Author: has written 5267 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

163 Responses

  1. Andie
    Andie May 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm |

    Ugh. Just Ugh.

    Double-Standards for the Lose.

  2. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

    RECENTLY, as I heard my daughter, a junior in high school, and her friends discuss their plans for the prom, I had a vaguely troubling thought: can a 16-year-old be a cougar?

    And then, instead of telling myself, “First of all, no, and second of all, really, “cougar”?”, I got a piece about it published in the New York Times! The newspaper that thinks that if I do it, and a friend of mine does it, and two friends of hers do it, it’s a newsworthy societal trend!

  3. Jill
    Jill May 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    I know I’m skipping over the point a little bit here, but if my mom had written about my grade-younger boyfriend in high school and how it maybe made me a cougar, there would have been some door-slamming, curfew-breaking street justice served.

  4. Donna L
    Donna L May 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm |

    I get more and more disgusted with the New York Times. The term “cougar” is repulsive enough when used for women of any age, but to apply it to a high school student? Dating another high school student who might be two years behind in school but could easily be only a year younger in age, or less (not that that should matter)? When nobody ever says a word about the same situation in reverse? Inexcusable. And besides, it’s not like there’s anything new about this. Inter-class relationships were common in my son’s high school, and it’s already four years since he graduated.

  5. xenu01
    xenu01 May 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    Haha- my mother is two and a half years older than my father. She’d die laughing if I told her she was a cougar!

  6. Tim
    Tim May 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

    Also this:

    Who knows what will happen to these couples? A long-term future seems unlikely …

    Really? Does she expect everyone is supposed to marry their prom dates?

    @xenu01 My mom was only a year and a half older than my dad, but after all, it was the 1930s! lolz

  7. Kristin A
    Kristin A May 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |

    I wonder where my (F) spouse got her training from; we’re two and a half years apart also but the term “cougar” wasn’t in use then.

    Cradle-snatching school?

  8. Ashley
    Ashley May 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

    When I was a freshman and soph in college, I often eyed guys that were still in high school because I was so turned off by the typical college party guy. Guys in high school still had that innocent and gentle nature about themselves, and I liked that, which is rare to find the older men get. I mean, I’m 27 now and I’m not looking at guys that young anymore because at my age that would be predatory, but for a 16 year old? I don’t see an issue there.

  9. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

    i was dating two eighth graders when i was a senior in high school—and broke up with both of them just before i turned eighteen—reason—the older sister of one of them threatened to prosecute me for dating a minor when i turned eighteen

  10. LC
    LC May 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm |

    maggiemay, that’s messed up. (No Romeo and Juliet clause where you were?)

    As past my expiration date notes, the Times and its “a few people I know do it, so it is a trend” pieces are just ridiculous. This one is particularly full of fail.

  11. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm |

    I like the “how many of these couples have long-term potential” nonsense best–OH NOES! Teenagers might break up at some point! Just…find something to worry about, OK? Try a hobby or something.

  12. human
    human May 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

    Haha, wow. And for her next article, she’ll tell us all about how awful it is when women date men who are shorter than them!

  13. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Or even…men who make less money than they do! (gasp)

  14. oxygengrrl
    oxygengrrl May 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

    Wow. When I was in high school in the 1980s, plenty of boys AND girls dated other kids younger than they by a year or two. And this was public school. In a major metropolitan area in the American south. I think a trend has been spotted that isn’t a trend. And then offensively named. On with our lives now?

  15. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

    I’ve always hated the term “cougar”. It’s yet another gendered word that serves to make women feel othered; there is no equivalent term for men who are interested in younger women. This article is absolutely terrible.

    As for acceptable age gaps, I think it ultimately depends on the couple. For the most part, though, it seems that any age gap larger than 3 years is bound to be problematic.

  16. Donna L
    Donna L May 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    any age gap larger than 3 years is bound to be problematic.

    Do you mean in high school, or in general? If you mean the latter — what?

  17. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |

    Do you mean in high school, or in general? If you mean the latter — what?

    Sorry – I should have clarified. I mean in high school only.

  18. Phil
    Phil May 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

    As a 37 yr old man dating a 41 yr old woman, I think this is way cool, she can sometimes feel self-conscious about it in spite of all my efforts to prevent that.

    HOWEVER — an 18 yr old girl with a 17 yr old boy — you know how zealous prosecutors can be wrt going after what they see as sex offenders. I just suggest they be VERY careful. She can easily end up having the sex offender tag hung on her for life if the boy’s parents get upset.

  19. benvolio
    benvolio May 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

    I sense it will be mere minutes before we start hearing from the frat boys who are overlooked in favor of younger, unpledged boys, whining “What about meeee??”

  20. Nightwind
    Nightwind May 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    I wonder what she’d have to say about me… I’m 31 my husband is 26. I’m at least an inch taller then him, he’s a full time student while I have a career, and I have 2 master’s degree’s while he’s working on a Bachelor’s. Clearly the world might end here. Two years even in High School isn’t that much.

  21. Anon21
    Anon21 May 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm |

    Phil:

    you know how zealous prosecutors can be wrt going after what they see as sex offenders.

    Yes, I know how zealous. Generally: not very zealous! Pure statutory rape cases where the underage partner is an older teenager are rare, particularly where the overage partner is separated by only a year or two. What does often happen is that a forcible rapist bargains down to statutory rape, which can happen for a variety of reasons, including the victim’s reluctance to testify or the difficulty of proving non-consent.

    And as to maggiemay’s situation, I do think a threat of prosecution was an overreaction, assuming there was no reason for concern outside of the age gap. But I also think it’s problematic for a 17-going-on-18-year-old to date a middle schooler, for the reasons Jill suggests. That’s an age and development gap that parents and older siblings can be legitimately concerned about as a general matter.

  22. Noadi
    Noadi May 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    Wow, I think in my dating life it’s been a pretty much 50/50 split whether I’ve been the older or younger partner. I’d never want to be with someone who was very different from me in life experience but I just don’t get the big deal over whether someone is older or younger.

    It always frustrated me when I was judged for dating someone two years younger than me but my male friends weren’t. In fact I have friends now who have very close to the same age difference as me and my boyfriend (9 years) but because the woman is the older of the pair they get a lot more grief about it.

  23. Athenia
    Athenia May 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

    When I was 17, I briefly dated a sophmore (I can’t remember if he was 15 or 16). I wouldn’t recommend it (he was too immature), but hahaha, now I’m 28 and my boyfriend is about 2 years younger than me!

    So, yeah, these girls are totally destined to be a “cougar.” What a horrible word. Yuck.

  24. Tony
    Tony May 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    1. How is this a story? There’s no a single fact relevant to the wider world in the entire article; it’s a set of strung-together quotes from the children or the author’s personal friends and acquaintances.

    2. How is ‘cougar’ derogatory? It denotes a sexy older woman. Yes, calling a high school girl who is dating one grade below her a cougar is a misapplication of the term, possibly mean to highlight how unusual the relationship is in the eyes of the people using it, but I’m not sure that the behavior would be accepted and normalized if we lacked the language to describe it. I mean, the fact that it’s more acceptance for older men and boys to date younger than vice versa developed all on its own without any explicit societal identification (either positive or negative) of the older woman-younger man role. The moniker of ‘cougar’ does not have to be a slur; it can serve to give visibility and therefore legitimacy to older women-younger men relationships.

    3. I’ve just started reading the Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I probably shouldn’t draw anything from it since I haven’t finished it, but if this is the female fantasy, then there’s a lot of women out there who are drawn to an older man with a lot more life experience precisely because he’s so far above her.

  25. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

    How is ‘cougar’ derogatory?

    Tell me, what is the term for an older man who prefers to date younger women? Why is it that women need to be labeled according to their sexuality?

    I’ve just started reading the Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I probably shouldn’t draw anything from it

    Dude, just stop there. Stop. There’s no way this is going to end well…

    but if this is the female fantasy, then there’s a lot of women out there who are drawn to an older man with a lot more life experience precisely because he’s so far above her.

    Yes, this is the female fantasy. There’s only one. There aren’t any others at all. All our sexual fantasies can be contained in one writer’s extended Twilight fanfic. So true. All those other fanfics women write about, I don’t know, the Weasley twins getting it on together? About Snape and Harry? About Kirk and Spock? Completely illusory. Never mind the possibility that there might even be some female fantasies that are not encapsulated in fanfic at all. Obviously, Fifty Shades of Gray is the final word on female sexual fantasy.

  26. Kristin A
    Kristin A May 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

    “Far above her”? I shall recoil in horror from that clause alone.

  27. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm |

    I am, at this moment, reading fanfic about Sherlock and John gettin’ it on. Should I stop before I become confused by something that doesn’t fit into the lady fantasy? Quick, I need to know before I get lost.

  28. Andie
    Andie May 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    How is ‘cougar’ derogatory?

    For starters, comparing humans to animals is a form of dehumanization. See also “bitch”.

    The fact that there is no equivalent term for a man who’s dating patterns skew younger is a problem. The fact that we have a label for this behaviour in women serves to marginalize it.. it’s “weird” thus we must put a name to it!

    Even if you accept that it’s just a name for a ‘Sexy, older woman’ and ignore the predatory/prey implications of a label like ‘Cougar’, having a label implies that a sexy older woman is something uncommon enough that it needs to be pointed out and labelled. Again, no equivalent for men.. we call them what they are.. sexy older men.

  29. Andie
    Andie May 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm |

    One day I’m going to get around to writing my Hard Core Logo fanfic, with me as the meat in a Joe Dick/Billy Tallent sammich.

  30. Tony
    Tony May 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

    Tell me, what is the term for an older man who prefers to date younger women?

    Sugar daddy.

    Why is it that women need to be labeled according to their sexuality?

