Images of women's sexuality beyond the age of forty are lacking in popular culture. Recently, however, the term cougar has been embraced by American media as a label describing "older" women who assertively pursue younger sexual partners. This term and women's opinions of it can be viewed as exemplary of two competing ideologies about aging and sexuality. These are: 1) recognition of older women's sexual desire, consistent with new trends that promote lifelong sexual health and sexual activity; or, 2) linking aging and asexuality, when the term cougar is used as a pejorative that reinforces age and gender stereotypes. Based on in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of 84 women in their 20s-60s, we explore reactions to this term and its implications for women's aging and sexuality. We find that the majority of women viewed the label cougar negatively, or had mixed feelings about what it suggests regarding older women's sexuality, particularly as it marked women as predators or aggressors. Some women, however, embraced the term or its meaning, as indicative of the reality of older women's sexuality and continued sexual desire.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects
- Health Policy