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So be it if the relationship goes further.” 'A Badge of Honor' While women aren’t exactly shouting their cougar status from the rooftops (“Women never want to be called a “cougar,” because it implies they’re older,” Mercer explained nonchalantly), men aren’t shy about their relationships with older women.On the contrary, they’ll even boast about them, wearing them, in the words of Mercer, “as a badge of honor.” According to Gibson, young men are driving the trend, sometimes even calling themselves “cougar hunters” when they’re out on the town looking for sexy older women.“It’s definitely considered creepier for women to go out with younger men,” admitted Junie Smith*, a 52-year-old cougar who lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.“For a 70-year-old guy to go out with a 40-year-old woman, as opposed to a 70-year-old woman going out with a 40-year-old guy?A 70-year-old woman going out with a 40-year-old guy is considered creepy.” Why the double standard?Smith figured it comes down to science: “It probably has something to do with the concentration of the species on procreation,” she quipped.
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She listed a string of young men with whom she had various relationships, occasionally punching numbers into a calculator to determine age differences she had never considered in the first place.
She never analyzed her attraction to younger men (or their attraction to her), but with “cougar” an increasingly popular term used to describe older women dating much younger men, her longtime preference is suddenly in the spotlight.
Wheeler, a fiery redhead who lives outside Baltimore, leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I liked younger guys even when I was in high school — like a year or two younger.
I was a cougar before there were cougars.” Indeed, Wheeler’s pre-marriage and post-divorce dating history reads like a steamy screenplay.