There’s no such thing as a “cougar” -

There’s no such thing as a “cougar”

Study claims women focus on cues indicative of wealth and status


A British study analyzing the age preferences of 22,000 men and women on dating websites in 14 countries claims the phenomenon of the “cougar”—older women on the prowl for younger men—does not actually exist in the real world. The study determined women generally seek older men, whereas men desire a young and attractive woman, and often prefer a much younger partner as they themselves age. The study’s findings dispute the phenomenon popularized in television shows like Cougar Town of women over 40 seeking younger “cubs.” Dr. Michael Dunn, a psychologist at the University of Wales who led the study, says the findings support an “evolutionary theory” that holds that women focus more than males on cues indicative of wealth and status, which logically accumulate with age. Men, says Dunn, focus on physical attractiveness cues that are correlated with the years of maximum fertility in women.

The Telegraph

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There’s no such thing as a “cougar”

  1. Pretty sure they do exist, you just have to go to skeezier bars to find them.

    • True that. They're more likely to be hunting where the game is. Most guys aren't looking specifically for a cougar. Therefore, the Internet is the last place to look.

  2. because clearly, a finding of a survey of people on dating websites based on what they say, not what they do, is a totally unbiased and accurate, right? what a joke, even if the majority prefer older women cougars certainly exist, just not EVERY WOMAN is a cougar…

    • One site, OK Cupid, bases its stats who people contact rather than what they say they're looking for, and they've reported the same thing as the above study on their blog.

      • But OKcupid is not a representative sample of prospective daters. I believe the site evolved out of thespark, which was a comedy site aimed at younger people. Less educated people may also be turned off by all the statistics. If you go to myspace or plentyoffish, you'll find plenty-a-cougar.

    • Exactly. Mr. Dawson is completely right. The stupidity of this article is breathtaking. If all women were cougars, then there wouldn't be a term it….it would just be women!

      Obviously more women look for same age or older (they have more money!)

      But to go from there to "There is no such thing as a cougar." is embarrassing.

    • And not every man is a dirty old man

  3. It could be a difference between seeking long-term versus short-term. I'm sure cougars exist, they are just a minority of single women over 40.

    Also, the term 'cub' is already in common use by another group of people. People getting them confused would be disappointed.

  4. There may be cougars, but I doubt any of them look like Courtney Cox.

  5. PSSHhhhhh…
    1) What about more progressive women who aren't afraid to break stereotypes? The older, single, self-made women who are tired of ponchy old men who have grown accustomed to a life of leisure and lost their manhood… and frankly, old guys are boring! And for younger men, sometimes readily available, experienced, wiser, and more interesting older beauties with some serious neglect induced cravings, will trump youth in all its perky glory.
    2) Trends or otherwise, you'd be a fool to say (as these scientists apparently are) that women don't have visually cued cravings just as much as men do, and will sometimes act on them. And an even worse bet would be that a single young man would steer away from that opportunity to – at the very least – indulge curiosity.
    3) There's a big difference between "preference" and practice. Example: Crocs may prefer to eat fish, but would not likely poo poo a slow moving near sighted lap dog. Likewise, I may prefer a Jessica Alba type, but if Jennifer Aniston chatted me up at a bar, I would be eeelated.

    • Yeah, good luck with that Jennifer Aniston look-alike wanting you.

  6. 3) This study was done in Wales??? I was under the impression the cougar was a species more Native to North America, where we have more likely been exposed to such pop culture references as American Pie and Detroit Rock City.
    4) "Doesn't exist" is a BOLD statement. Just cuz I've never seen an amur leopard doesn't mean it doesn't exist. They've definitely asked the wrong people or looked in the wrong places.

    My proposal: Redo the study, asking about preference is fine, but also include a question asking men the largest positive age gap they've ever experienced, and women the largest negative age gap. I hypothesize that experience will at least occasionally differ from preference. Also, I think this occurs with wilder or at least more open minded individuals. A better place to seek out cougars and cougar hunters might be Las Vegas rather than Wales.

    But seriously, "Does not exist"? For shame.

    • I agree. All cultural studies should be conducted in Las Vegas — preferably between the hours of midnight and 4AM. That's when you get your most reliable data.

