Someone out of touch with pop culture over the past few years might easily wonder, "What is a cougar?" when the word is used to describe a particular woman. But while it started as an insult, some women are wearing the title with pride.
What Is a Cougar, and Should You Be Scared of One?
Technically speaking, a "cougar" is a woman who actively seeks out younger men to date. It's as simple as that, but underneath lies a fairly complex series of cultural phenomena that moved it from being a rare occurrence to a theme for an entire luxury cruise!
Revenge of the Non-Trophy Wife
In some ways, the cougar is a response to the actions of many men who marry in their youth and spend the years leading up to middle age with one woman, often relying on them to help achieve career success and perhaps raise a family. However, once the trappings of success have been secured, and the kids are all grown, many men find that they have the urge to basically start all over - using their security and worldly knowledge to attract a younger woman and start another new family.
The bitterness this can engender in the "discarded" ex-wife is understandable, to say the least. For many years (this has been going on for hundreds, if not thousands of years), the only recourse the woman had was to retire to spinsterhood, perhaps relying on her children to take care of her.
However, in a world of more equal rights for women, as well as better health care and especially more equal divorce settlements, many women find themselves with security, wealth, and careers of their own. It's no surprise that they might also find themselves looking for a "younger model" to replace their ex-husband as well. While this might have seemed inappropriate ("He could be your son!") to some, in a gender-equal world it becomes harder to come up with any reason why a woman shouldn't want to enjoy some of the flower of youth.
Don't Ask Why, Ask Why Not?
Many people (especially older men) might wonder, "what is a cougar going to find to talk about with a much younger man?" The answer, actually, may be "Nothing - and that's ok." The following are a few reasons why younger men might be attractive to a cougar:
- Their lack of experience puts the woman in a position of power of having more knowledge of the ways of the world and of romance.
- Some women may find young men to be "raw material" - in other words, someone they can mold and "train" to their own preferences.
- Some health professionals believe that women reach their sexual peak far later than men - usually after age 35. A younger man's stamina and eagerness can seem to be the perfect match for an increased libido.
- Because younger men usually aren't in as secure a financial position as the cougar, it again gives her a position of power in terms of wealth (which may be a very pleasant change from having to rely on a husband, if that were her prior situation).
- While some women do want relationships that last, not all do. Sometimes the fickle nature of youth is exactly what a woman wants - knowing that she is not investing a great deal of depth into a relationship, just enjoying it while it lasts.
They Are Cougars and Proud of It
Those reasons are just generalities. The fact is, the real reason that an older woman and a younger man might be together is that they may be in love. Once people reach adulthood, age differences become easier to overcome - which is why Aston Kutchner and Demi Moore might raise some eyebrows, but in the end people simply shrug and wish them both well. Whether a real-life cougar or a fictional one like Samantha from Sex and the City, age is not something that can get in the way of les affaires d'amour.