Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Cougars. Pussies. Foxes. Faster pussycat! Kill! Kill!
April 16, 2009 11:49 AM   Subscribe

"Hot Cougar Sex!" Since the term was first coined, "cougar" has become something of a cultural phenomenon: it's been applied to Samantha on "Sex and the City" and actress Demi Moore, and sometimes shares territory with that other recently-ubiquitous label for sexualized older women: MILFs. Some women have embraced the term as empowering, but as a new reality show debuts, others show why it's less than appealing.
posted by ocherdraco (182 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chéri was published in 1920.

Cultural phenomenon, you say.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2009


That Kristin Schall skit on "The Daily Show" (last link) is absolutely hilarious, and just about says it all.
posted by kosem at 12:04 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Joe, you may find it interesting to note that it's being made into a film this year.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2009


That reality show would be better if the age difference were larger. Say the woman was in her early-mid fifties, and all the guys had just turned 18 ("barely legal!" as they say). I'd watch that.
posted by Potsy at 12:09 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cougar attacks aren't all they're cracked up to be.
If you encounter one in the wild.

posted by now i'm piste at 12:10 PM on April 16, 2009


I do not like it when MILFs on adult sites are a decade or more younger than me. And the category "mature"? It should be grandmothers, not women my age.

Thank God I don't watch online porn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 PM on April 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


show why it's less than appealing.
Why?!!
Can't view that link outside of USA.
posted by Iax at 12:11 PM on April 16, 2009


The film of Cheri is going to be directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen). Here's the trailer. Looks fun.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:11 PM on April 16, 2009


New reality show? Is this MILF Island?
posted by grobstein at 12:16 PM on April 16, 2009


I was, for some reason, thinking the last link would point to Jocelyn Wildenstein.
posted by box at 12:17 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What are the rules for cougaring, anyway? Is it a 20 year age gap? 10?

I've always seen Mrs. Robinson as the iconic cougar.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 12:21 PM on April 16, 2009


Sorry for our non-US mefites. This excerpt from the Salon article that's the first link explains the video in the last link:
Even though women are making extravagant efforts to reclaim it as empowering, it remains offensive and dehumanizing on almost every level, as "Daily Show" senior women's issues commentator Kristin Schaal illustrated in a piece in which she had an animal handler carry a grown woman to the news desk, Jack Hanna style, so that Jon Stewart could examine her up close: "Do you want to hold her, Jon?"
posted by ocherdraco at 12:24 PM on April 16, 2009


I don't think eating bugs to earn tampons is art.
posted by rokusan at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had no idea Jocelyn Wildenstein looked like she does on purpose. I think her husband was attracted to those jungle cats in ways she was not intended to fulfill him, nor should she want to.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on April 16, 2009


Hmm... I don't really buy any of this. My ex-wife was almost 10 years older than me - when we married I was 21 and she was 30. This was about five years ago... well into the "cougar madness" stuff, and I'll tell you the honest truth. Society does not tolerate older women and younger men. They may think it's funny or enjoy watching it on tv or reading about Demi and Ashton and all that, but when actually confronted with an older woman / younger man relationship, the majority of people - even "enlightened" folk - react with an almost primal disgust.

We were "closeted" for the vast majority of our relationship of five years - no holding hands in the mall, if we danced too close at the bar people would give us funny looks or ask if she was my older sister or something - and our families pretty much disowned us. It took a full beard and two wedding bands to finally get over all the bullshit. Probably the worst part was the number of our friends who treated us like pariahs... even amongst our friends who themselves fought their own wars against being closeted by society (our glbtq friends). There's no "support group," no network of support, pretty much nothing out there for people who were in our scenario - only this ridiculous, shameful pageantry presented by the media. Older men and younger women are often targets of jokes or caricature, but that trope fails to create the kind of cognitive dissonance most people experience when they're confronted by the older woman / younger man scenario.

My heart goes out to people who find themselves in love and in this situation. It can be hellish and requires huge sacrifices (if you come out) or painful secrecy (if you chose not to reveal your relationship).
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:32 PM on April 16, 2009 [35 favorites]


It's a little disconcerting when any woman over the age of 18 is labeled a "MILF".

Over 30, that I can see, although a perhaps a more "gender positive" term would be "yummy mummy". I tell you, the one thing Gen X has got going for it is yoga.

Back when I was a late teen or early twenty-something, a "cougar" was always a woman older than 40.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:32 PM on April 16, 2009


As the older person in my relationship, people tease me with this term often. I really dislike it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:34 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What are the rules for cougaring, anyway? Is it a 20 year age gap? 10?

If she's old enough, biologically speaking, to be his mother- say 13 years and up. Alternately, if he's closer in age to her children than he is to her.
posted by pernoctalian at 12:34 PM on April 16, 2009


I believe they prefer to be called "Mellencamps" now.
posted by pracowity at 12:35 PM on April 16, 2009 [33 favorites]


Someday the thought of women's sexuality won't be so novel or puzzling, and we can just use "woman". Cougar does have a neat parallel to calling a man "Tiger", though.
posted by boo_radley at 12:35 PM on April 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


an animal handler carry a grown woman to the news desk, Jack Hanna style, so that Jon Stewart could examine her up close: "Do you want to hold her, Jon?"

When she's carried away, Schaal tells the handler to "make out with her or something, or she'll never get to sleep."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:36 PM on April 16, 2009


Very true, Baby_Balrog. I've experienced some of that and our age difference isn't even ten years (he's early 20s, I'm late 20s). People think it's funny. They often don't think we're serious. I've had snickering, assumptions that he's a "boytoy", that sort of thing. His friends and family have wondered why he's dating someone my age. When I asked him if they'd say the same if the ages were reversed, he said "of course not" and that they'd practically be cheering him on.

Awful amounts of sexism and intolerance involved.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:39 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Baby_Balrog: "My heart goes out to people who find themselves in love and in this situation"

Ageless Love discussion forum
posted by Joe Beese at 12:43 PM on April 16, 2009


Someday the thought of women's sexuality won't be so novel or puzzling, and we can just use "woman".

Yes. Please God.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


I think people are over reacting when they blame the word "cougar" for objectifying women's sexuality - there's plenty of other things that do that beside some hokey animalism. Consider the stud, no one's going to complain that calling someone a young stallion is objectifying masculine sexuality all by itself.
posted by doobiedoo at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2009


My ex-wife was almost 10 years older than me - when we married I was 21 and she was 30. ... We were "closeted" for the vast majority of our relationship of five years - no holding hands in the mall, if we danced too close at the bar people would give us funny looks or ask if she was my older sister or something - and our families pretty much disowned us.

Seriously? For an age difference of nine years at the most? Wow. How incredibly petty and small-minded of the reactions you got.

I have to say, I'm not a fan of "cougar" either. It implies the woman is predatory, and that her male companions are defenseless against her whims. But mostly, whether "cougar" is said with the intention of praise or denegration, the fact that some people felt the need for a term for an older woman who is "still" attractive implies that this is somehow not a common thing; that nearly all women past their early 30s become unattractive.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:49 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Area wildcat a real wildcat in the sack.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2009


Just because I find significantly older women dating young men disgusting doesn't mean I don't find significantly older men dating young women just as disgusting. My disgust knows no bounds!
posted by grubi at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2009


It seems strange, sad perhaps, that the term "MILF" has become so watered down. Some people seem to believe that it refers to any woman who is a "mom," rather than a woman old enough to be a mother to the person speaking the term. An attractive 39-year-old woman is a MILF to a 20-year-old man, but not to a 35-year-old one.

Cougars? There's clearly a predatory element in the name alone. If the women aren't hunting, stalking their prey (men), they're not cougars. Samantha on SatC was sometimes one, Demi Moore just seems to be a woman enjoying a healthy relationship with a younger man.
posted by explosion at 12:53 PM on April 16, 2009


I am always interested in the way people must search for a label when the unexpected happens. Gracious, you mean women don't just ... burn up and vanish when they hit thirty? *blinks myopically* Clearly, we must define this phenomenon. You, warm up my microscope! You, find some kind of name for this highly disturbing trend.
posted by adipocere at 12:58 PM on April 16, 2009


Let's frown on something else that's just plain harmless fun, America.
posted by Zambrano at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2009


Sorry for our non-US mefites. This excerpt from the Salon article that's the first link explains the video in the last link.

Thanks for the transcript, but I found that I could mostly follow what they were saying, even through their accents - it's not as if they were Scottish or anything.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


it remains offensive and dehumanizing on almost every level

To be called a bad ass jungle animal?

Calling a man a lion is typically not an insult. Just throwing that out there.

I always believed it was an endearing term - proof that age isn't necessarily something that makes you undesirable. There is the belief that woman have a certain shelf life (best if consumed before age 25 or whatever) that i certainly don't prescribe to, and most guys i know don't either. In other words, its some odd social proof that so called "older" women are still attractive, even in that 'primal' young-man-lust sense. Its a little dirty, but so is the word 'sexy', if you really know what it means. Someone sexy is someone you want to fuck. To have sex with. Sexy.

I should also point out that a younger desirable man is called "stud". Whats that? Not just the thing you use to frame houses... its a breeding horse. an animal whose only purpose is to FUCK. A 'fuck-horse'. That's an even MORE pointed animal reference wouldn't you say?

Crass, but its a good thing.

We call lots of people animals. Republicans and democrats are donkeys and elephants. Americans are bald eagles apparently. Shady salesmen are 'snakes'. Wise individuals are "like an owl". Or a cunning 'fox'. Someone who is afraid is a "chicken". I mean there is a ton of examples. Most are based on myth of course... but its nothing new. Its just humans describing things. Poorly, sure...

...but "dehumanization"? this isnt torture!.. or slavery! That is a big leap to go there in my opinion. Its Anthropomorphism, if anything.

Am i the only one that thinks this really really is no big deal? Calling a woman a cougar is like calling a young man a stud. Same thing. Who cares.
posted by 5imian at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't see how women like the term. I've always found it a little catty.
posted by aftermarketradio at 1:04 PM on April 16, 2009


Am i the only one that thinks this really really is no big deal? Calling a woman a cougar is like calling a young man a stud. Same thing. Who cares.

