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The girls stressed the emotional pluses even more, saying that their older partners were more considerate of their feelings and made them feel special.
For many women, though, these relationships look very different in hindsight.
As the age gap increases, Manlove explained, the likelihood of using contraceptives decreases.
Judy Prays, a 24-year-old graduate student living in Atlanta, dated older men from the time she was 16 -- intentionally. "I thought it was so romantic and glamorous and adventurous," she said. I was interested in the other person being in control of everything, being the smarter one, the stronger one.
Some 16 percent of girls had sex with male partners who were 4-6 years older and 11 percent had partners that were 7 or more years older.
According to the NCHS's William Mosher, the average age for first-time sex for women is between 16 and 17.
"They were pretty much disgusted." Philips argued that individual needy girls and exploitative men are not the only factors driving these relationships.