      I hope you have abs, pal, because there isn't much going on between your ears.

      • I hope you have abs, pal, because there isn't much going on between your ears.

        Heh. I thinking along the same lines, but I doubt I could have stated it quite so eloquently.

        Funny how any suggestion that human behaviour is driven by evolution and biology always triggers such a strong reaction from "progressive" thinking individuals. They sure don't like having their "culture is everything" view of the world challeneged. Presumably because so much of their progressive ideology depends on the cultural explanations remaining intact.

      • Hahaha, buh zing… my abs could use work. I'm just saying, if you want to make a non-existence statement, you would do well to do your search where you're most likely to find your target. For example, if you want to prove the existence of people familiar with research methods, an online comment thread for an article on disproving cougars would not be the best place to look. If you're looking for people who assume statements categorically describe the writer's perspective on all things, this would be a fine place to look. I can't STAND Vegas, but as Stephan said, you "just have to go to skeezier bars to find them," and it doesn't get any skeezier than Vegas. Hosertohoosier is probably right, there's a lot more of the reverse. Makes sense; Vegas doesn't get to escape the general biological trend. Raging Ranter: What part of evolution exactly would you say the one-night-stand or F-buddy contribute to? Think the object there is to NOT pass on genes. No? Last time I checked, biology points to monogamy in mammals as being a real anomaly (more common in birds). Not overly relevant, but it is a good reason to hope we're not all just mindless biologically correct organic robots. Cultural influences can sway us toward wholesomeness just as much as away from it, and yes, biology and evolution will set the rules from which we all deviate.

    • My experience in Vegas was more of the reverse phenomena. There were lots of paunchy old geezers with very attractive young women on their arms. I didn't see many cougars, but each old guy-young woman relationship creates a new opening for a cougar.

    • I don't have access to the article, but by the abstract, the authors aren't actually making that claim. They state that they didn't find "clear evidence for toy boy proclivities in females or males". I believe it's the Telegraph, reporting on the article, that (big surprise) went far beyond the study in its headline.

  7. Wealth and status….no kidding. That's the American woman for sure… got the bucks, you got the gal…..the most materialistic gold diggers I've encountered in my travels.

    • What's that saying? "A man is like a bank account; without much money, neither generate much interest."

    • Uncalled for, gratuitous nasty comment against the US. Talking in stereotypes. As if money doesn't help men attract women every place in the planet. What country are you from?

  8. I have found that many dating sites are not accurate — people go to them with what they *think* they want. If you ask many women or men they will often provide the pre-programmed response provided by society, that women are supposed to want status, men someone younger. The percentage of those who go to dating sites, and find what they want? I think very small. And I have been on many and met many.

    Before, a guy could advertise their steady job as an engineer, stockbrocker and attract women on the basis of that. I have found that as I've gotten older in my 40s this attracts me less [if at all], and that while women have generally been under much more pressure and competition to keep up their looks and look nice, men are more likely to go to pot, looks-wiser.

    More and more women are dating younger — look at Mariah, Carey, Madonna, and many other celebrities. Not to say this represents all women, but it's a question of power and money, and not preprogrammed gender. If it were, powerful attractive women would still be getting older men, but they don't — they have as much power and choice as many male, which they exercise. As women have gained equal income ability with men income and status as an attraction are not as important.

    I do get attention from younger guys —– I think some younger guys get tired of women their own age, as I listen, I don't put big emotional demands — whereas the younger women are demanding, they want, want want etc [this is what I've heard from a few of these guys] Not a knock on younger women — I was demanding too but at that age you think you want, and you deserve, everything under the sun in terms of a mate.

    So maybe it's more a case of younger men/older women — and older men/younger women.

    • "..and that while women have generally been under much more pressure and competition to keep up their looks and look nice, men are more likely to go to pot, looks-wiser." – Carol-Ann

      My observations are the opposite, yes, women are under more pressure to keep up their looks but for the most part, most fail letting themselves get overly fat. Less so with the men who are more likely to do a better job of avoiding excess weight.