Surely you must be aware that "stud" always carries positive connotations. It is always praise. Not all women find "cougar" a term of praise. So maybe before we start bandying about false equivalencies we ought to consider that for a moment.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a cougar is an older woman leering at a younger man and doing anything she can to hold on to her long lost youth.

I don't think women are empowered by calling themselves cougars at all. At best, this bears some resemblance to bar skanks calling each other 'bitches' or 'whores'.
posted by reenum at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the transcript, but...

UbuRoivas, I did that because lax said the video wasn't viewable to those outside the US.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2009


Surely you must be aware that "stud" always carries positive connotations. It is always praise. Not all women find "cougar" a term of praise. So maybe before we start bandying about false equivalencies we ought to consider that for a moment.

last i checked cougar, like MILF is indeed a compliment. Or at least that is its intended delivery. Just like stud. Now if you call a guy a stud and hes like "eewww dont call me that you sexist bitch!" well i guess he didn't get the definition, did he?


cougar's not a diss. nor is stud.
posted by 5imian at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing : I have to say, I'm not a fan of "cougar" either. It implies the woman is predatory, and that her male companions are defenseless against her whims.

I was sort of indifferent to the term until I read your description, now I'm thinking it's kind of hot, actually.
posted by quin at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. "Cougar" had a very specific meaning IIRC when it was first introduced. Specifically what reenum is talking about. The bar hounds -- too much makeup hiding too many wrinkles while they ogle and hit on young guys they can't possibly get (at least that long before closing time). It was absolutely negative, and to try to put a positive spin on the term is to ignore this (very real, though no sadder than their male counterpart) group.

Since then I don't know what has happened. Some teasing. Some "negging". Much stupidity. To the point where my niece is asking me: OMG am I a cougar??? because she is single and 30. It's ridiculous.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2009


To be called a bad ass jungle animal?

Calling a man a lion is typically not an insult. Just throwing that out there [...] We call lots of people animals.

posted by 5imian


Hm, yes.

on preview: i just trying to point out, jokingly, that i had no problems viewing the video in australia
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2009


I have to say, I'm not a fan of "cougar" either. It implies the woman is predatory, and that her male companions are defenseless against her whims.


I will add that "stud" also implies promiscuous and predatory. And yes, its all praise.
posted by 5imian at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2009


last i checked cougar, like MILF is indeed a compliment.

You might need to check again, in different places. Because I think we have different ideas of what "compliment" means.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Am i the only one that thinks this really really is no big deal? Calling a woman a cougar is like calling a young man a stud. Same thing. Who cares.

Yeah, I didn't get it at first either, but evidently society thinks it's bad, bad, bad, so I stopped hanging out with that crowd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2009


It's an established practice for young women to have an affair with an older man, even when it's clear that it won't be going anywhere in the long run. The older guy imparts wisdom and life experience, leaving a better person, one that will make a better lover for her future partners. This practice should be encouraged for both sexes. Win win.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2009


Briefly during university one of my friends was totally obsessed with cougars. He'd go party at Crocodile Rock and Indian Motorcylce (two clubs in Toronto) in the hopes he'd be molested. Normally he was. And then he moved on. It is definitely a derogatory term, and it definitely gets applied far too broadly nowadays. Calling Demi Moore a cougar doesn't make much sense -- I mean she's married to the person she supposedly hunted for sexual conquest.
posted by chunking express at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2009


I've heard early rumours that the next iteration of the Mac OS will be called "Bar Room Cougar".

You heard it here first.
posted by purephase at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2009


Oh. Carry on then, UbuRoivas.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2009


It also used to be an established practice for young men boys to have an affair with an older man, even when it's clear that it won't be going anywhere in the long run. The older guy imparts wisdom and life experience, et cetera.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2009


Now if you call a guy a stud and hes like "eewww dont call me that you sexist bitch!" well i guess he didn't get the definition, did he?

Oh, I see. So by this logic, if we create a special term for the shockingly rare instance that a woman over 30 is actually attractive and equate her with a predatory beast for possessing a sex drive, and she finds it sexist, then clearly she's the one with the problem, because she "didn't get the definition".

I see now. What a neat, clean, simple way of looking at other people's feelings. Someone doesn't like the terms you come up with for them? Fuck 'em, they don't "get it".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2009 [13 favorites]


It's true, there's a lot of great language for virile men, like "stud" for horses. Did you know that there's a term for a female "fuck-horse"? It's brood-mare or broody-mare. Try that out at the bar and let me know how it works out for you.
posted by boo_radley at 1:20 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Lech" works equally well for either sex, but it's got no zing, you know?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The thing is, "stud" implies that the guy has a huge cock, but "brood-mare" would mean that the woman has a huge butt. That would explain why it wouldn't go over so well.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2009


In one of Harold Brodkey's stories, a middle-aged professor who has an affair with one of his students says something like, "They have their youth to offer, and they will offer it."
posted by Joe Beese at 1:26 PM on April 16, 2009


Let's frown on something else that's just plain harmless fun, America.

Yeah, it was a hoot calling Italians "guineas" and "wops", why'd we ever stop?...

....Seriously, though: not everyone thinks the same things are "harmless fun." Speaking up about that does not make Americans uptight, it makes us diverse. Just like everyone in the world is diverse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:27 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm a woman over 40 and I don't find the term particularly complimentary. Now, I never had trouble with MILF - it's straightforward and to the point - but there are unpleasant connotations to cougar. It implies pity; it implies that it is in fact weird that a woman my age could possibly be thinking about sex; it implies that women over 40 have to be predatory because otherwise nobody would look at them sexually ever again. Durn Bronzefist has kind of summed it up: The bar hounds -- too much makeup hiding too many wrinkles while they ogle and hit on young guys they can't possibly get. All of this makes me uncomfortable, because it makes me feel that my sexuality - and, hell, my fondness for dive bars - is aberrant in some way; that I should have given all that up. My life didn't end at 35 or so and I find I still like the same things I always have. That would include sex; am I supposed to be ashamed of that now?

And baby_balrog is right about the the way society actually reacts to older woman/younger man relationships as opposed to older man/younger woman. I have been on both sides of that equation and the difference is striking and pretty horrible.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:31 PM on April 16, 2009 [21 favorites]


It implies the woman is predatory

I am making it sound like older women are nomadic if not predatory, with some implied need to stalk younger men.

Now. Are...you...a cougar?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


After reading the thread, it may be possible that in my immediate crowd cougar carried a much more positive connotation than in your crowds. Its really much more like 'MILF' to people i know. Just a hot woman who isn't necessarily on her twenties, or say that friend of your's mom you always catch yourself fantasizing about.

I mean its very possible the meaning has changed over time in some areas and not in others, or in some crowds and not in others. You know there was a time when gay simply meant happy and negro simply meant black? I hear that was back in the stone age or something. But I digress. I totally respect that times and language change. I get that. But yeah, I always thought cougar was much in line with stud- a source of praise. An anthropomorphism that suggests sexuality.

And that's my reality for what it is worth. Maybe its different now, or maybe i got it all wrong. I would certainly never say it an an insult (and i know others who feel the same way) , and if it IS really an insult I'll drop it from my vocabulary pronto.


It's true, there's a lot of great language for virile men, like "stud" for horses. Did you know that there's a term for a female "fuck-horse"? It's brood-mare or broody-mare. Try that out at the bar and let me know how it works out for you.


Well you tell me. A sexual man is a stud and that's a compliment. A man that 'fucks like a beast' is a compliment. What i am asking is this:

Is there a female equivalent that carries the same praise? If not, why not cougar? Its a bad ass jungle animal. Its not liek a "snake" or a "chicken". Its something your high school wants its mascot to be. Its engineered to sound awesome.


I see now. What a neat, clean, simple way of looking at other people's feelings. Someone doesn't like the terms you come up with for them? Fuck 'em, they don't "get it".


You need to chill out. If its is an insult, obviously no one who means it otherwise wants to be insulting. That is what we are discussing. In my crowd, its like "stud". In your crowd is "dehumanizing". That is where we start talking. Its not an attempt to make some 'neat- clean' way of looking at emotions. If someone doesn't like the terms you come up for them AND YOU MEANT FOR THEM TO BE POSITIVE, then you have a miscommunication. Not "fuck em". Just 'hey i didn't mean that like that'. or "I thought that was a compliment" You know. Like what i've been typing here.

Old but still sexy applies to both genders. TO me the terms were created with the exact OPPOSITE connotation you are implying marissa. Society has this belief that older women aren't hot (not true at all) insofar as we have invented terms to counteract that very misconception. Much liek how the term "gay" specifically counteracts the negative implications of "queer", or how "bright" specifically counteracts the negative stigma of "atheist". I mean, how is this not a badge of honor? You're like a female Sean Connry. That's good right? I'm bad about keeping up with pop culture so, like i said I might have it wrong.

Or am i just waaaayyy out in left field?

And if I am... Again, what is the female equivalent of a stud? That's not an insult. That's praise. Is there one? Should there be? What would it be? A powerful respectable animal? A feline? Certainly not a canine. A horse? A donkey? A bird? Do you see where I am going with this?

You tell me.
posted by 5imian at 1:42 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Baby_balrog: Really? I have 3 good friends who married women at least 10 years older than they are. My aunt got married to someone who is about 20 years younger. I know that it's not something that happens as often as the other way around, but I've never thought it was something people got upset about.
posted by aspo at 1:43 PM on April 16, 2009


Say the woman was in her early-mid fifties, and all the guys had just turned 18 ("barely legal!" as they say). I'd watch that.

Here ya go.
posted by msalt at 1:43 PM on April 16, 2009


Apparently, you can't fully embrace your sexual nature unless some sort of cultural catch-phrase can be used to describe it. No wonder I have been floundering around all these years. . .
posted by Danf at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2009


It's an established practice for young women to have an affair with an older man, even when it's clear that it won't be going anywhere in the long run. The older guy imparts wisdom and life experience, leaving a better person, one that will make a better lover for her future partners.