    Well I think of it as a label for a role, like ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, I don’t think it’s mean to define the person. You probably don’t like the term MILF? At first I thought it was really disrespectful, but over time I’ve come to realize that it’s legitimized and given visibility to the fact that women don’t stop being sexual– or hot– simply because they’ve become mothers. That seems to be a positive thing.

    Yes, this is the female fantasy.

    Okay, it’s a fantasy that just happens to be very popular for some reason. But I won’t say more about it for now until I’ve finished it.

  31. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

    Did everyone get that? Tony’s boner is ok with *some* mothers and older ladiez, so neither of these things is derogatory!

    Close the feminism, we are done now.

  32. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

    The problem with cougar is that it means that an older woman who is attracted to younger men is preying upon them, that an older woman’s sexual desires for younger men are inherently threatening.

    “Sugar daddy” is not a cognate. “Sugar daddy” refers to a man who buys a woman’s affections. It doesn’t mean that he’s old, and plenty of old men who prefer younger women don’t have the money to buy anybody’s affections.

    Yeah, I don’t like the term MILF, because inherent in it is the idea that regular mother is by default somebody you don’t want to fuck. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to specify.

  33. Tony
    Tony May 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm |

    The problem with cougar is that it means that an older woman who is attracted to younger men is preying upon them, that an older woman’s sexual desires for younger men are inherently threatening.

    I agree that is a serious problem, but it really seems that the term is growing out it, if it hasn’t already. Just scanning the top definitions for ‘cougar’ on urbandictionary.com, #2 and #3 do mention the ‘hunt’, but #1, with by far the most upvotes, doesn’t imply anything predatory at all. The example they give is:

    That cougar I met last night, showed me shit I didn’t know existed, I’m goin back for more.

    I don’t see predatory or derogatory in there. It’s presented positively.

    “Sugar daddy” is not a cognate. “Sugar daddy” refers to a man who buys a woman’s affections. It doesn’t mean that he’s old, and plenty of old men who prefer younger women don’t have the money to buy anybody’s affections.

    In practice they’re almost always much older, and almost always when you see a much older man with a much younger woman there’s some economic transaction going on there, implicit or explicit. But you’re right, it’s not a perfect equivalent. I think the issue is, if people didn’t use the term ‘cougar’ would it reduce or eliminate the double standard? Considering that the double standard originally developed and perpetuated long before people used this term, I don’t think so. The term’s existence owes itself to the double standard, but at the same time undermines it. I think if we’re transitioning to a truly equal society, then one day there will be no ‘cougars’, but in the meantime I think it serves an instrumental purpose by normalizing the sexuality of older women. One day it will be discarded (in theory) but at the moment it’s pushing in the right direction. In that sense it’s similar to other kinds of activism.

    Yeah, I don’t like the term MILF, because inherent in it is the idea that regular mother is by default somebody you don’t want to fuck. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to specify.

    Right, but I’m arguing that, that idea did not come from the term MILF, it came from the state of society prior to the popularization of the term MILF, and the term MILF has been pushing back and fighting against that idea even though it would have no meaning without it.

  34. Jadey
    Jadey May 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm |

    3. I’ve just started reading the Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I probably shouldn’t draw anything from it since I haven’t finished it, but if this is the female fantasy, then there’s a lot of women out there who are drawn to an older man with a lot more life experience precisely because he’s so far above her.

    It. Is. NOT. Even when you do finish it, draw very little from it. It’s popular because it fits into existing stereotypes and provides a cheap thrill by pretending to be about something it is not actually about (kink). It’s easy reading. That’s all. Do not use it to define anyone’s sexuality, even people who enjoyed it.

    One day I’m going to get around to writing my Hard Core Logo fanfic, with me as the meat in a Joe Dick/Billy Tallent sammich.

    Oh man, HCL, if only there wasn’t so much spitting. /hardsquick

  35. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm |

    I don’t see predatory or derogatory in there. It’s presented positively.

    A cougar is a carnivorous beast. Why do you think the word was selected? You can’t get rid of the associations of a word by saying “I met a cougar I liked.” That’s not how language works.

    The term’s existence owes itself to the double standard, but at the same time undermines it.

    How does it undermine it?

    Having the existence of one’s sexual desires recognized and labeled by dudes is not some kind of huge step forward for ladykind. What would be actually subversive and undermining would be using a term women used to describe our own desires from our perspectives, not yet more terms expressing men’s views of our sexuality. It’s not radical to be attracted to a woman with kids. What would be radical would be if our society could bring itself to acknowledge that women with kids also often want to fuck people.

  36. Donna L
    Donna L May 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm |

    Another problematic aspect of the cougar label, I think, is the fact that the degree of age disparity that leads a woman to have that label applied to her is *so* much less than the degree of age disparity necessary for an older man-younger woman couple to cause anyone even to raise an eyebrow. For a woman who’s, say, over 30, a 10-year disparity (and probably less) would be plenty to have some people start raising eyebrows and applying the cougar label. For a man, a 10-year disparity is nothing. Assuming the woman is over 21, you’d probably need a 20 or 30 year disparity, and even then people don’t seem to get really negative, except for those 80-year old billionaire/25 year-old differences. My father is about 30 years older than his wife; he was in his late 50′s and she was in her late 20′s (only 7 or 8 years older than I was) when they started out 35 years ago or so, soon after my mother died. And I doubt that anyone (not counting me and my older sister!) ever said a single negative word to him.

    So it’s more than just a double-standard in which equivalent situations receive different treatment: for women, far smaller age differences result in far more negative reactions.

  37. Tony
    Tony May 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    I already said: it undermines it by giving widespread visibility and acceptance– in a *positive* way, to a role that was previously silently devalued by existing double standards in society.

    Ok, I don’t want to post too much more in this thread right now, but I disagree that a term that originated negatively can’t be turned into something positive. ‘Iron Lady’ denotes a either cold or heartless as iron, or tough and strong as iron.

    Take this article from 2008 about this term:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/Health/story?id=731599

    Gibson says the term originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, as a put-down for older women who would go to bars and go home with whoever was left at the end of the night.

    But now, it’s more positive — describing women usually their in 30s and 40s, who are financially stable and mentally independent and looking for a younger man to have fun with.

    Gibson, who is single but has been married five times — the last time to a man 15 years younger — describes cougars like herself this way: “She’s in control. She’s very attractive. And she’s very sexy.”

  38. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    ‘Iron Lady’ denotes a either cold or heartless as iron, or tough and strong as iron.

    That one is also an inappropriate word. It emphasizes the toughness of a woman as if a tough woman is an anomaly – and within a patriarchal society, such a woman is, in fact, considered anomalous.

  39. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

    DonnaL – Women with “step-mothers” only a few years older than them, represent! I’m attending my baby sister’s HS graduation the same weekend I’ll be going to my 30th!

    But that is an *excellent* point. Also, the younger the woman is, the more “studly” the man is seen (until you reach that upper end of the range). Whereas there would be tons of finger pointing, as well as teasing of the fellow involved, were those age spans reversed.

  40. Andie
    Andie May 29, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

    Whereas there would be tons of finger pointing, as well as teasing of the fellow involved, were those age spans reversed.

    A couple of years back, when I was around 26-27, I dated a 21 and a 20 year old in succession.. you wouldn’t believe the cougar and Mrs. Robinson comments I would get.

  41. Donna L
    Donna L May 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm |

    DonnaL – Women with “step-mothers” only a few years older than them, represent!

    Absolutely! And thanks for putting the term in quotes: after all these years, every time I think about the fact that my father’s wife is technically my stepmother, I shudder. Because to me she just isn’t any word that has “mother” in it. Nothing personal, of course.

  42. Iam138
    Iam138 May 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm |

    Ha! To think that I married my law school professor, who was 8 years older than I. She was at Yale when I was in 5th grade. She graduated from law school when I graduated from high school. She was experienced as a 31-year-old would be, and I was a 23-year-old virgin. I took four semesters of classes from her, two of them after we were seeing each other, the last one when I was basically living with her. I took one of her take-home exams at her dining room table, wouldn’t let her look at my blue book–and I completely missed the issue in the first question.

    And yet, I don’t think there was a power differential in the relationship, ever, even at the beginning. Certainly, when it ended after 23 years, there wasn’t.

  43. valentifan69
    valentifan69 May 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm |

    Two entire grades?! Those deviants.

    Excuse me if I get the year and age ranges wrong, but is this a 16 yo dating a 14 yo? And couldn’t it be 3 real years if a young person in one grade dated an old one two grades up?

  44. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm |

    “And thanks for putting the term in quotes”

    My family isn’t just blended, it’s positively Mix-Mastered. I figure any of us whose parents remarried while we are adults, regardless of our relationship with said new spouse, are not really down with calling them by Parental Honorifics. Alas, English does not give us a good word for this situation.

    Andie, I believe it! I dated someone 6yrs younger than me in my twenties and ugh, the comments!

  45. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

    On topic of teens dating with largish age differences, isn’t there any just going out any more? Are we assuming that these situations always end up with serious sexual activity? Because the vast majority of my relationships in HS, even after I’d started having sex, got no where near that far. And both times I dated younger teens, it ended pretty quickly because … most dating ends quickly, I think? What I mean to say is I’m don’t really see an issue with simply dating (read as going to events like dances or movies, hanging out with, smooching) in this situation.

    As the parent of a girl teen who dated both above and below her grade, I have to say mostly I just held my nose and waited it out. The former part b/c I didn’t care for either kid particularly. Ironically, it was the younger classman who was more sexually “pushy” with her (maybe b/c he expected an older girl would be more “experienced” or some such ish?). This is what made her break up with him.

  46. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    Excuse me if I get the year and age ranges wrong, but is this a 16 yo dating a 14 yo? And couldn’t it be 3 real years if a young person in one grade dated an old one two grades up?

