During a more traditional gender norm adhering generation, social roles pushed a specific agenda, limiting women’s access and opportunity. With minimal resources or choice, making survival a primary goal, our primitive brain kicks in and our biological and evolutionary drives go to work, narrowing down mate selection based on who will increase likeliness of survival and reproductive success.
Social norms, fed to a society through various forms of media and represented in language through praise, permittance and idealization, has reinforced the evolutionary drive that influences mate selection.
An older male partner, due to what he historically represents and is able to provide (financial stability, status, safety and in turn an increased likeliness of the survival of ones offspring) would appear as an ideal mate selection to a woman of any age. This of course greatly widened the dating age gap and pool selection for heterosexual males and limited that of heterosexual females.
In today’s more modern norm adhering society, women now have access to education and the profession of their choosing. Despite barriers still existing, many strides have been made for women’s rights that directly influence their independence, freedom of choice and in turn, what they seek in a partner and when/if they seek a relationship altogether. This is a clear demonstration of how social structures greatly influence human behavior, including mate selection that may otherwise be attributed to biology.
Social perceptions pertaining to the traditional image of a female as a homemaker continue to be challenged and redefined.
This however does not mean we as a culture have fully rid our expectations or ‘old brain’ perception of what is acceptable or ideal. You can observe this social ambiguity in the negative comments and gossip surrounding a couple such as Kate Beckinsale and Pete Davidson. A society who uses media as a platform to empower women and encourage a progressive society and at the same time expresses discomfort and uncertainty with a 45 year old woman’s intentions when choosing a 25 year old partner.
We as people are uncomfortable with change or the unfamiliar. Today is an age of change, and as we encourage the empowerment of women (and also men) it is reasonable to expect some resistance. As referenced in several theories of psychology, the ‘system’ will readjust to changes eventually and that will become the new normal until the next inevitable change occurs.