I'm 55 and divorced. Have the rules of dating and sex changed?

Suzi Godson says that older men tend to converge on profiles of good-looking women aged 20 to 24.

Q. I’m a recently-divorced man aged 55 and I am back on the dating scene. 

My younger colleagues say the rules of dating and sex have changed and I’m more likely to meet someone online. 

They have also said that, generally, sex seems to happen on date three — the last time I was out there in my 20s there were no rules.

A. What you have heard is right — much of today’s dating takes place online. However, it’s important to remember that although apps such as Tinder present the illusion of kid-in-a-sweetshop sexual abundance, it is not a simple dial-a-date.

Behind each of those screen profiles lies a sentient human being who requires effortful communication, intellectual stimulation, affection, authenticity, and respect before she “chooses” whether she wants to have sex with you.

Online dating doesn’t work for everyone.

Recent research showed that a third of people who are signed up to dating sites have never had a date with anyone they met online.

One of the problems for older men is that their online dating preferences tend to be specific, limited, and predictable.

In 2014, Christian Rudder, the founder of the American online dating site OkCupid, conducted analyses that revealed that men of your age tend to converge on profiles of good-looking women aged 20 to 24.

Rudder’s data also shows that younger women prefer men who are roughly the same age as them until they reach 40, when they start dating downwards, too.

By the time a woman is 47, she is primarily looking at the profiles of 39-year-olds.

The fact that men and women in their 50s don’t want to date each other might explain why a 2014 survey found that 82% of singles aged over 50 were not dating anyone.

Of the 18% who were, most said they had met their partner through friends or family.

The older men get, the more women outnumber them, so if you make an effort to broaden your social circle, attend more events, join clubs, and get yourself out and about, you have a better chance of finding what you are looking for.

The three-date rule does seem to be common practice, which is no bad thing — it’s a good idea to get to know someone before you go any further. 

The most important thing to know about dating now is that condoms are non-negotiable.

Data shows that between 2000 and 2009, 8% of new HIV diagnoses were in people aged over 50.

In the same period, cases of syphilis in 45 to 64-year-olds rose from 52 in 2000, to 503 in 2009.

There was also a 22-fold increase in the incidence of syphilis in men and a 93% rise in the diagnoses of gonorrhoea in women, which is particularly worrying because certain strains of gonorrhoea are now antibiotic-resistant.

Older women are often sheepish about insisting sexual partners use a condom, something men aged between 45 and 59 are unlikely to volunteer of their own accord.

In the ‘US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior’ (2010), more than 90% of men over 50 didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex with a date, and 70% didn’t when they had sex with a stranger.

Apps may have transformed the dating scene but the trusty old condom is still the only way to put a barrier between you and an STI.

* Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com 


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