The Curse of Double Standards (Part 4): What is the male equivalent for a 'Cougar'?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

There was that time, that year, in my adult life, when I almost dated a teenager. ‘Almost’, being the operative word.

(Now I have your attention abi?? Ndi Amebo)

Ok, I'm just kidding! He was no teenager. (No need to dial 911).

But he looked so young and fresh-faced, that with the right clothes and haircut, he could have  passed for my teenage cousin. 

Let’s just call him Uncle Fresh Face, shall we? (UFF, for short)

Despite declarations of I-will-jump-away-from-the-cliff-into-the-lion's-den-for-you, UFF and I did not happen.

(*Wistful sigh*)

I remember subsequently joking about UFF’s overtures with my best friend, and how I had found it amusing at first, while he’d turned out to be a genuinely awesome human. She’d laughed and quipped “thank God you left cougar-Queen to the Mariah Careys and Jlos of this world”.

That was the first time I'd heard the word ‘Cougar’… in that sense.


Over time, I continued to hear ‘Cougar’ casually thrown around, whenever there was indication of some amorous relationship between a man and a woman, with the woman being the older person in age. This age difference could range from as high as twenty years to as insignificant as two months for the lady to earn this sweeping appendage.

Out of curiosity, I briefly researched it, and had found that ‘Cougar’ is generally used to describe women who get involved romantically with men younger than their age.

The use of ‘Cougar’ often connotes an image of predator-like older woman, (usually depicted as insecure and/or devoid of attention from her peers or seniors) who uses her power and ‘worldly-wise’ ways to hunt and lure in doe-eyed, malleable younger men, for her fleeting desire.

While it is often used ‘jokingly’, ‘Cougar’ is loaded with a truckload of mockery and derision; it is a sneer, aimed at shaming the older lady for daring to find affection in the arms of a younger person. There is hardly the possibility given, that two consenting adults with genuine fondness for each other simply found themselves mutually attracted.

So I checked to find if there was an equally derogatory term in existence, for older men who use their ‘worldly-wise’ knowledge to hunt down and lure in younger women. After all, it IS men who are regarded as ‘hunters’ (right??)

Unsurprisingly, there is no substantive male equivalent for the term ‘Cougar’, as used on women. The closest I have found is “Sugar-Daddy”, which also has its female equivalent of “Sugar-Mummy”. A colleague mentioned use of 'Rhinoceros'... but half the people do not know that such use of the word exists, while the other half cannot even pronounce the word. 

(By the way, I fall into both halves)

In the end, there really is no widely accepted derogatory expression for males equivalent to the accepted use of ‘Cougar’ for females.

Despite the ‘norm’ that it is the males who consist of the majority older persons who date and marry younger persons of the other gender, society has yet found another way to box women and inhibit their equality with male counterparts. ‘Cougar’ is a convenient (psychological) tool in communicating the condescending constriction with which our (still) largely patriarchal society insists that a woman remains boxed in many respects, including her ability to find affection.

For a woman, that which is supposed to be complimentary (i.e. being found attractive by a younger person) is twisted to be deemed a curse.

Thus, while an older man who ‘nails’ the affections of a lady one-third his age is celebrated, a woman who accepts the affections of a younger male is not only denigrated, but prejudicially written off as desperate, devious and predatory, in her six-lettered description of ‘Cougar’.



Another (really) annoying word.

(Hah! I see you rolling your eyes)

You see, I also was under the mistaken belief that ‘seductress’ is simply the female equivalent for ‘seducer’. That is, until I looked up the meaning of ‘seducer’ online, and found that “a seducer is a person, (a person ni o!) who seduces, or entices or allures another” (

So while a ‘seducer’ is a generic term for any person (i.e. both sexes), ‘seductress’ is a word specially constructed for females. (As though there was some statistical or empirical evidence to prove that it is the female folk which is more prone to seducing the other gender)

Thus, it would appear that centuries after, our gender is still paying for the sins of our foremost mother – Eve – who is reputed to have caused the downfall of the whole of mankind, by seducing Adam to sin. (Even though the initial tempter – the Devil - is described in masculine terms)

It is this notion that has caused and continues to cause women to (subconsciously) be regarded with suspicion, by both male and females alike. And in our African society, if she is single (and dares to be pleasant to the eye), she is more likely than not to be Satan’s female twin, on the prowl for perfect unions to destroy and successful men to wreck.