    But what if a girl with a late-summer birthday dated a boy with a spring birthday who was red-shirted for kindergarten? Or, maybe the boy with the spring birthday was red-shirted for kindergarten and then held back a year. Or, maybe the girl started kindergarten in a state where the cut-off was December 1. Or,… Lots of possible combinations to have math fun with!

  47. Thalia
    Thalia May 29, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    A 16 year old being labelled a cougar seems ridiculous to me, regardless of who she is dating. The reasons why have been addressed far more articulately than I could manage in the comments above.

    For me, significant power differentials and, to some extent, gaping disparities in life experience can be considerably more problematic, regardless of what gender or sexuality the people involved in identify with. The preoccupation with age that exists within society is strange to me and detracts from what I, personally, feel are the more relevant issues.

  48. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

    A cougar is a carnivorous beast. Why do you think the word was selected? You can’t get rid of the associations of a word by saying “I met a cougar I liked.” That’s not how language works.

    A cougar is also a beautiful and graceful creature. Your line of reasoning that the comparison is bad because the creature in question is a hunter of other animals doesn’t really hold water. Both negative and positive interpretations of this term exist whether you like it or not. It would be like arguing that using the word black to describe a person is insulting because it is often associated with evil.

    As for the use of a hunting animal the general idea is that a Cougar is seeking a mate.

    According to Urbandictionary the male equivalent of Cougar is Redenbacher.

  49. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm |

    @mxe What do you do about an iron man then?

  50. LC
    LC May 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

    I wander back and realize I completely spaced the fact maggiemay wrote eighth grade, which is quite different from the 2-year gap I somehow edited into my head, and so apologize, but my faux pas seems to have been tramped by Tony’s… spirited… defense of “cougar”.

  51. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    What do you do about an iron man then?

    There’s nothing “surprising” about that term, because it’s considered relatively normal for a man to be tough.

  52. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm |

    As for the use of a hunting animal the general idea is that a Cougar is seeking a mate.

    This is exactly why the term is wrong. Why emphasize the idea of seeking a mate when it’s just a woman interested in younger men? Sex or gender shouldn’t matter in this case.

    According to Urbandictionary the male equivalent of Cougar is Redenbacher.

    I haven’t heard a single person call a man interested in younger women a redenbacher. I don’t care if it’s a real term; it’s almost never used as far as I know.

  53. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    @mxe354 so how does that make the term iron lady necessarily problematic if iron is used to denote the positive characteristic of toughness and/or independence? It is not as if men are not referred to as stone-hearted or black-hearted. If it is generally expected that men are considered tough there is no real reason to prefix iron to their gender designation is there?

    In short there is a very big disconnect between the logic of your argument and the fact that the term iron man exists at all when according to your logic it should not exist and the equivalent feminine form is problematic because it emphasizes a certain set of (potentially) positive characteristics.

  54. Luna
    Luna May 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    Hah when I was a high school senior i totally dated a freshman guy :) Lasted 4 months til I went off to college. His older sis and I graduated together, and we all went out to dinner with their family after the graduation ceremony (I didnt go to senior prom with anyone). My classmates thought I was a lil weird but… I WAS kinda a weird kid anyway so it wasnt a big surprise. Certainly no huge scandal.

  55. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    On “cougar”:

    Seriously? You think that dudes starting calling older women who had the audacity to fuck men five to ten years younger than themselves “cougars” in order to admire their grace and elegant lines? That’s such a willful misreading that I don’t even know what to do with it. Let me spell it out to you. There is an older, more experienced party. She is pursuing a younger, less experienced party. The older party is compared to a predator. What does that make the younger party?

    On “MILF”:

    Seriously, Tony, straight men have never suffered from a shortage of terms associating sexy women with motherhood (“hot mama,” for instance). Being made visible as a sexual object for men is not actually a hugely subversive event for women, even if they have children.

  56. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

    @mxe and I don’t really care if you never heard it. The point is that it does exist. I’ve only ever seen people use the term “zir” on this blog. I am aware of the fact that it has been suggested as a way of dealing with the nasty hack that he/she/it in English due to a lack of a real neutral tense. (I do think something like zir is probably a good idea.)

    At any rate human beings love to classify things and invent slang all the time. We like to have single terms to encapsulate various concepts. What about Stud? (A term that when applied to human males tends to denote ease of success with women or general attractiveness.) or Hunk which can be interpreted as reducing a man to a piece of flesh, or it can be used to denote an attractive male.

    Should we get rid of the words racism and sexism since they both denote types of elitism?

  57. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |

    and I don’t really care if you never heard it. The point is that it does exist.

    I agree that it exists, but its existence in this case is irrelevant due to its rarity.

    At any rate human beings love to classify things and invent slang all the time. We like to have single terms to encapsulate various concepts.

    Probably true. But those terms don’t have to be prejudiced.

    Should we get rid of the words racism and sexism since they both denote types of elitism?

    We should know that there are different types of prejudice in order to adequately fight them, so getting rid of those words is senseless.

    In short there is a very big disconnect between the logic of your argument and the fact that the term iron man exists at all when according to your logic it should not exist and the equivalent feminine form is problematic because it emphasizes a certain set of (potentially) positive characteristics.

    My logic doesn’t entail that the term iron man shouldn’t exist. I have no idea where you got that from. Also, the feminine form is not problematic because it emphasizes a positive trait. It’s problematic because that emphasis is the result of the expectation that women are soft.

  58. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl May 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

    As for the use of a hunting animal the general idea is that a Cougar is seeking a mate.

    I think the idea is that older women can only attract sexual partners by using predatory tactics. It’s basically taking a porn fetish and applying it across the board to any woman who dares to have an independent sexuality. It’s not the word that is important, as “bitch” is still a handy part of our daily lexicon. It’s the intent that matters: shaming and policing women for their sexual desires/activities.

    “Stud” doesn’t fit the argument. It relates to an action, not an animal (as a stand in for a human personality trait). Now, if we started calling some men “Shetland Ponies” and others “Percherons”… oh, wait, that won’t make a difference, as we don’t tend to shame men for their sexual proclivities, tastes, and inclinations in the same way society shames women for the exact same human behaviors. Hell, we have all kinds of scientific-y names for male sexual “perversions”, like pedophilia, pornography, bukkake, etc.* without having to come up with a million different animal names to degrade the men who partake of these tastes/interests.

    *(I don’t think that pornography and bukkake are perverse per se, but men don’t usually have to socially justify their attraction to either activity and they aren’t actively shamed for them either).

  59. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    My logic doesn’t entail that the term iron man shouldn’t exist. I have no idea where you got that from. Also, the feminine form is not problematic because it emphasizes a positive trait. It’s problematic because that emphasis is the result of the expectation that women are soft.

    Yea no that makes no sense, not unless you also argue that using the term iron man is the result of the expectation that men are soft. It doesn’t emphasize any given expectation of weakness on the part of women.

    We should know that there are different types of prejudice in order to adequately fight them, so getting rid of those words is senseless.

    So the words should exist because they are useful to people? So explain again why words like cougar, or hunk should not exist, obviously they are useful to people.

    The usefulness criterion really doesn’t help your argument at all.

    Terms need not be prejudiced but there is nothing wrong with having gendered forms of terms or specific terms meant to be used to refer to men or women. It is really no different from having the words master and mistress.

    Really at the end of the day people should just take the word cougar away from people who want to use it in a negative fashion. Just like some are trying to do with slut.

  60. Michelle
    Michelle May 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm |

    @h
    please go back and read the responses to Tony – you’re making similar arguments, just worse.

    On another note, I’ve never heard anyone referred to as Iron Man except Tony Stark

  61. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm |

    @Michelle why don’t you explain how they are worse?

  62. Michelle
    Michelle May 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    why don’t you explain how they are worse?

    he didn’t have an entire thread to read explaining why some positive connotations affiliated with a word make it acceptable.

  63. Michelle
    Michelle May 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    *or rather, still don’t make it acceptable

  64. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm |

    Stupid moderation

    @Michelle its not acceptable to you the fact of the matter is that this term is used in a non derogatory way. Even if it didn’t have any positive connotation (I’ve never heard the term cougar used in the negative myself, but I don’t try to deny that it can be used that way.) the simplest thing to do is just take the damn word away from anyone who wants to use it in a negative way.

    Instead of saying that a Cougar denotes a bestial creature who is a danger to men; say that it is a woman who doesn’t wait for a partner to come to them, she is assertive, strong, independent etc. Crack people over the head with their attempted insult.

  65. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm |

    @Michelle furthermore making nonsensical arguments doesn’t help the points people make. Even if they surround themselves with people who agree with them unquestioningly. When you make an argument you should be able to come up with a logically consistent argument.

  66. Annie D
    Annie D May 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm |

    On another note, I’ve never heard anyone referred to as Iron Man except Tony Stark

    Here in Australia there’s a major triathlon type competition called the iron man. However it’s not really used outside that context. One paper attempted to give the title to the leader of the opposition, a conservative who competes in iron man competitions, but it only stuck for the week or so surrounding the event.

    There is a brand of Kellogg’s cereal affiliated with the event, and they run advertising campaigns throughout the year aimed at young boys and mothers. The campaign spreads the idea of the iron man as the buff and bronzed athlete or surfer; very different from Thatcher’s Iron Lady.

  67. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm |

    @Michelle furthermore making nonsensical arguments doesn’t help the points people make. Even if they surround themselves with people who agree with them unquestioningly. When you make an argument you should be able to come up with a logically consistent argument.

    …I don’t think a single person in this thread has said otherwise.

  68. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    Instead of saying that a Cougar denotes a bestial creature who is a danger to men; say that it is a woman who doesn’t wait for a partner to come to them, she is assertive, strong, independent etc. Crack people over the head with their attempted insult.

