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And since men have been dating younger women for ages, why are so many of us surprised — shocked, even — that women would follow suit?

Valerie Gibson, author of Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, is all too familiar with this double standard. They were absolutely horrified that older women should be having sex with younger men.”When many of us think “cougar,” we picture the ultimate cougar of the big screen: The Graduate’s legendary, martini-sipping Mrs. These days, real-life cougars are stars like Demi Moore (who, in her 40s, married then-twenty-something heartthrob Ashton Kutcher), the coiffed reality-show cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and, yes, everyday women — suburbanites and city-slickers alike.

The self-proclaimed cougar wrote her first book on the topic — Younger Men: How to Find Them, Date Them, Mate Them, and Marry Them — 14 years ago, “and let me tell you something,” she said in a whisper. While there’s no denying that cougars are slinking into the mainstream, there’s still an element of taboo surrounding these age-spanning relationships.

The same poll, which surveyed 3,500 single people (both women and men) aged 40 to 69 years old, found that 56 percent are currently separated or divorced from a spouse, 31 percent have never been married, and seven in 10 (74 percent) of formerly married singles in their 50s have been single for five years or more.

The study stated that the divorce rate now, compared to when cougars were married some 25 years ago, has contributed to the amount of single, 50 women, said to be “on the prowl” in today’s dating pool.

More Fun, Less 'Baggage' For Wheeler, younger men have been a natural fit for an energetic lifestyle that her male peers have never quite matched.

“This isn’t about dating,” said Kevin Mercer* candidly. A.’s entertainment industry and isn’t shy discussing his city’s cougar phenomenon.

“It’s a total transactional situation.” And that works out just fine for these young men, who often prefer relationships—whether fleeting or long-term—with cougars.

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She never analyzed her attraction to younger men (or their attraction to her), but with “cougar” an increasingly popular term used to describe older women dating much younger men, her longtime preference is suddenly in the spotlight.

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