Challenging the Cougar Myths
By Rachel Charman
What do you call a woman over 35 who dates men at least 10 years younger than her?
No, it’s not a dirty joke. In fact, it’s a lifestyle choice for many women, and we’re witnessing “cougars” – that’s women who predominantly or exclusively date younger men – coming out of the woodwork.
For years, the term “cougar” was a dirty word used by college boys describing their sneaky sexual conquests with women old enough to be their mothers. A woman certainly wouldn’t generally relish being called a “cougar”, with its connotations of sexual incontinency, predatory attitudes, and links to paying for sex; after all, “cougar” is only a hop, skip and jump away from “sugarmommie.”
It was all part of the same old misogynist myth that a woman over 40 should essentially give up her sexuality, her freedom to choose whichever partner she wants, and basically all of the fun things in life. Heck, they should all be married by that age! Right? Perhaps not.
Equally, the term was pretty insulting to the younger men too. If a cougar is bad because she associates with younger men, it’s because those men are immature and can’t possibly have anything to offer a woman in her 40s. “Cubs,” as these younger men are known, are therefore stereotyped too by this nasty old myth.
Now, however, the balance is starting to be redressed. In the same way that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have redefined and reclaimed the ex-insult “queer,” women who date younger men have started to self-identify as cougars, and are reinventing the term along their own lines.
As an executive with the dating site Cougared.com, which serves older women and younger men looking to meet, I can see this happening. Recently, we completed the Cougar Report 2009, in which we looked into the attitudes of users on the site. The statistics showed that the new cougars are actively rejecting the sex-crazed, predatory, wealthy stereotype they have been lumbered with. Instead, the overwhelming majority of female respondents said that they are looking for meaningful relationships, not just quick sex; and they prefer financial equality in their relationships with younger men, rather than spoiling their man.
Additionally, the majority of cougars said that they dated younger men not just because they were physically more attractive and fitter than older men, but because cougars found men in their 40s were jaded and held back by emotional baggage.
So, whatever you think of age-gap relationships, women who partake in them are challenging stereotypes surrounding the more mature lady on the dating scene. Really, we’re hoping that this is just the start of a broader change in attitudes towards older women in general, and remember ladies, turning 40 is not the end!
About the Author:
Rachel Charman is a dating expert with www.cougared.com, which serves
older women and younger men looking to meet. She writes on feminism,
politics, and relationships.