Perhaps it’s just me being a bit groggy from jet-lag, but I just read one of the most bizarre things I think I have ever seen in the New York Times. There is a generally very interesting article by Sarah Kershaw on so-called “cougars,” older women who have sexual relationships with younger men. It was the first I had ever heard the term – shows what I know. As the article concludes, Kershaw makes the following statement:
The paradox, of course, is that the older-woman relationship makes perfect sense when it comes to life expectancy, with women outliving men by an average of five years. But with men’s fertility far outlasting women’s, biology makes the case for the older-man scenario, and recent research has even suggested that older men having children with younger women is a key to the survival of the human species.
Say what?! Survival of the species??
It’s a pretty strange statement that strangely lacks attribution, particularly given how well referenced all the other scholarly work discussed in the article is. I wonder if it isn’t a vague allusion to the work of my colleague Shripad Tuljapurkar who has shown that systematic differences in mean age of childbearing would mitigate the so-called “wall of death” predicted by W.D. Hamilton’s famous paper on the evolution of senescence.