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May 22nd, 2009
07:07 AM ET

Don’t call me a cougar

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore at a UK film premiere in November 2008."]

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, “,” 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

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.”

Filed under: Entertainment • Just Sayin'
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. jorja kicklighter

    hey...I didn't pay much attention to the hype etc...UNTIL people started referring to me as such!!!!!!!!!!!!!they are stereotyping ...I am 54 and very fit...I think I look 54 ..but the young men are hitting on me all the time ..I am not interested in a younger man..
    not all good looking women that happen to be in my age bracket are interested in "potty Training"

    January 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  2. sherry german

    Cougar is a strange name for what is or can be a wonderful relationship. I am 66 my husband of 28 years is 53. We have had a wonderful life. Many adventures and the difference in age pays off. My husband said when I was worried about the age difference that he had it all figured out. Most men pass away at least ten years before their wives, so we would have a chance to be together to the end.

    That is a very insitefull statement.


    October 20, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  3. JL

    I, and undoubtedly millions like me, find the term "cougars" an extremely degrading and sexist term, one that battered about fairly regularly anymore by the media–by those wanting to make a buck by pandering to those with gossip tabloid mentality, those who lack the confidence to step out of the box and hate those who have such confidence, or those who enjoy the exploitation and degradation of women. This is not about some older woman dating a teenager; all the hoopla is about two adult people who just happen to find a connection for whatever reason. Older men have been dating younger women since the millennium, and I do not recall those men being labeled as any type of predator, much less stirring up such a fuss as to warrant being the subject of talk shows, books, TV and you name it. I don't get it at all. People date whom they date for all sorts of reasons. Labeling any group of people as doing an activity for the same reason (in this case, stalking prey) is ridiculous. Further, do you recall seeing any reports of an older woman forcing a younger man at gunpoint to date her, or hogtying a younger man and throwing him in the trunk for later consumption?

    And, what an interesting term to choose for lumping all single women dating younger men. Research will tell you that a cougar is identified from other large felid predators largely by the following: Predatory cats, all of one color with a relatively small heads. What can one discern from that comparison? Cougars are further identified as solitary hunters who depend on stalking and ambush for the kill. For the life of me, I cannot understand why any intelligent individual would find such a carte blanche label reasonable or entertaining in any way. And yet this term is embraced and applauded in books, talk shows, the news, and recently even in a weekly TV show devoted to nothing but this subject. Amazing!

    I just happened upon this blog accidentally when googling another matter. And even though I have never left a post anywhere before, this issue so grates on me that I registered here just to post my thoughts on the matter.

    There are so many interesting and truly relevant issues to explore. What does it say about our society that what really counts in this world (and what is really the most interesting) is how gorgeous a person is, how old a person is, how expensive their cloths are, and what kind of car they drive? Many reality programs end up rewarding the person who can lie and cheat their way to the top? Children are being bullied in school to such an extent that we are now seeing suicides at a very young age. What in the hell is going on? As my Mom used to say: There is just way too much emPHAasis on the wrong syllABle.

    June 12, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  4. elle

    Cougar began as a derrogatory word for women on the prowl for no strings attached sex, as I recall. These women are being laughted at, and the stupid skit on SNL is proof of that.

    The biology is that young women are valued, beautiful, fertile. Why would a young man want a shrivled up old prune even if she is pumped up by the gym and botox injections? One thing only. And he's only going for it because she's throwing it at him. Once he gets his, the old bag is discarded old bag.

    At least with the old man young lady scenario he has something to offer: resource. He is still fertile, and because the bar for looks is lower for men, he is still seen as reasonably attractive even without plastic surgery. Society accepts this dynamic. That's why there's no real derogatory names for the older man chasing the young woman.

    How else do you explain Nick Cage marrying a woman young enough to be his daughter and nobody saying a word about it? But let Demi Moore marry a guy 15 years younger and there's a big to-do. She's a cougar. They're even labeling women seeing men 5 -10 years younger as cougars! I don't understand why there needs to even be a name for it.

    Young guy likes older woman. So what?

    June 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  5. Stacee Hill

    I would like to make a comment about the teacher they laid off for being sick. I was working for a hospital in Atlanta when the doctors told me I had Hep C, they hung a picture of me in the lobby of the building stating on "mental health medication" when I was not being treated for that, when it was almost time for me to renew my FMLA they laid me off on March 12 this year. I think it is sad companies treat people like that in their time of need and more so when they are sick and they get away with it.

    June 2, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  6. dave

    When women copy bad male behavior, they become bad,not liberated.

    A man chasing younger women just because they are young is bab. Why would a woman chasing younger men just becasue they are younger is anything but bad.

    This is not a critism of relationships with age diffferences, just a criticism of hook-ups based on age differences.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Al

    Cougars spend money on young men to make them look pretty for young women. Bad investment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Old men spend money on young women to make them look pretty for young men. It's also bad investment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Clothes your size fit you better and look better on you, don’t they? The same rule applies to dating within your age group.

