Much has been written recently about the rise of “cougars” (sexually assertive, mature single women) in western societies. Many people seem to think that this boom is not real but merely a silly craze, a marketing ploy, or just an invention of the media. But it does seem to be a genuine phenomenon, particularly in Australia.
Census figures from the last quarter century show a definite rise in the proportion of single women aged between 40 and 54. For example, back in 1986 these women constituted 19 percent of that age group. But in 2006, they accounted for 27 percent of it. There are now many more women in this age group than there are men.
So, they definitely do exist and in quite large numbers. Combine this with the fact that they are mostly financially independent – and enjoy going out to clubs, pubs and singles events – and their presence becomes hard to ignore.
Not only are there a lot of cougars in Australia, but the whole country seems to be quite obsessed with them. The new comedy Cougar Town won the night’s ratings on its debut, with 1.3 million viewers. This was no mean feat because it was competing with some established and popular shows.
Another example of this obsession is the competition to find “Miss Cougar Australia 2010”. Heats in various capital cities are being held in the first months of this year, with the finals to be held in June.
There are numerous other one-off events with a cougar theme, too. And speed dating companies have been catering to the demographic for years now with much success.
The term is used increasingly often in broadcast and print media. And it is all over the web. The popular AskMen website echoed the trend, running a top ten list of Aussie cougars. It included Gretel Killeen, Charlotte Dawson, Naomi Watts, Kylie Minogue, and Elle McPherson.
These sexy older women (many of whom had been involved with younger men at some stage) were well known as celebrities already. But interestingly, number 10 on the list was Charmyne Palavi, who has only become known to the public quite recently. Unlike the others on the list she is not a model, actress or singer but a tanning salon operator. Her sole claim to fame is that she is known as the National Rugby League’s “biggest groupie” and has proudly boasted of her trysts with younger men.
So, she has become famous simply for being a cougar! That’s a clear sign that this social archetype has really arrived in the public imagination, and will remain for a long time yet.