    It’s just the asinine continuation of the “sex kitten” meme. I vote men re-appropriate “Creeper”. It’s now a reference to Minecraft. It’s not that they are being fucking creepy, they’re explosively sexual. So no more internet whining about being called “creepy” or “creeper”. Just take it as a compliment. Because I said so.

  69. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm |

    @librarygoose it used to suck to be a geek, and then the internet happened and being a geek became “in”. Or at least a hell of alot more in than it used to be.

  70. Michelle
    Michelle May 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm |

    its not acceptable to you the fact of the matter is that this term is used in a non derogatory way.

    people use the n-word in a non derogatory way – when they’re extremely ignorant. Is it okay then?

    Crack people over the head with their attempted insult.

    That’s a lovely idea, but very naive. If someone called me a cougar, meaning it as either a compliment (confident, old, graceful beastie, rawr), or an insult, I can’t see myself saying, “yeah, well I am confident and beautiful and old so there!” – I’ll tell them to not use that word.

    Maybe I misunderstand you and you think “cougar” should be reclaimed a la slutwalks? (note: I fully support slutwalks and don’t think they should stop). Librarygoose covers this well:

    So no more internet whining about being called “creepy” or “creeper”. Just take it as a compliment. Because I said so.

    We can’t erase words, but we can at the very least not use the insulting, marginalizing ones once we learn that they’re insulting and marginalizing.

  71. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm |

    Instead of saying that a Cougar denotes a bestial creature who is a danger to men; say that it is a woman who doesn’t wait for a partner to come to them, she is assertive, strong, independent etc. Crack people over the head with their attempted insult.

    Here’s a better idea: abandon terms that have an unnecessary reference to sex or gender.

  72. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm |

    @librarygoose it used to suck to be a geek, and then the internet happened and being a geek became “in”. Or at least a hell of alot more in than it used to be.

    So? It’s only the socially appropriate kind of geeking that can be done. Trust me, the internets make it easier to find other geeks, but my Star Trek shirts still get me shit even as an adult.

  73. Annie D
    Annie D May 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm |

    Something that seems to be overlooked in the comments here is that only the people subjected to the term who can really say if it is insulting or not. Instead of pulling examples from the air about how cougar and MILF are used in daily conversation, why don’t we talk about how women dating younger men and mothers feel about the terms?

  74. EG
    EG May 29, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

    All right. Then, speaking as a woman dating a younger man, I loathe the term. My best friend, who had a baby several months ago, hates MILF.

  75. h
    h May 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

    @librarygoose the point is that it is possible to change how terms are perceived.

  76. Anon21
    Anon21 May 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

    29/Andie:

    For starters, comparing humans to animals is a form of dehumanization. See also “bitch”.

    I disagree. Comparing humans to animals can be a form of dehumanization–one need look no further than the delightful cavalcade of racial insults based on animals to see that–but such comparisons need not be dehumanizing. Humans have long been dependent on and fascinated by animals, and it’s inevitable that animal comparisons will creep into our language in derogatory, benign, and positive ways. The power of “bitch” to offend doesn’t derive, in this day and age, from its formerly common use to refer to female dogs. And “silver fox,” to take a term generally applied only to men who date (much) younger women, is widely understood to have positive connotations. It’s just the case that in a misogynistic society, most words that refer exclusively to women will have negative connotations; that’s true irrespective of the unrelated practice of sometimes referring to humans as metaphorical animals.

  77. Annie D
    Annie D May 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

    @librarygoose the point is that it is possible to change how terms are perceived.

    But the way we should tell if this is happened isn’t by looking at how it is used, but how those it refers to feel about it.

  78. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

    Something that seems to be overlooked in the comments here is that only the people subjected to the term who can really say if it is insulting or not. Instead of pulling examples from the air about how cougar and MILF are used in daily conversation, why don’t we talk about how women dating younger men and mothers feel about the terms?

    Good point.

  79. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

    And my point was just because the term is perceived as “good” the behavior is still judged. What the hell do I care if there is “geek chic” as long as I have to defend a collection of Star Gate DVDs? What does any woman care if “Cougar” is used as a cute/sexy term by some if her sexuality makes her a beast to be tamed?

  80. Colin Reid
    Colin Reid May 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    In the UK I’ve heard ‘cradle snatcher’ used as a gender-neutral term, but that obviously has even worse connotations if you look at the literal meaning.

  81. DonnaL
    DonnaL May 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm |

    Well, if I were to date someone younger, I know I wouldn’t see the term as a compliment. I’d hate it.

  82. Tamara
    Tamara May 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm |

    That the behaviour itself is worth noting suggests that there is supposedly something wrong with it. Then when a term like “cougar” is attached to the behaviour it emphasises further the “wrongness” of the behaviour. That is why the the “cougar” question is offensive. apply it to teenagers and you have an offense trifecta.

  83. thinksnake
    thinksnake May 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm |

    Are people seriously using Urbandictionary as a source for how people use terms?

    As a side-note, Sugar Daddy is also used in gay communities, for a richer man who ‘buys’ a less-rich man.

  84. Daisy
    Daisy May 29, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

    I loathe cougar. I get called it even though my partner is only 3 years younger.

    Also, in a lot of places cougars don’t have a reputation as “sleek beautiful animals” like jaguars or tigers. Cougar is frequently a disparaging name for the animal itself. When it’s appreciated for its beauty or prowess, it’s termed a mountain lion or panther. When its considered a menace (like when it’s accused of attacking [dare I say helpless/innocent] livestock), it becomes “a mangy old cougar”. That’s why the term cougar was applied and not, say, panther.

    Regarding MILF, my experience is that it has nothing to do with actual mothers, but simply “middle-aged” women who in our youth-frenzied culture are still deemed “fuckable” by men.

  85. Tamara
    Tamara May 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

    Yes, as for MILF, what Daisy said. We are supposed to be grateful that we are still considered “fuckable”. More notes from their boners.

  86. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll May 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm |

    My husband is 10 years younger to the day. He’s Canadian, I’m Texan. When I went to Canada to visit him one year, (prior to marriage) the Canadian Immigration Agent told me (after grilling me 45 minutes and telling me he was concerned about a single female traveling alone…with his eyes glued to my boobs) ” We have a name here for women like you”

    and I said – Oh really. And what is it?

    He said- Cougar

    I said- We have a name in Texas for men like you, too.

    He dropped it at that and then went out to call his name (because delicate little female me required a man to come retrieve me safely *eye roll*) then came back telling me no one answered. When I was FINALLY allowed to go, I found him standing 5 feet from where the agent supposedly went out to call for him.

    I’d never heard the term Cougar before, but when that agent used it I knew it wasn’t positive.

  87. Michelle
    Michelle May 30, 2012 at 12:03 am |

    (late response)

    @Michelle furthermore making nonsensical arguments doesn’t help the points people make. Even if they surround themselves with people who agree with them unquestioningly. When you make an argument you should be able to come up with a logically consistent argument.

    Which part of what I said did you think was nonsensical? Catching yourself up on a conversation before jumping into it to avoid repetition makes sense to me.
    What else from that dialogue – The Iron Man comment was me saying I have never heard anyone refer to men in the same context as “Iron Lady,” reinforcing someone’s previous assertion that if it is in use, it’s less prevalent.

  88. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |

    For completeness’ sake:

    Yea no that makes no sense, not unless you also argue that using the term iron man is the result of the expectation that men are soft. It doesn’t emphasize any given expectation of weakness on the part of women.

    You can’t argue that, because men aren’t expected to be soft. I just told you why it emphasizes the culturally perceived weakness of women: “iron woman” is specifically gendered because women aren’t expected to be tough.

    So the words should exist because they are useful to people? So explain again why words like cougar, or hunk should not exist, obviously they are useful to people.

    But they are prejudiced, so whether they’re useful is entirely irrelevant. The same cannot be said for neutral words like “sexism” and “racism.”

    Terms need not be prejudiced but there is nothing wrong with having gendered forms of terms or specific terms meant to be used to refer to men or women. It is really no different from having the words master and mistress.

    Yes, it is wrong. Sexism arises from, among other things, the unnecessary emphasis of gender in almost every context.

    Really at the end of the day people should just take the word cougar away from people who want to use it in a negative fashion. Just like some are trying to do with slut.
    You can’t just take words away from people who use it negatively. It’s not nearly as easy as you think, and most of the time it’s futile, AFAIK. The best thing to do would be to get rid of language that needlessly reminds people about gender. And that includes words like cougar, MILF, hunk, stud, and iron lady.

  89. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 30, 2012 at 12:25 am |

    In my previous post:

    Really at the end of the day people should just take the word cougar away from people who want to use it in a negative fashion. Just like some are trying to do with slut.
    You can’t just take words away from people who use it negatively. It’s not nearly as easy as you think, and most of the time it’s futile, AFAIK. The best thing to do would be to get rid of language that needlessly reminds people about gender. And that includes words like cougar, MILF, hunk, stud, and iron lady.

    The first paragraph is not mine.

  90. Caperton
    Caperton May 30, 2012 at 12:56 am | *

    You can’t reclaim a word for somebody else. “You’re such a whore! No, I mean you’re really assertive and sexually confident.” No, I mean fuck you.

    “What’s your problem? You call yourself a bitch all the time.” My friends and I have a specific, positive definition of bitch that we use among ourselves. That guy hooting from the park bench didn’t mean it as a compliment, and I’m not going to try to delude myself to make it sting less.

    “You’re not like a hungry, predatory carnivore desperately prowling for innocent prey. You’re, like, a sleek and sexy and confident jungle cat! Rawr!” If I wanted to be associated with a carnivorous feline, I probably wouldn’t be complaining about it right now, would I? I’ll reclaim it when I’m good and ready.

