Well, the obvious answer is "because they can". But makes young women so attractive to older men? I mean, sure, their bodies are firmer, but why is this so fantastically important? Older men don't have a great deal in common with younger women.
It can be enormously costly to start a new family in midlife, both emotionally and financially. Well, perhaps the answer is fear. He cannot pretend he's still 30 when he's waking up next to a year-old woman.
A younger partner is life-affirming. She helps to stave off his own fear of aging and mortality. If a man can wake up next to a woman a decade or two younger, he can convince himself that he is still young.
Interestingly, because we women have "internalised the male gaze", the opposite can be true for us. We don't see ourselves reflected in our partner, per se; we see ourselves reflected in our partner's eyes. If our partner sees us as young and hot, we see ourselves as young and hot. If he sees us as aging and undesirable, we internalise that, too. A man is only as young as the woman he feels, but a woman is only as young as a man sees her to be.
We women assimilate men's attitudes and channel them into our own panic about getting older, so our fear of aging is far more visible. But perhaps men fear aging just as much, or more than, us. And perhaps if men were less afraid of their own mortality, they wouldn't gravitate towards younger women, and older women would retain their social value. Now, I'm not saying that every May-December relationship is born of a fear of death, any more than every other relationship is born of true compatibility.
But it is worth deconstructing the unconscious forces behind our choices, particularly when they impact so profoundly on self esteem and social status. If we all focused on accepting the finite nature of life, and of valuing every stage of our lives, perhaps we would find ourselves making different decisions.
We would certainly enhance the lives and relationships we have now, particularly the relationships with ourselves.
And it wouldn't be so shocking when a middle-aged man dates an older, rather than younger, woman. That would be a welcome change.