Madonna’s New (Young) Boyfriend and the History of the Term ‘Cougar’

52-year-old Madonna is now dating a 24-year-old French dancer by the name of Brahim Zaibat.  Her previous relationship, with 23-year-old Jesus Luz, fizzled out earlier this year.  Though many have speculated before, you now know for sure what this means — everyone and their mom are now referring to Madonna as a cougar.  My …

… thoughts? Good for her.  Really.  Also, I think she’s pretty amazing.  She’s talented, interesting, and beautiful in an overly-muscular, slightly frightening kind of way.  Bottom line?  Who the hell cares if she’s dating a pretty 20-something-er?

Truthfully, I have issues with the term cougar.  First of there is that ugly double standard.  Men that date younger women in our culture are championed. Women? Eh.  Not so much. When women date young guys, it’s generally seen as a joke, or worse – tragic – thus the invention of the ever so insulting term ‘cougar.’

The term cougar was coined in the 1990s by a hockey player, believe it or not. Pavel Bure started using the word while playing for the Canucks in Vancouver, BC, Canada, to refer to the numerous … older ladies at local bars that would hit on to him.

Cougar became a pop culture phrase thanks largely to the tongue-in-cheek book Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, written by Valerie Gibson in 2002.

Since that time, cougar has taken on various meanings.  Some see the cougar as a sad desperate older woman clinging on to her youth, while others use the term to describe a powerful and sophisticated woman with a thing for fine young things. However you spin it, though, cougar still comes across as a derogatory term to many of those who hear it.

What do you guys think?  Do you think it’s acceptable and, generally, in no way offensive? Do you find Madonna’s relationship with a 24-year-old creepy or acceptable?  How would you feel if someone called you a cougar in your ‘older’ age?

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15 thoughts on “Madonna’s New (Young) Boyfriend and the History of the Term ‘Cougar’

  1. It’s funny — I don’t think anything negative of “cougars.” At all. It would not occur to me. While I find it strange that a young guy would want to sleep with an older woman (thirty sounds like the most terrifying age, ever), I mostly just applaud the woman in question.

    Personally, I get super creeped out by old guys who sleep with young women. Of course they WANT to, but when they actually do I’m just really disturbed by it.

    Honestly, the REAL double-standard seems to be with same-sex partners with a significant age difference. But I think that that has more to do with other prejudices than anything else.

  2. I don’t find it insulting.
    Look at an actual cougar (the animal). They are beautiful.
    As I’m typing this, my kids (16, 18 and 20) are discussing this. The 16 year old was asking what a cougar is. The older ones explained that a cougar is “freaking hot older woman”.
    If it is ever used in a derogatory way, I would say it is out of jealousy. That a young woman would be jealous of me is amusing. To all of you haters – take care of yourself. Being a cougar is something to aspire to – trust me, you will get older.

  3. I’m see it the term in the same as you blurry, but for the record I am disturbed by both. In the Showtime TV-series Dexter an FBI agent named Lundy has a relationship with Debra Morgan and it weird-ed me all out.

  4. Bobby, the thing is – you don’t have to be having a relationship with someone who is younger than yourself to be a cougar. From my understanding of this term, it simply refers to an attractive older woman, although I could be wrong.

  5. I find it strange when a 52-year-old dates a 20-something regardless of their respective genders. A 30 year difference just seems so strange to me. 10, 13 years? Fine. Greater age differences than that just seem so odd to me though. It’s not something I would ever judge someone for, though, because I don’t understand why they make their choices and certainly can’t begrudge them something that makes them happy.
    I don’t think the age difference stereotypes are quite that black and white. Sometimes older guys are lauded for landing young women (Hugh Hefner) but other times they’re viewed as creepy old men. I think the same goes for older women; sometimes they’re viewed as vivacious and hot, other times as predatory crones.

  6. But really, think about it. Nowadays, when a man dates a much younger women, he is seen as creepy. But when an older woman does it, she’s seen as sexy and empowered.

    • I really don’t think it’s that black and white, though. Certainly, that’s the case a lot of the time, but I don’t think those are the only common reactions people have to it.

  7. If both parties are cool with the age difference…good for them. As far as the word “cougar”, why do humans always want to slap a label on something? I’m wondering what older men who date younger men are called? Anyway, I love big cats.

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