Wow. This is such weird Victorian baloney I don't even know where to start.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


From the creator of The Bachelor comes a game-changing, provocative new reality show that redefines the rules of dating. One sexy, single, sophisticated woman is set up with younger men who are all vying for her affection.

Like, whoa. They really blew up the rulebook on that one. It's just never been done before. Madness!
posted by mannequito at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I refer to my GF as "fox cougar." She's only about two months older than me, though.
posted by snofoam at 1:47 PM on April 16, 2009


Old but still sexy applies to both genders. TO me the terms were created with the exact OPPOSITE connotation you are implying marissa.

What something means TO you is kind of beside the point if you aren't the one being referred to. Did you read any of the links? If not, try the Urban Dictionary for a snapshot of what Cougar means to a broad swath of the internet. Hint: it doesn't mean "old but sexy", the word for that is actually "sexy".
posted by oneirodynia at 1:49 PM on April 16, 2009


You need to chill out.

I love when people do this. I'm talking back, arguing against someone's point, so clearly, I must be upset. How about if we stick to what we're saying to each other, instead of magically guessing whether or not I've got steam shooting out of my ears?

If someone doesn't like the terms you come up for them AND YOU MEANT FOR THEM TO BE POSITIVE, then you have a miscommunication.

What you said earlier was that the other person "didn't get the defintion". I like "miscommunication" much better, because it takes two people to communicate. You communicate the word "cougar", and here's other people communicating back to you their reactions to this word and what it implies for them. I would think this would make you re-assess what this word means, and consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, not everybody thinks just like you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:51 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think terms like "ripe"and "luscious" describe a hot woman of a certain age a lot better than cougar, which carries predatory meanings in my crowd too. Cougar invites amusement somehow.
posted by msalt at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2009


Jesus loves you more than you can know.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2009


I would think this would make you re-assess what this word means, and consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, not everybody thinks just like you.

Wow. Same to you. DO You get it now? And Chill out was VERY appropriate considering that you were implying i was insensitive for even using the term (or thinking it wasn't negative) in the first place..a round about ad hominem attack. yes you needed to chill out and realise I wasn't trying to... how did you say it?

What a neat, clean, simple way of looking at other people's feelings

Right. Trivialize peoples emotions. i can't even believe you went there.
posted by 5imian at 1:56 PM on April 16, 2009


Society has this belief that older women aren't hot (not true at all) insofar as we have invented terms to counteract that very misconception.

If you think an older woman is sexy, what's wrong with just calling her just plain old "sexy"? Why come up with cutesy little terms like "cougar" or "MILF" or anything like that? Coming up with cutesy little terms tends to isolate the "sexy older woman" as an exception rather than a rule, whereas just calling her "sexy" would...call her sexy. Which, if you want to counteract the idea that old ISN'T sexy, would be way more effective.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Fine, I'll never call a woman a cougar again. Ever.

I honestly thought it was positive.
posted by 5imian at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2009


The problem with "cougar" "MILF" and other such labels is that it once again reduces the relative worth of a woman to HOW FUCKABLE MEN THINK SHE IS.

Contrary to popular belief, that's not necessarily a compliment.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2009 [27 favorites]


The problem with "cougar" "MILF" and other such labels is that it once again reduces the relative worth of a woman to HOW FUCKABLE MEN THINK SHE IS.

so is "stud" dehumanizing? This does sound like a one-way street.
posted by 5imian at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2009


when we married I was 21 and she was 30. This was about five years ago... ... We were "closeted" for the vast majority of our relationship of five years -
Wait a sec. Are you talking about being "closeted" for the vast majority of your relationship since you've been married or the 5 years before you were married, which would have apparently started when you were 16 and she was 25?
posted by deanc at 2:06 PM on April 16, 2009


5imian, I think that part of the reason there's a problem is the manner in which the words are used. It all gets back to the way that society tends to treat men who have lots of sex positively, and women who have lots of sex negatively. Therefore, the majority of the time, stud is used as a compliment, while, the majority of the time, cougar is used in a derogatory manner.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2009


god damn, 5imian, step outside for a few.
posted by boo_radley at 2:10 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


so is "stud" dehumanizing?

..and tangentially stud-muffin? beefcake and hunk?
posted by 5imian at 2:10 PM on April 16, 2009


Metafilter: implies promiscuous and predatory. And yes, its all praise.
posted by owtytrof at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2009


I have dated and I've been in LTRs with older women. I generally like older women. Yeah, the sex was often ridiculously good but that wasn't all of it. It just worked well, I like learning things and I'm attracted to knowledge, skills and confidence. All things older people generally have simply had more time to pick up. If I was attracted to men I'd probably be similarly attracted to older men.

I've never called anyone "cougar" or "MILF", though. Ugh.

What's the male version of cougar? DILF? Heh, doesn't seem to quite have the same connotations, does it?
posted by loquacious at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2009


god damn, 5imian, step outside for a few.

piss off.

On that note I am going to go step outside for a few.
posted by 5imian at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2009


"Cougar" is a compliment like "Nice tits" is a compliment.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


It all gets back to the way that society tends to treat men who have lots of sex positively, and women who have lots of sex negatively. Therefore, the majority of the time, stud is used as a compliment, while, the majority of the time, cougar is used in a derogatory manner.

Repeated for emphasis. 5imian, the reason why your equivalency between "stud" and "cougar" is false is precisely for this reason. Maybe you have the best intentions in using "cougar", but you seem to think these two words are on equal historical footing, which they're not. That's all anyone's trying to get across to you here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2009


although a perhaps a more "gender positive" term would be "yummy mummy".

FTR, that is not a more gender positive term.
posted by jennyb at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Stud really isn't a compliment in my book, either. I think I've put that one in the mental file where I also keep words like douchebag, bling, asshat and player.

Sex is good and fun and nice and all, but defining ones self worth by how much sex one gets is boring, base and crass. Therefore I don't really consider "stud" to be a compliment. Sure, it's fine in sexy-sex talk in the bedroom like a lot of other potentially demeaning words are fun and fine as sex talk, but as an actual, public-use description of a human being? No, not really.

And this should hopefully illustrate why many - if not most - women object to terms like MILF, cougar or comments like "I'd hit it" and so on... this definition of a woman's - or a man's - value on her - or his - sexual attractiveness or prowess devalues everything else about that person and dehumanizes them.

And this is why "feminism" is as good for boys as it is for girls. Because men, too, are held up to unrealistic expectations and unattainable ideals. This kind of cultural poop-flinging monkeyshit hurts all of us.
posted by loquacious at 2:26 PM on April 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


I've always hated "MILF," and "cougar" is just dumb.

Two friends are both in relationships where the woman is significantly older...20 years in one case and 10 in another. I don't know what kind of backlash they get, if any, though it must have been interesting for the one whose girlfriend is 20 years his senior to introduce her to his parents, who are the same age.

I will say in both cases you'd have to study the women in question for awhile to realize they're anywhere near the age that they are, so in if you meet them casually you'd not immediately realize how large a gap there is.

The only guy I know who I can imagine uses labels like "MILF" or "cougar" without irony is a person who values women first and foremost on their appearance (he likes to say things like "I'm dating this model" or "she's got the C-cups I've been looking for") and for their subservience after that, so I can't imagine either word from his mouth could be taken as a compliment.
posted by maxwelton at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2009


Stud really isn't a compliment in my book, either. I think I've put that one in the mental file where I also keep words like douchebag, bling, asshat and player.

And with stud, the implication is that there needs to be a special term for a man of great sexual prowess, because not all of them are. Fair enough, I guess. "Cougar" seems to imply that a woman past her 20s who's attractive is uncommon, that if she's with a younger man she's preyed upon him. I can't see how it's particularly flattering, to be honest. I guess I'm literal that way. I believe in saying what you mean. If you mean to call a woman attractive, sexy, salacious, or beguiling, you should say so. Not that you can't create your own colorful terms for other people, of course; poetic language makes communication more interesting. I just don't think "cougar" is complimentary, really. Might as well say "maneater" in that vein.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:35 PM on April 16, 2009


Also, maybe consider giving a few bux to the Cougar Fund, who do good things for the real animal.
posted by maxwelton at 2:37 PM on April 16, 2009


so is "stud" dehumanizing? This does sound like a one-way street.

Okay let's go over this again. For a large part of our history and even to this day, society views a lot of a woman's value on her sexuality, her ability to have sex and her promiscuity. What is a cougar? A cougar is a woman who gives up the only thing that is assumed to hold value to her, her ability to have sex, in search of vanity and looks. Sexual partners are a number, and as that number increases her value as a woman goes down. This is absolutely intrinsic to the term cougar. It is not a sex positive term, it does not mean that a woman is exploring herself sexually, good for her. It assumes that a woman either has a career, or she's a "real housewife" who defines success by creating her own jewelry line. The latter is a cougar and the former is assumed to be celibate, she is married to her job.

The equivalent is using the term "creep" when a dorky older guy hits on a girl. Not the same, mind you, like there's no n-word equivalent for white people, this isn't a zero sum game. The problem you don't have media reports talking about "creeps" and tv shows about "date a creep" and constant navel gazing media dehumanizing going on with that term, and there's specific sociological and cultural reasons why, which is why it is so insidious.
posted by geoff. at 2:38 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd never considered the term "cougar" to be derogatory, but as usual MeFi delivers the beans. From what I recall from so many years back, the term "cougar" was embraced by certain women who then labeled themselves thusly as they felt it was a term of empowerment. They were typically women with a degree of financial security, usually recently divorced, and prowling for uncomplicated sexual encounters with college-aged males because that demographic was a) also looking for no-string-bearing sex, and b) not put off by the woman's age (for reasons psychological and hormonal, at the least). These women weren't looking to get back into a relationship, and available men their age didn't meet their spec. Young guys were plentiful and negotiations a breeze. Not to mention that, at the time, many guys were particularly interested in hooking up with a cougar because these women were more uninhibited sexually.

It seemed like a balanced equation, in theory. Cougars were seeking to satisfy their sexual needs while disengaging the emotional aspect. Desperation wasn't the impetus for their behavior - it was reclaiming and/or asserting the female sexual appetite in a way that flipped the equation and the finger at the more socially accepted older male/younger female combination. This was the stated intent, but whether it was practicable or not is surely open for debate.

