Not so long ago we liked our leading men to be, well, men. That's why we swooned over Clooney and went bonkers for Brad.
But Robert Pattinson changed all that - to the extent that it's now acceptable for grown women to lust after boys who are barely out of their teens.
Yes, the 24-year-old star of the Twilight films is undoubtedly easy on the eye. And his portrayal of Edward Cullen, the romantic, protective - and chaste - vampire, obviously appeals to the teenage girls who are suckers for sweet, sensitive and non-threatening types.
But no one could have predicted the effect that he would have on these girls' 'Robsessed' mothers - who are first in line to watch the movies, devour the novels and turn out for premieres just to catch a glimpse of their real-life Edward Cullen.
Clearly, Stephenie Mayer, the 37-year-old American who wrote the Twilight novels, has tapped into a romantic fantasy so powerful that her books have become irresistible to women who are certainly old enough to know better.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I went to see the latest film within days of its release. The cinema was packed with grown women who clapped and cheered every time 18-year-old Taylor Lautner took off his shirt and flexed his pecs.
Then, of course, there's our obsession with Gossip Girl. We say that we watch it to look at the clothes but, if we're honest, our interest has more to do with sweet and sensitive Nate, played by 25-year-old Chace Crawford, and millionaire bad boy Chuck Bass, aka Ed Westwick, 23.
And it gets worse...
Just last week I heard a group of school gate mums discussing cute X-Factor hopefuls One Direction. Harry, who's 16, and Liam, 17, were widely held to be the most 'fanciable', according to this particular group of women who are old enough to be their mothers.
So what's going on?
Have we become a nation of cougars who can't resist preying on teenage boys?
Or has Madonna's liaison with 23-year-old Jesus Luz, and artist Sam Taylor-Woods' engagement to Aaron Johnson - the 20-year-old father of her baby daughter Wylda Rae - convinced us that younger guys make great boyfriends?
I don't think so.
In fact, I think it's much simpler than that.
When I pinned a poster of George Michael on my bedroom wall back in the 80s, it wasn't about sex. It was because I liked to dream about an alternate reality in which I accompanied George to Club Tropicana, sipped drinks decorated with cocktail umbrellas and mastered some complicated dance routines.
It was a great fantasy, made even more powerful by the fact the idea of sex, or even a passionate snog, would have terrified the life out of me. And, as later became very evident, it would have horrified George, too.
Thirteen-year-olds daydream about R-Patz because it helps them to imagine how it would feel to have a grown-up love affair. Conversely, 33-year-olds adore him because he reminds us how it feels to be young.
Our teen heartthrobs give us a shot of emotional Botox - the perfect anti-ageing fix for sleep-deprived mums and recession-hit, responsibility-worn adults who can't help but be nostalgic for the carefree years of their youth.
Given that we inhabit a culture which is determined to eradicate the physical signs of ageing by any means necessary, is it any surprise that we've worked out a way to make ourselves feel younger, too?
So I say, go ahead and treat yourself to 120 minutes in a darkened room with Taylor Lautner.
But please stay clear of Justin Bieber. There's just no excuse for that now, is there?
By: Ceri Roberts
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