Teen Cougars at Prom

A cougar is a hot “older woman” who pursues men twenty years her junior, right? Well, lately teen cougars have been asking junior guys to senior prom.

So why do young women increasingly want relationships with younger men? Once was, girls only dated older guys. As one mom observing the phenomenon explains:

Back in my prom days (when the big slow dance was still “Stairway to Heaven”), I went with a boy who was not just taller than me, but older as well. O.K., I was only a few months younger than him, but that still mattered to my friends and me. We would never have even considered venturing out to the prom, let alone the school parking lot, with a boy in a lower grade, unless we were baby-sitting him.

Why the change? It may be that we no longer expect guys to be “ranked” so much more highly than girls anymore.

We’re not completely over gender ranking, which places males above females. You still see it when a man avoids dating or marrying a highly successful woman, since that success gives her higher rank than him. Or, when guys do girl-things like hopscotch they’re “lowering themselves” and taunted as sissies, wimps and fags — or girls. But girls can climb trees, play with trucks and be tomboys with little worry. And, girls can wear pants but guys can’t wear dresses. Girls aren’t demeaning themselves by doing boy-stuff.

Traditionally, women have wanted someone “older and wiser” as sixteen-year-old Liesl sang to Rolf in The Sound of Music:

I need someone
Older and wiser
Telling me what to do
You are 17 going on 18
I’ll depend on you

But suddenly girls don’t need someone older and wiser.

Furthermore, these girls like “nice guys” who are more respectful and nicer to date than the dominant “bad boys” that girls are thought to prefer.

When they get to college upper-class women often continue favoring younger men:

Here at Dartmouth we have a saying, ‘Get the guy before he pledges’ (because) that way you grab them before they are corrupted by fraternity brothers.

That would be frat boys who work hard to create a “superior man” status by demeaning women as bitches and sluts, and who maintain their independence and invulnerability by avoiding relationships with women, choosing to conquer them in one-night-stands, instead.

But back in high school a senior girl simply reasons, “The senior guys at my school tend to like to go out with the younger girls, so now I guess we are doing the same with younger guys.”

I’m all for gender parity. Why not?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 6, 2012, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Weiyi Xia (Klark)

    This phenomenon is showing us the progress we are making on gender equality. Older means independent and reliable, and now as teen girls are the “older one” in a relationship means females are independent and reliable like males in the old days. Plus, being the older one in a relationship can definitely make the girls feel more in control and empowered. Another thing mentioned in the article about “younger boys are more respectful and nicer to date” has caught my attention too. Women today are gaining higher status and self-esteem, and so they require more respect than before. This is another reason why teen girls tend to ask younger guys to prom.

  2. Right away this post made me laugh becuase I could closely idnitify with the opening sentence. I remember taking a Sophmore boy to my own junior prom. At the time I remember this being a big deal. Everyone kept asking “Why on earth would you take a lower classman to prom?”. It never much bother me and I never saw much of it either, although now I can see why my parents and my dates parents were equally shocked. Them coming from an era where women didn’t have the upper hand in the situation. Now that I’m in college, I’m seeing more of this trend with older girls asking younger guys out. It’s nice to see that things are beginning to balance out a little.

  3. I can also identify with this. When I got together with my first boyfriend we were both eighteen years old but I was one month older than him. It never ”bothered” me that he was younger than me because we were on the same level so to speak. However, prior to us becoming an item I remember picturing my future boyfriend being at least a year older than me. ATLEAST. I guess in my head, somebody who was older than was more attractive, more experienced in life and just better?! But now I don’t think age only matters if you think it matters.
    And in class, we’ve been talking about how women/girls are more flexible than girls. I totally agree with that, boys/men are more likely to avoid doing things because it hurts their ego and their idea of what a man is or how a man should act. While women are more flexible in trying on ”manly things” because we don’t ”lose” anything by doing so.

  4. I love the self-esteem aspect of this trend. Women are taking control of their lives and feeling good about it. The ‘Good Old Boys’ club is being invaded by smart, attractive and strong women. I wish more women would find their self-worth and leave their abusive relationships. So if thinking highly of myself, being strong and independent is being a ‘Cougar’, then I am proud to be one and spread the word.
    The Evangelical Cougar

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