Famous cougars abound in Hollywood and on the airwaves:
•Actress Susan Sarandon, 66, is dating her business partner, Jonathan Bricklin, who is more than 30 years her junior.
•42-year-old singer Mariah Carey’s husband, singer/TV host Nick Cannon, is 10 years younger than she.
•Actress Demi Moore, 50, is more than 15 years older than her soon-to-be-ex husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, and is rumored to be dating Harry Morton, former beau of Lindsay Lohan. Morton is 19 years younger than Moore.
•Singer Madonna, 54, has famously dated a string of men 30 years younger than she, including Brazilian model Jesus Luz and French dancer Brahim Zaibat.
•52-year-old comedian Kathy Griffin’s boyfriend, a newspaper marketing manager, is 18 years younger than she.
And no, we’re not talking about big cats.
Late last year, research from CougarLife.com named Fort Wayne the “Cougar Capital of Indiana,” with twice as many cougars – older women who date younger men – as any other Hoosier city.
Based on its number of users from around Indiana, the website found that Fort Wayne women date an average of three times as many younger men – or “cubs,” to use CougarLife.com’s lingo – as the next most active city, Indianapolis.
In fact, the site attributes part of its membership surge over the past year to college men, such as those at IPFW.
“What was once an older, predatory woman haunting college bars is now a successful, independent woman who needs a younger man to keep up with her,” says Claudia Opdenkelder, president of CougarLife.com, in a written statement.
But whether there really are more older women dating younger men is still up for discussion.
Justin Zych, 24, has dated older women, he says.
He says older women understand certain things because of their age. “There’s a little bit more maturity and laid-backness in the older women,” he says.
Zych is a founding member of the local band Cougar Hunter. The band got its name not from the fact that the members date older women – although most have – but because of the “funny term,” Zych says.
The name was suggested one night during rehearsals. It was originally met with laughter, but then band members realized it was perfect.
Cougar Hunter, which played its first gig in May 2011, performs 1980s glam rock, such as Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Poison. Members figured older women – those in their 30s and 40s – would be right in their wheelhouse.
“Those ladies that are into that (kind of music) were graduating high school while we were being born,” Zych says.
There isn’t much research into the older-woman/younger-man relationship short of this kind of anecdotal evidence, says Kurt Gregory, a licensed marriage and family therapist with The Aboite Counseling and Therapy Group in Fort Wayne. So his insight into the “why” is based primarily on that – anecdotes.
From the older woman’s standpoint, the appeal of dating a younger man is primarily, he says, from a sexual nature.
“I would imagine it would bring excitement, some fulfilling of self-esteem that as a woman gets older, I think there’s a greater emphasis of her feeling not as attractive, and by being able to get a younger man, I would think that that would perhaps make her feel that she was still attractive,” he says. “I think that there’s also some issues that perhaps a woman in that age bracket would find attractive with a younger man, in that they would not have to deal with things such as some of the sexual problems that some older men bring to a relationship, such as ED (erectile dysfunction) and decreased sex drive.”
For the younger men in the relationship, Gregory says, he might appreciate the maturity an older woman would bring to the relationship.
“I do think that younger women do tend to bring a higher degree of, for lack of a better term, drama into a relationship that probably an older woman would not,” he says.
If a relationship gets past the infatuation stage into something serious, a younger man might like the security of being in a relationship where he can continue to act, as Gregory says, like someone in his 20s. Meanwhile, his girlfriend would take on the more mature role in the household, caring for the household and paying the bills.
Again, Gregory stresses that his ideas are not based on research.
“It’s a lot of anecdotal information. We don’t have a lot of research on these types of relationships, so there’s a lot of it we don’t know,” he says. “It’s definitely an area I think could be researched a lot further, as well as relationships with older men and younger women.”