Why am I still attracted to teenagers now that I’m well into my twenties?  Jose, 27

Jose, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, you are still attracted to teenagers because they have more years of fertility to offer than older women.  Their faces are rounder; as women age they develop more pronounced chins.   Moreover teenagers are most likely to have perfect hour-glass figures, as evidenced with by their hips being exactly 70% wider than their waists.  As women age, this symbol of fertility is also prone to disappear.  

Interestingly, chimpanzee males prefer mating with females who have already established themselves as successful mothers.  Adolescent chimps are routinely shunned when a tried and true mother presents herself to a potentially horny male.  Human males, though forever attracted to the youngest women, have created legal and cultural restrictions.  Most of these are rooted in considerations connected to power and ownership.

Laws concerning the age of consent vary.  In colonial  America the age of consent was 10 while today the worldwide average is 14.  These days in America we are obsessed with tracking down pedophiles.  Considering that often of our teenagers are fertile and interested in sex years before the contemporary age of consent (18), they are able to wield both legal as well as erotic power.  They can tempt an “older” guy like you and then when they’ve had enough they can call in the law and report child molestation.  

If you’ve followed recent stories in the media, you’ll have noted an increasing incidence of older women “taking advantage” of younger men, often in the form of school teachers and their youthful students.  Recently some researchers have revisited this dynamic and “discovered” that many teen boys consider it a notch in the belts to be regarded as desirable by older women.  Ultimately age can be erotic, both in captivating someone older and luring someone younger.  Just beware, if teenagers are your fancy, we live in very repressive times.  If something goes wrong, you could become a registered sex offender!    

Why am I attracted to older women?  Is this because some of my two first sexual experiences were with older women?  Did I get imprinted?  Do our early experiences determine our fetishes or are our fetishes genetic (and there from day one)?  Mikel, 20

Mikel, for a teenaged boy, older women can be pretty captivating.  First off they know their own bodies and second, they’re comfortable enough with male sexuality, that they may seem to know their way around yours.  Being the beneficiary of such a dynamic may have caused you to feel forever hooked on older women.

In some societies like the Mangaia in Polynesia, it has been routine for older women to initiate the young men and older men to initiate the young women.  No doubt these practices have afforded the sharing of much sexual expertise.  The 19th century Oneidans with their practices of coitus reservatus (where men were trained to withhold their ejaculate during intercourse) demanded training from the older more experienced community members.  Otherwise unseasoned youth might have caused untold numbers of accidental pregnancies in this 500-person utopian group marriage.

As for fetishes, there are all sorts of theories as for why they emerge.  While early childhood imprinting is a compelling idea, certainly not everyone who  is paddled or whipped as a child finds this erotic as an adult.  Considering that women in our society tend to outlive men  by about seven years,  the May-December pairings of older women with younger men may ultimately serve both parties well!  

Can I find happiness with a plumber?  Can he plumb the depths of my soul?  Isadora, 54

Isadora, it sounds like who your partner is professionally matters to you.  Perhaps you’ve largely involved yourself with businessmen and men in the creative arts and this plumber is a bit of a relationship oxymoron to you.  You may wonder how his mind works and if it will sync well with how your mind works.  With the panoply of professions that exist in today’s world, you wonder what a man’s profession might reveal about his character--and ultimately his potential as a mate and a companion.

Ultimately this is a very contemporary concern.  The original humans were all hunter-gatherers.  Considering that these primordial bands shared food, all that mattered was to be in a band where at least one of the males was a good hunter.  Moreover, it didn’t matter who he was partnered with in that all band members would gain access to his catches.  Later as humans began to domesticate plants and animals, and private property emerged,  the women would have wanted to be partnered with the best farmers!

These days women’s professions matter, too.  While in the past it was standard for a man to be the primary if not sole support of a family, these days many men (and women) seek a partnership relationship.  As for being partnered with a plumber, no doubt he has the skills to keep your pipes very clean...

I was in a 6-year on and off messy relationship and I can say I was in love. The times we broke up I dated other guys but never felt a connection or felt it would get further than just dating.. we broke up 2 years ago for good and although my heart was broken, I can honestly say I no longer have feelings for him...I meet guys that treat me like a woman should be treated, but my feelings aren't there.  It's become frustrating for me because I want to love again but always seem to look for flaws even when they're not there. It's become like a habit to push myself away from men.. What do I do? What is wrong with me?  Diana, 36

Diana, you seem to be struggling with the brain chemistry of romantic love.  Each time you and your former lover got back together, it’s likely your brain chemistry profited by a rise in dopamine levels.  I imagine your break-ups were uncomfortably bereft of dopamine which causes a heady feeling with intense focus on a single beloved.  Now with that relationship gone for good the thinking side of your brain is in a nasty battle with the feeling side.  You know how dangerous it is to be involved with the wrong man and yet you so miss the dopamine lift that getting back together with him caused.

It does take a special leap of faith to allow yourself to “fall in love.”   In the midst of love, it can feel like the reason for being alive.  And without it, as you seem to be, living can feel colorless and dull.  So, what do you do with yourself until a new someone gets under your skin?  Exercise, eat well and cultivate a community of friends.  Avoid making yourself so vulnerable to romantic attention.   

Finally, consider that American culture is a very adolescent culture in the world of romantic love. We fixate on the heart throbbing intensity of new love rather than older more mature cultures that enjoy the sweetness of family and long term relationships.  For the future do the best you can to allow romantic love a place in your life without having it so invade your sense of wellness that you feel empty without it.