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But high-profile Hollywood couples like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins (12 years her junior) -- who met and began dating while filming an on-screen romance in the 1988 movie "Bull Durham" -- have proven that life can indeed imitate art when it comes to matters of the heart.
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NBC aired a reality dating show this summer -- "Age of Love" -- that pitted women in their 20s against women in their 40s in a battle for the heart of tennis star Mark Philippoussis.
Meanwhile, online dating sites like Go urge older women who seek younger men to "get what you want." Such pairings can and do work.
Mary Pender, 37, a high school special education teacher in Huntington Beach, California, connected with a truck driver seven years her junior who she met on an online dating site.
Though she'd always dated older men before, she "thought it was exciting to date someone younger" -- and, as it turned out, he thought it'd be just as exciting a match.
Moreover, says Winter, women have experienced a significant financial and status shift over the past half-century.
"When women as a group are able to have their own economic and social standing and have a power base, they are now able to pick the man that they want rather than having to choose the man to support them and give them social status," Winter explains.
"Now we have choices." But these relationships aren't always portrayed in a positive light.
Terms like "cougar" (slang for an older woman seeking a younger man) depict the woman as a predator, rather than an empowered, independent and loving person.
"He thinks it's cool that I am comfortable in my sexuality," says Pender.