But evolving gender roles in modern society have led to more equality between the sexes, challenging this antiquated notion for men.
Erika Ettin is an online dating coach and founder of A Little Nudge who for the past four and a half years has been helping people navigate sites like and Our Time, providing advice on profiles and pictures, and in some cases even conducting searches and responding to messages.
Her clients range in age from 22 to 72 — with more on the older side.
According to a survey by dating website Elite Singles, 20-something men actually have a preference for older women three to six years older than themselves.
The biological theory has always been men prefer younger women because they are likely to bear more children, while women prefer older men because they offer resources and stability.
NBC aired a reality dating show this summer -- "Age of Love" -- that pitted women in their 20s against women in their 40s in a battle for the heart of tennis star Mark Philippoussis.
Meanwhile, online dating sites like Go urge older women who seek younger men to "get what you want." Such pairings can and do work.
Ageism is like the elephant in the room when it comes to online dating. I have found that 95 percent of my clients over age 50 tell me that the other gender doesn’t age as well as theirs. Although plenty of men out there are looking for someone their own age, and some women think men their own age are too old, it is more often men who are looking for someone younger.
In my experience as a coach, people assume that others their own age aren’t as in shape, as financially successful as younger people. But you know, everyone ages, everyone gets wrinkles, everyone has baggage. They have no problem telling me, I want a woman 20 years younger than I am.
Moreover, says Winter, women have experienced a significant financial and status shift over the past half-century.