OLDER women are increasingly having affairs with younger men because their bodies are looking better in their 40s, says actress Helen McCrory as she defends cougars.
In her latest film Flying Blind McCrory, 44, plays an older woman in love with a younger man for the second time in her career - and believes that the fascination with the topic is a case of art imitating life.
The rise of the cougar is down to the fact that attitudes are changing and it is no longer inappropriate to be sexy at 40, the wife of Homeland actor Damian Lewis has claimed.
"Literature is reflecting what is happening in life," she told the Observer.
"More and more women are having relationships with younger men. It's partly that women are not losing their figures now. They no longer feel it inappropriate to be sexual at 40 in the way many did 50 or 60 years ago.”
Despite the fact that age-gaps are becoming more accepted, there is still a “deeply sexist” attitude in which older women are treated differently their male peers in the same position, she said.
The actress, who has starred in Skyfall and Harry Potter, complains that eyebrows have been raised about the 20-year age gap between artist and director Sam Taylor-Wood and her husband Aaron Johnson - when no notice is taken of the “hundreds of men” dating younger women.
But the element of taboo surrounding the subject is exactly why these relationships make dramatic subject, McCrory said.
In her new film, directed by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, McCrory plays Frankie, an astrophysicist obsessed with a Muslim student young enough to be her son.
The mother of two said that her character’s loneliness is partly down to her exceptional intelligence, and she would not wish her own children to be top of their class.
Noting how people often say they hope that her children Manon, 6, and Gulliver, 5, are bright, she said: “I think: why would anyone want their children to be the brightest? Academia is a lonely world."
McCrory has said that she is “looking forward” to turning 50, because she believes that it is the point when a woman reached the “pinnacle” of her femininity and womanhood.
Despite being happily married to Lewis, who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Sergeant Brody in the US TV Drama, said she still receives a lot of male attention – mostly from younger men.
The actress believes that older women are increasingly “hot”, and have swapped the age-appropriate cardigans of the 1950s for diets, the gym, and a great wardrobe.
“There's not that, 'My God, there's such a difference between a 20-year-old and a 40-year-old’,” she said in a previous interview.
Last year McCrory starred in Tony Marchant’s ITV drama Leaving as a married mother sexually obsessed with a younger colleague.
After her performance she received letters from older women thanking her for the “refreshing” risqué scenes.
By Hayley Dixon, Telegraph.co.uk