Image posted on Flickr by "Nikki OK".
It's never been a problem for older men to have a young woman hanging off their arm, but when it's the other way round, then toy boys have long been best kept a secret. Until now... "Cougar women" in the US are coming out of the dark and flaunting their younger boyfriends. The only problem is, everybody's laughing at them.
A cougar is a solitary mountain cat which preys on pretty much anything that moves. Not a very kind depiction of older women who date younger men then. The term emerged in North America around ten years ago, and for want of another name, has risen to prominence mainly due to necessity - the number of women married to men younger than them has doubled since 1960, and a third of non-married females aged 40+ date younger men, according to research by over 50s lifestyle organisation AARP. The concept has been brought to the attention of the media by celebrity examples; the most famous being 46-year-old film star Demi Moore and her husband of four years, 31-year-old actor Ashton Kutcher.
A poll published on October 12 by Avalanche LLC, owner of various major US dating sites, found that for 89% of women, the appeal of "snagging" a younger man made them feel "that they still had it", and only 3.8% cared about being "stigmatized as a cougar or cradle robber". For the men, almost 90% said that they were interested in dating an older woman. Eighty-five percent of those said it was because "they have a lot of money and can take care of me", and 72% of the interviewees labelled older women "desperate and easier".
Meanwhile, TV network ABC has just released a series devoted to the species, which depicts them as desperate, lonely, and - in comparison with their male counterparts, or "silver foxes" - largely unsuccessful.
On September 23 TV network ABC launched "Cougar Town", starring 45-year-old Friends star Courtney Cox.
Flickr user Daniel Britt attended the first ever Miss Cougar America pageant on August 28 and interviewed the winner, 42-year-old suburban management consultant and divorcee, Gloria Navarro. Around 200 "cubs", or men under 40, voted at the event.
Former Wall Street banker and self-made "Cougar advisor", 60-year-old Linda Franklin runs the blog "The Real Cougar Woman".
Linda's response to "three Cougar myths":