    May 26, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  8. mommamac

    HEY ~~ all's fair in love and war! 😉

    May 24, 2009 at 9:20 am |
  9. VIckery Eckhoff

    “Cougar” is an unflattering caricature dressed up as affirmation for 40 plus women, a next generation Virginia Slims. You’ve got your brand now! You’re dating younger men!

    What are we, still stuck in the ’80s?

    May 23, 2009 at 7:15 am |
  10. Rich Snyder

    I look at the term Cougar like this. Yes, it is derogatory, but in the same sense that man whore is to a guy. To me being a Cougar is about preying on young men on a sexual level more so than a legitimate relationship level. I feel that as long as a relationship is based on love, commitment & honesty, age is just a thing...However, if it is strictly about the older woman wanting a sexual relationship, then that's when the term Cougar applies.

    May 23, 2009 at 6:22 am |
  11. Dusty

    I think it's an excellent and empowering term. They even have an energy drink for this lifestyle

    May 22, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Old "shriveled" up man with pretty young woman... what does he want? Control and a Trophy
    Old "gray hair" woman with a hunky young man... what does she want? Control and a Trophy

    Proof that both men and women in our society aren't ready to give equality to women. You've come a long way baby, but, you still have a long way to go.

    Women must be willing to give up other inequalities, some of which benefit them: who gets custody of kids? who gets slap on the wrist for criminal offenses?

    To the young women who are opposed: I sympathize with your dilemma, your pool of fish is being depleted, but, look on the bright side, some day soon, either robots or clones will be available for purchase and you can "program" your own hunk!

    May 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  13. Pilar

    Its not fair that men look down to these women when they are doing what they have been doing for so long. How come an Older guy dating a younger woman isn't called a pervert. It should be fair. If the woman is happy, who cares how old she is.

    May 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Al

    I think cougars make it harder for young women to rehabilitate young men after they dump cougars. A relationship between a cougar and a young man won’t last for too long unless she buys him with material things and allows him to get away with things, including cheating on her. Young men eventually get tired of cougars and end up with young women unless they get stuck with a cougar. The hardest part is for young men to adjust to a different type of relationship with younger women after leaving a cougar. At the end of the day, women mature faster than men and should invest in a relationship that has a long-term potential and not just wild sex in the short-term.

    May 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  15. Jo Jo

    Hey, I'm a 48 year old man I've been dating younger women for some time now..... Let women have their fun too!!!!

    May 22, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  16. sheen

    Honest fact is that, none know the reason behind hwy cougar!? Tried going through several articles to see why would they wanna pick cougar, am getting a little curious here.

    May 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  17. Charles L. Morse Sr .

    Lot of old guy's love young women . Hay it sounds like a real fair trade to me and love is a funny thing . You find it where you least expect it . To me most emportain thing is , that you be true to that choice whom ever they be . Meeted my wife 52 year ago and married 49 with every devorced member in our family saying it will never last . After 6 kids 14 grand kids and 3 great grand kids . They say it was a big mistake ever letting the to of us togather . Guess you just can't please some people .

    May 22, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  18. Genie

    I think that it is ridiculous that the name "Cougar" is considered offensive. I am 41 and have always dated younger men and couldn't wait to turn 40 to earn the title of "Cougar". I am a STRONG INDEPENDENT FEMALE and men my own age or older can not deal with the fact that I don't need them to survive. Older men tend to be more controlling, I don't need to be controlled. I have had some wonderful relationships with men 10 years younger than me and I've had some great times with men 15 years younger than me. Sexually I have ALL the experience, younger men have the stamina and the are eager to try new things, older men roll over and go to sleep! Men have been dating younger woman since the dawning of time, it's just equal opportunity now. Who cares what they call us, if you are okay with who you are and what you do what difference does it make what it's called?

    May 22, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  19. Joy

    I met a man about 20 years ago. I was 37, he, 24. He made me laugh, we could talk, and our intimate life was very satisfying to both of us.

    This was great and very unusual for me... I didn't find these qualities in my relationships with men my age or older.

    A few years later we go married, on Valentines Day. That was 16 years ago. We have a great marriage and a beautiful 14 year old son. We have issues, like any other couple would after 16 years of marriage.

    This title, "Cougar", is foreign to me. Women and men have been on the prowl for centuries. Why now? Why call us "cougars" when many of us are looking to settle down – men as well as women.

    For those of us not looking to "settle down", I hope you find your appetites well satied... with men, women, or whomever you choose.

    Best to all of us,
    Joy, Connecticut

    May 22, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  20. Mike

    I have no qualms with it. It is about time women are allowed the same options as men, when it comes to dating. I just find it interesting that Carol Costello reported on this, when I consider her a woman I'd like to have as a cougar.

