Stuff We Should Stop Doing: Calling Women Cougars

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About Yashar Ali

Yashar is a Los Angeles-based blogger, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.


  1. Glen Winston says:

    You’re overreaching with some of your points here…. It al,ost seems like pandering. Which IMO is worse than the whole “cougar” thing. There has been the “Silver Fox” reference for decades… I now am finally one and am shocked that you’ve never heard the term. I’m a good guy and a Silver Fox (humbly) and in my time have had the pleasure of knowing a Cougar or two… Back then we referred to them as Mrs Robinson.
    Happy to have helped you learn something. -G

  2. Delita Gebser says:

    I agree with your statement of there being an imbalance concerning the fact that there is no equivalent word with animal connotations. However, as you mentioned later, the sugar daddy term is only somewhat derided, but may I add another term that crops up in my mind? Dirty old man. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, nor the animal connotation, but it is certainly got several similar components, including but not exclusive to the duality of both dislike and envy. An older man who goes after younger women is more often derided by his peers and the women in question as an old man who is living in his past. An older woman who goes after younger men is often looked at with either slight amusement, or envy, as you stated above. Meanwhile, in the media, like you mentioned it’s more of a flip-side to the view point I just stated. Yes, many of your comments are valid, however, while the media does portray things one way, the actuality in society apart from the media is often different.

    • You know the 1 major difference between a ‘Sugar Daddy’ and a ‘Dirty Old Man’ ? MONEY! The ‘Sugar Daddy’ is respected and admired for having the wealth to attract the young ‘Trophy Wife’ (Just think of it as the Supermodel retirement plan) while the ‘Dirty Old Man’ ( who’s the ‘Sugar Daddy’ minus the wealth) is derided and mocked! It’s just another example of how men are judged by how much wealth they accuire and not necessaraly their chracter. Mind you I’m not complaining , it’s just the way the world is.

  3. Revo Luzione says:

    “There is no male equivalent. We don’t commonly refer to a man over 40 who sleeps with younger women as a “tiger,” “lion,” or any equivalent animal reference. So, we have an imbalance.”

    No, this isn’t true. Older men whom younger women find attractive are called “silver foxes” as Glen noted above. Further reference:

    Also, as your post intuits, the term “lion” is making inroads in some circles, as another male equivalent to cougars, besides the silver fox thing.

    There are a ton of older women who embrace the cougar moniker, not as an epithet, but as a term of endearment, or even a badge of honor. Several older women have told me that widespread use of the term makes them feel that sexy older women are accepted and embraced by society. Let them have the term if they like it. Used with positive regard, I don’t have a problem with this term, or any of the male equivalents.

    • Pretty much. If someone wants to focus on the things that harm women that’s good and I’m all for it. But can we please stop using the denial of things that affect men as a tool for getting conversation going about the things that affect women.

      Cradle Robber has been in the common slang vocabulary for a very long time to describe men that go for younger women but we’re going to pretend that there is no male equivalent?

      I also think it’s important to mention that “cougar” carries a connotation of predatory behavior. As if, A) the woman could only get the younger man by chasing after him like a rabid animal and B) the woman’s personality has no part in the relationship, that the guy she’s dating must only be with her so he can have wild, crazy sex or because she’s rich. Or C) where cougars are often portrayed in a desperate light, as if they have nothing better to do than “chase” after younger men. Yet the men in these relationships aren’t insulted or derided, even though they are adults who are consciously deciding to be in relationships with older women.
      Cradle Robber fits nearly all of those criteria when the genders are swapped.

      The term sugar daddy requires a specific set of actions. If you are a young man or an old man–it doesn’t matter. The term is related to a guy who can financially support his girlfriend–the guy actually has to do something extra to be called a “sugar daddy.” Furthermore, the term sugar daddy doesn’t insult a man in terms of his age. He’s not a sugar daddy because he’s older or younger, he’s a sugar daddy because he provides material stuff to the relationship.
      Actually the Sugar Daddy usually is a reference to a middle aged or old man that is looking for a younger woman.