  91. Biscia
    Biscia May 30, 2012 at 5:07 am |

    Oh man, my high school mascot was the cougar. I hated the place so much that I must confess to a degree of really childish gloating, up to now, about the way it’s become a slur (envisioning the hand-wringing among the conservative administrators… not to mention the glee of their main sports rivals, the long-suffering Trojans). But stupidly, it never crossed my mind that anyone could use it in reference to teenage girls. Gloating’s over.

  92. matlun
    matlun May 30, 2012 at 6:07 am |

    That the behaviour itself is worth noting suggests that there is supposedly something wrong with it. Then when a term like “cougar” is attached to the behaviour it emphasises further the “wrongness” of the behaviour.

    This is obviously not true in the general sense. It only means that it is worth noting. Something can be surprising, remarkable, or just interesting without being classified as wrong.

    In this case I do not have an opinion on whether the term is derogatory or not, but I must say that argument that all comparisons to animals are automatically derogatory is just silly. You would need to look at actual use and perception of the term. Ie
    * Is it normally used in a derogatory manner?
    * Is it normally perceived as being derogatory?

    If we in this case are discussing the usage in the US, someone more familiar than me with US culture would be needed to address this. And it may not be possible to get an absolute consensus if different sub cultures have different standards.

    Personally I doubt that we will even reach consensus on this thread.

    1. Tamara
      Tamara May 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm |

      matlun @ 94 – OK fair enough, I generalised a bit for brevity. Can we say that if the behaviour being noted is the sexual behaviour of a woman then we can safely say it is being noted in a negative way? And if the comparison is of a woman to an animal then it is general negative?

  93. Mrs.Virtue
    Mrs.Virtue May 30, 2012 at 7:51 am |

    Hey don’t forget silver fox and sugar daddy. Those are the closest male equivalents.

    Also Tony that was an artfully crafted troll, unless you were serious in which case I need to go bash my head into something now…

  94. Gwen
    Gwen May 30, 2012 at 8:51 am |

    What an embarrassing article (the original). My 5-year boyfriend is three years younger than I am , and we started dating the summer after I graduated from grade 12.

    The age difference was a bit awkward when we first met, but I got over it quickly because we connected so strongly. However, the worst part about it was the way it sounded to other people. I’ve been called a cradle-robber and a cougar (in jest), and I think our parents thought it was bizarre for a long time.

    I don’t notice the age difference at all any more, but it’s always kind of uncomfortable when it comes up in a conversation. I feel like people think I’m immature or desperate for dating someone younger than myself, and my friends at that time were always sort of suspicious of him. He, on the other hand, would get high-fives and praise for dating someone older; like it was some phenomenal accomplishment. I think it’s more of an accomplishment that he’s an intelligent, mature human being rather than the fact that he happened to be born a few years after I was.

  95. Alix
    Alix May 30, 2012 at 9:34 am |

    Heh. When I was in high school back in the 70s, my parents actively discouraged me from dating boys even a year younger (by making fun of me), but somehow it was perfectly OK to date guys 10 years older (no kidding — at 15, I had a 25-year-old boyfriend). I’d have been far better off with the younger guys.

  96. Amelia the lurker
    Amelia the lurker May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am |

    According to Urbandictionary the male equivalent of Cougar is Redenbacher.

    “Redenbacher,” if memory serves, is a term created by the awesome folks at The Hairpin precisely BECAUSE there is no male equivalent to “cougar.” It has not caught on. By citing that word, you have proven that there is still no real male equivalent to the word “cougar.”

  97. EG
    EG May 30, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    You can’t reclaim a word for somebody else. “You’re such a whore! No, I mean you’re really assertive and sexually confident.” No, I mean fuck you.

    “You’re not like a hungry, predatory carnivore desperately prowling for innocent prey. You’re, like, a sleek and sexy and confident jungle cat! Rawr!” If I wanted to be associated with a carnivorous feline, I probably wouldn’t be complaining about it right now, would I? I’ll reclaim it when I’m good and ready.

    Caperton, in a completely non-harassing and non-objectifying way, I would like to marry you.

  98. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |

    …there is still no real male equivalent to the word “cougar.”

    How about “Sad old man trying recapture his youth”?

    Unless there are still people on here clinging to the myth that ‘cougar’ isn’t a derogatory term IN THIS CONTEXT.

  99. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated May 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm |

    Note–Out here in BFE, a geek or geeker is a meth monster, cougar is seldom if ever a compliment, and age stereotyping is still a huge problem. If girls in civilization are dating guys a year or two younger, good for them, as long as they pay attention to sexual predator laws. Like the recent case of the honors student who was jailed for truancy because she had to get some sleep, some judges, probably MCP’s, will almost certainly give the girls as much trouble as the law allows while allowing the boys a free pass.
    The NYT features pages have been known to give tabloids serious competition for sheer tackiness.

  100. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

    wow, i wasnt expecting the kind of reaction i got to my confession of teenage stupidity—just want to make it clear i wasnt bragging about what i did, nor was i trashing older sis—she was actually my friend, and her threat to go to the authorities was exactly the wake-up call i needed to get my life straight and stop actin a fool—i did a lot of stupid things when i was 17, and that was only one of them—-when i turned 18 i decided it was time to start behaving like an adult

  101. matlun
    matlun May 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

    Unless there are still people on here clinging to the myth that ‘cougar’ isn’t a derogatory term IN THIS CONTEXT.

    If with this context you mean discussing high school girls dating slightly younger boys, I though everyone agreed that it was just a ridiculously incorrect usage of the word (?)

    My reading of this thread was that it became a discussion about the word since everyone pretty much agreed with Jill on the rest of the OP.

  102. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    If with this context you mean discussing high school girls dating slightly younger boys, I though everyone agreed that it was just a ridiculously incorrect usage of the word (?)

    No, the context I meant was having a term describing a woman who is older than her male partner whereas none exists for an analogous male with a similarly young partner.

  103. Kai
    Kai May 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    “Redenbacher,” if memory serves, is a term created by the awesome folks at The Hairpin precisely BECAUSE there is no male equivalent to “cougar.” It has not caught on. By citing that word, you have proven that there is still no real male equivalent to the word “cougar.”

    I heard “Redenbacher” being used in a sketch on the Daily Show, as a complete joke. Yeah, I agree with Amelia here.

  104. Tovsain
    Tovsain May 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    This is probably my mid-20s dating bias talking, but I can’t help but feel like part of the reason the term “cougar” exists is simply because it’s the one age related dating preference that *doesn’t* conform particularly well to the mean of preferences.

    Whenever I look around at online dating profiles, guys tend to have a fairly even spread of ages, like a 25 year old putting down 22-28, while it’s pretty uncommon to see a Woman who puts down more than a year or so younger – to the point that I sometimes reconsider including older Women in my search preferences simply because I almost never seem to fit what they’re looking for.

    I’m sure it gets skewed a lot more at higher age ranges, with the sort of guys who are looking explicitly for a young woman as opposed to for a companion with similar life experience (like I said, mid-20s-dating-bias/privilege here) – but I can’t help but think the origins of the term “cougar” are tied less to “Women being Sexual” than they are to the fact that stereotypes *always* stick extra hard and fast to demographics that stand out – and my (admittedly anecdotal) experience has been that Women who date younger (or at least are willing to say they would date younger) – well, that’s the nail that sticks out.

  105. a male
    a male May 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm |

    When I was in 9th grade, and 5’2″, 96 lbs, with no body hair until college, I had some very friendly relationships with girls one and three years older. With the 12th grader, we’d hold hands and talk. She thought I was cute. She didn’t appear to be her age, either. Though she had boyfriends before, it never went further than one kiss on the cheek, and once we shared a sleeping bag at camp with no touching or fooling around. (This “sleeping together” impressed the older boys who were together in the coed lodge.)

    I also had a relationship with a 9th grade girl when I was in 12 grade. We met when she was in 7th grade. Seriously. She and her friend came to me because they teased me about my haircut. We just talked for a year, and once I took her to a movie. We hugged twice. Then she had to move away.

    It was really nice. I didn’t feel pressured to be sexual with these girls, and I didn’t see them as sexual objects. I never would have been able to have a relationship like that after high school. I was alone for most of college because I was too immature for most women. I was “friends” with a number of others.

  106. ASH
    ASH May 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |

    OK, let’s just cut the bologna.

    To anyone defending “cougar” as some kind of empowering word, I’d like to know how many women who fit the definition REALLY call themselves that or like being referred to as that.

    As a woman who is six years older than my husband, I have been REPEATEDLY referred in a snickering fashion by MOSTLY men, but women alike, with this term. There is always some implication that my relationship is a lesser or he wants a mommy or is after my money *HA*.

    I have many female friends who have husbands 6 years or more older than them. They aren’t subject to some ridiculous norm. There has never been an implication that the women are lesser or after his money PURELY because the male in the relationship is 6 years or older.

    That’s all you need to know to measure whether or not the term cougar is a “compliment” or just a bullshit term to label a situation that is “outside the norm”. Although not nearly as bad, it reminds of a gay relationship where some halfwit always asks, “Which one is the man”? It is the same time of crap and isn’t FLATTERING.

  107. matlun
    matlun May 31, 2012 at 6:11 am |

    Can we say that if the behaviour being noted is the sexual behaviour of a woman then we can safely say it is being noted in a negative way? And if the comparison is of a woman to an animal then it is general negative?

    Sorry, no.

    I think we can agree that the referenced NYT article certainly noted the behaviour in a negative way and also that in general there are negative attitudes to older girls/women dating younger boys/men. There is definitely sexism in how age differences are viewed.

    I think ASH’s question is the critical one

    how many women who fit the definition REALLY call themselves that or like being referred to as that.