Case in point is “the Other Woman” syndrome, and how its protagonist is reputed with super-powers of ‘snatching’ or ‘collecting’ a man from his partner. Because the man is a bunch of keys or a handbag, capable of being collected. (Tsk tsk)

It is impossible - nay, unthinkable - that ‘the Other Woman’ is THE victim of circumstance, and the male is the wily, calculating individual, luring the innocent woman into a forbidden relationship.

Rather, we have become too used to the one-sided narrative from time immemorial, passed down to us by generations before us (which we might pass on to generations after) that has depicted the woman as the ‘baser’ of both genders, thus her own specialised description as ‘seductress’.


And have you ever met a ‘bossy’ man?

(That’s the third word: ‘Bossy’)

Truthfully, look yourself in the eye and ask: have I met a bossy man?

I haven’t. More likely than not, your answer would also be in the negative.

Again, this is not surprising.

Bossy is an adjective, used to generally describe a domineering, overbearing or autocratic person.

While its definition is not restricted to any gender, in reality, it is used however for females who are deemed to go out of the norm of being the controlled, to being controlling.

Subconsciously, a man is (generally) not regarded as ‘bossy’; rather, he is said (and is expected) to BE assertive. ‘In charge’. ‘On top of his game’. ‘In control’. 'Boss'. All of which expectations - no matter how begrudgingly given - are inherently complimentary.

Once the roles are reversed however, the woman is not usually fortunate enough to herald such adulation. Rather than be deemed as assertive, or her being ‘in control’ accepted, she is described as ‘bossy’. (Or other similar term)

We have it drummed into our heads from childhood that as females, we ought to step back, and let the male gender take the lead, so that even if a woman’s personality is one which is not shy of taking charge and exerting assertiveness, it is expected that she finds a way to fit into society’s stereotype, and fall in line.

For to do otherwise would earn her the nickname: Bossy. Or worse.

I bet, by now, you wonder how this post, which originally began as an ‘almost’ love affair, has somewhat metamorphosed into English lessons on the use of nouns and adjectives.

(I wonder same too.)

Undeniably, there are expressions which exist with the aim of making women feel and act smaller, so as to avoid ridicule or derision by the larger society. To this extent, we cannot truthfully hold conversations on gender equality and anti-misogyny, without doing away with these mental boxes within which we have placed the female gender, thereby making gender equality a utopian illusion.

No: it is not until we climb podiums and shout to the world “Stop sexism!” that we can be seen to support in making our women stronger, and truly accept who they are. The struggle for fairness and equal treatment of both genders is really simpler than complex.

It is in the little things we do, or do not do; tiny droplets which turn into oceans of waters.

Start by ditching derogatory and one-gendered terms, aimed at perpetuating the gender gap.

Practice live and let live.

Let people breathe, and exist, with the right to go about their own business, without having to punish them with unkind labels.

Drop the cloak of self-righteousness, and not be the prosecutor, judge, jury and hang-person, all rolled in one.

In the end, we are all humans first. Before any gender. And just in case you did not know... well, now you know.

(Gwazie ndi nzuko unu)



P.s: If you do summon the guts to go after your own UFF (or AFF), and s/he turns out a disappointment, don’t hit your head too hard on the wall that the person making you cry is young enough to have been fetching water from the stream for you, or doing frog-jump at your command.

Depth of character (or lack of) is a function of personality… not necessarily one of age.

Photo Credits (in order of appearance)

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  1. With this article, you just reminded us again should we have forgotten that you are still a feminist. Everything you stated is valid but in this world that we live in, nothing is changing it. This is how it has been from time immemorial. This is "probably" how God designed us. Awesome piece.

    1. Lol! You always make me smile with your comments. I doubt God designed 'seductress' though.

      And according to Chimamanda... "we should all be Feminists".

      Keep coming back!

    2. Uncle ugo, I don't agree that God created women that way or for us be play things in the hands of men because are women. Things change, times change and so will the impression men (and even some women) have about we female folks.