But now it's just like any other ambiguous label that is constantly applied and appropriated by whoever, whenever it meets their immediate needs.
posted by krippledkonscious at 2:39 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of my 40-ish single friends was called a cougar by a 25 year old male coworker. They had been engaging in mutual flirtation, and she had been attracted to him, but after that she just avoided him. Why would he call attention to the age difference if he was attracted to her? If he wasn't attracted to her, why flirt? The whole thing was massively creepy. It reeks of "Ha ha I'm still young, and you're getting older and desperate."

I'm glad I'm married to someone within 4 years of my age and don't have to deal with this shit.
posted by desjardins at 2:41 PM on April 16, 2009


this definition of a woman's - or a man's - value on her - or his - sexual attractiveness or prowess devalues everything else about that person and dehumanizes them.

Well ok. Next time a woman calls you a "hunk" - just tell her to fuck off! She is clearly saying you're not good at anything else (absolutely nothing), and devaluing you as a human.


that's right. pointing out someone is sexually attractive via a cheeky metaphor is therefore by association telling them they are devalued in every other capacity. Yep. Makes sense.
posted by 5imian at 2:42 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The use of "creep" to describe an older man hitting on a younger girl seems to be totally socially acceptable, though, and laughing at "creeps" and denigrating them and so on seems to be totally kosher.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:49 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


MrMoonPie : "Cougar" is a compliment like "Nice tits" is a compliment.

But what if you are just walking through the aviary and you happen upon an attractive ornithologist who has been working on raising a pair of young birds, you want to say something appropriate, yet flirty.

But the only thing that comes to mind is "That's a pair of great tits you got there", fortunately, in this one and only case, it could be the right thing to say.
posted by quin at 2:49 PM on April 16, 2009


All of this makes me uncomfortable, because it makes me feel that my sexuality - and, hell, my fondness for dive bars - is aberrant in some way

Hmm. That description didn't apply broadly to women, people of a certain age, or dive bars. If you have no problem calling a guy of a certain age relentlessly hitting on young women, with no prospect of success, "creepy", then you should have no problem with "cougar" as originally used (again, as I was exposed to it).

Really, like so many other things, it sounds like this term was appropriated by those with a social axe to grind. Punish the slut! As if we haven't heard that one enough.

on preview, Joakim Ziegler just beat me to it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2009


This classic email from some Enron douchebag indicates that "cougar" was a popular term among male employees there.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on April 16, 2009


But what if you are just walking through the aviary and you happen upon an attractive ornithologist who has been working on raising a pair of young birds, you want to say something appropriate, yet flirty.

I'd say,"Unless this is Hugh Grant, you're stealing my bit."
posted by boo_radley at 2:58 PM on April 16, 2009


5imian, the problem is, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the fact that "female empowerment" is still something that has to have a name, instead of being the default state like it is for men. Men have to worry less about being objectified because of the way society treats and views them. A man being called a stud is a compliment, because men who have sex are seen as powerful, virile, aggressive, etc. Women being called cougars is negative, because women who have lots of sex are seen as aberrant, predatory, dangerous. The same traits society lauds in men it finds discomfiting in women, and therefore you CAN'T draw simple equivalencies of "It's just being called sexy. What's wrong with that?"

What's wrong with it is thousands of years of oppression and misogyny pushing the other way. Yes in a vacuum being considered attractive is good, but we are not and can never truly be in that cultural vacuum. There will always be that history of what's gone before.
posted by Scattercat at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Predatory. Yes. Good word.

That was the missing element from my description. (did I miss it? I'm on cold medication and am a bit with the woozy today)

The original sense of the word that I recall was something like predatory + desperate. Pretty much exactly the way a certain subset of older guys with the same ambitions are viewed in those scenes.

If you think an older woman is sexy, what's wrong with just calling her just plain old "sexy"?

Not a thing! People will continue to call sexy "sexy". And long after people have discarded "cougar" for some other mot-de-jour, they will continue to call desperate predatory losers "desperate predatory losers". Then of course the media will do its job ensuring that everyone is constantly anxious wondering if they're seen as one of them. Success!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:01 PM on April 16, 2009


boo_radley : I'd say,"Unless this is Hugh Grant, you're stealing my bit."

Would "pert boobies" be better?

No? Ok, I got nothing.

posted by quin at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2009


Not every slang word for a woman is sexist, and there are certainly animal counterparts for men. To wit:

One of my teammates is a total Dog. He thinks it's a compliment. The rest of us warn women to keep away.

The kids tell me that Silver Foxes are sexy this year. They mean it as a compliment, but when one kid called me a Fox I was not happy.

If you call a gay man a Bear, it can mean he's sexy in a rugged kind of way, or it can be a nice way of saying he's fat.

Bull is almost always a compliment. Weasel never is.

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? I don't find anything inherently offensive about Cougar. Or at least, I didn't when I first heard it. Now that it's metastasized and infiltrated the world of SNL skits and Reality Television it's become kind of gross.
posted by kanewai at 3:05 PM on April 16, 2009


One of my 40-ish single friends was called a cougar by a 25 year old male coworker. They had been engaging in mutual flirtation, and she had been attracted to him, but after that she just avoided him.

When you're flirting with young'uns, you gotta realize that everything they say or do can't be taken seriously.

The original sense of the word that I recall was something like predatory + desperate.

I always thought cougars, the animals, were cool, so when I first heard it applied to older women, I couldn't quite grasp the insult, since they were creatures of strength.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on April 16, 2009


definition of a woman's - or a man's - value on her - or his - sexual attractiveness or prowess devalues everything else about that person and dehumanizes them.

Puh-leeze. So every women who calls a guy "cute" is a dehumanizing objectifier, then?

This whole "objectifying" complaint has more to do with upper-middle-class prudishness than gender. Many people like to be seen as hot, both women and men. People will describe attractive people as hot; some want to hear that, some don't. Some say it deftly, others are ham-fisted. You don't have to go making some big indictment of societal sexism over it.
posted by msalt at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well ok. Next time a woman calls you a "hunk" - just tell her to fuck off! She is clearly saying you're not good at anything else (absolutely nothing), and devaluing you as a human.

I don't know why I'm even bothering, but:

5imian: Our culture treats men and women differently. This is unfair but it is true. Men are sex-crazy and are good at having tons of money because they are smart. Women need someone smart to give them money, because they aren't good at anything-- their tool for achieving this is their vaginas. Therefore a man who has had multiple sexual partners is good at being a man, because he has somehow convinced multiple women to have sex with him-- he must have lots of money and be very smart. A woman who has had multiple sexual partners is bad at being a woman, because she can't hold onto a man with her vagina and keep leeching his money away from him.

Because of this, calling a man sexually desirable is a compliment, because being sexually desirable isn't one of the necessary qualifications of being a man: you're adding to his social ability. Calling a woman sexually desirable does not have this same affect: You are instead enforcing the cultural view of the sexes as outlined above, and continuing to reduce a woman to the one thing society says she has going for her: a hole to fuck.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:19 PM on April 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


c/women/woman, dagnabit
posted by msalt at 3:21 PM on April 16, 2009


I'm in my 40s and female and I'd be insulted if I were called a cougar, particularly by a younger man who wasn't already among my close friends. The connotations as I understand them are unflattering and the underlying assumptions about the sexiness of older women are offensive. Young men or even my age peers may understand things differently, but if I were in the market, calling me a cougar would kill any interest I had in the man who called me that. Guys who think that's irrational or unfair, or aren't willing to respect my opinion about it, probably aren't my cuppa anyhow.

Not entirely unrelated: the juxtaposition between the comments in this thread and the ones from the Susan Boyle thread a few days ago is fascinating. What's complimentary and insulting in words and behavior, our expectation of the looks and talent of older women, etc.
posted by immlass at 3:24 PM on April 16, 2009


I don't think eating bugs to earn tampons is art.

Sounds like every second feminist performance-art piece from the 70s thru the 90s.
posted by yoink at 3:29 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "quote" from Gen. Sherman that someone up there found via a Google search all over the place (really?) appears to come from a book by Gen. Amstrong Custer--and it's said to be from Sherman to Grant. You can find the book online. The page number from this very old book does not correspond to the page number listed in the wikipedia bibliography. It's a poorly, poorly sourced article.

Interesting info about the Choctaw, meanwhile, but one of the wiki sources is a dead link and another sounds like a trivia book, the others I don't have access to. Doesn't surprise me that the truth would be rather complex, likely much more so than as seen in the article. Entertaining info all the same.

As for the Dakota battles ... Uh, why would southerners be particularly concerned with the settlement of the Dakotas in the first place? Southerns generally continued south to the southwest if they resettled. Relevance? What's interesting about that is that it shows again that the North fought the war with one hand, more or less.
posted by raysmj at 3:30 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


woops! two screens going. take that out!!!
posted by raysmj at 3:31 PM on April 16, 2009


Geez, I married my wife when I was 25 and she was 40. We've been together for ten years now, and I haven't run into any prejudice as detailed up-thread. None at all. The only awkwardness that's happened has been people assuming my wife was my mother, which happened a couple of times. That didn't happen after I hit 30 and stopped looking young for my age.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 3:35 PM on April 16, 2009


the underlying assumptions about the sexiness of older women to men half their age, you mean. Are we forgetting that bit?

Do I expect girls/women half my age should find me attractive? That's kind of fucked up. If you're insulted that they don't, maybe society isn't the one with the problem.

For what it's worth, if I were hitting on an 18-year old and she called me a lech? Yeah, I'd lose interest in her, too.

OTOH, I have no opinion regarding the Dakota battles.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:35 PM on April 16, 2009


as another aside, "hunk" comes from "hunk of marble" from which a statue might be carved; that is, one having a statuesque or idealized figure. This use of the word, oddly, is Australian.
posted by boo_radley at 3:37 PM on April 16, 2009


The problem with "cougar" "MILF" and other such labels is that it once again reduces the relative worth of a woman to HOW FUCKABLE MEN THINK SHE IS.

so is "stud" dehumanizing? This does sound like a one-way street.
posted by 5imian at 2:05 PM on April 16

Oh, my GOD.