    • I'm willing to bet there are more powerful women with older men than younger ones. Demi Moore, Mariah Carry et. al. are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    • Wow, well put! I would say that has been my EXACT experience. My cougar experience has probably been the most comfortable I've ever had. You provide some great insight as to why that might be. In my case there was also no real expectation of things progressing beyond fun, so there was very little pressure as well. And yes, young girls do get old… just many many years after they become tiresome :P hehe.

      …Raging Ranter, think you meant exception NOT the rule… and yes, nobody here is claiming it's the rule. **pats you on the head**

  9. I think it is a real phenomena, but one that emerges out of necessity (though, as others have mentioned, it is more likely to hold for short-term relationships).

    1. Women marry younger than men, on average. Therefore the number of young single women is going to be lower than the number of young single men. Therefore there is a surplus of young men out there. This is aggravated by the fact that divorced men tend to remarry more quickly/often than divorced women.

    2. While I am not sure women have a sexual peak (although obviously menopause is a killer), men surely have declining libidos. So 40-something guys are less likely to be on the prowl, and if so are going to be less able to satisfy the sexual needs of a pre-menopausal woman.

    3. Younger men may have more progressive views on gender than older men, and thus might be more likely to accept a woman who is dominant in some respects (eg. experience and income). That said there are plenty of people in my generation who are not yet in this camp.

  10. This is ridiculous. It exists as a concept that has social currency. If you have never met a "cougar" you know exactly what it means. If they do not exist, you know that the concept is sound and likely to be true.

    The fact is that cougars do exist. Big deal.
    I also think that the term has a Canadian origin. I think it was first coined and used in the very early 90's in Vancouver. I could be wrong, but I remember hearing it then, and it has only now come to have widespread currency.

    • A statement in Wikipedia: "The origin of the word is debated; however, it is thought to have first appeared in print on the Canadian dating website"

  11. I think the old geezers want this to be true. I never wanted a saggy, older man (and neither did any of my friends) and was always attracted to hot guys around my own age. We used to joke that if we married an old, rich guy, we could afford all the hot, young guys we wanted! I think these studies are to keep psychologists with a stream of funding to somehow make them feel relevant.

    • The authors of this study never said women are attracted to saggy old geezers. They said womean are more likely to be attracted to men with power and social status. These men are generally older than themselves. The term "older" is relative. One can be 3 or 5 or 8 years older than another without being a saggy old geezer.

    • Right On!!
      I remember in University at a Pub one night, 2 older guys (they were 28 years old) joined our table, a mix of my girl friends and some guy's we knew. These older guys were from out of town, lawyers – very nice and all – but there was NO WAY we even entertained the 'idea' of dating them! (and they did try, in a very nice way) We were 21 years old! These guys seemed so old to us!!
      We laugh about it now – but back then, we joked about 'how gross' it would be to have a BF soooo much older….
      Bottom line is both men and women are at their most attractive when young.

  12. Maybe some women just prefer not to date at all. I know that is how I feel, and I have been enjoying life.

    • Well, maybe they do. What does that have to do with this story?

      • Well maybe I was just speaking for women that do not want to date. It has a lot to do with the story because I am pointing out not everyone is focused on getting married or dating. If you do not like someone's comment then there is no need to reply, simple as that.

        • I understand that you are speaking for some of the women for whom the term cougar isn't applicable. Everyone one is aware that there is a great variety of personality types and interests, and those will have their time in the sun for us all to make our posts on. It is also great that you are having an enjoyable life. Long may it continue and cheers to your good fortune.

          Who says I didn't like your comment? I didn't. I was mearly giving you a little nudge to comment on the story as it stands, as in what do you have to say about cougars as a social phenominon?

          • Older women have been dating younger men for far longer than we realize, it was just not as out in the open as today. Personally I think wanting people to answer on an article the way that you like is a bit, well like wanting people to recite a script. All these comments are about is people expressing opinions, and when it comes to cougars I say more power to older women that want to date younger men. If they want to that is their business.

          • Thank you.

          • Not sure why you are thanking me when my original response was pithy and well thought out. I say you should go tell some others here how to comment. Interesting who you decide to try and play teacher for.

