Women aged 50 are ‘too old to love’, says French author aged 50

Yann Moix might be sexist – but is he just saying what other men are thinking?

Yann Moix in 2013. Photograph: Francois Lo Presti/AFP/Getty Images

Yann Moix in 2013. Photograph: Francois Lo Presti/AFP/Getty Images

 

The 50-year-old French author Yann Moix has sparked a mixture of outrage and amusement over his claims that he could not love a 50-year-old woman.

In a Q&A with Marie Claire magazine, the prize-winning author said that it would be impossible to love a woman of his own age, and that he would be incapable of it.

It wasn’t that they disgust him, he said kindly, it’s just that women his own age are invisible to him, he explained. “I prefer the body of young women, that’s all. End of story. I don’t want to lie. The body of a 25-year-old is extraordinary. The body of a 50-year-old is not extraordinary at all.”

On French radio, Moix said he would not apologise, adding that 'we are not responsible for our tastes, our penchants, our inclinations'

But it’s not all devastating news for women over 25: the dimunitive Moix, who has a face that might kindly be described as “characterful”, did say that when he is 60 he might be able to love a woman of 50, and that he might even now be capable of falling for a woman of 40.

He also told the magazine he prefers Asian women. “It’s perhaps sad and reductive for the women I go out with but the Asian type is sufficiently rich, large and infinite for me not to be ashamed.”

His comments have been met with howls of both outrage and hilarity in his native France and further afield. The French comedian, Marina Foïs, joked that she is about to turn 49, and so only has “one year and 14 days” left to sleep with Moix. The writer Joanne Harris picked up on his comment that women over 50 were invisible to him. “Yann Moix? Where? I don’t see him...,” she tweeted.

He might express it more crudely than most, but demographic trends indicate that Moix is not alone among men of his generation in preferring a younger partner

The French MP Olivia Grégoire called him “very classy” and said that “stupidity and vulgarity” have no age.

Speaking on French radio on Tuesday morning, Moix said he would not apologise, adding that “we are not responsible for our tastes, our penchants, our inclinations.”

French cultural attitudes to age and ageing have come under the spotlight recently following the publication of a book entitled Why French Women Feel Young at 50 … and how you can too by Mylène Desclaux.

Desclaux’s recipe for remaining elusive about your age – and, presumably, more attractive to men of Moix’s disposition – is to never have a birthday party, and change your name if it dates you.

Mylène Desclaux the author a new book which suggests emulating the French woman's approach to ageing
Mylène Desclaux the author a new book which suggests emulating the French woman's approach to ageing

But ageist attitudes are not confined to France. And although he might express it more crudely than most, wider demographic trends indicate that Moix is not alone among men of his generation in preferring a younger partner.

In his column for this newspaper, David McWilliams pointed to interesting demographic trends in relationships that have so far gone largely undocumented. Although a greater proportion of the Irish population is single than ever before – and that there are more single males in their 30s and early 40s in Ireland than there are single females – they are not typically hooking up with one another.

“If there are more single men in this age group … there should be loads of men for single women in their later 30s or early 40s. So why am I asked to matchmake? Shouldn’t these figures cancel each other out? They don’t, and the reason there is an absence of eligible men for the Pope’s Children women is that the men are more likely to skip a few years and choose younger women.”

Yann Moix might be a reductive, sexist boor, but is it possible that he’s just saying what many other unattached men of his age are thinking?

For an explanation of what’s going on, McWilliams points to trends in Sweden, where “households headed exclusively by single women begin to rise rapidly after women reach 35”, increasing as women enter their 40s and 50s. “Yet in Sweden the number of households headed by single men is falling not rising.”

The reason for this, the data shows, is that “men of those divorces hook up very quickly again, and they do so not with women of their own age, who tend to remain single, but with younger women.”

A similar trend is beginning to be seen in Ireland, McWilliams writes. “A typical single man in his 40s in Ireland is dating women who are younger and in some cases much younger.”

Internationally, too, studies have shown that men are significantly more likely to remarry after a relationship breaks down than women are. A 2014 study in the US by Pew found that two in three newly eligible men typically go on to remarry, compared to roughly half of women.

So Yann Moix might be a reductive, sexist boor, but is it possible that he’s just saying what many other unattached men of his age are thinking?

It’s possible that women in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s are simply getting more selective, and prefer to stay single than settle

On the face of it, the idea that men are overlooking women their own age to skip down a whole generation is a slightly depressing prospect (although older women might well regard missing out on the opportunity to date someone primarily obsessed with the date on their partner’s birth cert as a lucky escape). As usual, though, when it comes to relationships, the picture is more complex than it first appears.

The 2014 Pew study found that 29 per cent of previously married men say they definitely want to remarry, while 30 per cent do not, and the remainder are unsure. But amongst women, just 15 per cent of those previously married are keen to take the plunge again, and over half definitely do not want to remarry. So it’s possible that women in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s are simply getting more selective, and prefer to stay single than settle.

Moix, a director and TV talkshow host who has won several prestigious literary prizes, went on in his radio interview to make at least one point that is hard to dispute: “It takes nothing away from a woman of 50 years that I don’t want to sleep with her.”

In a rare display of self-awareness, he also admitted that it was possible a woman over 50 might not want to sleep with him either.

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