      We don’t have TV Shows called “Sugar Daddies,” (note: a show on a major network that has actually aired), but in our culture, we have at least three “cougar” shows from fiction shows like Cougar Town starring Courteney Cox to reality shows like Extreme Cougar Wives and The Cougar.
      Yet if you look in a lot of the media we see the “Perverted Old Man” is portrayed as an old barely moving slow poke of a man in way that makes you wonder if he could even still have sex. In fact with the way pervert is often used it’s mostly used in reference to men.

      So enough with the labeling. Women have the right to stand on their own, so let’s not feel the need to categorize them or name them.
      I get that you want to end this but let’s not act like the World Wide Men’s Council got together and plotted the use of cougar and are sitting back drinking brandy in a secret underground bunker while women are slowly convinced to embrace the label.

      Overall I’m all for not using such titles for women but this article is pretty much saying that gendered labels is the sole territory of women and men don’t have to put up with them.

  4. Pervert. Dirty old man. Robbing the cradle. Those are the terms used to describe men. I see a lot of these articles are focused on women or gays. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of internet portals for both groups. I thought this one was for men and the issues that effect them. After 3 months of reading a lot of these articles, I see that I was wrong.

  5. “There is no male equivalent. ”
    Bullshit. The male equivalents are viewed far more negatively.
    Men cop “Dirty old man”. In the extreme age differences you get older women stat-raping young males who are not seen anywhere near as bad as older men stat-raping young females. Cougar is a positive term, dirty old man is a negative one that often comes with insults like cradle snatcher, pedophile, etc even for women in their 20′s.

    What’s with this incessant need to see something that harms women whilst ignoring what the men face? Trying to paint it as sexist because men don’t receive the same whilst ignoring that what the men receive IS WORSE because it’s linked to pedophilia? (cradle snatcher).

  6. “I think we shoul off by putting ‘Cougar’ to bed.”

    O.K. ,lets call them “Older , but very attractive women looking for much younger man to have a NSA sexual relationship with.” WOW, isin’t that a mouthful!

  7. I have never heard of this term. It seems odd that this question is being taken seriously – perhaps those who have a great deal of time and a great deal of false guilt can do a few mea culpas and then it is off to the next PC transgression committed by evil men.

    Cougars indeed

  8. Furious George says:

    This website wants to be so politically correct I find it difficult to keep visiting it.

    What can possibly be wrong with the term cougar? One argues it’s too soft an animal, another it’s too predatory. Let women choose for themselves whether they want to adopt the term or not. I bet the majority would.

    Stop bubblewrapping everything and everyone. It sucks the joy out of living.

  9. As an unmarried woman over 40, I dislike the term “cougar” because it strikes me as somewhat derogatory. Maybe that’s just my personal reaction, but when I hear “cougar” I think of a woman who is desperately trying to hold onto her fading youth by chasing after younger men who are probably laughing at her behind her back. I know one woman who could qualify as a “cougar” and even though she is very attractive, she strikes me as kind of creepy.

    Don’t get me wrong — I like to dress fashionably and look sexy but I hate the idea that when I’m dressed up and looking good, people are going to look at me and think “eh, cougar!” especially since I have zero interest in dating younger men.

  10. john schtoll says:

    @sara: With what you describe, you wouldn’t be referred to as a cougar: that is reserved for women who chase younger men without exception. And to a certain extent, most cougars probably are chasing their lost youth.

    @Yashar: Sorry man, but you couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Silver Fox, and Cradle robber come to mind when looking at terms that are similar but I would suppose that with your view, nothing will look similar.

    The funny part is that cougars are actually celebrated by society not are not denigrated in the way you describe.

    @editors; Does Yashar seen these comments becuase I noticed he has responded to any of them yet. If you he can’t see these comments then why post articles like this that are PRO FEMALE on a male site when the author won’t even attempt to engage in a meaningful dialoge.

  11. I thought the male equivalent was “silver fox”.

  12. On younger men dating older women, they’re called cubs.

    I guess you just need some lessons in name-calling.