Once again, I'm totally shocked that most of the men in this thread do. not. understand.

Some of you need to take a class or two: one in Gender Politics, and one in Language Politics. If you can only take one, take the language class; it'll cover gender quite a bit.

I sign off of this post the way I seem to be signing off more and more--if you don't understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem.
posted by tzikeh at 3:41 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aah, I didn't want to have to be the one saying this, since maybe it's just me, but personally being called "stud" isn't really my cup of tea. I mean, come on, fuck-horse? Woo-fucking-hoo. What it appears to come down to in this discussion is how one values their sexual prowess and the social reputation thereof. It seems somehow belittling to me to rank people, and oneself, on some imaginary metric scale of fuckability. Nothing anti-sex in my sentiment, it just strikes me as ludicrous and false that such a metric could really be.
posted by kaspen at 3:42 PM on April 16, 2009


-if you don't understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem

That doesn't help men understand what the problem is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:45 PM on April 16, 2009


Apparently, you can't fully embrace your sexual nature unless some sort of cultural catch-phrase can be used to describe it. No wonder I have been floundering around all these years. . .

floundering? so you started life one way, and then changed your orientation?

that would most likely just make you queer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:58 PM on April 16, 2009


Some of you need to take a class or two: one in Gender Politics, and one in Language Politics. If you can only take one, take the language class; it'll cover gender quite a bit.

You know, I'm totally on board with the observation that in many contexts, especially outside of the hot + young demographic, female sexuality = bad and male sexuality = good, in terms of the messages given (especially from that aforementioned demographic, who think the only ones that should be having sex, or even sexual thoughts, is them), but on a subject where, as has been observed and not countered, even once, a certain subset of men = creepy, while any-and-all-female-sexual-expression-should-be-adored-and-appreciated is a crock of shit double standard, and no language class changes that, because the implications are the same. Unwanted sexual attention. Which is "ew" territory no matter who it's coming from.

I know, I know. This is MeFi. There are no double standards. Black is white. Up is down. But yes, young people being hit on by old people will tend to think they are desperate and icky. People on the sidelines watching may think they are desperate and icky. And some people, unclear on the social signals a random older person is giving off, will misidentify you with those desperate and icky people. End of story.

Now if that seems unfair, because I mean, how can this woman know that the attention is unwanted? EXACTLY. Welcome to the club, ladies.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:02 PM on April 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jeebus friggin Chronst on a Crutch! Man, can you people make a Everest-sized mountain of society-shattering-and-sexist beans out of a merely moronic-completely-ignorable plate of beans.
posted by tkchrist at 4:18 PM on April 16, 2009


"-if you don't understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem"

That doesn't help men understand what the problem is.


With women, their sexuality is often not seen as being part of their life, it is seen as being a zero-sum kind of thing. It's possible -- nay, even encouraged -- for a guy to have his sexual habits be just PART of his life -- he's capable of having a lot of girlfriends AND having a lot of achievements. So calling attention to his sexual prowess is like calling attention to the fact that he has a particularly distinctive tie or something -- it's just a facet of his personality.

But a woman's sexuality WAS the source of her identity for so long, its significance has been overemphasized to the point of ridiculousness. For so long, a woman's entire worth was tied into whether or not she was sexually active, or whether or not she was fertile. Didn't matter whether or not she had made any other achievements -- all anyone cared about was her sexual status. We've come a long, long way from there, yes, but it still is the case today that calling attention to a woman's sexual status just carries more of an impact than it does for men. We women have been judged by our fertility for so very, very long that commenting on whether an older woman is attractive just sounds much too much like an observation that "isn't it good that this woman is still fertile and able to bear children at this late stage in her life"?

Is this fair? No. Is "hooray, you're still fertile" what you mean when you tell an older woman she's a "MILF"? No. Are you to be blamed for that inequity? No. But does that mean that inequity doesn't exist? No.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:25 PM on April 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


to men half their age, you mean. Are we forgetting that bit?

I have no idea how old most of the men (or women) in this thread who think it's cute or flattering or not-insulting or whatever to call women cougars are. The sexist part isn't that some young men are put off by older women coming on to them. It's the third-party assumptions and labelling that are eyeroll-inducing in this discussion.
posted by immlass at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2009


let's complicate things. What if you have a gay butch woman with a fem woman, 23 years senior, is that a gay cougar? can we be scornful, double, because of age diff and gayness? or just plain disgusted in general? these are pressing questions and I need anseers before I go out to the clubs this weekend.
posted by Postroad at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2009


/when a man wants a woman
he says it's compliment
he says he's only trying to capture her
to claim her
to tame her
when he wants everything, everything of her
her soul, her love, her life forever and more
he says he's persuading her
he says he's pursuing her

but when a woman wants a man
he says she's threatening him
he says she's only trying to trap him
to train him
to taint him
when she wants anything, anything of him
his look, his touch, a moment of his time
he says she's demanding
he swears she's destroying him

why is it?
when a man wants a woman he's called a hunter
but when a woman wants a men she's called
a predator?

-Dory Previn "When a Man Wants A Woman."
posted by The Whelk at 4:43 PM on April 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Some of you need to take a class or two: one in Gender Politics, and one in Language Politics ... if you don't understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem.

Is the serious assertion here that ignorant sexism exists because not enough people have taken college classes in how to avoid it? If the problem is so complex that the best we can do is tell people to go spend 20 hours in a classroom learning the intricacies of appopriate gender labels, you cannot possibly be shocked to discover that people are unaware of what they're doing wrong.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:47 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel compelled to point out, being 17 years older than my man, "cougar" does indeed imply desperate and predatory. I had it tossed at me during cocktail party banter, by a young man I was chatting with when mr thinkpiece and I were laughing about an age disconnect between us (he'd never heard of an ancient cartoon). In order to be inclusive, I pretty innocently explained we had an age gap (mr tp and I have long forgotten about it...) and the guy said, Oh, cool, a cougar. I was absolutely speechless. I kind of furrowed my brow and mr tp steered me towards the bar before my blood boiled over.

What some of in this thread can't seem to factor in is an older woman being actively and unconditionally pursued by the younger man... and yes, so un-desperate that she was stolen away from a fledgling relationship with someone her own age! Next time you see an age-variant couple on the street, don't leap to dopey reality-tv conclusions. Not everything is common and vulgar, especially true love.

And I gotta say, I've been talking about men with my women friends for a long long time and I have never never ever heard a woman refer to a man as a 'stud', that's laughably corny. A 'dog', yes, and I'm here to say, she said it 'cause he was.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:49 PM on April 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


that commenting on whether an older woman is attractive just sounds much too much like an observation that "isn't it good that this woman is still fertile and able to bear children at this late stage in her life"?

This is why I never comment positively on anybodies appearance. Only negatively. After all I wouldn't want to be perceived as sexist. Only as an asshole.
posted by tkchrist at 5:13 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Doesn't see to bother my friend and her Cougar meetup group. The have bar nights, bus trips to Ok Cupid parties; she runs a site dedicated mature women and differentiates women in their 30's as Pumas.

As she is one of the most sex-positive women I know in SF, she would read this thread laughing at all the grand indignation and prescribe a 800mg of oral sex for all of you.

And for the record I don't like being called stud or the like by people I don't know, I'm more than the sum of my part.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:26 PM on April 16, 2009


Some of you need to take a class or two: one in Gender Politics, and one in Language Politics.

Or, you know, we could just treat people with respect and courtesy, like we were taught in kindergarten.

Nah. That'd never work.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know who else liked thinking about hot jungle cat sex?
Balzac
(No passion in the desert references? Really? Hell the themes even work)

“If you think an older woman is sexy, what's wrong with just calling her just plain old "sexy"?”

Bingo. I’ve been called a stud. Can’t say I cared for it. Hunk – meh. Can’t say I like being called anything other than “Smed.” But I really don’t play any of those games anyway.
Buddy of mine called me “player” (because apparently I attract women, not because I am, in fact, a player). Pissed me off, so he doesn’t do it anymore. I dig that he didn’t mean anything by it though. Meant it nicely. I get it. For some people that’s how they express their sexuality, camaraderie, etc. these names and such. Just not me.

And sometimes it’s co-opted, sometimes well, sometimes with serious errors. I’m thinking of “skeet” which was in vogue for about 5 minutes until white people figured out what it meant. Heard it on the radio for the first time a while back and spit out my O.J.
Although I called a female acquaintance ‘smart’ a bit back. Pretty much my highest compliment. She didn’t like it. So I tend to lead with my heart and I’m open to using, or not, whatever terms they’re comfortable with. But I hang out with her less, because she's kind of an asshole. Albeit a smart asshole. But no one wants to feel like they have to walk around on eggshells around someone.

"So calling attention to his sexual prowess is like calling attention to the fact that he has a particularly distinctive tie or something -- it's just a facet of his personality."

So, what, are women not having sex anymore? Surely *some* sexual attention is welcome.
On the broader scale this is true, certainly. But on the human scale... unless I start dancing and allowing women to stuff bills into my g-string, I'd like to be judged on merit and the value of my ideas and the reality of my personality. Yes - I do understand this about women as well. And yes, often women aren't appreciated on their merits. But for me many people see just the physique. Hell, I get that from guys too.
Professor I had quizzed me on a paper when I was getting my masters thinking I'd plagiarized something. But if I didn't look like an athlete, I doubt I would have gotten the same treatment. (Seriously, I was getting quizzed on word definitions. I speak a number of languages, been all around the world, been involved in historical, combat and diplomatic events, and some jag off from a midwestern university is quizzing me like I don't know what 'interlocutor' means from my own paper. Used perfectly well in context too.)
Furthermore - I'm so straitlaced, socially I don't think I've ever spoken the word sex in conversation. My wife and I enjoy a good sexual relationship, but I don't talk about it.
It's NOT a facet of my personality. And I don't want intrusion into it from anyone. I do get hit on by women, and I have a wedding ring on. And I'm not just married, I'm obviously married. I talk about my wife. Call her. We exchange e-mails during the day. Carry pictures of her and my kids. It's not like it's not obvious I'm attached.
So the broad application of this, ALL men's sexual habits being part of their lives, is a lot of hydrogen sulfide. And it's insulting when some women (I'll stress 'some') do think all men are just about their dicks, or at least accessible or understandable through their sexuality.

