Actor Mel Gibson and partner Rosalind Ross pose at the American Film Institute Awards in Los Angeles, California, on Jan. Gibson, who is 61, is 35 years older than his partner Rosalind Ross, who is 26.

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"True love can be ageless," declared actor Doug Hutchison, 51, an actor who starred in the television series "Lost," when he announced his May marriage to Courtney Alexis Stodden, a 16-year-old beauty pageant queen turned aspiring country star. Kelly's rumored romance with 15-year-old singer Aaliyah to rocker Ted Nugent falling for 17-year-old Pele Massa in 1978 -- and becoming her legal guardian because she was too young to marry him -- relationships between older men and younger girls never fail to make us squirm. states, a person can't legally consent to sex until age 17, and individuals under 18 years old must have a parent's permission to marry in all states except Nebraska, where the legal marriage age is 19. Lou Ann Brizendine, who has written about brain development in males and females, says that girls' brains are as much as two years ahead of boys' during puberty and that boys may not even catch up to girls until late adolescence or their early 20s, so a few year between partners can -- and often does -- make for a compatible match.

A few weeks later, ' June 16th Vows column featured the wedding of Christopher Cox, 32, the grandson of Richard Nixon and former campaign aid to John Mc Cain, to Andrea Catsimatidis, whom he met when she was a senior at an Upper East Side high school. This squeamishness is understandable: Hutchison is nearly old enough to be Stodden's grandfather. Of course, men have paired up with younger women -- often much younger women -- for all of human history. Marriage aside, the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that a significant number of girls lose their virginity to older partners.

Doug is a wonderful man and we love him." While an age disparity like the 35 years between Hutchison and Stodden is by no means the norm, the recent openness around relationships involving huge age gaps -- especially the ' willingness to feature the Cox and Castimatidis nuptials -- suggests that they may be becoming less stigmatized. How does entering into a relationship with an older man before turning 18 -- or even 20 -- affect the young woman involved?

"When you start stretching decades and you're talking about young girls, under 19 or so, it's probably problematic," said Dr.

“They're more ready to date an older partner than you guessed.” THIS TYPE OF CHEATING IS NOW ON THE RISE, DATA SUGGEST If you’re thinking about dipping your pen into some younger ink, Masini pointed out there are several ways dating someone five, 10 or even 15 years your junior can be beneficial. You may be more likely to find love Dating a younger person opens an entire demographic that you may have been missing out on, Masini said.

That’s especially true if you’re a woman, as trends suggest the dating pool begins to shrink with aging.

What's different about the Hutchinson-Stodden marriage and the Cox-Catsimatidis wedding is that the grooms were willing to enter so publicly into relationships with teenagers, with the apparent approval of their brides' parents.

Catsimatidis, who is now 21, told that her father "wouldn't have given me up to anyone else," while Stodden's mother Krista was quoted as saying, "We are totally supportive of this marriage.

“You’re less likely to date a younger guy who’s been divorced, has children or has sexual performance issues.” In 2011, she met Juan Cabrera, now 34, at one of her mixers and soon fell in love. “Millennial men are career-focused and want to travel with successful women and conquer the world together,” says Soletti, who notes she’s seen an uptick in established women signing up specifically to meet younger bucks at her speed-dating events.

Such May-December couplings are no longer seen as relationship outliers — or indicative of deep-seated mommy issues.

“When you’re an ambitious woman, it’s very difficult — you either have to subsume what you wanna do for somebody else, or live with the struggle to fight your partner on top of business survival, and it’s a very unhealthy relationship,” says Nicole Wipp, a 45-year-old attorney and entrepreneur, who found a perfect match in her husband, Marcus Sutherland, a 33-year-old paramedic.