Why do older women flirt with younger men? The simple answer is that they are "hot" but there are a lot of other factors that play into this phenomenon.
The Cougar Myth
Older women and younger men have always been around, whether it was native tribeswomen introducing younger men to the pleasures of adulthood or simply the dramatic angst of The Graduate. However, in recent decades the roles of women have changed in Western culture, and older women flirt with younger men so much that they have acquired their own nickname: the cougars.
The Independent Woman
Inspired by the idea of a carnivore hunting down prey, part of the increase in "cougars" has been due in part to the success of the women's equality movement. Women are making more money, finding themselves in leadership positions, and retiring wealthy at a younger age. Even those who take the traditional route of marriage and kids often find themselves divorced and still independent.
The Return to Dating
In past centuries, these women would usually be expected by society to age gracefully and alone. However, more and more women are exploring their power and freedom by going back out into the dating scene and finding attractive young men. They enjoy having the financial and emotional power that might have been absent in prior relationships. Most of these kinds of relationships are not designed to be long-term or start a family; they are simply for the enjoyment of companionship.
The Generation Gap
While cosmetics (whether applied or surgical) have kept women looking quite young, the maturity difference between a young man and an older woman can sometimes spell the end of even the most passionate relationship. Aside from different cultural tastes in music, movies, and other social pastimes, there is also often a disconnect in terms of life goals. Young men often are driven by the ambition of a career or starting a family, while older women have often already explored those options and are looking for something different. This is why many "May-December" romances between older women and younger men often burn out fairly quickly. At the same time, there are some relationships that seem to just work.
The Powerful Woman
Psychology Today suggests that older women (in particular, successful older women) are often attracted to younger men because attracting these men makes them feel more powerful. Luckily for these women, there are many younger men that find a successful, older woman to be quite attractive. Older women who like to be in charge may find it easier to control the relationship when the man is younger.
Many older women find that the men their age are already married, so turning to younger men can be an attempt to find a partner who isn't already involved with someone else. They may also find that men their age lack the sexual stamina characteristic of younger men.
While the number of "cougars" may be changing, the places where they hunt have not. Nightclubs, dance clubs, and bars provide a natural habitat where older women and younger men can hang out together and socialize. These are the places that the flirtations start, whether it's a simple gaze across a crowded dance floor or a hot and sweaty salsa dance. Words aren't always necessary for an attraction to form. These places are much more about body language, chemistry and both the woman and man being in the right mood at the right time.
Finding the best club used to rely on word of mouth, but the Information Age has made it easier. Websites such as Cougar Bars have listings by state of the bars where people seeking this kind of relationship hang out. However, people don't even have to go out to enjoy the flirting between these older women and their younger male suitors. CougarLife is a dating website with a very social atmosphere, enabling people to browse each other's profiles, send messages, and flirt outrageously - long before they ever meet in person. Older women flirting with younger men are becoming more and more a common part of the American romantic spectrum.