But yeah, EmpressCallipygos you're right it's a social thing. Yeah, there's history there - unquestionably. But this is like the slavery question in race politics. It's not over, certainly, and there are a lot of social inequalities...
And yet it's been a long time since all males could be stereotyped as having one typical form of behavior or a universal trait either.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2009


I am hearing far more stereotypes on men, women, age, and sexuality from the anti-Cougar crowd here than from anyone else.

And methinks the ladies are protesting too much. If you are comfortable with your sexuality then it really doesn't f'in matter what some young child thinks about you.

The oddest thing: I hear the word used far more by women than by anyone else, and it's usually in a friendly context. I always thought it was a way for them to RECLAIM their sexuality.
posted by kanewai at 5:31 PM on April 16, 2009


800mg of oral sex for all of you

What does 800mg convert to in inches?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:33 PM on April 16, 2009


Hot cougars, I can be reached here. At any virtually any hour. Night or day.
posted by flotson at 5:36 PM on April 16, 2009


One of the big problems I see going on in this thread is the difference between saying a thing about a person and using specific, charged words to say a thing about a person. I don't think saying a woman is sexy in a way that intersects with her age is devaluing her per se; nor does simply commenting that a specific woman is attractive in a way that's amplified by her age necessarily imply that the default state of an older woman is one of ugliness. And overall, saying a woman is physically attractive doesn't necessarily imply that you're only valuing her for her looks. Some people think feminism is emasculating by nature; those people are wrong.

But "cougar" is loaded with sexism, no matter what your intentions are when you use it. And the hardest part of Subverting The Patriarchy is that there's so much embedded sexism in nearly every aspect of our culture, that it's easy to (a) say something you think is harmless but actually means something much more offensive, or (b) innocently fail to consider the meaning of your words. Thus you have guys like 5imian who really do mean well, and might not be overtly sexist, but are using sexist tools because that's all that's available.

I've always felt the burden should be on us guys to educate ourselves, bear others' feelings in mind, and err on the side of caution, but I've also been lucky enough to know a lot of patient women who took the time to offer me perspectives that I hadn't been aware of before.

Don't mean to single you out, 5imian, nor is it my intention to call you sexist; you just provided a good example for the point I was trying to make. I realize you're a good guy.
posted by hifiparasol at 5:42 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


re Baby_Balrog's account: I'm 10 years into a marriage to a woman 10 years older, and the only thing we have run into is a handful of instances where I got carded for hooch, and Spouse did not. She does hate that.

B_B, your experience doesn't jibe my own, and I really hope it's not the norm.
posted by everichon at 5:54 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't mean to single you out, 5imian, nor is it my intention to call you sexist; you just provided a good example for the point I was trying to make. I realize you're a good guy.

No offense taken. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I hope others do the same.
posted by 5imian at 6:07 PM on April 16, 2009


And methinks the ladies are protesting too much. If you are comfortable with your sexuality then it really doesn't f'in matter what some young child thinks about you.

I think you're talking about me and my cocktail party story. Comfortable with my sexuality? Pshaw, man, don't get me started. It wasn't what the kid thought about me, it was what he said out loud in a group of people about me -- it was offensive and out of line, as if because I'm older, because I'm with someone younger, it's ok for him to comment, my sexuality is fair game. If I were with a black man, would I have been protesting too much to be offended if he'd said, Hey, a white woman who digs having sex with black guys, cool! "Comfortable with your sexuality," yikes, that's some weak sauce right there.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:16 PM on April 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I dislike the term because it connotes predation. That's no compliment to me OR to my younger man. thinkpiece, I'd have reacted the same way.
posted by goofyfoot at 6:26 PM on April 16, 2009


Thanks for the favorite. I was actually trying to insert a bit of a Sherman's March (the doc) vibe into this discuss of later-in-life adult sexuality.
posted by raysmj at 6:40 PM on April 16, 2009


that's some weak sauce right there

This phrase is the reason I'm no longer comfortable with my sexuality. Long story, don't ask.
posted by hifiparasol at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear the word used far more by women than by anyone else, and it's usually in a friendly context. I always thought it was a way for them to RECLAIM their sexuality.

That's the thing about reclaiming words, though--you only have to do it after somebody else, uh, jumps your claim.
posted by box at 6:53 PM on April 16, 2009


Cougar + time = Sabretooth.
posted by ktrain at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2009


Actually, thinkpiece, your story was one I empathized with. The kid was out of line.

I was too lazy to go back and pull the exact quotes and comments I was referring to, but what I'm picking up in this thread from some is: any reference to a woman's sexuality is out of line and inherently offensive unless it is couched in the most respectful of terms. I would think this would actually become more oppressive over time than the patriarchy we are supposed to be resisting. I thought we already went through all this thirty years ago.

It's all about context, right? Reality Dating shows are demeaning to everyone, whether they are about "cougars" or not. When female friends used to tell me that the "cougars are going out tonight" I know we are in for a fun night of hard drinking and scaring the bejeebus out of young soldiers.

- With all that, I think the term has gone from being fun to being over-used and kind of dated & stupid. And I understand that some of the men who use the term are coming from a sexist and ignorant place.
posted by kanewai at 7:30 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


tzikeh: I sign off of this post the way I seem to be signing off more and more--if you don't understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem.

But the real problem--and the thing that makes this so completely intractable for everybody--is that if you do understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem too.
posted by Chuckles at 7:35 PM on April 16, 2009


If you are comfortable with your sexuality

If you're comfortable with being gay, it shouldn't bother you when people call you a faggot. What do you care about what some moron thinks?

If you're comfortable with being a woman, it shouldn't bother you when people call you a cunt. What do you care what some moron thinks?

If you're comfortable with being an Asian-American, it shouldn't bother you when people call you a gook. What do you care what some moron thinks?

Whether cougar or not is offensive (and I do find it bothersome because of the attitudes behind who it's applied to and why), this is a really, really stupid thing to say in a discussion about insulting language based on some aspect of a person's identity.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:01 PM on April 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


COUGARS ARE TAWNY
posted by pantsrobot at 8:14 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


And methinks the ladies are protesting too much. If you are comfortable with your sexuality then it really doesn't f'in matter what some young child thinks about you.

Well, there are some people who don't mind being called cougars. I'll give you that. But -- there are some people who DO mind.

If nothing else -- it's like there are some people who don't mind being called "Indians", but there are others for whom the term really chaps their ass and would much prefer you call them Navajo/Iroquiois/Crow/Apache/Cherokee/Choctaw/Tlingkit/what have you. Whether or not you agree with their preference, it is their preference, and they have the right to determine what they want to be called by. So if someone wants their ethnicity to be referred to as "Choctaw" and you call them "Indian", you're gonna piss them off a little, whether you think they're "protesting too much" about it or not.

This is the same thing. Everyone gets the right to determine how they prefer to be called. There are people who don't like being called "cougars", and they have the right to prefer to not be called that, and it is disrespectful to ignore that preference -- just from a basic level of courtesy.

...Or don't you agree?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:35 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


While cougar is something I wouldn't ever call someone, I think it's perfectly fine and OK for older women to be sexually assertive and I hear them call themselves and their friends 'cougars' more than anything else. A woman calling another woman a 'MILF' just makes no damn sense. I guess the people revving themselves up to be offended at the word itself just need to realize that their reaction is the outdated one and to accept that society is moving past that negative definition in most situations.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:44 PM on April 16, 2009


Ah, here we go. Wikipedia's list of slang terms for age disparity in sexual relationships.

DILF and FILF exist already. Go figure.
posted by loquacious at 8:56 PM on April 16, 2009


But the real problem--and the thing that makes this so completely intractable for everybody--is that if you do understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem too.

Wait, what?
posted by hifiparasol at 9:43 PM on April 16, 2009


Well, there are some people who don't mind being called cougars. I'll give you that.

I hope some of you who are offended (here OR at a cocktail party), understand that that can convolute the issue for some well meaning individual who thinks this is actually a compliment and is probably really really sorry for setting you off. (basically innocently and ignorantly unaware.)

I mean a woman wrote a book about it and how basically 'kick ass' it is to be a cougar. There's also media out there that seem to make the whole issue seem playful and unoffensive.

From an interview:
"Gibson feels that, beyond the fun of Cougar, her book is about empowering women of a certain age to keep reaching for the brass ring and that reaching 35 -- or 45, 55, 65 or more -- doesn't mean you should give up your sexuality, your vibrancy or your ability to have fun. Though "empowerment," Gibson insists, is not the right word. "That sounds almost as though it's some kind of crushing thing, which it isn't. It's about doing something in life, even if people condemn you for it or are against it. But if you feel it's right for you, you should do it."

I mean, what I am reading here is a huge miscommunication. I guess, I , like a few others initially saw the term as someone who hasn't 'given up their sexuality or vibrancy even in their older age' - which is something that can happen to both men and women alike as they reach a certain age. Many of you have pointed out that there's a very negative aspect to the admittedly cutsey-pop-culturish term afterall. This like, predatory bar-dwelling caricature. So that makes it complicated. Is it good to be a cougar? Is it bad? That is what this thread is about. The animal itself as a metaphor doesn't clarify things much.. but at a glance it seems alright. Its not like a rat or a snake or a tapeworm. What parts of the cougar metaphor are you invoking? Power? Predation? Location relative to the food chain? Try to figure that out just adds to the confusion.

It isn't like each and every woman out there is wearing a label: "okay with 'cougar'" ... "not okay with 'cougar'". Its not like someone is calling you a slut, or some other cut-and-dried obvious insult. Its not even as clearly pointed as 'cradle robber', a unisex (though typically male) word with a similar meaning but with certainly all the negative baggage attached. Cougar is much more unclear.

