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The cougar conundrum

Double standard still exists for older women, younger men

When Claudia Openkelder told me that ABC refused to run her ad for www.CougarLife.com in certain markets during the premier of Courtney Cox’s new series Cougar Town because advertising a service that helps older women meet younger men clashed with the network’s Disney-affiliated image, I was as taken aback as she was.

Surely, I thought, six years into Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, we’re no longer shocked by the idea of older women dating, even marrying, much younger men.

But then I tried to imagine how I’d feel if the advertiser were www.sugardaddy.com or www.establishedmen.com, one of the many sites that set older men up with young women.

Would I be equally dumbfounded? I doubt it.

But that’s because powerful, wealthy men have been dating younger women for years and nobody bats an eye, says Openkelder, who, at age 39 is dating a guy 14 years younger.

Now that women are enjoying more independence, wealth and power than ever before, we’re seeing more women looking for a young, spirited mate who can keep up with her.

Certainly, women still have more hurdles to overcome in this arena. I am reminded of a story that a colleague told me about her marriage to a guy five years younger.

His mother walked around her wedding telling people: “She’s older than him, you know, AND a divorcee!” I kid you not. Surely, had it been the other way around, no one would have blinked.

And the irony of ABC’s decision not to run her ad — which depicts a bunch of shirtless construction workers outside a school ogling the teacher rather than the students — during a series all about older women dating younger men is not lost on Openkelder.

“Apparently, they’re okay with a fiction version of this idea, but they’re not comfortable with the reality,” she says.

I just worry that the Cougar is becoming yet another image modern women have to live up to. After all, www.CougarLife.com describes cougars as independent, sexy, wildly successful, classy, confident, smart. Phew. Meanwhile the only adjective for the men over on establishedmen.com is “financially successful.”

I couldn’t agree more that as women enjoy more independence and power they should also enjoy a greater variety of choices when it comes to all aspects of their lives.

But for me, the double standard will only really end when we don’t have to bend over backwards convincing society that women still have a shelf life after 40. And no one blinks when we marry a younger man.

• Share your best relationship disaster story on the comments section of Josey’s Sexcetera blog at www.metronews.ca/blog.

– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit www.joseyvogels.com.

 
 
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