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Cougar – What’s in a Name?
I used to hate the term “Puma” for all the obvious reasons. First, it evoked images of Mrs. Robinson in a harness and garters, smoke billowing around her inebriated head as she seduced a vulnerable (but willing) Benjamin. Introduce yourself to leopard-clad women over 40 who show way too much cleavage, flaunt 4-inch heels, hang out at bars, guzzle wine and haul home young booty. Every time the media interviewed me, I cringed, knowing the obvious questions would be asked: “Isn’t this just about sex?” “Isn’t this just about the money?” I tried to explain to them that in my 20 years of research as a human behavior research psychologist and the world’s foremost authority on intergenerational dating and psychosexual imprinting (translation: Cougar and Cb dating) they had it all wrong. The media is promoting what I have coined “The Myth of Stiffler’s Mom” as in the movie American Pie. Stiffler’s mom seduces a young man, but he’s not a GQ model type 6 pack ab. He is mature for his age, intelligent. He gets into her head before he gets into bed. Younger men and the media who think a younger man/older woman relationship is only about sex or money have never been in a relationship with an older woman. If they did, they would know the truth.
The facts are quite simple, and I say this with great confidence, because this is a demographic of people I have formally studied for over 20 years. If you are familiar with the bell curve, you can easily see that the bell curve can be applied to almost anything in life. Let’s plot the dynamic of a younger man older woman on it and see what we find: In the middle part of the curve we have a majority of older women. “Older women” can be considered any woman aged 20 and over who dates younger men. Most of these women who fall into the middle part of the curve are 40-50 years old. These are the Cougars. Women in their 30s are Cougars. Women in their 20s are kittens. Cougars and kittens fall outside the center of the bell curve. Let’s say they are 1 standard deviation away from the mean, to the left of the median. Women 60 and older are Panthers. Let’s put them to the right of the middle of the bell curve. There are fewer Cats, Pumas and Panthers than Pumas; but for the sake of argument, they are all “Cougars”.
What is a Cougar? Many women take offense to this nickname, as I do, for the reasons I stated above. People actually get mad at me for using the word in my articles and research. Don’t shoot the messenger. I didn’t coin the word and I didn’t trademark it. Blame the media. They are the ones who want the Cougars to look like neurotic, cartoonish, boy-crazy, lunatics.
I truly had a visceral reaction every time I heard the word mentioned, read it in an article, or saw my fingers typing it on my computer screen.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand, and here’s what I’ve advocated to thousands of members of my Cougar dating site: YOU define what a Cougar is for you. Do not allow the media. your friends, other Cougars, younger men, or so-called “experts” tell you how to define yourself as a Cougar. There are basic ingredients that make up the definition: an older woman dating, mating and/or marrying a younger man. That is the basic criterion. You don’t have to look like Courteney Cox, have Demi Moore’s money, have Madonna’s confidence or Cher’s success to be a Cougar. People who say a Cougar is a “sexy, confident, successful, mature woman who knows what she wants” are leaving out the majority of women who consider themselves Cougars, but who may not be successful or sexy or confident. In fact, she may be fresh out of a 20-year stale marriage, deeply in debt, and feeling insecure about those extra 20 pounds, but she finds herself attracted to and open to a relationship with a younger man.
There are “experts” who will try to tell people that a woman can only be a cougar if she is over 40 years old. Not true. There are women on my dating site who are in their late 20’s dating men 7 to 10 years younger who consider themselves Cougars. Being a Cougar is less about your age, economic status, body type or confidence level than it is about your desire to date a younger man.
I’m really working hard to set the record straight for the media; but they print a slick sex and money angle anyway.
In my PhD research project “Childhood psychosexual imprinting and its effects on adult male-female relationships specific to younger men dating older women” I interviewed over a thousand men about their desire to be with an older woman. Any man could give me chapter and verse about the “defining moment” in his life when he became imprinted with the desire to be with an older woman: teacher, nanny, older sister’s friend, mother’s best friend, actresses on television and in movies; the list goes on and on. For these men, it wasn’t about the myth of Stiffler’s mom. It wasn’t rolling in the hay with Mrs. Robinson, it was a powerful imprint that stayed with them throughout their lives and kept them coming back to older women again and again.
I interviewed men in their 30s who were married to older women who were looking for their next older wife. I’ve interviewed men in their 40s and 50s who refuse to date women their own age and younger, opting instead for a more mature woman. I met an 82-year-old man who told me, “I just married an older woman,” and then added with a wink, “Sex with an older woman is always better.” 82!
Psychosexual imprinting is my area of expertise as it relates to the younger man/older woman dynamic. The “psycho” part has to do with the psychological aspect of a young man’s imprint and personality and the way it is formed and imprinted. The “sexual” part is prima fascia obvious. Imprinting is a very powerful, defining moment in a person’s life. We all have imprints, some positive, some not positive. A younger man who has made a positive impression on an older woman will seek out and bond with older women for the rest of his life. It’s not a one-off, flash in the pan.
That’s what the media doesn’t understand about this dating dynamic. And this is not understood by many so-called “cougar experts” who jump into selling books and speed dating. My research in this area is extensive, comprehensive and documented; which is why CNN calls me The Uber Cougar.
So if you’re a Cougar, don’t be shy about this expression. It’s not derogatory. It’s not down. “Wear your paw with pride” as we say on my dating site. Define who you are as a Cougar and dispel the myths that exist. And feel free to email me with any questions you have about my research and this dynamic. Ageism is the last barrier we’re breaking down in dating. Even if you’re not a Cougar, at least now you understand a little more about what he really is…and what he isn’t.
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