Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen

The libido of the woman in mid-life is of significant interest to both men and women.  Women in the New Menopause are aware of the allure we hold for men.  We know how to do IT.

There is a word for us in the lexicon of the 21st century that I find to be an improvement over the names applied to us in the 20th century.  Many of us are now referred to as “Cougars”.  This is a term that harkens back to Chaucer’s Tale and the Wife of Bath, that menopausal, man-hungry woman, lusty and still full of life at an age where she should have been content with less.

The term Cougar is ours to use and define. I am delighted not to be thought of as a Crone, a word that conjures up an osteoporotic, wizened, bitter, sexless, shapeless woman. We grew up in a world of sexual choices and enhanced sexual freedom.  The pill and reproductive choices allowed us to separate sexual pleasure from procreation for the first time.  Our choices as younger women may not always have been perfect and many of us may have the memory of a bad choice or two, but we did learn that we had the right and the opportunity for seduction, romance and sexual pleasure.

Yet, oddly enough, the same demographic of women over 40, are often referred to as women with either no sex drive, or women with power and lust and too much of it all!  The fact is that our capacity for sexual interest and activity is governed by many factors. That includes the opportunity to find a desireable sexual partner, one who has the capacity for being a thoughtful lover, and who also develops and maintains the ability to be seductive and romantic. Little is more important to a woman’s libido in a long term monogamous relationship.

After all, no man or woman should should settle for that dreadful state of wedded bliss, the “business of marriage”. A state where there is obligatory and often resentful sexual contact, but no sexual intimacy and desire.

Cougars will need to define themselves. We might need to get an intellectual property lawyer to protect our image!  We must not let others define us, whether it is the media, or younger women,  or even women of our own circles who feel they have much to lose from other women who never want to lose their sexual selves.

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  • Elaine L July 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Linda, thanks for reading. We enjoyed your site too and hope you’ll become a regular visitor here!

  • Linda Franklin July 30, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Loved reading your take on the cougars. Couldn’t agree more. In fact, my website is all about turning the negative cougar image into a positive.
    My Real Cougars are smart, indepenent, confident and proud to be over 40. They can be married or single, it’s not about the ring on their finger it’s all about attitude.
    You are so right. The term cougar is whatever you choose to make it. It incorporates all the wisdom of the crone but also the sensuality of today’s fabulous females.

  • Allison Allen July 17, 2008 at 9:11 am

    The term cougaring was a new one to me until recently. I’m not sure if it’s a respectful or dissing word 🙂
    No doubt that why you say it is ours to define.
    I wrote a blogpost about this not too long ago
    It seems to mean everything from older powerful women taking on younger guys in a power play kind of thing. And, just older women being sexually intimate with younger men in a joyful, mutually enjoyable way.
    The first seems a bit unhealthy to me (haven’t we taken men to task for that for a long time?) while I”m happy older women are embracing the latter.

  • Anonymous July 14, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Kudos to Dr. Allen for laying it all out of the table in such a wonderfully articulate manner. Shame on the media for portraying “cougars” in anything but the most positive of lights.
    As a married woman in my fifties I revel in the sexual confidence and attraction that I have. And yes, if younger men find it (me!) exciting, who am I to forgo just a bit of flirting and game-playing.
    Damn. Life is short. We go around once. Why not make it a good time?
    I feel sexual, flirty, intelligent, confident and fun. Those are the exactly the qualities that make us attractive to men of all ages. I recently had a conversation with a much younger man and when we were discussing birthdays, he said “I don’t care what year you were born. I think you’re fantastic and exciting….no matter how old you are.”
    OK, call me superficial, but that made my day.
    Our sexuality is OURS to enjoy and why not enjoy it with men of any age. Why has this enjoyment gotten such a bad rap? Could it be because the old rules still apply that once we hit our forties and on, we need to be docile women with sexual urges kept tightly controlled and rarely mentioned aloud.
    It’s time to play with whom we want to play and take joy in the confidence, beauty and fire that the years have given us.

  • naomi dagen bloom July 14, 2008 at 12:11 am

    “the same demographic of women over 40” is a huge group. to whom are you referring here–those advetised to in the Google sidebar on the left?
    perhaps those under 70 have yet to experience the supreme comfort many of us who are 70-plus have with our crone-ness.

  • archcrone July 11, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    In your haste to define Cougars, you have bought into the patriarchal definition of crone, completely ignoring the TRUE meaning of crone — wise one — stemming from ancient (and not so ancient) women-centered traditions. This does not help those of us that have reclaimed the term Crone, and have embraced our own personal inner-Crone. By dismissing Cronism through patriarchal thinking you continue the societal oppression towards aging women.
    A woman who calls herself crone is willing to acknowledge her age, wisdom, and power. Through conscious self-definition, she helps to reverse hundreds of years of oppression, degradation, and abuse aimed at old women. Although she may prefer to be called elder, grandmother, or wise woman, she does not dismiss, disavow, or use pejoratively terms such as crone, witch, or hag. The wise woman/crone/grandmother realizes that the true meaning of these terms, and the woman-centered traditions from which they originate, have been obscured and distorted by patriarchal systems.
    Embrace your inner Crone.

  • california cougar July 11, 2008 at 10:00 am

    sexually speaking, the only trouble with being a woman my age (66) are the men my age.
    I am twice divorced and find a major difference in
    “hooking” up in my twenties
    and now is that women my age don’t bother with having unrewarding sex.
    Enjoyed your piece about Cougars. Love your cite.