I'm not defending the term in this post. I'm just pointing out that depending on the context spoken, it might be an honest mistake. Maybe the best course of action is education rather than getting fumed. Tell the guy how you feel. Explain why you don't like the term. I think there's some excellent reasons in this thread, actually. Some of the feedback here, especially from Empress Callypso, has reframed how I view the term. Don't just walk off and stay pissed. That leaves you mad, and him ignorant. Right?

If hes any kind of person he'll listen, ask questions and take the conversation seriously. That's my opinion at least.


Oh and for the record, " HURR DURRR YOU'RE AN IDIOT GO TAKE A COLLEGE CLASSSSSS STUPID MAN PART OF THE PROBLEM" and storming off is not a constructive way to anyone who is asking honest questions about the topic, or unsure why the word my be offensive to begin with.
posted by 5imian at 9:58 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


*EmpressCallipygos

sorry i effed up your name.
posted by 5imian at 10:13 PM on April 16, 2009


hifiparasol, it is just that being enlightened to the nature of patriarchy and the sexual stigmatization of women (or whatever you want to call this) isn't an antidote. Much like self-censorship, it is hard to know when you are doing it yourself.

I mean, there is the whole number of sexual partners disparity, for example. Many of the "cougar=bad" comments have cited that as evidence. Well, obviously the real problem is the stigma, not the descriptive terms. Using the stigma as an argument.. using it as evidence in an argument.. to me that re-enforces the stigmatization. Hence:
But the real problem--and the thing that makes this so completely intractable for everybody--is that if you do understand why this is a problem, then you are part of the problem too.
posted by Chuckles at 11:56 PM on April 16, 2009


Our culture treats men and women differently. This is unfair but it is true. Men are sex-crazy and are good at having tons of money because they are smart. Women need someone smart to give them money, because they aren't good at anything-- their tool for achieving this is their vaginas.

It's amazing how many comments in this thread dump the most sexist world views imaginable, from a feminist perspective. I don't know how many people ever felt this extreme in America -- I doubt very many -- but it's next to zero today.

Not sure if "straw man" is the right term, but exaggerating a past bad tendency into a purely evil platonic ideal like this and acting like it's current -- I just don't see how that helps anybody.
posted by msalt at 12:46 AM on April 17, 2009


I have never in my life used the words "stud" or "hunk" to describe a guy, nor have I heard my friends doing it. It sounds laughably like the 80s.

I don't know how many people ever felt this extreme in America -- I doubt very many -- but it's next to zero today.

msalt, if you don't know how many people felt this extremely, then perhaps you shouldn't be making any judgements about it. Other people had to live through it, and other people have researched it. They've probably got a better idea of the numbers than you do.
posted by harriet vane at 2:32 AM on April 17, 2009


I'm not defending the term in this post. I'm just pointing out that depending on the context spoken, it might be an honest mistake. Maybe the best course of action is education rather than getting fumed. Tell the guy how you feel. Explain why you don't like the term. I think there's some excellent reasons in this thread, actually. Some of the feedback here, especially from Empress Callypso, has reframed how I view the term. Don't just walk off and stay pissed. That leaves you mad, and him ignorant. Right?

True, but the reason that things escalated to the angry point they got in here is because it looks to me like a number of people DIDN'T respond well when people said they didn't like the term.

It would be one thing if people in here said "I find the term offensive," and others in here said, "Oh, really? I'm sorry, can you help me understand why?" Then it could have been the happy teaching moment you were talking about.

And while we did see that in here, we ALSO saw a lot of people responding with, "You think it's offensive? Bah, that's nonsense, it's totally not!" And that kind of dismissiveness does tend to piss people off, and lead to the "U SEXIST PIG" response you're grumbling about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 AM on April 17, 2009


5imian do you mind me asking how old you are?
posted by zarah at 6:22 AM on April 17, 2009


"I hope some of you who are offended (here OR at a cocktail party), understand that that can convolute the issue for some well meaning individual who thinks this is actually a compliment and is probably really really sorry for setting you off. (basically innocently and ignorantly unaware.)"

I think that's the disconnect. On the one hand what happens interpersonally can be resolved within that sphere. And if a woman doesn't like being called a cougar, she can say so. Keep doing it and you're a jerk. And if she doesn't say so, kinda jerky there presuming you're just a bastard.
On the other hand, there is a larger issue of institutionalized things that demean women whether they're meant to or not.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:42 AM on April 17, 2009


>>Men are sex-crazy and are good at having tons of money because they are smart. Women need someone smart to give them money, because they aren't good at anything-- their tool for achieving this is their vaginas.

>msalt, if you don't know how many people felt this extremely, then perhaps you shouldn't be making any judgements about it. Other people had to live through it, and other people have researched it. They've probably got a better idea of the numbers than you do.


I'm 47, I lived through plenty of sexist times. But I call bullshit until you can put up some facts. Not, "women were seen as less than equal or looked down upon", but what this quote says -- "women aren't smart or good at anything and need giners to get smart men to give them money."

I think this is a wild exaggeration of a certain tendency that has faded drastically during my lifetime. What's your evidence otherwise?
posted by msalt at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2009


"women aren't smart or good at anything and need giners to get smart men to give them money."
I think this is a wild exaggeration of a certain tendency that has faded drastically during my lifetime. What's your evidence otherwise?


Exactly. Few men see a woman's worth tied strictly to her vagina anymore. We've made leaps and bounds. In terms of also excepting oral and anal in exchange for payment. They don't call us smart for nothing.
posted by tkchrist at 10:50 AM on April 17, 2009


Seems like I misunderstood you, msalt. I thought you were exclaiming against the idea of sexism even existing in your lifetime. For me, "women's only worth is their vaginas" is just the crude yet natural corollary to "women are ok, but they aren't as smart as men, and they aren't as strong as men". It's not a wild exaggeration, just something that polite people don't say anymore, so it sounds shocking in this day and age.

But calling the very real oppression faced by women in the past a "certain tendency" is a bit rich - having to fight for the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to birth control and the right not to be raped shows exactly what general opinions on the matter were. I don't really think it's up to us to educate you on history - these facts have been long established.
posted by harriet vane at 6:27 PM on April 18, 2009


I thought you were exclaiming against the idea of sexism even existing in your lifetime. For me, "women's only worth is their vaginas" is just the crude yet natural corollary to "women are ok, but they aren't as smart as men, and they aren't as strong as men".

In my lifetime? Hell, HORRIBLE sexism exists today, genuine oppression or worse-- Shiite women in Afghanistan not allowed to work, go to school, or even leave the house w/out husband's/father's permission, rape as a tool of war (including 20,000 women in Europe -- Bosnia -- in the last 15 years), women punished horribly or even killed for being raped in Pakistan and other countries, etc. Every year, thousands of women are burned to death in India because their dowry was too small.

The U.S. was never this bad though, and has been getting better for 40 years. (Did you see the thread on that sexist kids' book from 1971? Tons of great examples of the old bad days.) So it's kind of hard for me to get upset over the term "cougar" -- which reflects our mixed and evolving feelings about sex and gender and age -- or about Cosmo having ads with women's body parts ("objectification"). I think these complaints trivialize the issue.
posted by msalt at 7:21 PM on April 18, 2009


I think dismissing these complaints as trivial does much to prolong the patriarchy. Would you make the same dismissal were we talking about racism rather than sexism? Would you call magazine ads featuring 'mammy' caricatures 'trivial,' or do you similarly dismiss complaints about the notion that black people are more animalistic sexually?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on April 19, 2009


dismissing these complaints as trivial does much to prolong the patriarchy

THE patriarchy? What does that mean? THE worldwide conspiracy of evil men, whose Pakistani branch commits honour killings and whose American branch sells things to women with pictures of sexy women in magazines for women?
posted by msalt at 4:26 PM on April 19, 2009


shakespeherian et al: when a man thinks, or says, that a women is sexually desirable, he is not making a judgement on her life, her education, her wealth, her place in society. He is usually not considering how his feelings on the matter of her sexuality or attractiveness are contributing to a part of a complex fabric of interactions between men and women, woven over thousands of years.

In short - you're reading way too much into it. Sometimes people just say what they mean.

If I tell my wife she's a hotty, I'm not commenting on the other aspects of her person, just her sexual appeal. But obviously I value plenty of other things about her...or why would I have wanted to spend my life with her? I'm certainly not enforcing any misogynistic cultural view.

"Calling a woman sexually desirable does not have this same affect: You are instead enforcing the cultural view of the sexes as outlined above, and continuing to reduce a woman to the one thing society says she has going for her: a hole to fuck."
- this is ridiculous. I feel sorry for you if you honestly believe this, about men, about society, or yourself. What if a woman calls another woman sexually desirable? Is this loaded with the same meaning? If not you are putting words in a man's mouth, assuming additional meaning where none was communicated, just because he is a man?

scattercat: "you CAN'T draw simple equivalencies of "It's just being called sexy. What's wrong with that?"" - uh, yes, sure I can if it's equivalent for me. I can't speak for society, but I find this to be equivalent. No cultural vacuum required, just a willingness to accept the comment at face value.

What you can't do, is assume that generalised observations about society as a whole, and the history of sexuality within it, applies to any specific man or woman or any comment they might make about sexuality. Sure sexism exists, and even goes both ways, but not everyone is sexist.
posted by joz at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2009


If I tell my wife she's a hotty, I'm not commenting on the other aspects of her person, just her sexual appeal. But obviously I value plenty of other things about her...or why would I have wanted to spend my life with her? I'm certainly not enforcing any misogynistic cultural view.

....That's your wife. You know about the other aspects of her.

But what about when you call strangers "hotty"? do you make an effort to find out whether they volunteer or anything first?

...Or do you not remark on strangers' sexual attractiveness? Why not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


But what about when you call strangers "hotty"? do you make an effort to find out whether they volunteer or anything first?

If the only criterion you have for evaluating somebody is their looks, then your evaluation will necessarily be restricted to that one criterion.

It doesn't mean that's all they are; it only means that's all you know about them at this point.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 PM on April 19, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: interesting points!

I would say re: my wife, my comment about her sexual appeal has nothing to do with the other aspects of her person. If I had never met her before then the idea behind my comment would be the same.

