First off, the very word ‘cougar’ is most certainly moot.
Without getting too entangled in semantics, Elite Singles resident psychologist, Salama Marine, is quick to discuss this point.
“Prejudices have a tendency to stick, even if society is changing,” she says, “calling an older woman a cougar isn’t meaningless, it’s a way of defining her as a predator who’s only interested in hunting down younger prey.” For an enlightening comparison it’s worth looking at an equivalent expression for older men who hook up with younger women.
Whilst still packed with hidden meaning, ‘sugar daddy’ isn’t nearly as derogatory as its big-cat counterpart.
“When an older woman looks for a younger partner, she’s probably quite comfortable with her sexuality,” she explains, “it’s likely that she’s already been married or had children.
This means that she’s on the same wavelength as her younger companion, who’s probably not entertaining the thought of starting a family.” READ MORE: Recently divorced? Understandably, this can be a breath of fresh air: “It enables older women to regain a bit of youthfulness with their partner,” Marine adds.
Prompted by this shift in the demographics of modern relationships, a team of sociologists at the University of Maine set about investigating the reality of older women wedded to younger men2.
In their 2006 study, Sandra Caron, Mary Logue and Nichole Proulx interviewed eight married couples where the wife was between 10 to 17 years older than the husband.
On the other hand, the aptly-named Cougar Town bolsters a smuttier stereotype.
Commenting on the programme’s host - Courtney Cox - San Francisco journalist Jane Ganahl wrote that the producers did a great job of converting the former Friends star into “a hapless, sex-obsessed divorcee who seems to be a mash-up of Mrs. Off screen, the frenzy that surrounded Demi Moore’s marriage to Ashton Kutcher, not forgetting the widely reported liaisons of stars such as Madonna, Mariah Carey and Sandra Bullock, allegedly serve as further evidence.
Instead it’s a jocular reaffirmation of man’s traditional role as father-figure and provider of material wealth (and woman’s role as recipient).