Only one flaw to to­day’s fem­i­nist cougars: The young men don’t want them

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

It’s a fem­i­nist ax­iom that what’s sauce for the gan­der is sauce for the goose. Older men like to hit on 20-year-old women? Well! Bring on the older women who like to hit on 20year-old men!

En­ter the “cougar”: Steal­ing with fe­line grace and preda­tory cun­ning through the wilds of our pop­u­lar cul­ture, she is the di­vorced or still-sin­gle woman who is some­what past her prime hav­ing a fling with a guy who has yet to reach his.

Fem­i­nists, of course, love the cougar. (Hear her roar.)

Alas, young men, it seems, love . . . young women.

The fall tele­vi­sion sea­son boasts two new cougar sit­coms. In ABC’s “Cougar Town,” 45year-old “Friends” vet­eran Courteney Cox plays 40-year-old Jules, newly di­vorced, a mom and a fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful real es­tate agent (in bust-ville Florida, of all places). CBS’ “Ac­ci­den­tally on Pur­pose” stars 39year-old blondie Jenna Elf­man of “Dharma and Greg” fame as Bil­lie, an equally fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful TV critic who gets preg­nant af­ter a one-nighter with a youth­ful slacker who has a lot of slacker bud­dies.

The shows pro­mote not only the idea that well-fixed, well­tended older women can be as at­trac­tive as their younger sis­ters (“ravishing” is the word that comes to mind for Miss Cox) but also that there’s noth­ing wrong with the overt sex­ual ag­gres­sive­ness that gave th­ese women the name “cougar” in the first place. (Miss Elf­man as Bil­lie un­but­tons her blouse in a restau­rant be­fore strolling over to a male pa­tron’s ta­ble to give him her phone num­ber.)

TV cougar-dom also feeds the ex­pec­ta­tion that last­ing love may be just around the cor­ner. “I’m just a piece of man candy to you — I want to be your boyfriend,” avers the youth­ful date of yet an­other sit­com cougar, Rox­anne (36-year-old “Ugly Betty” vet­eran Re­becca Romijn), in ABC’s “East­wick.”

Fem­i­nists love the idea that, as they put it, “50 is the new 25” and that newly “em­pow­ered” women of a cer­tain age are free to con­duct their sex lives just like men.

The only thing Wash­ing­ton Post writ­ers Mon­ica Hesse and Ellen McCarthy found to dis­like about cougars is the name — so dou­ble-stan­dard-ish. “There’s a cor­re­spond­ing name for sin­gle males who pre­fer to date younger fe­males,” Ms. Hesse and Ms. McCarthy com­plain. “They’re called ‘men.’ ”

The fem­i­nist blog Jezebel rags on the re­cur­rent “Satur­day Night Live” sketch “Cougar Den,” which fea­tures tips on suc­cess­ful man-pounc­ing (“hit the bars just be­fore clos­ing”) and a boy-toy ten­nis in­struc­tor who says he likes older women be­cause “you can be real mean to them, and they still buy you junk.” Sniffs Jezebel: “The women are just set up to be re­ally foul, aw­ful, pa­thetic peo­ple who seem to be chas­ing teenage boys.”

What Jezebel and the other fem­i­nists want is a pos­i­tive spin on cougars as “in con­trol” and “very sexy,” in the words of Va­lerie Gib­son, au­thor of “The Cougar Hand­book.” Nearly all of them trot out the mar­riage of 46year-old Demi Moore to 31-yearold Ash­ton Kutcher as a cougar suc­cess story that could be repli­cated end­lessly.

There’s only one prob­lem with this rosy out­look on older woman/younger guy re­la­tion­ships, and it’s, um, men.

The Bos­ton Globe re­cently re­ported on a speed-dat­ing or­ga­nizer’s ef­forts to set up events aimed specif­i­cally at women of a cer­tain age and the 20-ish men who sup­pos­edly can’t get enough of them. Plenty of older women signed up for the mix­ers, but so few younger men did that the or­ga­nizer had to can­cel the events.

An­other speed-date or­ga­nizer ex­plained to the Globe that the only events that en­sure a good male turnout are those that fea­ture the tra­di­tional dat­ing-age gap: women who are at least three years younger than the men they hope to meet. “We have ac­tu­ally tried to cap­i­tal­ize on the cougar trend, and it didn’t re­ally work for us,” one or­ga­nizer told the Globe.

That find­ing wouldn’t sur­prise evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gists. It’s a cen­tral truth of the dis­ci­pline that men typ­i­cally find women in their early 20s far more phys­i­cally at­trac­tive than their older sis­ters, and for good rea­son: The early 20s are the years of a woman’s max­i­mum fer­til­ity, to which males are hard-wired by evo­lu­tion to re­spond.

There are ex­cep­tions, of course. Life is un­fair, and there are sex­ual ad­van­tages, you may have ob­served, to be­ing as gor­geous as Demi Moore. But those ex­cep­tions are — how to put it? — ex­cep­tional.

“Any sex­ual choice mech­a­nism that pre­ferred infertile in­di­vid­u­als to fer­tile in­di­vid­u­als would have died out in one gen­er­a­tion,” writes evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gist Ge­of­frey Miller in his book “The Mat­ing Mind.”

We live in a so­ci­ety in which de­layed mar­riage, easy di­vorce and the in­sis­tence of fem­i­nism (at least in its naive, pop­u­lar form) that the two sexes are iden­ti­cal in ev­ery re­spect have led many women to as­sume that their value in the sex­ual mar­ket­place will never di­min­ish and that young men will per­ceive them as some­thing other than all-too-will­ing re­cep­ta­cles for easy, no-strings recre­ational sex.

One thing to be said for “Cougar Town” (and this is why fem­i­nists hate it) is that it doesn’t fall into that trap. It is bru­tally and hi­lar­i­ously hon­est about the con­se­quences of de­cid­ing to com­pete with young women for males their age.

Miss Cox’s Jules is a kind of fe­male Mr. Bill, suf­fer­ing blows of comic hu­mil­i­a­tion from all the men in her life: her jerk ex-hus­band, the youths she chases and even her teenage son, who wishes she would act re­spectably like other moth­ers.

In one scene, Jules has to ex­plain to her young bed­fel­low what the scar from her Cae­sar­ian sec­tion is all about. That could serve as a sym­bol for ev­ery­thing that’s wrong with cougar life: that the body of a mother, scarred by child­birth and time, should be ex­posed to the scru­tiny of a near-stranger with his mind on other things.

Yes, 50 may be the new 25 th­ese days, and thanks to im­proved den­tistry, hair-col­or­ing, nutri­tion and ex­er­cise habits, older women have never been able to look so good — for their sil­ver wed­ding an­niver­saries, their kids’ grad­u­a­tions and dates with men their own age.

Old enough to star in a bad sit­com: Jenna Elf­man stars in the new tele­vi­sion com­edy se­ries “Ac­ci­den­tally on Pur­pose”.

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