When we read that a researcher at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff had released a study claiming that the cougar dating trend is a myth and a media construct, we were ready to buy his argument. After all, we’ve witnessed first-hand — and have occasionally, shame on us, been responsible for — how a so-called trend can get blown out of all proportion for the sake of a sexy headline. So we tend to be more than ready to believe that a much-hyped, now-sitcom-ed trend is actually just hype.
But it turns out that the researcher, Michael Dunn, doesn’t have the most water-tight argument himself. For one thing, his theory is based solely on stats from public online dating profiles, which as we all know, are notoriously unreliable sources of information (who knew the world contained so many men over 6 foot?!). The profiles he looked at (in North American, Europe, Australia, and Japan) showed that most women are looking for men their own age or older and most men are looking for younger women. In other words, Dunn’s real finding is that people don’t use mainstream online dating sites to find or be a cougar… or at least, if they do, they don’t admit it openly in their profiles.
The other piece of information that makes us question the validity of Dunn’s research? Another recent dubious sex study he conducted found that men who drive expensive cars really are more attractive to women. When had was asked recently whether this research suggested that women were shallow, he said, “Let’s face it, there’s evidence to support it.” We’re guessing he’s not in any hurry to do a follow-up study about whether women who drive expensive cars are more attractive to young men.
So forgive us for perpetuating a much-hyped, now sitcom-ed trend, but we prefer to believe the results of a study by AARP, which found that while two-thirds of American men over 40 are dating younger women (yawn), an impressive 34% of women who are 40 or older are dating younger guys. And 35% of women age 40 or over said they preferred dating younger men to those their age or older. Of course, a preference for cougar-style dating doesn’t necessarily indicate success in the field — but maybe these women just need fancier cars.