It's that word. Cougar. As Rebecca Traister so eloquently wrote for Salon, "aggressive female sexuality is always talked about as feral, often feline. When it's older, apparently, it develops sharper claws and teeth… mindless characterizations of va-va-voom youth seekers who wear too-tight animal prints and talk like children about stalking men as prey is not important, valuable or empowering in any way." And as Allure blogger Erin Flaherty once wrote of Brooke Shields being called a cougar: "Sometimes an attractive woman is just an attractive woman. Can't hot older women just be hot?"
Viewing older women as "wild" "cats" results in unfortunate, often preposterous language of predator and prey. Poor, defenseless men! Scary, aggressive ladies! When writing about the photos from the Bay Area Cougar Convention, SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi jokes, "beware young gentlemen. Here thar be cougars." Come on. An older single woman is not some sort of bogeymonster, lurking in the shadows, preparing to attack. It's diminishing, insulting and derogatory to characterize them that way.
What you actually see in theses pictures are older women and younger men — single, consenting adults — enjoying each others' company. The men in the images look extremely pleased to be there and not at all like they've been pounced on by claw-bearing, untamed feline females. Sure, there's that one chick with cat ears on, but we go easy on crazy cat ladies around here.
[Images by Daniel C. Britt/ Painet; used with permission]