Cougar (slang)

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Cougar is a slang term for a woman who seeks romantic or sexual relationships with significantly younger men.[1][2]

Terminology and age[edit]

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 possibly as early as 1999.[3] 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 whoever was left at the end of the night".[4] Though, like many formerly derogatory terms, there has been an increasing effort to "reclaim" the term in recent years.

The term has been variously applied to middle-aged women who pursue romantic or sexual relations with men more than ten to fifteen years younger than they are.[2][5][6][7]


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.[8] 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.[9][1]


The cougar concept has been increasingly used in television shows, advertising, and film. The 2007 film Cougar Club was dedicated to the subject. In spring 2009, TV Land broadcast The Cougar, a reality series in which an older woman would pick a date from twenty younger men. 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.[10][11]

The "cougar phenomenon",[12] as it is called, is frequently associated with present-day, glamorous celebrities such as Madonna, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Demi Moore.[13] However, it has been claimed 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.[14]

Rasa von Werder, also known as Kellie Everts, had become a self-proclaimed cougar herself and photographer of younger men in her later years, in and around the college town Binghamton, New York. At Binghamton University, she was interviewed by and featured several times on the front page of their student newspaper.[15] She has written extensively about her experience as well as the general social phenomenon in several books, including Old Woman, Young Man: Why They Belong Together, Parts I and II (2011 and 2019, respectively).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thorne, Tony (February 27, 2014). Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408181805 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Hillman, Jennifer (March 27, 2012). Sexuality and Aging: Clinical Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461433989 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Barrett, Grant (October 17, 2007). "Time for a cougar?". The Star Online. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2009.
  4. ^ "Are More Older Women With Younger Men?". ABC News. May 5, 2005. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  5. ^ Kershaw, Sarah (October 14, 2009). "Rethinking the Older Woman-Younger Man Relationship". The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Girl, The Dating Advice (December 20, 2016). The Dating Guidebook: Tips for Living a Happy and Healthy Single Life Without Losing Yourself in the Dating Process. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781481711661 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Jen Doll. "Can a 16-Year-Old Girl Be a Cougar? Asks the New York Times". The Wire. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Alleyne, Richard (August 19, 2010). "The 'Cougar' concept: older women preying on younger men is a myth, claim scientists". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ Padgett, Tim (August 19, 2010). "New Study Claims 'Cougars' Do Not Exist". Time. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  10. ^ "Days Recap: You Did Me A Solid. - Days of Our Lives Daily Updates -". November 5, 2014. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  11. ^ "'Days of Our Lives' Spoilers: JJ & Eve Sleep Together Again & Destroy All Hope Of Relationships With Paige". Enstarz. December 24, 2014. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  12. ^ Knapton, Sarah. "The Cougar phenomenon: why older women should choose young lovers". The Telegraph. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  13. ^ Crowder, Courtney. "Demi Moore, Madonna and More: Hollywood's Top 5 Cougar Couples". ABC News. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Brindley, Deborah (March 8, 2014). "Famous Women Leaders and Cougar Dating". Toyboy Warehouse. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  15. ^ "The Life and Times of Rasa Von Werder". Binghamton University Pipe Dream. March 18, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2022.

External links[edit]