Why Madonna, 62, having a 27-year-old boyfriend is considered taboo

Elise Solé
·4-min read

Madonna, 62, and her boyfriend Ahlamalik Williams, 27, DGAF about their age gap — so why does anyone else?

Over the weekend, the "Bad Girl" singer wished Williams a happy birthday on Instagram by posting photos of the pair heavily lip-locked. Madonna and the dancer first met in 2015 when he auditioned for her Rebel Heart tour and have been dating for two years, earning the approval of Williams's father who told TMZ, "Love has no age…my son is livin' la Vida Loca, and I'm just happy for him."

But the photos sparked contempt, concern and even pity. "It is sad to see that Madonna can’t age with grace [and] is trying to act younger," someone commented, with others adding, "Sis get yourself a prenup if you ever remarry," "You are acting like a fool teenager" and "Is that her son?" 

Madonna dates younger men. Who has a problem with that? (Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall)
Madonna dates younger men. Who has a problem with that? (Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall)

"My goodness, so disappointed! Why do you refuse to embrace aging gracefully?" asked a follower.  

Others demurred. "You go lady. Whatever floats your boat," "Good for her. As long as she’s happy" and "They are happy, haters are jealous." Someone indicated the obvious sexism: "This isn’t news — men do it all the time. Hugh Hefner did it for years. They're legal and happy, who cares?"

Winter-spring romances — with no clear definition to begin with — are no rarity. Look at Hugh Jackman, 52, and Deborra-Lee Furness, 65, or David Foster, 71, and Katharine McPhee, 37. George Clooney, who turns 60 in May, has 17 years on 43-year-old wife Amal Clooney, while Michael Douglas, 76, is 25 years older than Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51.

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However, relationships in which the man is older don't shock as much. "There's a strong premise in evolutionary psychology that says people are driven by reproductive success, defined as having children," Theresa DiDonato, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, tells Yahoo Life. "Women make a significant investment because they carry and birth babies so they're more selective about mates with resources and status, both of which typically come with age; Men look for fertility, a cue of which is youth, so it's become adaptive for men to desire younger women." 

And these ingrained inclinations remain. "We don't think about this consciously but implicitly it guides our mating strategies and tactics," says DiDonato. So relationships in which the woman is older (Heidi Klum, 47, and Tom Kaulitz, 31, and Sam Taylor-Johnson, 54, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 30) stand out. 

"These couples fly in the face of evolution," says DiDonato, "and defy cultural and patriarchal norms that support older men with younger women."  

But there's a lightbulb explanation for why women attract younger men. "Women generally reach their sexual peak in their 40s and have usually mastered how to give and receive pleasure," says DiDonato. One study from the University of Texas at Austin identified a female sexual surge between the ages of 27 and 45, with women in this age range having more frequent and intense sexual fantasies, more active sex lives and more interest in casual sex than women between the ages of 18 and 26.

"We hypothesize women have evolved a reproduction expediting psychological adaptation designed to capitalize on their remaining fertility," wrote the researchers. "…In other words, despite the girls-gone-wild image of promiscuous college women, it is women in their middle years who are America's most sexually industrious."   

Is that why Madonna's dating record skews young? Before Williams, there was Jesus Luz, Brahim Zaibat and Timor Steffens, all of whom were in their twenties, when Madonna was in her fifties. "If a woman already has the resources she might traditionally seek out in older men, she can focus on other attributes such as physicality," notes DiDonato. "Younger men have energy and vitality, all of which offer possibility, which is a big reason couples enter relationships."           

If you ask Madonna, it's not her problem to solve. “I’ve created a very unconventional family. I have lovers who are three decades younger than me," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2017. "This makes people very uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do makes people feel really uncomfortable.”      

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