  13. Conduct the survey at a bar next time, Dr. Dunn.

  14. Girls don't like boys girls like cars and money. OKCupid also reports that women rate 80% of men as below average in hot or not type ratings, whereas the distribution for men rating women is your basic bell curve. Think about how this manifests itself in the workplace: the average woman is hostile to the average man – unless he is a manager, while the average man is positively predisposed, to put it mildly, towards his average female co-worker.

    Humans are not randomly interchangeable economic inputs.

    • It's not purely economic. Because a purely economic explanation can't account for the bad boy allure. Social status is the overwhelming factor in male attractiveness. Status, whether real or perceived, hits all the right evolutionary attraction buttons in women. A bad boy may have few economic resources, but because he demonstrates certain male-dominant behaviours, he attracts women. That's not to say all women are attracted to bad boys. Women have different ways of sizing up a man's social status. For some it might be wealth and power. For some it might be physical attractiveness. Others go for the bad boy, or some combination of the above. The important point is that it all relates back to social status.

      • Stop thinking about bad boys all the time, RR! The subject is cougars. You are requested to think about libidinous woman of a certain age, with sufficient resources and independence, that are luring young males with bait of low-resistance conquest for the easy expiation of said (hot, if you must) young male's lust.

        Now, please, stay on subject and come up with some relevant points that do not verge on to the tangent of bad boys.

        • I thought the bad boys reference was relevant, tangential though it might have been. However, now that you mention it, I wouldrather think about libidinous women of a certain age.

          • That's the spirit.

  15. That's as good an explanation of the cougar phenomena as any.

  16. Pretty sad… not a mention of the words "love" or devotion, care, understanding… what a bunch of narcissists… hopefully you will all find your own special nightmares and suffer in the prisons of your own design. No wonder Bearie is sick of it. And SHWM is spot on. Relationships aren't transactions. Good men find good women and vice versa all the time, which is why the dregs slug it out over the crumbs and resort to all sorts of rationalizations. Who really cares whether someone is within 3 or 5 or 10 years of another's age? There's no badge in it one way or another. If there's something real and romantic and lasting, that's the real thing. Age be damned. If you're just out to bed hop, well, go for the hot guy/girl, or the rich, or the older or younger. You're going to come up empty and alone no matter what.

    • Yes, yes to your commonplaces. They may be true or at least truthy, but they don't make for interesting reading, because of their commonness (perhaps less so these days). No, the most productive vein of titilation is sexual abberation as it adds scandal to arousal. Every other combination has been run up the flag pole for the viewing pleasure of the general public, same story with this one.

      It also needs to be stated that SHWM didn't say "relationships aren't transactions", he said "Humans are not randomly interchangeable economic inputs." You may have grasped his intended meaning with your paraphrase, but there is a difference. SHWM is not explicitly rejecting the model *Transactions* as a realm of experience to draw upon when attempting to understand the abstract *Love*. There is a significant amount of research in cognitive linguistincs that does indeed suggest the transactional model is a fairly wide spread model for conceptualizing relationships. The cougar phenominon is a manifestation of the entailments of the Tranaction —> Love relationship model.

    • You, on the other hand, sound totally happy and content. :)

  17. Cougars aren't looking for hubbies of BF's. They're looking to get laid. The study is moot.

  18. A cougar is born at that delicate moment when alcohol meets opportunity.

  19. And if you believe in that story, Marilyn is playing cards with Bogie, Elvis and the Easter Bunny.

  20. "The study determined women generally seek older men"… Generally. That does not absolutely exclude the existence of cougars; it just indicates they are not the norm.

    I have always been into younger men/boys (well, from adolescence on…). My initial attraction to a man is always visual and always includes youthfulness. While an unattractive personality can turn me off, an attractive personality – on its own – almost never turns me on. Money, success, etc. are superfluous. I cannot, for the life of me, fathom the drive of a gold-digger, though I am, in my own, way, admittedly equally superficial; if a man is not hot, I could not possibly date him (or even kiss him while sober…). My taste in men imposes clear dilemmas (not the least of which is the terminal nature of my own attractiveness and outward youthfulness); but, alas, we like what we like…

    I am by some accounts not yet a cougar (37), though my friends already call me one (or, jokingly, "pedophile" – though my cutoff age is 19!). I am, unfortunately, very rarely attracted to anyone older than 30. I say "unfortunately", as the downside of my limited attraction entails often dealing with immaturity (though, as I explain to my confused friends, people can be immature at any age; no guarantees your "established" geezer will be mature) and occasionally having to pay for everything (as opposed to the customary 50/50).

