Is the cougar trend a myth?

A study of online dating profiles finds women are looking for men of their age or older


Tracy Clark-Flory
August 18, 2010 6:19PM (UTC)

Aspiring cubs may want to stop reading: The cougar phenomenon is a lie, according to researchers. An Australian study of 22,400 singles from all over the world listed on popular dating websites found a "consistent cross-cultural preference by women for at least same-age or significantly older men." However, there was "copious evidence revealing a distinctive preference by men for youthful women." 

Lead researcher Michael Dunn of the University of Wales Institute told the Australian Associated Press: "Yes I do believe the cougar phenomenon is a myth and, yes, [it is] a media construct." He added that "a clear beneficiary [of this myth] would be the 'cougar' or 'toy-boy' dating agencies." The fantasy of the older woman who seeks out younger men is simply "in no way reflective of the desires evident in the general population."

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Now, all that said, it doesn't mean that there aren't "cougars" out there -- they just aren't all that common, at least not on mainstream dating sites. The study also has a major blind spot: All the hooking up and dating that is facilitated offline. That's an area researchers will have to explore (oh, drats) if they want to truly debunk the cougar myth -- after all, she supposedly isn't on the prowl for a long-term mate but fresh young meat.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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