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Jennifer Lawrence is only one of the many actresses who have dated older men.

Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale turned heads with their public display of affection while attending a Rangers game. It wasn’t long before the media called the couple out for their behavior.

Amid this revelation, many fans were dubious, wondering why Beckinsale was with the much younger Davidson. While Davidson is 25, Beckinsale is 45 — twenty years his senior. While some have commented on the large age gap, Davidson, a comedian on Saturday Night Live, addressed the criticism.

Davidson said, “Apparently, people have a crazy fascination with our age difference, but it doesn’t really bother us.”

He went on to joke about the many male celebrities who have had much younger partners, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Gere. Although he was joking, Davidson makes a good point. Society is quick to accept large age gaps when the man is much older, yet condemn them when the woman is much older.

Another example of an age gap is Aaron Taylor-Johnson and “Fifty Shades of Grey” director Sam Taylor-Johnson. The two have a 24-year age gap and have faced scrutiny from fans and the media because of it. Concerning the age gap, Aaron said, “The attention was intrusive.”

The norm of the man being older and the woman being younger should be challenged — it’s highly detrimental to notions about dating and love. If society can accept an age gap where the man is much older, then it should accept one where the woman is too.

Jennifer Lawrence is just one example of a young actress who’s been with much older men, both romantically and on-screen. She was famously known for dating Darren Aronofsky, 48, when she was 27. While the two have since split, their age gap is considerable, with Aronofsky being twice her age.

Lawrence also starred as a romantic love interest with several actors who were much older than her. She started her rise to fame as Mystique, a shape-shifting superhero in “X-Men: First Class” where she acted as a quasi-love interest to Fassbender’s character, who was 14 years older than her.

She has also been frequently paired with Bradley Cooper, who was old enough to drive when she was born. Additionally, she’s co-starred with actors who are close to their 40s, such as Christian Bale in “American Hustle” and Edgar Ramirez in “Joy.” 

While these age gaps are considerable, Lawrence isn’t the only actress who’s played the love interest of much older men. Emma Stone, now 30, had significant break-out roles wooing much older actors like Edward Norton in “Birdman” and Joaquin Phoenix in “Irrational Man.”

While these are famous and talented actresses, it begs the question of why they’re so frequently paired with actors who are older than them. According to the Parental Investment Theory,men prefer the company of younger woman because they represent fertility and youth.

Conversely, people argue that women are attracted to older men since they typically have more resources, money or power. This phenomenon of men preferring younger women is known as the “age differential effect,” observed in a study in 1989 by David Buss. Furthermore, in a 1994 study, research revealed that women were more willing than men to marry someone who was older by five years.

From the various studies and examples, it’s no surprise that society is far more willing to accept age gaps where the man is much older. Still, whether these expectations and social rules are fair or not, they should be challenged.

Hannah Zeigler is a junior media arts and design and anthropology double major. Contact Hannah at zeiglehm@dukes.jmu.edu.