Investigating the cougar and sugar daddy double standard

Nov 22, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

How many times have you seen an older man with a younger woman? And how about the other way around? Why are there more gentlemen like Hugh Hefner, and fewer women like Demi Moore? Is there a stigma against cougars?

Sugar daddy with young woman

I was at a wedding reception last week, and the groom's brother was unusually friendly to my family. Between his searing gazes and lingering presence, I knew something was up. He wasn't the genetically challenged prospect that I find frequently at these gatherings, but after my mom accepted an offer to go to his place for dinner — I was like, "Chick, please." Culturally for me, accepting a visit to someone's home where a bachelor son resides may as well signal me to bend over while they warm up a piece of iron to brand me with the guy's last name. "So are we going?" my mom had asked, and my automatic response was, "Like hell we are."

For a moment, I thought I was going to get slapped. Sad, it would be the most contact we've had since birth — she's not particularly affectionate — but to my surprise, she seemed reflective. "On second thought, you're right. He is my age after all."

That would leave at least a 30-year gap between this guy and me. At some point, my mom entertained this thought. Though she is in fact worried about my unmarried status, it's not because she's desperate. She genuinely considered this match.

This nauseating situation reminded me of a quote I overheard my uncle say, "Catch them while they're young, mold them, and watch them grow" — as 10 other guys cheered on. I was disgusted.

But OK fine, old men like younger women. Big whoop. Why are we still struggling to swallow women playing the same game, only on opposite sides of the spectrum?

You think everyone liked the Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher thing? I'm sure just as many think she looked like an utter fool post breakup. The internet is full of hateful commentators discussing how cougars are "desperate sluts" and "pathetic."

Even my gay BFF called me a desperate cougar when I said Harry from One Direction was hot. (He is. I don't care.)

Why is this the case? For one, as women, we are competing with history. Men have done the younger women thing for ages. I blame Hugh Hefner, but heck, let people love who they want to love.

So why can't we let cougars enjoy their cubs?

Is it the same reason it's OK to call your man "daddy" in the bedroom, but it would be less than appealing to call your woman "mom" in a reverse situation?

Former Playboy editor and Huffington Post contributor John Blumenthal thinks quite the opposite. He states in his article on a similar topic that common perception is that an older man with a younger woman is a "dirty old man" whereas in the opposite situation, the older woman is "just a cougar."

Even first date expert and relationship coach Laurel House claims that "the cougar/sugar daddy double standard is finally diminishing. In fact, it's almost flip flopping. Women today are empowered!" She even suggests that the empowerment has elevated standards for younger women by saying that "young women are less interested in being the arm candy for some sugar daddy." Powerful words, with an even more powerful implication: The double standard may no longer exist!

So the stigma against ageism and women and its impact on the definition of beauty may no longer even be applicable here! I'd say that's some good news, alright.

Cougars, sugar daddies — whatever the title, whatever your preference, we have to make strides however we can in not propagating such a negative outlook toward anyone. Let 'em love who they want!

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