With Miss Cougar 2010, Is the Word Losing Its Teeth?

In 2010, it’s officially beyond a doubt that “cougar” is a part of our cultural lexicon. That’s especially true now that the 40-years-and-older women who date younger men have their own beauty pageant.

Los Angeles resident CC Perkinson was crowned Miss Cougar 2010 Del Mar last week in the second annual contest. The LA Weekly reports she received over 1,600 votes via Twitter and texting, beating out 24 other women for the, um, prestigious title.

My first reaction, as a feminist, is to roll my eyes. The concept of women lining up to be be judged in a “beauty” competition is offensive enough, as is the widespread exclusion of trans women from pageants and, for that matter, men. Then there’s the term cougar itself, which implies that an older woman who pursues hot young men is just like a predatory animal that can maul and eat you. Ouch.

And yet, some women are now happily embracing the cougar title and crown. Are we seeing cougar shift from negative connotations to positive ones? The Del Mar pageant rules benignly define cougar as “a mature woman who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior.”

Miss Cougar 2010, CC Perkinson, actually seems pretty badass. Perkinson was a Del Mar jockey from 1998 to 2005, so gets big kudos right there for being a woman working in a physically demanding, male-dominated industry. (Perhaps that was a point in her favor: Oddly enough, the Del Mar Cougar pageant is actually named after a horse: hall-of-fame racehorse Cougar II.) After winning the pageant, she told NBC Los Angeles:

You can learn from the older, you can learn from the younger and you can have such a great time, and that’s what this is about.

In a culture that remains uncomfortable with unmarried women, it’s nice to hear a positive take on aging-while-female. Perkinson added:

You’ve got to get it in your mind you’ve got a lot to offer. It empowers women to keep a healthy mind, keep a healthy body, reinvent yourself and realize there’s men out there that are attracted to you.

So what do you think: Is cougar inherently offensive? Or can it be reclaimed?

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Photo: Mrs. Robinson, the original cougar. Recreating an iconic moment from “The Graduate.” Photo from Flickr user mind on fire under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Dating younger men, OK. The term, not so OK.

  2. I am THREE (count 'em, 3) years older than my husband and I have had the term "cougar" applied to me. It's ridiculous.

    What's the term for men who date younger women? It's "men". We don't need to apply a special term to women who date younger men.

  3. I didn't mind the term when it first came out. I actually saw it as a term of empowerment and ownership of one's sexuality. Then it became popular and (like everything else) the more people used it, the more annoying it became and lost any meaning of power. That said, I do think it is more akin to the term "meterosexual". It is more annoying and overused than anything although of course it has sexist/homophobic undertones.

    I have heard that Larry King, Michael Douglas and other older men don't get the same label which, to an extent, could be true. That said, I have always had a term for men such as this – Dirty Old Man. It isn't exactly a term of endearment.

    • Kay —

      It's true, we do have the terms "dirty old man" and "lech" to refer to older men who date younger women — but those are usually applied in cases where the guy is MUCH older — like old enough to be her parent. Larry King, for example, is 26 years older than his current wife. But when was the last time you heard those kinds of terms applied to the likes of Brad Pitt, who is 11 years older than Angelina Jolie? If she were the older of the two, the media would have undoubtedly pointed it out ad nauseum, whereas in his case it's just accepted as the normal order of things.

    • Miles Prauer says:

      Cougar comes from the effect of a radical face lift. The skin is pulled back from the jaw and cheeks , making the cheekbones very prominent. Eyelids are elongated and slightly tilted. The look isn’t quite human, more feline. Check out what a cougar’s face looks like.

  4. I agree that the term "cougar" is given to women unfairly and I applaud women who are trying to redefine it. Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time before the word will be a positive term.

  5. Amberprincess says:

    There’s nothing wrong with an older woman dating, having a relationship with, or marrying a younger man. Men have been doing it for centuries. It’s time for us woman to do what makes us happy and not be concerned about what others may think.

  6. Amberprincess says:

    I think the word is loosing its teeth and its no depiction of the true person who is attracted to the younger man….attraction is a matter of preferance.

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