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Cougar – What’s in a Name?
I hated the term “Cougar” for all the obvious reasons. First, it evoked images of Mrs. Robinson in a belt and garter, smoke billowing around her alcoholic head as she seduced a vulnerable (but willing) Benjamin. See leopard-clad women over 40 showing way too much cleavage, fashioning 4-inch heels, hanging out in bars, drinking wine and hauling home young booty. Every time the media interviewed me, I flinched because I knew the obvious questions would be asked, “Isn’t this just about sex?” “Isn’t this all about the money?” I tried to explain to them that in my 20 years of research as a behavioral psychologist and the world’s leading authority on intergenerational dating and psychosexual reproduction (translation: Cougar and Cub dating), they had it all wrong. The media is promoting what I came up with as “The Myth of Stiffler’s Mom” as in the movie American Pie. Stiffler’s mother seduces the young man, but he is not the 6 pack ab, GQ model type. He is mature for his age, intelligent. He goes to her head before she goes to his bed. Younger men and the media who think a relationship between a younger man and an older woman is all about sex or money have never been in a relationship with an older woman. If they were, they would know the truth.
The facts are pretty simple, and I say this with great confidence because this is a demographic of people I have formally studied for over 20 years. If you are familiar with the bell curve, you can easily see that the bell curve can be applied to almost anything in life. Let’s plot the younger man older woman dynamic on it and see what we find: In the middle part of the curve we have the majority of older women. “Older women” can be considered any women in their 20s and older who date younger men. Most of these women who fall in the middle of the curve are in their 40s and 50s. These are the Cougars. Women in their 30s are cougars. Women in their 20s are kittens. Cougars and Kittens fall outside the center of the bell-shaped curve. Let’s say they are 1 standard deviation away from the mean, to the left of the center. Women 60 and older are panthers. Let’s put them in the middle of the bell-shaped curve to the right. There are fewer kittens, cougars and panthers than cougars; but for the sake of argument they are all “cougar”.
What is a Cougar? Many women are offended by this moniker, as I am, for the reasons I have given above. People actually get mad at me for using the word in my articles and research. Don’t shoot the messenger. I didn’t invent the word and I didn’t label it. Blame the media. They want to make the Cougars look neurotic, cartoonish, boy-crazy, crazy.
I really had the opposite reaction every time I heard the word mentioned, read it in an article, or saw my fingers typing it on a computer screen.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand, and this is what I’ve advocated to thousands of members of my Cougar dating site: YOU define for yourself what a Cougar is. Don’t let the media. your friends, other cougars, younger men or so-called “experts” will tell you how to define yourself as a cougar. The basic ingredients that make up the definition: an older woman dating, mating and/or marrying a younger man. That’s the basic criteria. You don’t have to look like Courteney Cox, have Demi Moore’s money, Madonna’s confidence or Cher’s success to be a Cougar. People who say a Cougar is a “sexy, confident, successful, mature woman who knows what she wants” are leaving out the vast majority of women who consider themselves Cougars, but who may not be successful or sexy or confident. In fact, she may have just gotten out of a 20-year marriage, in debt and insecure about those extra 20 pounds, but she finds herself interested and open to a relationship with a younger man.
There are “experts” who try to tell people that a woman can only be a cougar if she is over 40. Not true. My dating site has women in their 20s dating men 7-10 years younger who consider themselves cougars. Being a cougar has less to do with your age, financial status, body type or confidence level than your desire to date a younger man.
I’m really working to set the record straight for the media; but they push the sex and money angle anyway.
My Ph.D. research project “Childhood psychosexual imprinting and its effects on adult male-female relationships characteristic of young men dating older women” I interviewed more than a thousand men about their desire to be with an older woman. Any man could give me a chapter and a verse of the “defining moment” in his life when he developed a desire to be with an older woman: school teacher, babysitter, older sister’s friend, mother’s best female friend, Actresses on TV and in movies; the list goes on and on. For these men, it wasn’t about the myth of Stiffler’s mother. It wasn’t hay with Mrs. Robinson, it was a powerful imprint that has stayed with them throughout their lives and keeps them coming back to the older women time and time again.
I have interviewed men in their 30s who have been married to older women who are looking for their next older wife. I have interviewed men in their 40’s and 50’s who refuse to date women their age and younger and choose a more mature woman instead. I met an 82-year-old man who told me, “I just married an older woman,” and then added with a wink, “Sex with an older woman is always better.” 82!
Psychosexual imprinting is my area of expertise as it relates to the younger man/older woman dynamic. The “psycho” part has to do with the psychological side of the imprint and the young man’s personality and how it is formed and imprinted. The “sexual” part is prima fascia obvious. Imprinting is a very powerful, defining moment in a person’s life. We all have marks, some positive, some not. A younger man who has left a positive impression on an older woman seeks out older women and commits to them for the rest of his life. It’s not a one-off incident.
This is what the media doesn’t understand about this dating dynamic. And that’s not understood by many so-called “cougar experts” who jump on the bandwagon to sell books and speed dating events. My research in this area is extensive, comprehensive and documented; This is why CNN calls me the Uber Cougar.
So if you’re a cougar, don’t be ashamed of this term. It’s not pejorative. It’s not a downer. “Wear your paw with pride” as we say on my dating site. Define who you are as a cougar and Dispel the myths that exist. You can also email me if you have any questions about my research and this dynamic. Age recommendation is the last barrier we are about to break in dating. Even if you’re not a cougar, at least now you understand a little more about what he really is… and isn’t.
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