and I don’t care who sees me as less sexy. My feminist principals have carried me through. At this age, I am choosing myself first.” (Tonye)

“I’m more grounded and confident as I age. I enjoy sexuality more, because I care less about how other people do it or how feeling attractive should be. I feel freer to take my time to enjoy the sensuality of living. I see less reasons to deny myself pleasurable things.” (Bojun)

Speaking of sexuality, the University of Texas conducted a review of existing research on female desire. It found that women in their 40s and 50s often experience an increase in sexual drive and satisfaction. The findings reflect a lot of what’s said above. Things like improved self-confidence, emotional stability and a greater understanding of our own needs can add to heightened sexual satisfaction and libido in midlife. What’s not seductive about that?

As I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I’m wishing for a society that empowers women to feel confident in their skin rather than worrying about how tight it is. Only when we challenge misconceptions and reject negative representations, can we create a world that celebrates women for who they are at every stage of life.

And if you can’t handle a woman’s age, she wouldn’t want you anyway.

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