Mad World: No Cougars Please, We're Family-Friendly.

Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the term “cougar.” It demonizes older women by framing them as dangerous predators who prey on younger men, and it has inspired far too many terrible jokes. However, I am also not a fan of Google AdSense’s recent decision to refuse service to ads for cougar dating sites. Their reasoning? The concept of an older woman looking to date a younger man is not “family friendly.” They will continue to allow “sugar daddy” dating sites to advertise online though, because those are way more kid-appropriate.

If Google was just straight-up against taking advertising revenue from adult dating sites (which anyone with an Internet connection knows is not the case), that’d be one thing. However, their purported problem here is with “the ‘cougar’ lifestyle.” That means that the folks at Google AdSense are fine taking money to post links to “Sexy Latina Singles” or “Fine Young Cannibals” but they won’t allow *gasp!* ads that promote *gasp!* older women getting it on with *gasp!* younger dudes. For shame!

Oh, and let’s take a minute to consider that Google still allows ads from a site called Arrangement Seekers, which bills itself as, “the original Sugar Daddy service catering to ambitious and attractive girls seeking successful and generous benefactors to fulfill their lifestyle needs!” This is problematic on many levels (it’s OK to advertise on behalf of old rich guys who want to use their money to get laid yet not OK to advertise for older women who just want to meet younger guys) not the least of which being that the “gold digger” stereotype is waaay less family-friendly than the “cougar” stereotype–and, IMHO, it’s more offensive to women. (I’d rather be called a cougar than a gold digger any day, thank you very much. And at age 28 I am already in what some would consider “cougar” territory–yet another problem with the stereotype, but I digress.)

Warning: Only one of these images is considered to be “family friendly”!!!

This whole Google Ad thing reeks of ageist sexism (sageism?), something that is prevalent in just about every advertisement aimed at women over the age of 25 (prior to that it’s just regular sexism). As my mom says, she knows that if she sees a woman her own age in an ad it’ll be for adult diapers or dentures (she’s in her fifties), but if she sees a man her age the ad could be for anything dude-related (unless a woman her age is in the ad also–then it’s for erectile dysfunction medication). If we relied only on representations found in advertisements to inform our ideas about older ladies, we’d assume women past a certain age–an age that gets younger and younger all the time–are all sexless losers who are one second away from peeing in their elastic-waisted pants.

Sure, this Google AdSense thing might seem a bit inconsequential unless you are a self-identified cougar. Or unless you are Google AdSense, which will be losing over $100,000 per month in the fight to keep out Interwebs safe from older women with sex drives. However, even if you neither a cougar nor a Googler, this is a problem. All of us care about older women in some capacity, whether we are one, will be one someday, or are just big Angela Lansbury fans, and the fact that older women are consistently desexualized and dehumanized by the advertising industry is one that should piss us off big time. Think of the cougars!

OH_Logo.jpg This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

No cats allowed!

Kelsey, I am with you 100%. The "cougar" term is insulting, stupid and...downright icky, but turning away dating sites for older women/younger men while accepting the reverse is straight-up sexism. If "sugar daddies" had a less endearing, Candyland-esque nickname, would they be denied too? Something tells me no. I'm disappointed in Google, which has always struck me as an egalitarian group before.
PS. The combo of sexism and ageism is a major one which *should* have its own word, but "sageism" sounds like hatred of people who don't give sage advice...which, well, if you're going to hate someone...

Sexism, Ageism, Misogyny, Fataphobia and More.

Although what you have reported with respect to "Adsense" is dispicable, you might be heartened to hear that Google showed some ads on my YouTube channel for dating women over 50. That may be a result of preferences they have discerned from me. i am older and wish there were more women in their 50s, 60s and 70s blogging and YouTubing. Your post does, of course point out the hypocrisy and totally unequal treatment that women an men have gotten for as long as there are written records with respect to age differentials. i mean, good grief! How long was Hugh Hefner held up as some kind of role model? i don't remember any belittling or animal names with respect to him or to any other older man with a younger woman. If older wealthier women take a younger handsome male for a mate will he get called a "Trophy Husband"? i doubt it. Older women can be very, very attractive and there is absolutely nothing wrong with women being aggressive. They are real women, not large cats, and i think they are hot. Unfortunately i'm getting pretty old, and there aren't many (that i know of) Female Grey Panthers (sorry) stalking me.

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this entry. I definitely find the term problematic for the reasons you've illustrated as well is it often been leveled disproportionately at working class women as a way of devaluing their sexuality. How bizarre that "sugar daddy" would be considered family friendly when for the most part it's incredibly dismissive to men, women and children as well.

Thanks back atcha

Good point that the cougar term has problematic working class implications as well. It is not a great term!

Also thanks for pointing out that "sugar daddy" is dismissive not only to women but also to men and children–also not a great term!

Perhaps we should all stick to more inclusive dating sites and leave the problematic terminology out of it (if only...).

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

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