Terminology and age
The origin of the word cougar as a slang term is debated, but it is thought to have originated in Western Canada and first appeared in print on the Canadian dating website Cougardate.com. It has also been stated to have "originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, as a put-down for older women who would go to bars and go home with whomever was left at the end of the night".
The term has been variously applied to women who pursue sexual relations with men more than eight years younger than they are, and to women over the age of 40 who aggressively pursue sexual relations with men in their 20s or 30s. However, the term can also refer to any female who has a male partner much younger than herself, regardless of age or age difference.
A 2010 British psychological study published in Evolution and Human Behavior asserted that men and women, in general, continue to follow traditional gender roles when searching for mates, and thus concluded that the posited "cougar phenomenon" does not exist, or more precisely, exists but is rare. The study found that most men preferred younger, physically attractive women, while most women, of any age, preferred successful, established men their age or older. The study found very few instances of older women pursuing much younger men and vice versa. The study has been criticized, however, for limiting their results to online dating profiles, which are traditionally not used by those seeking older or younger partners, and for excluding the United States from the study.
The cougar concept has been used in television shows, advertising, and film. The 2007 film Cougar Club was dedicated to the subject and, in spring 2009, TV Land aired a reality show called The Cougar where cougars would pick a date. The 2009 sitcom Cougar Town originally explored the difficulty and stigma of many so-called cougars. In The Graduate (1967), a married mother pursues a much younger man (21 in the film). On the soap opera Days of Our Lives, character Eve Donovan is a cougar, repeatedly sleeping with the much younger JJ Deveraux.
The "cougar phenomenon", as it is called, is frequently associated with present-day, glamorous celebrities such as Madonna, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Demi Moore. However, it is documented that the trend of influential women dating younger men extends back a lot further through history to notable figures including Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I.
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- Age disparity in sexual relationships
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