    But truth be told, I’m a younger male who has been dating a +40yo woman for nearly 2 years now. I “chased” her, if that matters. And while she’s been called a MILF and a Cougar, I’ve never labeled her as such. She’s a woman whom I found attractive and courted. I understand that you would like to limit societal use of dergatory labels, but a world of “political correctness” only limits imaginitive description. The intent behind the use of any terminology is more important than the terminology itself. I find the word “nigger” offensive, and if I were to call a black man or woman by that term, I would be deemed an offensive, racist person, yet a black person can call another black person a nigger and its acceptable and even lauded as a compliment and sign of respect. Much like many other problems, you (PC people) attack an idea due to possible negative implications, rather than the intentional negative actions.

  13. The term ‘silver fox’, while it does exist, is rarely used in our culture. “Cougar” on the other hand, is ubiquitous. Further, the “silver” clearly refers to a man in his 60′s or 70′s who is dating a woman much younger (30+ years) whereas “cougar” refers to a woman “over 40″. There is a huge disparity in those phrases; they are not remotely ‘equivalent’. A man in his 40′s dating a woman in her 20′s is unremarkable. If the older partner is a woman, the term “cougar”, as the article points out, the term paints her as both predatory and somehow desperate. Due to the radical shifts in our culture in the past 20 years, “older” women (again, a term not used for men until much later in life) may enjoy the company of men younger than they because those men are not as brittle, socially, as men their own age. Younger men are better able to accept a woman’s independence, intelligence, and capacity without feeling they are being “undermined” by these things. They are more likely to be able to see and treat her as an equal. This is huge, folks!! It is crucial that we recognize that this “trend” as we see it is extant for numerous reasons, only some of which are sexual. On that level, a woman in her 40′s is more sexually suited to a man much younger than herself. Older men and younger women are not equally paired in this respect.

    • Not to mention they have much more ‘stamina’ and can rise to the occasion much quicker!

    • I’m not yet 30, but greying (and have no desire to dye my hair), and I’ve been told I was a silver fox, or am well on my way of being one, by multiple women. So, while I’m not nearly in the “equivalent” age group as the commonly termed ‘Cougars’, I don’t think you could say that only men in their 60′s & 70′s fall under that blanket term. I’ve also heard of women in their 30′s and 50′s be dubbed a cougar. While I’ll agree that the prevalent use of it isn’t near as often as that “god awful ‘C’ word” [note sarcasm], these terms are multi-faceted. I do see an opportunity for a t.v. show featuring someone like John Stamos or someone of that caliber.

    • Yeah the one advantage I can see in dating younger men is that they can still have spontaneous sex instead of having to do it on a schedule, “sorry honey, those sexy undies are nice but we had sex Thursday so not again until Sunday”. – that gets frustrating for a woman!

  14. John Anderson says:

    Do you even know what you’re writing? Two quotes from your article.

    “but the “cougar” designation funnels into a bigger point about the fact that we don’t really have widely-used terms for men in general that apply to their state-in-life or sexual desire”

    “lasso that young buck”

  15. John Anderson says:

    Here are some terms commonly used to describe men: dog (sexual desire with a bad connotation), pimpin (often used to describe fashionable with a tilt toward wealth), tiger (predatory), stud (being sexually desirable, available, and youthful), old fart / geezer (old, weak, incapable).

    Of course men are often referred to as animals to connote physical / athletic prowess and by extension connotes youth like stallion, thoroughbred because you know valuing men for physical strength is not damaging at all (that’s sarcasm).

    There’s an area in my town known as the Viagra triangle where rich old guys try to date young attractive women. I’ve even heard women use variations of Viagra comments to describe a man’s perceived sexual ability.

  16. Martin Nash says:

    “Dog” is the phrase that sprang to mind when I first encountered protest at the word cougar.

    Others have covered the rest pretty concisely. I dont see why people have so much problems with these names, they are simply inoffensive shortcuts. We could certainly read more into any of given name.

