There is a brand new sitcom on ABC this fall: “Cougar Town.” It stars the gorgeous Courtney Cox as a 40-something woman on the prowl for sex with 20-something men. Some of my friends are excited about this new comedy, others are appalled.
There is no doubt though, our pop culture has gone “Cougar Crazy.” Saturday Night Live often parodies the craze and there are dozens of websites devoted to “cougars on the prowl.”
One of those websites, “Cougardate.com,” defines Cougars as: “…women in their forties, who smoke, drink and go to clubs to pick up young men in their twenties." You’ll notice the definition does not include the word “relationship,” but “pick-up.” Some say that’s liberating for women who just want to have fun. Others question the wisdom of reducing “cougarism” to something so shallow.
“What we’re finding with a lot of these sorts of situations is the cougar, the female, as in the older male, the relationships they get in with younger people, oftentimes is just about the superficial, just about the physical," says psychologist Jeff Gardere.
It seems to have worked for 46-year-old Demi Moore, married to 31-year old Ashton Kutchner. But some say the type of "cougarism" in reality shows like TV Land’s "The Cougar" – starring an older woman, Stacey, pursued by younger men – is predatory and even desperate.
“Is it possible that Stacey – and all the other women who embrace the term "cougar" – don't know that, on some level, they're being laughed at,” writes Rebecca Traister on Salon.com
Branding expert Linda Kaplan Thaler says she even finds the term “cougar” derogatory. “I’d like to see the word ‘cougar' be reserved for wild animals and cars,” she says.
Kaplan Thaler says maybe it's time women demanded the term "cougar" be changed to "sophisticat." That way May/December romances will become accepted for what they ought to be: loving relationships.
“I know a woman who's 58 who has a 40-year-old boyfriend who's madly, madly in love with her,” she says. “A lot of these young guys are interested in older women. I think it's fantastic.”
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