The Cougar and the Toy Boy – the cat robbing the cradle?

The Cougar and the Toy Boy – the cat robbing the cradle?

We’ve all heard about the term “cougar” – an older woman who dates younger men, but is this becoming the norm?

Romance Couple

My friend’s son just turned 20 and brought home his girlfriend for the first time to meet his parents. Only problem, at 46, his girlfriend is older than his parents! The family naturally had some reservations about the relationship, given the 26 year age gap between the two, but their fears were allayed with the realisation that: “It’s the new thing!”

Whether the couple are really in love or simply trying out the trend is anyone’s guess, but older woman/younger man relationships are certainly on the rise. I read a staggering statistic in an article recently that said, “A Google search for the term ‘cougar women’ will produce 64,700,000 results – that’s 20 times the amount available in 2010.”

And an article I read from one of those 64-million results on the Google search says there is compelling evidence to suggest that as women become more equal in society and less likely to conform to traditional gender roles, they are also less inclined to enter age gap relationships where the man is the older party. This explanation for women dating younger men is supported by research that compares developing countries with already developed countries, which are considered to have more gender equality.

The same article states: “Age differences are often greater for couples who marry later in life. People who remain unmarried into middle age are more likely to marry people younger than themselves and this was found to be particularly true for women.”

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It seems a background of less than happy experiences in more conventional relationships can alter a woman’s choice for the younger of the opposite sex.

Women who have previously been married are also more likely to form relationships with younger partners. The study found marital history to be the strongest predictor of a woman getting a toy boy. In fact, one study found women who had had two marriages were seven times more likely to be in a relationship with a younger man.

When it comes to dating, there’s an unscientific, but prevailing opinion that older men want younger women and vice versa. Turns out, the opposite may be true for women on the online dating scene. Numbers culled from various dating sites have consistently shown both sexes prefer to date down the age spectrum rather than up.

We all know about older celebrity women dating younger men like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson, Minnie Driver and Matthew Felker, Jennifer Lopez and Casper Smart – the list goes on.

And statistics show that this is not just a media invention. The BBC has reported that 25% of older women are married to younger men. In America, 30% of older women date men who are younger than themselves.

But why?

As far as our evolutionary instincts are concerned, it has become far more difficult to spot an older woman. Healthy eating and all those Zumba classes, as well as sophisticated beauty regimes and (for some) Botox, mean older women look suspiciously like younger ones, certainly to our subconscious scanners.

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They’re also more likely to behave like younger women, which can confuse any right-thinking man.

“These women are alive, vibrant, want to dance, love current music, technology, exercise and eat healthier,” says psychologist Dr Fayr Barkley, an expert on cougar relationships. “They want a younger man who can keep up with them.”

In a nutshell, many older women look great and are full of vim, so what’s not to fancy? There’s also the possibility that some younger men are playing out the psychosexual imprinting that happened years earlier.

That sounds complex, but it simply means that a much-loved babysitter, nursery teacher or family friend may have planted a seed that blossoms today as a penchant for older women.

“The younger men fall into one of two categories,” says Barkley. “The first is what she has termed ‘The Myth of Stifler’s Mom’ after the movie American Pie. These are younger men who think the mature woman exists to somehow fulfill their adolescent male sexual fantasies.”

“And that”, she says, “is unlikely to happen”.

Contrary to popular opinion, older women want far more from their younger boyfriends than energetic sex. And apparently, they have plenty of choice.

“There are far more younger men looking for older women than there are older women who are available to date younger men. So the women can afford to be very selective,” says Barkley.

It might also be true, she says, that some young men find women of their own age, and perhaps the 20-something dating scene altogether, shallow and manipulative, with too much game-playing and not enough sincerity. They turn to older women to get out of a cycle of bad dates.

And what they turn to, she says, is “the depth, maturity and spirit of the older woman”. In her research, Barkley has interviewed thousands of men who say they’re attracted to older women for just these reasons.

But what does depth and maturity bring? It brings a measure of financial independence, for a start. An older woman won’t expect you to pay for every date. Older women also have a lot of experiences to relate, and plenty to talk about. They’re interesting and even inspirational.

In the end, whatever the difference may be in years, this should not be the recurring theme of your relationship. In fact many successful older women and younger men relationships (especially the ones that end in marriage) have claimed that the secret to their love is that the age gap simply disappears after a while.

If it does crop up in conversation then remind yourself of all of the benefits: toy boys, you have a glorious older woman who may even spoil you rotten; cougars, you have a fit young guy full of energy and you’re the constant envy of all of the other women your age.

You’re the winners!

Author: Terence Pillay

Information from: The Lawton and Callister research paper. Written by Team Toyboy Warehouse and published as part of our 30 Blogs In 30 Days campaign.

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