    “Stag” (“Bucks” in Aussie, i believe) – Known for futile butting of heads to chase a female
    “Dog” – Obedient to the point of self abuse
    “Fox” – Cowardly creature that kills for pleasure
    “Rat” – Lives in the guttter and eats shit
    “Pig” – ’nuff said

    But of course we don’t take these literally in most cases because that’s not how language works. There are other animal names for men but I don”t want to bore anyone. The point being made in the article is that women only have “Cougar” – unless one wants to be pedantic;

    “Hen” (as in night)
    “Cat” (Fight)
    “Cow” (Ugly)
    “Mutton” (Dressed as Lamb)

    Again, there are more but lists can be boring.

    So this article is not only wrong, it is superbly wrong, grossly misguided and borderline offensive. Makes for good comments though.

    Would love to hear more the the author in reply to some of the earlier comments.

    • It’s Bull in aus, young bulls. Only time I’ve heard the word buck is from American hunting movies, etc.

      • Martin Nash says:

        Too many damn ozzie soaps in the UK! Sure I have heard the call it “Buck’s Night”, but then I have also seen them drink Fosters, so not reliable from an accuracy standpoint

        • Haha I haven’t seen a single can/bottle of fosters in 15 years. XXXX Gold, Tooheys, VB, Pure Blonde are the current beers. Usually I hear people call it hen’s night and bachelor’s party.

  17. It’s true that there are no ‘animal-based’ terms to describe older men dating young women. The terms that are actually used–starting with ‘pathetic’–are much harsher, but who cares? It’s All About the Wimminz here!

    Oh wait… this is the wrong site for that. Isn’t it?

  18. Assuming we want to talk about it labels that affect men, as my understanding being this is a site biased toward the discussion of mens’ issues – but I may be wrong, why don’t we spend a little time talking about how the media portrays the modern male.

    At the risk of sounding overly-sensitive, we silently accept television programs and commercials that often portray males as incompetent, bumbling idiots incapable of performing basic household duties alongside the wife/girlfriend, and unable to make the correct choice or decision; only to be saved by the wife.

    I am sure there are commercials and programming where the woman is portrayed as incompetent and is not on the correct path until the husband/boyfriend comes along, but none come immediately to mind.

  19. I sometimes awe at how badly mistreated men are in society… Okay, enough of sarcasm since I’m not even good at it. Why is it so hard to recognize that society doesn’t treat women as well as men. I’m not saying there is one to one correspondence on every single derogatory term in the English language, but let’s face it… The sexes are far from being equal.

    I am a so-called cougar… I date younger men, who sometimes are significantly younger than me. I feel I’m treated with a lot more dignity by younger men anyways. I have never pursued one, not even once. They are the ones who always approach me, and I’d like to believe it’s because of the person I am… I don’t look like Demi Moore, and it’s not that I’m negative about dating men my age or older, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they just don’t want me. Once these ‘older’ men realize that I’m just as old, they stop being interested. So, if you don’t think that’s insulting, I don’t know what is. Some even add insult to injury by telling me that they’re looking for someone ‘fitter’. Oh well… There it goes my last chance… (sarcasm, and not very good at it).

    I’m not saying that I have ‘binders full of men’ going after me, but I do find the attention I get now, even if it’s sparse, is of a lot more quality than what I used to get in my 20s. The younger men who approach me know I’m older, and generally want to establish some rapport first as opposed to trying to impress me. I have been able to form genuine friendships with some of these fellows (some of them have lasted years), and the interactions I have with them are a lot more equitable: my time is as important as theirs, their money is theirs (I have mine), I’m fine if their friends are important, they know my family is my priority, and so the list goes on. They never ask me to put aside what matters to me, as I used to be asked back when I was younger. No, the power dynamics aren’t there.

    Yes, some young guys pursue me because of the perception that I’m all about sexual relationships. I don’t say that all those efforts are fruitless, but for the most part, they don’t work. Sorry, not against having sex, but it’s got to be a fair and fully consensual exchange. For this, I’m unapologetic. I’m also not trying to teach anything to anybody… It doesn’t matter if I have the so-called ‘experience’… I think every person deserves their own set of experiences, so I’d be inexperienced in a particular individual that I’m just getting to know… Everyone should bring their own thing to table too, So in the case of a younger person, it can be their ingenuity, their creativity, their dreams, whatever. I know I have my own set of qualities, but I’m not perfect… I’m well aware of my flaws too. What I’m looking for is true human interest… If on the way, I get a friend, sex, intimacy, or just a fling, so be it.

