- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Miss Cougar International decries ‘tabloid’ image

Though older men get praised for scoring hot young girlfriends, older women (commonly referred to as “cougars”) are often berated and laughed at for pursuing younger guys.

Since the 1967 release of “The Graduate,” a film centered on a mother seducing an unsettled 20-something man, cougars have been viewed as aggressive women who force themselves upon insecure young men.

The 2009 television series “Cougar Town” reinforces the idea that it’s unusual and humorous for a seasoned woman to desire a young, physically fit dude who would not have issues downstairs, but a “cougar-cub” relationship does not need to be seen as scandalous or weird.

Kenneth Martinez, 21, never expected to date a woman 16 years his senior, but he does. The “cub” met his girlfriend while waiting for a buddy to pick him up at a skate park in Indianapolis.

“We talked for like an hour,” Mr. Martinez told the Daily Caller. “She gave me her number, then we went out.”

This was not Mr. Martinez’s first cougar encounter. He said an older woman had fawned over his appearance before he even reached adulthood.

“I was not even 18,” Mr. Martinez said. “I was just going into a gas station and she stopped me and told me, ‘You’re the most good looking kid I’ve ever seen.’ I was like, ‘thanks,’ you know.”

Amy Luna Manderino, also known as Miss Cougar International 2011, told the Daily Caller that cougar dating is no different from traditional relationships.

“We are just people like everyone else,” Ms. Manderino, 40, told the Caller, adding that news outlets and the media have created a “tabloid” image of cougars depicting them as almost predators.

“Sometimes when I do my public speaking, I joke that somebody in some boardroom somewhere decided that you cannot write an article on cougars without one of three keywords, [which are] predator, prey and prowl,” Ms. Manderino said, noting that many people assume cougars are out just to get wild in bed with young guys.

This stereotype, the Berkeley, Calif., resident says, doesn’t present the full story.

“These relationships are so rich in so many other ways besides just the sexual aspects,” Ms. Manderino explained. “It is tabloid because it’s titillating and sells newspapers, but I think the real story is how gender roles are shifting in our society.”

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