The Cougar Phenomenon
November 18, 2009 (WPVI) -- Some may call Mrs. Robinson the original cougar with Dustin Hoffman's character portrayed as a naive college boy manipulated by a sultry seductress.
Fast forward to 2009 which is declared Year of the Cougar after a flurry of big and small screen productions have highlighted this new demographic shift.
Self-described cougar Lisa Jackson of Downingtown makes no apologies for taking cues from Hollywood couples like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon.
"Sometimes it's just about having fun, about having a good time, and that's what they do they satisfy that area," Jackson said.
As for the 20somethings, they say these days, cougars are a welcome part of the dating pool.
"I am ready for the cougar community," one told Action News.
"They kind of throw themselves at you, so it's hard not to be attracted," another 20something said.
Lisa, a 47-year-old divorcee, started referring to herself as a cougar after a man about the same age as her 27-year-old son asked her on a date.
"At first I said no because I said that could be my child, but they were persistent so I went out with them and it was a lot of fun," Jackson said. "They're spontaneous they have a lot of energy, if you want to go dancing, they are all for it."
"I don't think it's age, I think a lot of its personality for me I'm 37. but I'm very young for my age. I'm responsible, but I'm still a kid at heart," self-described cougar Nicole Pennestri of Ridley Park said.
Christie Nightingale, Principal of Premier Match, an upscale dating service says in the past year, she has seen a 30 percent increase in women's request to date younger men.
"Women have become a lot more comfortable with themselves; they are successful in their own right and they are exploring different options," Nightingale said.
Sociologically, it's a very real phenomenon. Over the past few decades, women have put their personal life on hold while they pursued their careers. As a result, many women have found eligible men their age are already married or are in relationships with younger women.
Cougar relationship expert Lucia says now women have broadened their options.
"Now that women are more financially independent, they no longer rely on men to pay their bills, they're no longer housewives sitting at home and this is actually one of the reasons why the cougar revolution has taken on such great numbers," Lucia said.
Although the number of cougars is growing, Lucia admits in many arenas, the idea of an older woman dating a much younger man is still taboo.
"I could see guys wanting to date younger women, but I can't really see it the other way around," Lauren Downing of West Chester, Pa. said.
In fact the title "cougar", a tongue and cheek term, often carries a negative connotation, but Lucia says similar to dating, it's all about attitude.
"I look at the positive qualities of a cougar which is sleek, strong, sexy confident and in control, when you think of those qualities than suddenly being a cougar isn't so bad," Lucia said.
Action News did talk to some younger women. They were the ones who seemed to have trouble envisioning an older woman in a relationship with a younger man. They said it's ok the other way around but the whole "cougar" concept seemed a little odd to them.
special reports, erin o'hearn
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