    So, I’m afraid I don’t particularly like the term… I can’t stop people from using it, but please, at least try to recognize that the term cougar is rather derogatory, and that older women don’t need to offer sex (or money) up front to get the attention form a younger man, or any man for that matter. I chose not to remarry again, and to be frank, even if I think the term is derogatory, I don’t give the slightest damn.

    As for Yashar, I gather he’s not over 40 yet.

    • “I sometimes awe at how badly mistreated men are in society… Okay, enough of sarcasm since I’m not even good at it.”

      Coming onto a site for men and snarkily balking at how badly men are mistreated, treating it like a joke is fucking insulting. Take a look through the articles, the millions dying in wars, the millions raped, beaten, abused, there is plenty of evidence on this site that men ARE badly mistreated in society and there is also plenty of evidence on this site that women are badly mistreated too. How about showing a lil respect and learning before spouting such ignorant tripe?

      • You obviously didn’t read the entire post, but that’s okay… I’m sure you’re one of the good men and I’m just something else.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Olive

      “Why is it so hard to recognize that society doesn’t treat women as well as men.”

      Why would you need to (if it’s true)? Wouldn’t it be better to just insist on everyone being treated with dignity unless of course the goal is something else? Some women try so hard to win the victim Olympics that I sometimes wonder if part of their victimization exists because they want to victims. This quite often also results in them failing to see when others are victimized or intentionally diminishing the suffering of others.

      I understand that you feel slighted by men your own age. Here is the thing it’s their choice as much as the woman’s who they go out with. It’s their choice as much as the woman’s what criteria they use to determine who is attractive to them. Like a feminist once said it sucks when the person you want to have sex with doesn’t want to have sex with you. We get it.

      Society might look at a 40 year old woman going out with a 20 year old guy differently than the reverse, but its the same as with a 30 year old man going out with a 16 year old girl. He’s a predator, but reverse the genders and he’s lucky and she’s initiating him into sex instead of rape. Both views are slowly changing. I think part of it is the advent of the sugar mama.

      Older men with younger women were respected because people believed that he couldn’t get her unless he had lots of money. It matched with society’s expectation that men should be valued for their ability to earn money. There was no similar thing for women, but as women outpace men in education and enter the workforce out earning men among those under 30 and childless, we see a shift to young men feeling that it’s OK for a woman to take care of him.

      If it makes you feel better, I have this much younger friend who’;s crushing on me. She told me once that she was resigning herself to never being with a man. She’s a wonderful woman; kind, professionally established, highly educated. I think she views me as the best she has a shot at since most young guys today “fail to launch”.

      • @ John Anderson

        I thought the article was about terms commonly used in the English language… I never mentioned physical mistreatment as I don’t feel the need to digress onto a separate subject.

        And no, I don’t feel slighted by men my age… Why would you assume that? It’s interesting that the conversations I have with the men I date don’t revolve around myself, the need for sex or the need for a relationship. They’re usually about subjects of common interest.

        I think this expression “fail to launch” is a bit acrid… Why do you feel you need to put down young men so harshly? Do you think you’re a better man than they are?

        One thing we agree on… We should all expect to be treated with certain dignity.

      • Ahh yes, ““fail to launch”.”, to mean “he is not successful enough for me as a woman!” People worried about men playing too many games without realizing men are choosing themselves first sometimes instead of dumping all their energy into working for a big career just to look after a woman n kids. At the moment I’d rather spend my cash on my hobbies vs having a family.

    • Why is it so hard to recognize that society doesn’t treat women as well as men.

      Because that doesn’t hold true in every measure. In some measures women are treated worse and some measures men are.

      • So, are we equal? And again, I was talking about terms as in cougar, silver fox, etc. I thought the battle of terms was diverting attention from the topic, but now it’s falling into the male disposability realm… Not saying it’s not an issue.

        But I’ll bite… Are older women treated better than older men in society? Does an ageing woman hold the same value as an individual than a man of the same age? Does an older man hold the same value than a younger man?

