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Even the accolades heaped on the glorious Helen Mirren in recent years have a faint aspect of the freak show about them: "Step up and see the 60-something woman who is still sexually attractive!" These forces are still powerful enough to make your fond wish for a time when older women will inevitably gaze upon your union with one of their own with bland approval still a bit of a pipe dream. As long as older women with a sex drive and indeed any juice at all left in them are laughed and pointed at, some will still look at a young woman who scoops up one of the few available men in their bracket as whatever the opposite of a cougar might be. Minx. Bitch. Gold-digging (Welsh) whore. Sad, and frustrating, but human.

Incidentally, I was curious about the origin of "cougar" in this context and found an article dating it to the founding in 1999 of Cougardate, an online dating site. A book, Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, by Valerie Gibson, came along in 2001. As you can see, these were guides for women, so the term, even with its "rapacious animal" connotations, wasn't even meant pejoratively. The nastiness accrued to it gradually, it seems, and inevitably. If it's about women actually wanting sex, that's gonna happen.

OK, Now I'm mad too.

Love,

Andrea

See Andrea's other column at carnalnation.com.

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