Cougars: We're Here to Steal Your Boys

David Cook, almost coolI've grown increasingly fed up with the term "cougars," defined in recent parlance as an older woman who finds younger men attractive--or, with a more sinister edge, women who actively pursue younger men. Who knows where it came from. I first became aware of it after the AP ran a story on "Cougars for Cook," where they pinned David Cook's Idol win on older women who found him a more sexually viable option than David Archuleta. I've tried using it a couple times to improve my chances of sounding hip, but it just feels wrong.

Because until there's an equally derisive term to encompass older men who lust for younger women, I don't feel like buying into those gender restrictions--as if our society needs more terminology to put down women and their avenues of sexual fulfilment.

Jesse SpencerBy this rationale, older women are supposed to shut off their appreciation for younger, waaay pretty men--such as babyface Aussie Jesse Spencer of "House"--just like "good" women in general are pressured to cloak their sexuality behind decency, motherhood, and femininity. It's all rather irksome, because I like my fantasies. I have an active imagination when it comes to this stuff, and I don't think it's healthy to deride women for whatever floats their sexual boats.

Here's to you, Mrs. RobindonI mean, what stands as the #1 pop culture example of a younger man and an older woman? The Graduate. (Please feel free to turn me on to others!) Dustin Hoffman was only six years younger than Anne Bancroft, and the woman who played Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Katherine Ross, was only ten years her junior. By comparison, Karen Allen is nine years Harrison Ford's junior, and that never made any headlines--not this year, and not back in 1981.

So at 36, Bancroft played the mother of a grown girl and the object of a young man's inappropriate fascination. At 36! I guess that means I help make up the huge group of women over the age of, what, 25? 30? who must now be classed as "cougars" if we find a younger man attractive.

Cillian MurphyGranted, it's taken me a decade to get to this point. All of my youthful and 20-something crushes were on older men. Considerably older, in some cases. But then came Cillian Murphy who, born three days after me, became the first younger man I fancied. The list of hot young guys has been growing ever since. Poor dead Heath Ledger. Mr. Bondage and a smile, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Wickedly dangerous Paul Banks of Interpol. And yes, even David Cook--after he got that damned hair fixed. While watching "SYTYCD Australia," I found myself paying very close attention to the eventual winner, Jack Chambers. The kid's 19! But wow, can he move.

So does that make me a perv? Do I deserve a label like "cougar," which implies a predatory, one-sided relationship? What do you think about this new bit o' slang?

Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes.
Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes.
It's a little secret, just the Robinsons' affair.
Most of all, you've got to hide it from the kids.
Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel

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