    May 22, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  21. eunice

    My question would be why do woman have to be labeled. Men have done this for years and years but you never see much attention drawn to them or a reality show that is title, "Old geezers who date younger woman" or "You know he's taking viagra because he dates younger woman". It seems that despite equal rights the need to publicly humilate woman are the norm. Who cares what people do if it makes them happy.

    May 22, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  22. Becky

    Even though I don't find "Cougar" offensive I have for years been sick of strong, self-confident women being defined as "bitchie" or "hormonal" and men been considered "strong" and "in-charge". That makes me crazier than Cougar. I am 55 and have been involved with a man 11 years my junior for 14 years. Not only that but he is 3 inches shorter than me. When I finally started looking at what was within this kind, gentle man inside of worring about society thought of an older, taller woman going with a younger, shorter man my life improved greatly. Fortunately or unfortunately however you look at it Demi Moore and Katie Holmes didn't hurt the cause either.

    May 22, 2009 at 8:09 am |
  23. Brittany

    I absolutely HATE it. It is NOT liberating – when I have heard "cougar" used, it's a woman over 40 to be seen as an aging, desperate slut because she dares to pursue a sex life. That's very sad, and scary for me as an unmarried woman approaching that age. A girl friend actually said to me "No mini skirts over 30." I got angry.. Can't I still read Cosmo? Wear fashionable clothes? Listen to Rock-n-Roll? I was just getting to know myself and like me... now unless I give all that up I'm a slut?

    May 22, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  24. Bren

    I am 42 and my boyfriend is 28. We have been together for two years. I did not go looking for a younger man, it just happened. We joke about the cougar stereotype but don't feel it accurately reflects our relationship.

    May 22, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  25. sheen

    Every thing has a name in United States. Well anyways, what is so wrong with elderly or should I say mature women wanting to date younger guys. I think it is time we give people liberty to do what they want. If you see Tom Cruise with Katie Holmes, '"Awwww cute couple!" and Demi Moore is a cougar! Hey I am 22, and happy to go out with elder women 🙂 RAWRRR!

    May 22, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  26. Karen B. Cohen

    I totally agree that the term cougar is derogatory whether the women who embrace it know it or not. Consistently, when I encounter the term cougar, what I really hear the speaker saying is "desperate, old cougar on the prowl". I totally embrace the new improved version of the over-40 woman – sexy, strong, and unafraid to go for what she wants. I think that the widespread use of the word 'cougar' (rather than a limited use for a specific type woman) is another way to disparage and keep the status down for older sexy powerful women. 'Cougar' is a veiled insult no matter how glamorized the delivery.

    Add 'cougar', to 'bitch' and 'ho' and ignore the dumb-ass women who accept these labels. Dignity and respect last longer than good looks... Thanks for bringing up this topic, Carol.

    May 22, 2009 at 7:32 am |
  27. Jan Frame

    "Cougar" is tacky but language failure is everywhere. I am 62, my husband of 10 years is 50. (All without any upgrades in my looks but mom is 99 and living on her own.) My first hubby has already had a massive heart attack. Men just don't age as well and I like being married.

    May 22, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  28. Christian from Miami

    I'm a 21 year old, and I have dated 3 women in their late 30's in the past 3 years. I don't find the term cougar demeaning towards these degrading, and they didnt seem to either, in fact, they told me what a cougar was. In my opinion its true, having no strings attached relations with younger guys is fun for the woman and its great learning for the youngsters. And for guys who are far more mature for their age such as myself, older women have less drama, great experience, and a level of maturity more and more guys like me are looking for now a days. By the way, Kiran Chetry is beautiful, I'm in love!

    May 22, 2009 at 7:23 am |
  29. Anna

    Why are men allowed to discard their same aged wives for that younger woman, who is closer to their daughter's age. Mid life crisis is the excuse used for such actions and people just move on. But a woman does the same thing and she's considered a predator? Seems to me the old addage of what's fair for the goose is fair for the gander should come into play here. Let's get over it people. I can also believe that ABC wouldn't be quite so likely to create a show where older men go after young women. After all, that would be sleazy. Right? Comparisons comparisons. How fickled is society anyway?????

    May 22, 2009 at 7:20 am |
  30. Katie-San Diego, CA

    The term cougar can be seen as offensive or liberating depending on your personal beliefs. However, either way it is a term that has taken on a life of it's own and is essentially unstoppable until the craze itself dies out. I don't believe that mere words should define a type of person, and the only way to prevent that is to not accept it as a defining term in your own personal life.

    May 22, 2009 at 7:19 am |
  31. Bella Mia

    I don't finf the term "cougar" offensive. It just means you haven't bought into the "marriage lie" like all your friends and are still having fun. Plus, it reminds me of Samantha Jones from "Sex in the City". Never a bad thing.

    May 22, 2009 at 7:18 am |