Why Women Date Younger Men

Crystal Jackson

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Ghosting. Benching. Catfishing. Love Bombing. Our society is creative, I’ll give you that. Modern terminology has managed to evolve, finding new ways to describe modern behaviors. In fact, sometimes, these descriptions are so perfect that they don’t need an explanation. I’ve been ghosted, and it certainly leaves behind a haunted feeling.

An older woman dating a younger man is still considered so novel that society created a term for it. A woman with the audacity to date outside the socially acceptable age range is called a cougar a predatory woman seeking a youthful man. She is seen as being on the prowl for very particular prey.

Cougars: The Animal and the Woman

Single cougars seem to be more prevalent than ever, but what do we know about actual cougars, the animal? They are large slender cats that prey on deer and small animals. When they hunt, they stay hidden until they pounce with outstretched claws. They are at the top of the food chain, and they’re usually alone. They even raise their young alone. They prefer to have their own territory and need a lot of space. However, cougars are often targeted by game hunters, and their population has decreased over the years.

Why does any of this matter? If we’re going to call a certain kind of woman a cougar, we need to understand what we’re actually saying. Words have power. While I understand terms like ghosting and love bombing to describe relationship behaviors, the cougar is another matter entirely. Here’s what every “cougar” would like you to know (but probably thinks you should already).

What Cougars Want You To Know

Careful, Your Misogyny is Showing

Cougar, like the acronym MILF, is misogynistic. It is sexist and clearly demonstrates a double standard in dating and relationships. While no one thinks twice of a younger woman dating an older man — indeed, most older men seem to look for and prefer younger women — it rarely goes unnoticed when the reverse occurs.

An older woman dating a younger man is seen as a predator, as if she is doing something scandalous rather than having the same freedom as men her age.

As a woman who has dated an older man, I can tell you that it was very rarely remarked upon among my peers. It seems like the natural order of things. Following my relationship, I once asked an older male friend why he tries to date significantly younger women. He claimed that older women weren’t as active and adventurous as younger women. Yet, I am friends with many older women and know this to be patently false.

Besides, if an older single woman were to be asked why she prefers to date much younger men, she wouldn’t be excused for claiming that they are more active or adventurous than their older counterparts. It would still be seen as an aberration, one unlikely to lead to a lifetime together. It wouldn’t be taken as a matter of course. She’d have the cougar label attached to her, no matter her reasoning — even though there are sites for younger men to seek out mature women to date. She would still be seen as the predator and he as the prey.

Do You Mean to Describe Yourself as Easy Prey?

Calling single, older women cougars, hunters at the top of the food chain, is to imply that anyone they choose to partner is easy prey — weak and vulnerable to the strength of a powerful pussy. I’m not sure the people using this term realize they are calling themselves weak, and I’m equally sure they don’t realize that the term itself shows immaturity.

A woman at the top of her game, capable of raising her young on her own and desiring her own space, isn’t likely to be attracted to an immature partner.

Instead, she’s more likely to seek out someone who is self-assured, confident, and unbothered by age differences. She’s unlikely to go shopping for a partner who will need to be cared for like an additional child. A person who uses the term “cougar” is already showing that they lack maturity.

It’s interesting that there’s an assumption that mature, older women are seeking younger men and would be fortunate to have one. I started having this assumption aimed in my direction even in my early thirties, a time when most men are still considered to be youthful rather than aging out of their youth. What too many young men didn’t understand was that I had no interest in raising a full-grown child and no interest whatsoever in training a young man on how to be in a healthy adult relationship.

She Doesn’t Need to Be Reminded of Her Age

I don’t know any woman who is unaware of her own age. In fact, advertisers and the media make sure we’ll never forget it. Anti-aging products are shoved in our faces at a young age, lest those faces ever show the signs of aging. We are constantly reminded that we are at first too young and then too old. There is no middle ground.

The woman being called a cougar needs no reminder that she is aging. She’s known, she’s always known, that it would happen.

We’ve seen it happen to others. We watched our mothers and grandmothers age. We see the signs on our faces in the mirror — long before anyone else notices them. We have watched society make older women irrelevant. To remind her of her age is to remind her that you perceive her to be irrelevant, lucky to receive any attention as she outlives her youth. But dating a younger man wouldn’t make me feel young because I’ve yet to feel old in the first place. Just because society assigns us a certain level of irrelevancy does not, in fact, make us feel old or irrelevant.

The “Cougar” Has No Need of You

What is often forgotten is that women change as we age. For many of us, aging is freedom. It’s where we leave our fucks behind and start living authentically. In fact, this may be why some older women choose to date younger men. They no longer care what the hell anyone else thinks about their choices. They’re capable of being attracted to other adults, and the only age that matters is the one of consent.

Conversely, this may be why many younger men are attracted to older women. They are attracted to that confidence and freedom, the way they’ve thrown off the dictates of society to embrace their lives. The “cougar”, as she’s commonly known, radiates self-assurance. She isn’t seeking validation — at least, in most cases.

The “cougar” has no need of anyone else, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a fully alive, fully human, and fully sexual being desiring of companionship and intimacy.

It’s Time to Retire

When society finally evolves, should it ever choose to do so, there will no longer be a need for words like “cougar” or acronyms like “MILF”. It will be unexceptional for older women to date younger men (or women or non-binary individuals) or for single mothers to be considered desirable partners. It’s time to retire some of the words we use.

While terminology often paints a perfect picture of our experiences, cougar is one of the terms that only shows misogyny, immaturity, and ageism.

All human beings are deserving of love. I sometimes wish that society put as much energy into eradicating rape culture and understanding consent as it does to assigning harmful designations to women who dare to date. She isn’t a cougar; she’s a person. She’s allowed to be attractive and active throughout her lifespan.

Who she dates, assuming they’re of age and consenting, isn’t anyone else’s concern. It isn’t even worthy of comment unless we plan to take to task every older man only shopping for women in the Misses section. Since that’s unlikely to occur, perhaps it’s time to retire the category of Cougar, mind our own business, and celebrate love in all its forms.

Originally published on Medium

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

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