        Please understand that I’m just asking questions, and I would appreciate not being the target of personal attacks.

        • I thought the battle of terms was diverting attention from the topic, but now it’s falling into the male disposability realm… Not saying it’s not an issue.

          I myself don’t like how the topic was diverted but at the same time why did the diverting happen? Because the piece directly denies the way men are treated when it comes to the older people going after younger angle.

          The writer of the piece appears to be misinterpreting the sugar daddy phenomenon, doesn’t even mention silver foxes, and says that older men that go after younger women are not stigmatized (because apparently “creepy old man” has no stigma).

          So let me ask. Why is it so hard to recognize the ways in which one group is mistreated without denying the mistreatment of othere groups? Does equality for all people mean selectively addressing certain groups, ignoring other groups, and just hoping/assuming it will all work out in the end?

          • Your point is fair…

            The term ‘silver fox’ was mentioned in the comments though, and so were a number of different terms that I have never even used. Has someone ever called you ‘creepy old men”? I realize that this term has rarely come up in my conversations… I don’t particularly like referring to others with those words. However, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve been called ‘cougar’ or ‘milf’ right at my face, much less tell you the number of times that people have talked about me with those terms.

            Maybe there should be another article talking about the derogatory (or no so derogatory depending on the case) names used whenever someone is referring to older men who prefer dating younger women. I personally don’t use any. My path rarely crosses with men my age except for work. I must say that I have heard (and read) older referring to younger men in not so flattering ways. So, your point is well taken…

  20. Oh, give me an older woman every time, every time
    Give me an older woman every time
    They don’t tell, they don’t swell
    And they’re grateful as hell
    Give me an older woman every time!
    (Many thanks to Benny Hill for that diddy)

  21. Seriously, evryone treats this ‘Cougar’ thing like it’s something brand new. I can remember almost 30 years ago sitting in a bar with a couple of friends when an older, but very attracitive woman (Probably in her mid 40s or so) bought a drink for my friend Chris. Now Chris was really ‘Good Looking’, I meam , like fashion model good looking! Anyway,this woman , offered Chris an opportunity to be her ‘Kept Man’. She explained she was rich , as was her Husband, and he had his ‘Mistresses’, so she thought it only fair to have her equivelent. Now, like I said , Chris (unlike me and Brian) had those ‘Killer’ model good looks and had no trouble picking up women, but this one gave him a car of his choice (a porchse) , a motorcycle and every thing else he bacisally wanted. Needless to say, he took the deal and never regretted it!

  22. @Olive: There are many ways in which MEN (as a group) are treated badly by society. Wars, reproductive rights (in the US and Canada , they have none), even though there is way more violence against men than women, there are no special laws for them ETC

    But , look local, look at this site alone, find me a site for women, about women and to hear womens stories that would allow roughly 20 – 30% of the articles about MEN and how a large number of stories on this site just become about women. Though some are gone, they originally had a number of feminists here and still have a few. Find me a site about women that would allow a single MRA to post articles.

  23. PursuitAce says:

    So who came up with this term? Shouldn’t the fingers be pointed in that direction to begin with?

  24. What is so wrong with calling a “one of 4 pictographic separators in a deck of cellulose & plastic playing implements that is, usually, black, does not include three rounded lobes and is vaguely shaped like a digging implement” a spade?

  25. I’m so incredibly grateful to read an article about this. You dont have to be in a relationship with a younger guy to have the label “cougar” dumped on your head – you can be single, happy, not looking (for anyone in particular, of any given age group) and happen to tell someone your age in a social setting: “Aw yeah, nice! A cougar!”… oh yay, a douchebag. Thank you for this piece. Im grateful.

  26. silver fox


  1. [...] seen greater public acknowledgement of women’s sexual desires, including the whole media frenzy over “cougars.” Similarly, most boys and men now understand that sex should be mutually pleasing and not just [...]

  2. [...] seen greater public acknowledgment of women’s sexual desires, including the whole media frenzy over “cougars.” Similarly, most boys and men now understand that sex should be mutually pleasing and not just [...]

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