What is a boy toy? And where can I get one. Shop.com says I can get one for $10.95. That seems reasonable. I might check ebay, though. Seriously, the Random House unabridged dictionary says a boy toy is:
1. Slang: Disparaging. A young man noted for his good looks and sexual prowess, esp. one who maintains relationships with older, more powerful persons.
2. a female sex object.
Disparaging? Really? Okay. Let’s get specific. A boy toy in romantic fiction and more and more in the general population has come to mean a younger boyfriend/husband with an older woman. In romantic fiction, the older woman, younger man scenario has grown in popularity over the last few year. I’ve always enjoyed it—three of the books on my keeper shelf are early Harlequin Temptations which covered that relationship and the neurotic reactions to it. Woman afraid they’d be shunned and looked down on… Do we still have those same fears? My husband is younger than I am, and believe me back when we dated and got married in the early 90’s, I downplayed that as much as possible. It takes a lot of strength to brave a plethora of Robbing the Cradle jokes.
There’s some sort of unspoken rule that has always said the man must be older. Why? Societally we've been told the guy should be a few years older. In early romances this gap was outrageous to today’s thinkers…the hero was usually close to his forties while the heroine was often eighteen. That gap closed in the late 80’s and early 90’s but you’ll usually still find the hero is a few years older. Psychologically speaking, this is because woman have instinctively sought a protector. It stems back to the whole hunt and gather thing. Men provided. Women bore the young. A younger woman was better equipped. Physically, the much older man/much younger woman set-up makes little sense. While female fertility drops in their thirties, male fertility drops then as well. Women tend to have about a seven year longer life expectancy too. Excuse me, but wouldn’t a man with good swimmers who can accompany you into your later years seem a good choice.
More women than ever are “robbing the cradle” now. In fact, about one third of women between 40-69 are dating younger men. Women are successful in their own right. They don’t need a protector. They don’t necessarily want kids any more either. We can provide for ourselves, thank you very much. Our choice in men isn’t limited as it once was.
If only we could convince our inner voices of this. We tell ourselves we should look a certain way, we should look for a certain kind of mate, we should act according to societies statutes. We’re afraid people will think of us as Mrs. Robinson…
Romances featuring older women and younger men give permission to pursue the kind of relationship we may want or fantasise about. These stories show how this sort of relationship can work. These are “grown-ups” in healthy relationships. Serious relationships, not flings.
As women, we are free to choose who we want as mates. More and more we’re exercising that right. Books about these relationships are helping change traditional mindsets. So is Hollywood. Do these couplings sound familiar? Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Madonna and Guy Ritchie…these are just a few.
I’m going to go out on a limb here…so shoot me. Women are looking better and better as they age today. We’re taking better care of ourselves and forty today doesn’t look the same as forty thirty years ago. We like options and we like to feel good. Many younger men appreciate our success and our intelligence. And a lot of women are looking to feel good, particularly after divorce from their traditionally older man. Relationships or flings with younger men might be the perfect remedy for injured self-esteem.
In the end though, hooking up for this reason is temporary. Women aren’t necessarily looking for boy toys… Perhaps that is more disparaging than it appears at first glance. We demand what we want and don’t necessarily sit back and let society tell us what should be. There are options we were never “allowed” to consider. Good options. Men who might just end up being the love of our lives. We’re looking for fun, interesting, exciting and yes, just a little taboo. A guy who feels…great. A partner. A mate. And when it comes down to that, well age doesn’t really matter. In real life or on the pages of a book.