In response to my article of 14 September ('The Rise of the Male'), seven women readers who have passed the age of 30 wrote to me with serious objections.
I claimed that, as women get older, fewer men want to have sex with them, and that the opposite is true for men. T points out that 'women are looking better than ever for longer than ever. We've been using moisturisers, exercising, eating better and having fun for years now - all that contributes to an attractiveness and vitality that your sour little article, with its invitation to pessimism and bitterness, would sap, given half a chance.'
Like T, several other readers knew women with younger partners, as I do myself, quite a few of whom have become both more beautiful and actually have better figures in their 30s or 40s than in their earlier lives. C adds to this by pointing out what gargoyles us middle-aged men are: 'Have you actually looked at 30-plus men lately? I have, and I see short men, bald men, paunchy men, men with receding hairlines... the list is endless. I would rather shoot myself than go out with any of the above, and if they don't find me attractive, frankly, I take that as a compliment!' Fair enough.
The difficulties of youthful nubility and its superficiality was also a theme. R wrote: 'In my teens and early twenties it mattered to me immensely that I was popular and attractive - I was needy. Male attention felt like a lottery that I had no control over. Now I enjoy more time alone and enjoy time with a few men and women who bring happiness to my life. I don't get hit on by sleaze buckets as much; if I do I can brush them off without creating a palaver.' She ends with the dark warning that I should be less simplistic, 'or you might find yourself writing for Loaded, and you wouldn't want that, would you?!' Er, no, definitely not.
M argues that her maternal associations make her attractive: 'Women take on the role of mother figure, whether it be for children or adult men. The Bridget Jones archetype is a fool. Rather than seeking Mr Darcy (few, if any, exist) she should emulate the mixed archetypes of sexual siren and mother. Then she would have 'em flocking at whatever age.'
To all my female readers aged 30 to 50, I apologise if what I wrote seemed bleak and depressing, not to mention, as several of my correspondents said, misogynistic. I should have put more emphasis on the allures of the modern older woman and made more effort to be positive.
My intention was merely to draw attention to an important but often ignored reality: that, as men get older, the number of potential partners expands, while the opposite holds true for women. Unfortunately, I must have given a very different impression, if T's reaction was representative: 'You may think all single women over 30 might as well hang themselves... but your gleeful wishful thinking is badly outdated.'
· Next week: why do we enjoy particular kinds of sex?