Whether I would actually make the comment or not if she was a stranger to me... maybe, but I would not do it with any sense of familiarity, I think in flirting most people try to progress carefully, becoming more familiar only if they receive some kind of positive encouragement e.g. they 'volunteer'. That covers face-to-face remarks...

Commenting on some other third party's attractiveness is a little different. I don't think anyone needs to 'volunteer' before I remark on their attractiveness, in that I can form a personal opinion of it and communicate that to someone else. Whether it's right or wrong, or sexist, or racist, or polite to do so - that depends on many other factors and context.

Just trying to point out, that a man can say a woman is attractive, (and vice versa), and that they can make such a statement without implying anything more or less. They can make the statement without implying any other judgements about that person, and without knowing anything else about that person besides what they look like.

If I comment to a friend that some woman is 'hot', I am certainly not implying that she must also be unintelligent, promiscuous, or using her attractiveness to obtain favours from men.
posted by joz at 9:04 PM on April 19, 2009


when a man thinks, or says, that a women is sexually desirable, he is not making a judgement on her life, her education, her wealth, her place in society. He is usually not considering how his feelings on the matter of her sexuality or attractiveness are contributing to a part of a complex fabric of interactions between men and women, woven over thousands of years.

Wait, really? Because I don't mean to participate in a systemic problem, I therefore don't have to worry about it?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:23 AM on April 20, 2009


Whether I would actually make the comment or not if she was a stranger to me... maybe, but I would not do it with any sense of familiarity, I think in flirting most people try to progress carefully, becoming more familiar only if they receive some kind of positive encouragement e.g. they 'volunteer'. That covers face-to-face remarks...
Commenting on some other third party's attractiveness is a little different. I don't think anyone needs to 'volunteer' before I remark on their attractiveness, in that I can form a personal opinion of it and communicate that to someone else. Whether it's right or wrong, or sexist, or racist, or polite to do so - that depends on many other factors and context.


So you're saying you'd share that observation with your circle of friends, maybe, but you may not say such a thing publically to the object of your observation. But, if such an observation is truly as harmless and innocent as you claim, why not say it directly to said stranger?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on April 20, 2009


if such an observation is truly as harmless and innocent as you claim, why not say it directly to said stranger?

"Oh my God, don't just look but that guy who just walked in is SO cute."

Why not walk right up to him and say that to his face, if it's truly harmless and innocent? "Oh my god, dude, you are SO cute!"
posted by msalt at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2009


Why not walk right up to him and say that to his face, if it's truly harmless and innocent? "Oh my god, dude, you are SO cute!"

Because that obviously also communicates interest, and that may not be the goal. Plus, you'd be one of the only truly upfront and straightforward humans in the entire world, and goodness knows we can't have that.

C'man man! Beat around the bush a little. Dance around the subject.
posted by 5imian at 11:32 AM on April 20, 2009


Why not walk right up to him and say that to his face, if it's truly harmless and innocent? "Oh my god, dude, you are SO cute!"

Probably because we are socialised not to behave like that.

It doesn't change the reality that people will mentally notice extreme attractiveness, either in their preferred gender or otherwise.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:09 PM on April 20, 2009


>Why not walk right up to him and say that to his face, if it's truly harmless and innocent? "Oh my god, dude, you are SO cute!"

Probably because we are socialised not to behave like that.


Ex-ACT-ly! And why are we socialised not to behave like that?

It doesn't change the reality that people will mentally notice extreme attractiveness, either in their preferred gender or otherwise.

That's apples and oranges. We're not talking about "noticing" someone's "extreme attractiveness", though. We're talking about publically calling attention to someone's sexuality. There's a difference between thinking to one's self "she's hot" and pointing at someone and hollering, "there be a Cougar!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:09 PM on April 20, 2009


true. serves me right for coming late to the party.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:27 PM on April 20, 2009


shakespeherian : "Wait, really? Because I don't mean to participate in a systemic problem, I therefore don't have to worry about it?"

I would say I am not participating, because in this case participation does require intent, or at least ignorance. If someone is wilfully misinterpreting what I say... that's their problem.

If I observe 'Michael Jordan was a great basketball player', you should not assume "he thinks black people are good at sports, and that is their only/main value to society". That would be ludicrous.

I am not saying the problem doesn't exist, nor that I should be unworried.

EmpressCallipygos: what 5imian said. May not be the goal. Also I never claimed it had to be harmless or innocent, just that it shouldn't be intentionally misinterpreted by whoever hears it. But yes, I could say it to them (why not! reasons aside), and I would reasonably expect that if I did, they take my words at face value.
posted by joz at 5:58 PM on April 20, 2009


pointing at someone and hollering, "there be a Cougar!"

This is getting very silly. "Cougar" is a stereotype, but not of all women, or all sexual older women. It describes a particular type of woman who enjoys younger men from a position of strength. The type is also described in popular songs like "Mrs. Robinson" and "Maggie May" and "White Winged Dove", indicating that there is some resonance culturally (though interesting that those songs are all very old - times are changing.) There's an element of power imbalance in any wide age-gap relationship (and I've been on both sides); that's just reality.

This is getting conflated with reaction (sometimes positive appreciation, and sometimes befuddlement) to increasingly sexually confident/aggressive women. Most women I know get much stronger and more confident with age, so "cougar" is getting repurposed or misused. And it's not clear which meaning any one person intends.

Trying to make this into a grand evil plot of "The Patriarchy" to put down women is just silly. Some women and men admire or seek cougars; some women and men mock them. Society is changing, rapidly, and this confuses people, so they talk about it in confused ways.
posted by msalt at 6:16 PM on April 20, 2009


If I observe 'Michael Jordan was a great basketball player', you should not assume "he thinks black people are good at sports, and that is their only/main value to society". That would be ludicrous.

Perhaps the disconnect here, then, is with the word "cougar" itself.

"Cougar" carries a different connotation from a simple "attractive." In several circles, "cougar" is somewhat synonymous with "slut". So calling someone "cougar" isn't analagous to calling Michael Jordan "a good basketball player," or calling a woman "attractive." In calling someone a "cougar" you're kind of calling her "slut."

And to head off the "but if you call a guy 'stud' that's a compliment" argument - that's not quite accurate either. "Stud", to many, implies a guy who can lure in several women. I think the male equivalent would be more like "lothario" or "player", someone who is interested ONLY in the "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am" kind of deal.

So maybe that's where your disconnect is coming in -- you're shooting for paying a woman a compliment, but the word you think is a compliment actually means more like "bimbo".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 PM on April 20, 2009


This is getting conflated with reaction (sometimes positive appreciation, and sometimes befuddlement) to increasingly sexually confident/aggressive women. Most women I know get much stronger and more confident with age, so "cougar" is getting repurposed or misused. And it's not clear which meaning any one person intends.

...So might it not be a good idea to, oh, avoid using it if you don't know for certain how the other person is going to take it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 PM on April 20, 2009


...So might it not be a good idea to, oh, avoid using it if you don't know for certain how the other person is going to take it?

Right. And so I do. What straw man are you arguing against?
posted by msalt at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2009


>...So might it not be a good idea to, oh, avoid using it if you don't know for certain how the other person is going to take it?

Right. And so I do. What straw man are you arguing against?


I got the impression that you saw no problem with calling a woman "cougar", because it favorably acknowledged sexual confidence. Others in here have made that claim, and I apologize for confusing you with them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 AM on April 21, 2009


Thank you, EC, I appreciate that.

The bigger picture is, people throw this term around in a joky manner, the same way they use "robbing the cradle", "boy toy", "chicken hawk", "MILF", "trophy wife" etc. IE sometimes critically, sometimes admiringly, usually with some % of irony that's hard to pin down.

It's a loaded, emotionally charged term which also makes it naughty, risque, teasy, and dangerous -- exactly the kind of term people use to flirt or give crap to friends. Plus I see a clear generational difference, generally the older one is, the more negative cougar seems.

So, slabs of slack are called for all around. No need to see this as a pernicious tool of PatriarchyTM.
posted by msalt at 10:24 AM on April 21, 2009


It's a loaded, emotionally charged term which also makes it naughty, risque, teasy, and dangerous -- exactly the kind of term people use to flirt or give crap to friends. Plus I see a clear generational difference, generally the older one is, the more negative cougar seems.

So, slabs of slack are called for all around. No need to see this as a pernicious tool of PatriarchyTm.


Oh, I see where the conversation went off the rails....

No, I agree that people who use the term aren't intentionally striking a blow for patriarchy. I think the only reason that the "patriarchal system" got introduced into the conversation was as a way to explain "but why is being called a sexually-active older person offensive?" It was a reference to an unconscious double standard that, let's be honest, has had a 5000-year head start in digging itself into all of our consciousnesses.

So I think that people raising the spectre of patriarchy weren't saying that "you are being deliberately partriarchal in your speech when you say that, and it is intentional and you are being intentionally deliberate," I think it was more like, "look, it's a loaded word, and here's why it's loaded, and just because you didn't intentionally mean it that way, it doesn't mean that that context wasn't there. Granted, you probably weren't thinking on that level when you said it, but it's still there because society has been kind of messed in the head about that for the past several thousand years."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on April 21, 2009


...but I do agree with all sides cutting each other slack.

So long as some of the people who cut some slack are the ones who are saying "it's silly to be offended by that term". If someone says a term is offensive, it's not fair to scoff and say they're "uptight" or some such. You don't even have to agree with their line of thinking - it just strikes me that common courtesy dictates that if someone says "I don't like it when people call me that," you comply, you don't argue with them about why they're wrong. Some in this thread have done thus. And I think that the "boo patriarchy" responses would have been much lesser if those arguments hadn't also been there, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:01 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think that's fair. To me, "cougar" inevitably has a sense of predation - the animal is nothing if not a hunter -- but hey I'm from an older generation myself.

I don't think anyone is using cougar to mean any sexually-active older woman though; it's specific to women seeking younger partners. Any sexism comes from women being judged more harshly for this than men are, but I think that's less and less true.

The fascinating thing about the younger guy calling his potential lover a cougar is that he apparently is cool with being prey; it's a shame she couldn't roll with that.
posted by msalt at 12:49 PM on April 21, 2009


« Older Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory...  |  London police are now deleting... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments