Thinking that there had to be a better way, in 2007 she founded a UK dating website with a deliberately sassy, tongue-in-cheek name -- Toyboy -- where members abide by one simple rule: that women date men at least a year younger, and men date women at least a year older.Nowhere on the website is the word 'cougar' ever used.
I spoke with Julia Macmillan about the cougar stereotype, the reasons why it persists even as women reject the term in growing numbers, and whether there's greater cultural acceptance in the UK or the US toward older female/younger male relationships.You avoid the term 'cougar' and have said, "In my view there should be no label.After all, there isn't one for a man who dates a younger woman." What is that stereotype that people have regarding cougars that's offensive to you?Although the term 'cougar' has become synonymous with older women who date younger men, its predatory image is neither accurate nor acceptable in the opinion of many women tagged with the label.Since there's no similar word to describe an older man who dates younger women, many feel it's far from complimentary.
In fact, they say it is ageist, sexist, and certainly not empowering to women.Celebrities from Demi Moore (whose husband Ashton Kutcher is 16 years her junior) to Kim Cattrall have emphatically stated, "Don't call me a cougar!" Cattrall in particular rejects the the idea that Samantha, the iconic character she played for six seasons on Sex and the City, is a cougar, saying that some who are uncomfortable with strong women use the term to label women.As Cattrall told the celebrity news show Extra, "I don't see anything negative about Samantha and her sexuality, sensuality and choice."Long before Moore or Cattrall took a public anti-cougar stand, UK artist and entrepreneur Julia Macmillan defied the label by making the domain name her own.There, she started a blog supportive of women in relationships with younger men because, as she sees it, "it should be as normal for a woman to date a younger man as it always has been for a man to date or marry a younger women."Like many attractive and intelligent women who look younger than their years, Macmillan typically dated younger men not because she sought them out but because they had approached her and were more compatible than men her age.When she tried online dating in 2006, she found she wasn't connecting with the same type of men she had met in person; and those that were contacting her didn't suit her at all.