So my dear friend is engaged to a younger man.
Shock! Horror! Consternation!
The nickname started with him. He’s a med student and looks like Doogie Howser MD (but is too young to know who that is!) and is young, so he became Doogie and naturally, she became Coogie. Short for Cougar – the slang for predatory older females dating younger toyboys.
Except she’s the least predatory person I know.
Except maybe when she’s on the hunt for American candy…
Why do we find it weird, uncomfortable and joke worthy when older women date younger men, but barely raise an eyelid when yet another eligible 29 year old Christian guy gets engaged to a 19 year old?
Well wikipedia in it’s wisdom says, basically, that age disparity is normally accepted with the male as older because men want to procreate and women want material security. So males seek a young fertile female for baby making, and women look for a guy with a job and a house for homemaking. So much for romance! 😉
And thus, in many cultures, over time, it’s become normal for older men to date younger women. But NOT the other way round…
What about from a Christian perspective? Is it in some way “wrong” for women to marry younger men? Will they not be able to “lead” their wives satisfactorily due to age difference?
Well, putting aside the many erroneous preconceptions that can accompany the word “lead”, Paul’s advice to Timothy is to not let his congregation despise him cos he’s young. Ie, you’re in charge of people older than you, and that’s ok! (1 Timothy 4:12) Timothy’s ability to lead is not determined by his age. Interestingly, the Bible has nothing to say on age and “leadership” in marriage…
But the Bible does contribute useful guiding principles on this issue.
Firstly, God’s word acknowledges that women like sex (check out Song of Songs if you’re surprised by this), and is much more comfortable with this idea than our culture seems to be. We seem to think if a woman has somehow lured or coerced a younger man into a relationship, it’s because she wants sex. Oh no! How awkward and unChristian!!
Well I’m a Christian, and I’m sexually attracted to younger men. And some my age, and some older ones. My celebrity crush is Alan Rickman, so you can’t say age matters to me! 😉
The Bible is not ashamed of the idea women like sex, and experience attraction, it doesn’t see a need to make jokes about that… Why do we?
If women desire sex, it doesn’t make them unnaturally predatory. Nor does it mean men are predators either! Both options are possible, and happen, but not as a direct implication of experiencing sexual desire.
What of the other two reasons for age disparity being normal as older male/younger female? Does the Bible have anything to say?
Well firstly, the Bible reveals that in the New Covenant, the emphasis is not on physical but spiritual fruitfulness. Jesus leaves his followers with the instruction to go and make disciples, not babies. Not that procreation is not a purpose of marriage, but that the purpose of following Jesus is not marriage.
So can you marry someone older and possibly infertile? Sure! Because your task is disciple making, not baby making. Which is coincidentally also a relief to the married and infertile… But I’ve written on that topic more fully and sensitively elsewhere on this blog…
And secondly, the Bible speaks to the issue of material security. This is not a surprise in the New Covenant, it’s been the deal since the beginning. God’s word is more precious than gold (Ps 19:10), a wife of good character is more precious than rubies (Prov 31:10) and our hope is in God, not our riches (Prov 18:10-11). So do you need an older husband with a job so you’ll be materially secure? Well sure, people need to work for a living (2 Thess 3), but our security, confidence, hope and superannuation plan is in God and His kingdom. So, no! You can marry a young student if you like (hooray!), so have at it!
What would happen if young Christian men considered righteous women older than them?
What would happen if Christian women considered younger men who may not “tick all the boxes” but follow Christ and are growing in him?
Maybe I’d get a date for my birthday…! 😉