Cougar (slang)

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The unlikely couple (Young Man and Old Woman) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest)

Cougar is slang for a woman who seeks sexual activity 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[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]

The term has been variously applied to middle-aged women who pursue sexual relations with men more than ten years younger than they are. [4][2][5][6][7][8]


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.[9] 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.[10][1][11][12]


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 women 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.[13][14]

The "cougar phenomenon",[15] as it is called, is frequently associated with present-day, glamorous celebrities such as Madonna, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Demi Moore.[16] 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.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thorne, Tony (27 February 2014). Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408181805 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Hillman, Jennifer (27 March 2012). Sexuality and Aging: Clinical Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461433989 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Barrett, Grant (17 October 2007). "Time for a cougar?". The Star Online. Archived from the original on 5 October 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Are More Older Women With Younger Men?". ABC News. 5 May 2005. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  5. ^ Kershaw, Sarah (14 October 2009). "Rethinking the Older Woman-Younger Man Relationship". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  6. ^ Girl, The Dating Advice (20 December 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. ^ Conlin, Jennifer (25 May 2012). "Younger Boys More Respectful, High School Girls Say". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Jen Doll. "Can a 16-Year-Old Girl Be a Cougar? Asks the New York Times". The Wire. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  9. ^ Alleyne, Richard, "The 'Cougar' concept: older women preying on younger men is a myth, claim scientists", The Telegraph, 19 August 2010
  10. ^ Padgett, Tim (19 August 2010). "New Study Claims 'Cougars' Do Not Exist". Time. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  11. ^ Varian, Nanette (20 August 2010). "Cougar Women Just a "Myth"? Investigates". Retrieved 27 August 2015.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Fancher, Judith B (10 September 2010). "Declawing the Cougar". Fox News. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Days Recap: You Did Me A Solid. - Days of Our Lives Daily Updates -". 5 November 2014. Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  14. ^ "'Days of Our Lives' Spoilers: JJ & Eve Sleep Together Again & Destroy All Hope Of Relationships With Paige [PHOTO] : TV/Reality TV". Enstarz. 24 December 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  15. ^ Knapton, Sarah. "The Cougar phenomenon: why older women should choose young lovers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  16. ^ Crowder, Courtney. "Demi Moore, Madonna and More: Hollywood's Top 5 Cougar Couples". ABC News. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  17. ^ Brindley, Deborah. "Famous Women Leaders and Cougar Dating". Toyboy Warehouse. Retrieved 13 August 2015.