The Allure of The Cougar
The cougar dating phenomena:
What makes a younger man attracted to a cougar? And why does it look like this trend isn’t going to go away?
According to science, men shouldn’t really be attracted to older women. Evolution has primed men to fancy the most healthy, fertile women. For ‘healthy and fertile’, science would have you read ‘young’. Evolutionary biologists are adamant: men want to date women the same age or younger than themselves. Which begs one simple question: why are so many men hooked on cougar dating?
We’ve all heard about the term “cougar” – an older woman who dates younger men. We all know about celebrity older women dating younger men like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson, Minnie Driver and Matthew Felker, Jennifer Lopez and Casper Smart – the list goes on. We’ve all heard of toy boys.
And statistics show that this is not just a media invention. The BBC has reported that 25% of older women are married to younger men. In America, 30% of older women date men who are younger than themselves.
Older women look younger these days:
As far as our evolutionary instincts are concerned, it has become far more difficult to spot an older woman. Healthy eating and all those zumba classes, as well as sophisticated beauty regimes and (for some) botox, mean older women look suspiciously like younger ones, certainly to our subconscious scanners.
Older women can behave younger:
They’re also more likely to behave like younger women, which can confuse any right-thinking man. “These women are alive, vibrant, want to dance, love current music, technology, exercise and eat healthier,” says psychologist Dr Fayr Barkley, an expert on cougar relationships. “They want a younger man who can keep up with them.”
In a nutshell, many older women look great and are full of vim, so what’s not to fancy?
There’s also the possibility that some younger men are playing out the psychosexual imprinting that happened years earlier. That sounds complex, but it simply means that a much-loved babysitter, nursery teacher or family friend may have planted a seed that blossoms today as a penchant for older women.
Biology isn’t everything:
Experts also suggest that, though biology is important, it isn’t everything. We can override our hardwiring if the goal is important enough. And to a growing number of young men, a sophisticated and sexy older woman is so attractive a proposition that it puts callow youth and shallow beauty in the shade.
“The younger men fall into one of two categories,” says Barkley. “The first is what I have termed ‘The Myth of Stifler’s Mom’ after the movie American Pie. These are younger men who think the mature woman exists to somehow fulfil their adolescent male sexual fantasies.”
“And that”, she says, “is unlikely to happen”. (Take note boys!) Contrary to popular opinion, older women want far more from their younger boyfriends than energetic sex. And apparently, they have plenty of choice.
“There are far more younger men looking for older women than there are older women who are available to date younger men. So the women can afford to be very selective,” says Barkley.
It might also be true, says Barkley, that some young men find women of their own age, and perhaps the 20-something dating scene altogether, shallow and manipulative, with too much game-playing and not enough sincerity. They turn to older women to get out of a cycle of bad dates.
And what they turn to, she says, is “the depth, maturity and spirit of the older woman”. In her research, Barkley has interviewed thousands of men who say they’re attracted to older women for just these reasons.
But what does depth and maturity bring? It brings a measure of financial independence, for a start. An older woman won’t expect you to pay for every date. Older women also have a lot of experiences to relate, and plenty to talk about. They’re interesting and even inspirational.
This all makes for a pretty alluring package. Perhaps Kutcher et al are on to something…