Exploring Socio-economic Factors Contributing to the Emergence of large Age-gap Romantic Relationships Involving Older Women and Younger men in Chipata, Zambia

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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume V, Issue III, March 2021 | ISSN 2454–6186

Exploring Socio-economic Factors Contributing to the Emergence of large Age-gap Romantic Relationships Involving Older Women and Younger men in Chipata, Zambia

Jordan Tembo1, Patricia Mambwe2
1Kalindawalo General Hospital, P.O.Box 560008, Petauke, Zambia
2Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, Rusangu University, Monze, Zambia

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Abstract: Older man-younger woman romantic relationship is a cultural normative relationship in all societies. A reversal characterized by an older woman-younger man intimancy is regarded as an offensive counterfeit of the genuine former. A woman found in this kind of a relationship, sleepy society wakes up, picks up verbal stones and breathes denunciations against the older woman and labels her a moral rebel for changing social norm-goal posts. The objective of this study was to investigate existence of large age-gap romantic relationships and to explore under what socio-economic climate did they emerge and thrive. The study was conducted between October to December, 2020. It was conducted in Chipata- Zambia. The study used a cross-sectional design with a qualitative approach. A total of 30 participants were individually interviewed through the single-per-interview method. The study found that large age-gap older woman relationships were common, rampant and universal in both rural and urban areas with the latter scoring first. The study found that society defined large age-gap intimate heterosexual relationship involving an older woman as one where the woman was older than her male partner by 5 or more years. The study also found that some older women especially in villages engaged in romantic relationships with younger males because traditionally it was believed that younger men’s semen had special properties that arrested the aging process and re-youthed the aging skin and the entire aged body. The study also found that absent husbands, drunkenness, women empowerment/ change of lifestyle, women/male youth vulnerability including the internet and social media created a perfect socioeconomic environment in which large age-gap taboo relationships emerged and flourished.

Key words: society, age-gap, heterosexual, romance,


Society prescribes what is socially acceptable and what is tagged taboo. Romantic large age-gap heterosexual relationships involving older men and younger women are looked at without peeled eyes. But a romantic relationship involving an older woman with a younger man, effect head shaking and tongue wagging among members of any society. The occurrence is looked at with unfavourable scrutiny because the ‘large age difference between the woman and the man is seen as a mother/son relationship’(Proulx et al., 2006: 44). In such a social entanglement, an older woman is judged harshly by society (Lehmiller & Agnew, 2011). She is boxed into a stereotypical label of being a ‘sugar mummy’, a ‘cougar,’ because according to society she is a seductress conwoman who uses her body, wealth, power, flattery and subtlety to drive out a younger man out of his moral defense into an intimate relationship with her.