    Ie it is just a question of the actual usage and the “emotional value” of the word in practice.

    About the animal reference I would in general say that the large cats are impressive and admirable images. It is normally an image of strength and power (which admittedly is not always seen as positive for women since it goes against the norm). But again I do not think that type of theoretical argument has much value – the question is how the word is actually used and valued in practice.

  108. bozon
    bozon May 31, 2012 at 6:21 am |

    I had no idea my school experiences were so uncommon. During high school, senior boys who perused freshman or sophomore girls were called “bullet biters” (on account of how they could count on daddy waiting at the door with a shotgun, which happened to more than a few kids at school) at worst, “cradle robbers” at best. Girls however rarely received any stigma for going after who ever they pleased.

  109. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 31, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    I think ASH’s question is the critical one

    how many women who fit the definition REALLY call themselves that or like being referred to as that.

    Ie it is just a question of the actual usage and the “emotional value” of the word in practice.

    I disagree. Even if a majority of women who were labeled ‘cougar’ consider it a compliment, it wouldn’t make the term less offensive. The term, as popularly used, is derogatory because it implies that an woman in her 40s who dates multiple men in their 20s are somehow predatory. It’s also been brought up on here that it’s sexist as there is no similar term for a man in his 40′s who dates women in their 20′s, and that situation is considered okay by many people who would scoff at ‘cougars.’

    There is a difference between one of wife’s friends jokingly calling her a ‘cougar’ because she’s 8 months older than me (not offensive/sexist), and the same person calling a woman in her 40′s a ‘cougar’ because she dates men in their 20′s (offensive/sexist); especially if, as is so often the case, they consider a man in his 40′s who dates women in their 20′s ‘lucky.’

  110. matlun
    matlun May 31, 2012 at 11:38 am |

    @bozon: My experience is perhaps somewhat similar. I would say that here in Sweden, young boys who go for younger girlfriends (with any significant age difference) are judged more harshly than girls doing the same, but for somewhat older teenagers/adults, the man being older is still seen as the norm.

    However, this is not some kind of “reverse sexism” but is just another symptom of judging the couple through the same traditionally sexist prism. Ie: The man is seen as the dominant, strong party while the woman is the weak and submissive one.

    This view can cause younger girls easier being seen as victims. For example teacher/student relationships are judged more harshly when the teacher is male.

    The same view causes dominant women to be seen as unfeminine and submissive men as unmanly. From that perspective the relationship with the woman being more experienced breaks the norms and that woman is judged in a way a man would not be.

  111. LC
    LC May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |

    I first encountered “cougar” as specifically an older woman (loosely defined as “obviously older than the crowd here”) who hung around in spaces (bars/events/etc) geared towards younger people with the intent to pick up younger men for one-night stands.

    Over time it morphed and I remember a group of 30-something women I knew having a “cougar club” and they used it as a “screw you telling me now that I’m over 30 I am no longer sexual or desirable”. I don’t know how common that reclaiming was.

    Then it seemed to turn into the term of choice for tabloids referring to Demi Moore dating Ashton Kuchner and a general shift to “older woman dating a younger man” where the woman had to be substantially older, although it seems it has drifted now to “any woman dating a younger man”, regardless of the age gap.

    Somewhere in all that there was brief era where there were numerous cat names, all age-based. (Cougar -> over 30; Puma -> over 40; Lioness -> over 50.) I suspect that may well have been a Toronto-only thing.

    It’s clearly morphed a bit as words tend to, but my impression is that it has rarely been flattering and the only positive connotation I’ve encountered was short lived, and somewhat ironic.

    I don’t know if the NYT usage is unique to them or it really has drifted all the way down to high schoolers.

  112. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    There is a calendar in the office across the hall from me produced by a group a self-identified cougars (mostly women in their 40s and 50s in bikinis). The proceeds from the calendar go to some sort of big cat rescue program. I marvel at it all on a number of anthropological levels.

  113. steph
    steph May 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    I am 40 and dating a man who is 23. My coworkers and friends call me a cougar. They use it with bit of awe and a lot of humorous affection. It may have a lot do with living in NYC as there is no expectation of living a certain way here so I am regarded as an individual, and not as an example of transgression.

    If I had been in the Canadian immigration situation described by @pheenobarbidoll [#88], I would have been profoundly offended, as the intent of the speaker was to degrade and shame.

    Similarly, if the term were ever to be used in my presence while the speaker was snickering [@ASH #109], I would be sure to ask why a snicker was called for, and whether the speaker snicker if it were an older man/younger woman pairing.

    I find the term fun when my friends, boyfriend, and I use it. As Tony has been arguing, I am experiencing the term as it is evolving in meaning from negative to positive.

    I predict the term will eventually become useless, as the older woman/younger man dynamic is normalized.

  114. Andie
    Andie May 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

    Somewhere in all that there was brief era where there were numerous cat names, all age-based. (Cougar -> over 30; Puma -> over 40; Lioness -> over 50.) I suspect that may well have been a Toronto-only thing.

    The Sun’s Valerie Gibson (yeah, I used to read the Sun. Feel free to judge me. I do) wrote a book called ‘Cougar’ about the art of dating younger.

    It was given to me as a gift. Har har.

  115. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll May 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

    To anyone defending “cougar” as some kind of empowering word, I’d like to know how many women who fit the definition REALLY call themselves that or like being referred to as that.

    I fit the definition and if someone calls me that to my face, they’re apt to lose their face.

    Do. Not. Like.

  116. Shadow
    Shadow May 31, 2012 at 9:43 pm |

    Am I the only one who grew up with cradle-robber and cougar being the male and female versions of someone dating someone 9-10+ yrs younger than them?

  117. Shadow
    Shadow May 31, 2012 at 9:45 pm |

    For context, this was in Southern Africa, but we got a lot of our slang from American and British TV.

  118. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve May 31, 2012 at 10:34 pm |

    I am 40 and dating a man who is 23. My coworkers and friends call me a cougar. They use it with bit of awe and a lot of humorous affection. It may have a lot do with living in NYC as there is no expectation of living a certain way here so I am regarded as an individual, and not as an example of transgression.

    If I had been in the Canadian immigration situation described by @pheenobarbidoll [#88], I would have been profoundly offended, as the intent of the speaker was to degrade and shame.

    Similarly, if the term were ever to be used in my presence while the speaker was snickering [@ASH #109], I would be sure to ask why a snicker was called for, and whether the speaker snicker if it were an older man/younger woman pairing.

    I find the term fun when my friends, boyfriend, and I use it. As Tony has been arguing, I am experiencing the term as it is evolving in meaning from negative to positive.

    I do not think “it is evolving in meaning from negative to positive.” Regardless of how it makes the individual feel, it is defining a woman in terms of her male partner.

    Also, I don’t understand what you mean by your co-workers and friends looking at you with ‘a bit of awe.’ You’re saying it’s good that your co-workers and friends are jealous of your relationship? And what are they jealous of? The fact that you have a younger lover? I think it’s great that you’re getting what you want from your relationship, but some of us who do have a 40-something year old partner are perfectly happy with that partner and don’t consider people with younger partners more fortunate.

  119. EG
    EG May 31, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

    Steve, may I try to give a bit of context to the being looked at with awe part?

    Women are constantly being bombarded with messages telling us that once we hit thirty, more or less, we’re dried-up old hags with no sex appeal. All kinds of media come into play in order to generate anxiety around aging, our desirability to men, and, in this patriarchy, therefore our essential worth. So for a woman to be with a significantly younger man is not just a personal confirmation of desirability, the way being a partner always can be, but it’s also a strike back at a kind of deeply misogynist view on her worth that even those of us who consciously fight it almost cannot help but internalize, and in a public way, once the relationship is known. I think that this is why, by the way, we’re seeing the term “cougar” at all, because the pairing of an older woman and younger man undoes so many of the gender-myths about what is desirable in a woman and what a man wants that it’s important to make the woman in question sound unappealing and inhuman.

    I am pretty sure that that was the dynamic being referred to, and that no devaluation of non-young partners was intended, or as sure as I can be without being the commenter in question.

  120. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 1, 2012 at 1:04 am |

    once we hit thirty, more or less, we’re dried-up old hags with no sex appeal.

    So true. I’m not sure I can explain this very well, because it isn’t an experience most people have, but it’s something I specifically recall. I was in my late 40′s when I transitioned socially seven years ago — by which I mean being “myself” 24/7 (the major change being at work, since by then work was pretty much the only place where I still pretended to be a guy). And I remember thinking around that time how remarkable it was that in a period of about 14 hours, between the time I left work on a Monday evening as D——, my former incarnation, and the time I showed up to work the next morning as Donna, I went from being (at least as the world perceived me) a man in his late 40′s, in the prime of life in terms of theoretical romantic prospects, to a being a woman in her late 40′s (and, what’s more, a trans woman) — completely over the hill (not that I ever had the chance to be on the near side of the hill!) and beyond the pale. Like magic! Even though I was still exactly the same person, with exactly the same face, and have every reason to believe that I’m perceived as being better-looking now than I was before.

    Obviously I knew all this going in, and it didn’t affect for a moment my decision to go through with my transition. Still, it’s all so completely ridiculous that I’d have to laugh if it weren’t so depressing.

  121. Mxe354
    Mxe354 June 1, 2012 at 1:27 am |

    I think that this is why, by the way, we’re seeing the term “cougar” at all, because the pairing of an older woman and younger man undoes so many of the gender-myths about what is desirable in a woman and what a man wants that it’s important to make the woman in question sound unappealing and inhuman.

    I concur. You summed it up pretty well.

  122. steph
    steph June 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |

    @EG, yes, that is it, precisely.
    @DonnaL, thank you for that valuable evidence.

    @Steve, “Regardless of how it makes the individual feel, it is defining a woman in terms of her male partner.”