    I am inclined to believe my predilections are mostly biologically driven. I don't yearn to be cared for or provided for (not even during my stages of poverty and near-poverty); but I do a crave a healthy, virile male.

    All this to say: they may not be the NORM; but yes, it seems cougars do exist (or will in 3 years ;).

    • I am not a man under thirty, but would it work for you if I played one on TV?

  21. the term cougar means a woman pathetically trying to hold onto her youth.. But assuming the study is correct, they cannot go older than themselves as successful older men take younger trophy women. The cougar settles for the younger man that just wants to get laid and like all women, manages to confuse sex and love.

    • No, the term cougar means a woman attempting to hold onto a youth.

      • And often more than one youth.

    • NOT "all women confuse sex and love" – Many, yes – not all !

  22. ome of the most extreme excamples is that some young beautiful women are after hugh heffner who is not so good looking and something like mid 80s …if men in their twenties did the same it would be more than creepy …meanwhile heff is not concerned what job the young women have or if they are brighter than a 40 watt lightbulb …. in real life although the concept of women preferring money and status and men preferring youth and beauty may be generally true it is not always true and not true for everybody

  23. Cougars are nothing new. My friends and I knew just what clubs to go to meet older women…in the '80s! It's just the name that's new. As my father said:
    They don't tell,
    They don't yell,
    They don't swell,
    And they're thankful as Hell!

    • That was your father quoting Benjamin Franklin

  24. I've known several cougars (I'm an older man). They are just into it for the sex! A quote from one lady "They are enthusiastic, energetic, good for 7 or 8 times a night and are into fun, don't want a commitment." For some a too young age is not a barrier.

  25. .anyone remember the movie 'The last picture show' ? There have been many depicting Cougars – it's just that the name caught on.
    How about that show – the graduate with Mrs. Robinson on the prowl.

    I was appalled when I learned this went on from new friends when I was young and attractive and boys my son's age hit on me. My friends tuned me in – I told them to stay away from son!!
    I could just not fathom being with a 'kid' for sex or otherwise – nothing in common. period. I think they hit on me because they imagined a free ride, in more ways then one. Giglos have been around for centuries.

  26. Dang. I am 52 and here I was hoping to find an 80 year old wealthy cougar with Bentley and yacht plus a 45 year old lusty busty daughter to meet both all of my needs. Boy am I disappointed to hear this.

  27. It really doesn't matter if Cougar's exist or not, in small or large number's. The fact is, if you are single in your 40's, and you look good, there are younger men who will ask you out. If you do go out with this guy, you are automatically labelled a Cougar.
    Both sexes are at their most attractive when they are young or younger than yourself.
    IF money and status were not issues, old rich guys would stay married to their old wives because younger women certainly wouldn't want them.
    And if women were desirable as they aged, they certainly wouldn't be looking for guys their own age, they would be after the young hot guys.

  28. The popularization of cougar culture and the sexual peak myth are intended to normalize middle aged sluttiness and sex with younger men.

    For older men and younger women, it's still just creepy.

    • I generally agree, as long as by cougar you mean the true definition of an 'older woman preying on younger men'
      (which I think is a teeny tiny percentage of over 40 year old women who are out catting around)
      Because I think the term is used too casually…seems any attractive woman over 40 who is single and dating and who may date a younger man because he asks her out and she accepts , is automatically labelled a cougar.
      Very unfair.
      The vast majority of attractive, single, over 40 year old women, who I know and take care of themselves are not "sluts".
      Women are just now starting to do what men have done since the beginning of time….

  29. They do exist. So what? If a middle-aged woman wants a boy toy, who really cares? I suppose there will have to be a Royal Commission held to verify the UK research and to create appropriate supports for cougars and their prey. This is Canada, after all……….