Can a cougar settle down with her catch?
Dating a younger man is the new black, but here's how to turn an age-gap fling into the real thing
Remember when famous women dated men old enough to be their fathers? It's 10 whole years since Catherine Zeta Jones married Michael Douglas. These days, any self-respecting woman wants 'em younger. Much younger.
Take Sam Taylor-Wood, for example. The 42-year-old artist recently became a celebrity when she hooked up with the leading man in Nowhere Boy, her movie about John Lennon. Aaron Johnson, the leading man in question, is 19.
Then there's Loose Woman Carol McGiffin, 49, who used to be married to Chris Evans. Carol now prefers the younger man - her fiance Mark is just 26.
These so-called 'cougars' tend to be seen as slightly mad women who are clinging onto their youth by, well, clinging onto youths. But what if a cougar and her toyboy actually rather like each other? Why should their age stand in the way?
Demi Moore is 16 years Ashton Kutcher's senior, and Denise Van Outen is seven years older than Lee Mead. Both couples seem well-suited, regardless of their age gaps. As for the much-marrid Joan Collins, she's finally found lasting marital harmony with a man who's 32 years her junior.
Non-celeb cougars are also making it work. Last year, 23% of British marriages were between older women and younger men. In the US, almost one-third of women aged 40 to 69 are dating men who are 10 or more years younger.
Can they go the distance? Here's why we think they can, plus some advice on making it work.
Why older women and younger men are a match made in Heaven
1. Beauty trumps youth
Youth is not attractive per se. An older woman who has confidence, poise and natural beauty will always outclass a less-attractive younger woman. Just ask Helen Mirren's young male fans.
Researchers recently put this theory to the test, and their results were outlines in New Scientist magazine. When men were shown pictures of attractive older women and ordinary younger women, they went for the older hottie in nearly every case.
2. Older women and younger men have compatible sex drives
Sexiness is not just in the eye of the beholder - it's in the hormones. Men's testosterone and sex drive tail off in their 40s. Women's sex hormone levels peak in their 30s and stay more or less level for the next 20 years - or longer if they use hormone replacements, some of which are proven aphrodisiacs.
3. Goodbye fertility, hello fun
Most women beyond their late 30s have 'been there, done that' with the fertility rollercoaster. They've either had their kids, didn't want any, or couldn't have any.
An older woman doesn't choose a man for his fatherly potential, and sex is no longer about having (or avoiding) kids. It's all about you and him, and sex is now purely for fun.
4. Older women are happier
Researchers at University College London have found that women thrive emotionally as they age, while men are happier while they're younger - making young men the perfect match for older women.
5. Younger men know how to live well on less money
A younger man can show a woman a good time without breaking the bank, or even the bed. The cougar/toyboy couple can cook together, go camping and watch DVDs, and they won't put each other under pressure to dress expensively and wear loads of make-up. That can be very liberating for a woman.
Next: The dos and don'ts of making it work