    Yes, it is defining me (well, not all of me, but my sexuality) in terms of him. I call my boyfriend my boytoy to his face and to my friends and coworkers. Thusly, I define him in relation to my sexuality.

    All of us live in context to one another; we live within patriarchy like a fish lives in water. It is changing slowly. The term “cougar” is evolving, just as society is evolving, and I do hope that one day the term will be obsolete. [A little bit like "femme fatale" is an archaic term now].

    Until then, I endeavor to act bravely and live as fully as possible within the strictures of patriarchy- and this includes claiming this term with good humor.

  123. Off White
    Off White June 1, 2012 at 9:59 am |

    My wife is two years older than I am, except for those three intoxicating weeks in the end of June and beginning of July when she’s three years older. She makes more money than I do too, and has a more advanced degree. Heh, I never knew I was on the bleeding edge of societal decay.

  124. Lamech
    Lamech June 1, 2012 at 11:27 am |

    If girls in civilization are dating guys a year or two younger, good for them, as long as they pay attention to sexual predator laws. Like the recent case of the honors student who was jailed for truancy because she had to get some sleep, some judges, probably MCP’s, will almost certainly give the girls as much trouble as the law allows while allowing the boys a free pass.

    They should pay attention to sexual predator laws not because a judge might give them trouble, but because raping a boy is majorly NOT OKAY. Statutory rape is rape, and it should be treated as such; the only problem with your hypothetical judge is that (s)he gives boys a free pass.

  125. Tony
    Tony June 1, 2012 at 11:39 am |

    Mea culpa on the Cougar thing. I don’t accept that all gendered words are inherently negative, but the practical experience with this word is obviously a lot more complex and potentially more derogatory than I’d portrayed in my earlier comments, or that I’ve seen in my (limited) personal experience. Sorry about that.

    The book was repetitive and horrendous, achingly so. I do think there’s a worthwhile discussion to be had about why it is popular and whether / why huge power imbalance is very common in romantic fiction.

  126. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

    may I try to give a bit of context to the being looked at with awe part?

    Women are constantly being bombarded with messages telling us that once we hit thirty, more or less, we’re dried-up old hags with no sex appeal. All kinds of media come into play in order to generate anxiety around aging, our desirability to men, and, in this patriarchy, therefore our essential worth. So for a woman to be with a significantly younger man is not just a personal confirmation of desirability, the way being a partner always can be, but it’s also a strike back at a kind of deeply misogynist view on her worth that even those of us who consciously fight it almost cannot help but internalize, and in a public way, once the relationship is known. I think that this is why, by the way, we’re seeing the term “cougar” at all, because the pairing of an older woman and younger man undoes so many of the gender-myths about what is desirable in a woman and what a man wants that it’s important to make the woman in question sound unappealing and inhuman.

    I am pretty sure that that was the dynamic being referred to, and that no devaluation of non-young partners was intended, or as sure as I can be without being the commenter in question.

    Well, EG, I would have thought that regardless of your partner’s age your friends and colleagues would look upon him/her with awe, rather than you.

  127. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    “The fact that there is no equivalent term for a man who’s dating patterns skew younger is a problem.

    Is it really that difficult for people to know/remember derogatory words for older men pursuing younger women? There are a number of them, animal-related and not.
    Animal: Dingo, Panther, Manther, Shark, Lizard (as in lounge)
    Fox (as in silver, a couple people even mentioned this one).
    All of those, with the possible exception of Fox, carry negative connotation. In highschool, we used fox to refer to girls and boys who were hot, so depends on the era.
    Non-Animal: lothario, svengali, humbert, lech and, of course, perv(ert).
    That’s a few off the top of my head. There are no doubt many more if we go back even a decade or so.
    There’s also derogatory words for the younger guys dating older: “a franklin” referring, I think, to Ben Franklin who was known for courting much older women. It’s not used as often, but I’m sure some of you have heard it.
    There are derogatory words/concepts for almost any relationship you want to think of. I dated a girl in my early 20′s who was my exact age, within a month, and we got crap for that. “How come you’re not seeing someone older/younger?” WTF?

    “If with this context you mean discussing high school girls dating slightly younger boys, I thought everyone agreed that it was just a ridiculously incorrect usage of the word.”

    Right, because the correct word in that context is puma.

  128. Donna L
    Donna L June 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm |

    lothario, svengali,

    I don’t think you know what those words mean. (Not what you seem to think.)

    lech and, of course, perv(ert).

    Hardly limited to the meaning you suggest.

    And don’t try to tell me that “humbert” ever entered popular usage as a slang word. Maybe briefly after the book was published, but I doubt even that.

    Dingo? Manther? Where did you find these words?

  129. EG
    EG June 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

    Animal: Dingo, Panther, Manther, Shark, Lizard (as in lounge)

    I have never heard any of these in my life, and it has been a life spent mocking men twenty or thirty years my senior who pursue women my age.

    Non-Animal: lothario, svengali, humbert, lech and, of course, perv(ert).

    A Lothario is a man who sleeps around; it is equivalent to Don Juan or Casanova. Not only does it have nothing to do with the age of the man in question, but it is rarely derogatory.

    A svengali is a powerful, charismatic man who molds and controls a less powerful woman.

    A humbert is not even a thing. Again, a lifetime of making fun of this kind of man, and never once hearing it.

    A lech has nothing to do with age; it refers to a person who is lecherous, and there’s nothing particularly masculine about it.

    Similarly, a pervert can refer to a person of any sex and has nothing to do with age.

  130. ASH
    ASH June 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

    In the every day world, no one goes around calling a man who is significantly older than his female companion a lothario. If I heard someone even use this word today, I would assume that I had traveled in my time machine and fell into someone’s parlor and said lothario would have courted several ladies; none of which had necessarily been much younger than him.

    If you can show me a modern day show called “Lothariotown” or an article in a newspaper/magazine with REAL LIFE humberts, than I might concede it the same.

    HOWEVER, shows and articles are created about “cougars” because it is some “other” that people are interested in because of their notion that it is “taboo”. No such mindset exists when the roles are reversed.

  131. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

    Svengali, derived from the novel Trilby, is a man who seeks to control/manipulate younger women. Not it’s original meaning from the book, but the pop culture version most people understand.
    Lothario, another literary reference, is commonly known as a seducer of women, generally younger as the older women know his style and spurn him.
    They’re pretty common words, no?

    Dingo/Manther. I don’t know where they come from, but I’ve heard male and female friends use them in conversation talking about an old guy who thinks he has game or comes onto younger women. Manther’s been around a while; I remember hearing that when I was in junior high/highschool.
    From ChaCha:
    “A manther is an older man who frequents bars, lounges and clubs, never a genuine gentleman, ranging from ten to fifty years older than his victim. A manther carries an unusually fat wallet, wears too much cologne, and dresses younger than his age.”

    I think we can agree, not very flattering…

  132. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm |

    I’m sorry, EG, but just because you don’t know a word doesn’t mean it’s not “a thing.”
    Lech and perv are commonly used by teen girls to mock older guys. Humbert made the rounds every year in highschool after the obligatory reading and I would hear it on into college.

    As to the manther/dingo/whatever, maybe it’s more common in the club scene in L.A./SoCal which is where I heard it most.

    You’re right about the correct use of lothario, but nowadays people use it to mean a sad, older guy going after young girls. I have also heard people use it in a “positive” sense, like the guy being good at getting younger women, so I guess it goes back to what others said about shifting definitions over time.

  133. ASH
    ASH June 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm |

    I have never heard someone call a older man dating a younger woman a svengali, lothario, dingo, or manther. EVER. NOT ONCE.

    Dirty old man. MAYBE. That was usually only if the age range was HUGE or the guy was over the top sexually inappropriate with women of any age.

    Cougar? I hear at least a few times a week and it is even applied when the women is minimally older than the male.

    Seriously, you’re reaching….

  134. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

    Andrew, I’m perfectly familiar with the literary origin of Svengali and Lothario. You are 100% wrong regarding how they’re used. There’s no implication whatsoever in using the term “Lothario” that the women he woos have to be younger. They could just as easily be wealthy older women, or women of the same age. (I’m not even aware that the Lothario character in Don Quixote was supposed to be older than the wife he seduced.) Besides, a “Lothario” figure is all about the seduction, not any subsequent relationship.

    And age differential has little or nothing to do with the Svengali term; it’s usually applied to any relationship between two people in which one has mysterious, hypnotic control over the other.

    I also hope you’re aware that the Svengali character in Trilby is a notorious example of anti-Semitism in English literature — the mysterious, powerful Jew pulling strings behind the scenes; the spider at the center of his web (which is how Svengali was illustrated).

    You really are reaching, as ASH points out. It’s getting silly.

  135. Mxe354
    Mxe354 June 2, 2012 at 12:47 am |

    >reads Andrew’s arguments

    And I thought no one could be as bad as H in this thread… X_X

  136. Tony
    Tony June 2, 2012 at 1:21 am |

    Older man and younger woman is seen as ‘normal’. Yeah there is some judgement. Some people will say, and most people will think, ‘wow why is he marrying someone X number of years his junior, perhaps he’s a lecherous old man trying to hang onto his youth’, or if it’s not marriage perhaps he’s a perv. If X is some very large number, like 15 or more. But none of those words are inherently tied to age. Trying to argue that there isn’t a double standard here is blindness. To my mind that’s the real issue [ and why this article was written to begin with ].

    The entire construction of the word ‘manther’ is a joke and proves the opposite of your point. It’s not a member of the animal kingdom; it clearly was derived from panther. In the regular world, male is the default. But for this particular epithet, female is the default. Why is that??? Hmmmmmm [Don't answer!]

  137. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 2, 2012 at 1:39 am |

    Y’okay then. Not sure what to tell you. Go look up the terms yourself or talk to some highschool girls/boys. (Not on the lit references of course.)
    I’m not looking to argue with you.

    And, yes Donna, I’m aware of the portrayal of Svengali; not sure what relevance it has in this specific conversation though.

  138. EG
    EG June 2, 2012 at 8:16 am |

    Lech and perv are commonly used by teen girls to mock older guys.

    They’re also commonly used by teenage girls to mock boys their own age; they’re hardly confined to older men.

    Humbert made the rounds every year in highschool after the obligatory reading and I would hear it on into college.

    I teach at a college and I’ve never heard it. Not when I was in high school and all my friends were reading Lolita, not from my older cooler cousin or her friends, and not from my current students.

    You’re right about the correct use of lothario, but nowadays people use it to mean a sad, older guy going after young girls.

    Nope. When people want to specify that the lothario in question is older, they say “aging lothario,” which is a fairly common phrase, and says nothing about the age of his partners.

    Seriously, stop being absurd and think for a moment. When was the last time you saw any of these words that claim are au courant in some kind of media indicating that we all know what they mean? Were any of them used in Something’s Got To Give, an entire movie about how Jack Nicholson learns to be satisfied with a woman only ten years his junior? Do you ever hear or read anything like “The engagement of well-known dingo Hugh Hefner has been called off”? “Svengali Jack Nicholson has sworn off younger women”? “NBC is premiering an exciting new drama called ‘Manther’ starring Pierce Brosnan”? “My friends and I are worried: are our teenage sons turning into baby humberts?”

    These terms are not comparable to “cougar,” in part because they don’t mean what you think they mean, by and large, and in part because they simply aren’t used very much.

  139. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    NBC is premiering an exciting new drama called ‘Manther’ starring Pierce Brosnan”?

    If this is a reference to ‘Cougar Town,’ that show had nothing to do with older women dating younger men. The ‘Cougar’ in the title referred to the local high school football team, and in fact the pilot was written before the new definition had entered common parlance. You are, as usual, absolutely right about everything else and your point obviously still stands.

  140. MaMu1977
    MaMu1977 June 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm |

    As a non-American English speaker of West-Indian/British descent, I grew up hearing older men who chase younger women(for the sake of argument, let’s say 5+ year age difference for never-married men, 10+ year difference for divorced or widowed men) as “wolves”. Unlike most of the freshmen in my English 103 class, the deconstruction of “Little Red Riding Hood” didn’t shock me at all. Of course, men who chase after women who were young enough to be their daughters (of granddaughters) were “goats”.

    And, before the gallery begins to protest, *neither* of those terms were considered to be positive. Men who chased after the youngest women possible were seen as acting “common” (yay, classism /sarc). Even in my family, my uncles would tell me that it was “better” to find a woman with whom i had some sort of common ground than to chase after youth. In fact, all of my male relatives whose wives are younger (again, the 5+ year differential) than them are either widowers or immigrants (for the immigrants, they found a commonality in being the sole Caribbean-born people in their areas.) Eg. All of my Canadian relatives are married to women who are 10 years younger than them. The fact that they chose to marry younger to avoid marrying non-West Indian women doesn’t spare them any negative remarks.

  141. Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog

    [...] “High-school-age girls who date boys a year or two younger are predatory and suspect. It’s more nor….” I’m speechless at this hypocrisy, too. [...]

  142. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader June 3, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    [...] New York Times seems to think high-school-age girls who date boys a couple years younger are predatory. Double standard [...]

  143. EG
    EG June 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

    If this is a reference to ‘Cougar Town,’ that show had nothing to do with older women dating younger men. The ‘Cougar’ in the title referred to the local high school football team, and in fact the pilot was written before the new definition had entered common parlance. You are, as usual, absolutely right about everything else and your point obviously still stands.

    Damn you, Steve! (Picture me shaking my fist into the air.) Always deflating my fiery rhetoric with your insistence on accuracy!

  144. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm |

    Aaaaand there we go.

    Just to be clear, nothing I’ve said has anything to do with the original point I think we all agree on. There is a double-standard, older women-younger men relations (at least in American culture) are viewed as odd, skewed or different, and, very sadly, sexist standards for relationships are very much in play. The article we’re all talking about is silly.

    My only point was that there are words for indicating a non-positive view of an older man-younger woman relationship and men who chase women far below their years. We may have had different experiences as what words we’ve heard when, but there it is.

  145. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm |

    These words you are referring to are not in the common parlance, are not used in the way you say they are, and are not used as often.

    You have not answered any of those points, except for partially or with misdirects.

    The fact that insults used against women regularly and with misogynistic focus are occasionally used against men does not mean that they are “equal.” And your protestations to the contrary do not alter that.

  146. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. June 3, 2012 at 5:10 pm |

    Damn you, Steve! (Picture me shaking my fist into the air.) Always deflating my fiery rhetoric with your insistence on accuracy!

    According to the wiki:

    “The show was originally about older women (“cougars”) dating younger men”

    So you’re both correct. Wikipedia FTW!

  147. Mxe354
    Mxe354 June 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

    These words you are referring to are not in the common parlance, are not used in the way you say they are, and are not used as often.

    A crucial point that some people are ignoring completely? Nothing to see here, folks!

  148. LC
    LC June 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm |

    Cougar has been around since at least the late 90s, so I very much doubt cougartown wasn’t referencing it unless the script had been floatong arpund the studios for a decade.

  149. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

    I love the way the word ‘parlance’ has worked its way into the conversation! :)

  150. QLH
    QLH June 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm |

    “The show was originally about older women (“cougars”) dating younger men”

    Seriously, if you watched early episodes, the “older woman preying on younger men” theme was the point. The show morphed into other themes after that, for its own reasons, but that was the premise.

  151. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm |

    Seriously, if you watched early episodes, the “older woman preying on younger men” theme was the point. The show morphed into other themes after that, for its own reasons, but that was the premise.

    I must admit I’m not a regular viewer, I just saw an episode on a plane a few weeks ago and was surprised to find the episode I saw wasn’t at all what I had thought, as I had assumed the show was all about, as you say, ‘older women preying on younger men’. DIdn’t realize it had started out that way.

  152. Luna
    Luna June 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm |

    Huh? I’ve honestly never heard svengali, dingo, or manther before, ever… lothario sounds vaguely familiar, like maybe I’ve heard it used to refer to a charming/seductive man?

  153. SydneyKait
    SydneyKait June 4, 2012 at 2:01 am |

    “svengali, dingo, or manther ” etc
    Personally Iv never heard these before either, so there is no real comparison to make here.
    The point is, MILF and cougar have sexual connotations. (Deeming the older woman still fuckable)
    Whereas other terms like “silver fox” imply that the man is older than the female, not that he is necessarily attractive.
    Therein lies the difference.

  154. thinksnake
    thinksnake June 4, 2012 at 2:41 am |

    I’ve never heard ‘silver fox’ in the context of a relationship. It’s always meant, for me, an attractive man with silver/grey/white hair.
    Anderson Cooper springs to mind.

  155. Li
    Li June 4, 2012 at 3:36 am |

    In Australia at least, “silver fox”, drawing on “fox” and “foxy” in general, always has connotations of attractiveness, and is almost always complementary.

    See also Anton Enus and the Tony Jones vs Kerry O’Brien “Silver Fox vs Red Fox” conversations that littered the back page of the Sydney Morning Herald over the last few years.

  156. SydneyKait
    SydneyKait June 4, 2012 at 11:21 am |

    Upon skimming the internets I see what you mean. Then silver fox (and other terms deeming older gentlemen still attractive/fuckable) is reprehensible as well. Its hard to draw conclusions because everyone will have different experiences with each term, some considered more or less degrading than others.
    Anyway, my boyfriend is 10 years my senior, I wonder if that fits any criteria.

  157. Andrew Pari, LCSW
    Andrew Pari, LCSW June 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    Well, Sydney, according to MaMu1977 at #143, your partner would be a “wolf.”

  158. Abee
    Abee June 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

    I am surprised to see so many references to “cougar” as a complimentary or positive term, even though I know it is being reclaimed by some women/used differently in the media, to a certain extent. FWIW I’ve only ever understood “cougar” to imply “older, trashy-looking used-up pathetic woman trolling bars for casual sex”. (This is coming from other people, not me, since I don’t use the term at all.)

    In fact just very recently I was getting a tattoo with my sister, and when out of earshot the artist told me “Your sister is totally an old washed-up cougar, isn’t she?” Why he thought it would be OK to say this to me is a whole other issue, but he definitely didn’t mean it as a compliment.

  159. Abee
    Abee June 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

    Also, all these niche terms for men and women (humbert, manther, puma, etc) popping up in this thread is just making me think of Clueless. She’s such a Monet.

  160. Talyra
    Talyra June 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm |

    In tenth grade, one of my friends in high school dated a girl in ninth grade, and was severely vilified for it. They were only a few months apart, but he suffered extreme harassment for being a ‘cradle robber’ and ‘pedophile’. Notably, this was an isolated incident. Another male friend dated a string of girls from lower grades but, as far as I recall, was never called out on it at all. The difference? Popularity. My first friend had been systematically bullied by everyone for as long as I’d known him, while the second friend was among the most popular in the school.

    My point is that certain people will use anything as a weapon against others they dislike. It’s definitely useful to talk about the different meanings of words in different contexts, but in the context of this article, I have to wonder why the author describes her question as a ‘troubling thought’. Without empirical data, it’s difficult to say whether positive or negative usage of ‘cougar’ is more widespread (I’d say negative, but that’s just me), so until we find a good study it’s probably more useful to look at the context. For the author, despite the positive and intelligent quotes she uses, it’s bizarrely negative, and so that’s probably the best light in which to interpret the article.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.