Director of San Francisco’s The Society of Professional Singles creates Cougar-themed events and activities to tap into the latest media obsession.
The press release hit just about every media outlet in Los Angeles: “World’s First Cougar School Aims to Transform Single Women Into Cougars.” I went to check it out on Friday night and lived to tell the tale.
The event kicked off with a class for women attendees taught by “Lucia” the author of Lucia’s Lessons of Love and host of The Art Of Love on LAtalkradio.com. Billed as the World’s First Cougar School, it took place in a medium-sized ballroom on the second floor of the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills, just off Pico Blvd. and Beverly Drive.
Class topics included: Who pays? When to have sex? How to dress sexy and classy, as well as calling and flirt-texting etiquette. Admission to the class was free for women who paid the $30 fee to attend the “Cougar Convention” which included a keynote address from cougar Lucia, a mixer with cougars and potential cubs and the crowning of Miss Cougar California, with a prize that included a free berth on “The World’s First International Cougar Cruise.”
The entire event was organized by Rich Gosse, who calls himself the “headmaster” of his Cougar School. Gosse is also the director of San Francisco’s The Society of Single Professionals – what he claims is the largest non-profit singles organization in the world.
“Millions of single women over age 40 are dissatisfied with the pool of bachelors they believe are available to them,” Gosse said. “Foolishly they only date older men, not realizing that the best men are younger not older, and available in much larger quantities.”
After 30 years of promoting his singles organization, Gosse knows how to hustle the media and how to hit a sweet spot in the growing singles demographic. There were dozens of journalists at the event, cameras clicking, video cameras humming, notes jotted furiously. More than one attendee noted there appeared to be more media than cougars roaming the room.
With cougars a hot topic these days, Gosse managed to wrangle some big stories for his cougar branded functions, and he’s been promoting singles events long enough to know how to get the word out. He even hooked a feature in Details, a national magazine that described the cougar convention Gosse held a few months back in his home base of San Francisco. In the interview for Details Gosse said: “We’ve been doing parties with younger men and older women, and no one knew we existed … We say ‘cougar,’ and now we have media from all over the world.”
There were some very positive moments in the evening’s program, foremost being cougar class teacher Lucia, who also delivered a keynote address to attendees and had sensible things to say about older women/younger man relationships. Lucia is attractive, smart, charming, and refuses to tell her age, saying unless you’re from the social security office, there’s no reason for you to know.
According to Lucia, a cougar is over 40, single and exclusively dates men who are at least 10 years younger. “Being a cougar is an attitude,” she said. “It’s about confidence, taking care of yourself, knowing what you want and not being afraid to get it. Cougars are sleek, strong, sexy and in control.”
She said that unfortunately, there are many myths about cougars. Among those myths: cougars and cubs are just in it for the sex; cougars are desperate, aggressive and unattractive; cougars are sugar mommas; cougars are past their prime – it’s “over” for them; the cubs will eventually leave them for a younger woman; cubs are unwilling prey; the men who like cougars are hard-up and undesirable; and cougars are just a temporary phenomenon.
Lucia said the negative attitudes about older woman dating younger men is the result of thousands of years of living in a patriarchal society and cited witches being burned at the stake. “Powerful women are perceived as dangerous,” she said. “There’s almost a subconscious effort to take them down.”
“The fact is,” Lucia said, “as women become more financially independent they can make a more honest choice about whom they want to date.” She also pointed to the fact that with rising divorce rates, more women over 40 are single anyway. “It’s really about energy,” she says, “It’s not about age.”
Lucia said there were many advantages for men who have relationships with cougars: a cougar is confident – she knows what she wants; the sex is great because they have experience and a high sex drive; they tend not to be as emotionally attached and needy as younger women; they don’t need your money; they have real life experience – they’ve been around; they will help you become a better man; there’s no pressure – they’re not trying to marry you or have your baby; they understand what you need: to be appreciated, to be a hero and that you occasionally need to withdraw; and cougars have their act together.
A Rapid Dating activity conducted by longtime singles industry vet Renee Piane helped break the ice. Men lined up on one side, women on the other – and Piane, in leopard-print dress and cordless microphone, kept the women moving from one man to the next for a short chat. Men ranged in age from about 25 – 35 and were dressed casually in jeans and sports shirts. The women ranged in age from 40 – 75 and many were wearing the “dressy attire” requested by Gosse.
Shaddy, 30, an art director at Sony, came to the event with his friend Brett, 34, after getting an e-mail about the event from urbandaddy.com. He said he came out of curiosity and that he had a cougar experience when he was 22 with a woman in her 40s. “It lasted a week,” Shaddy said. “She told me what to do and I learned that a woman can be cute when she’s 44.”
His friend Brett, works for Wells Fargo and said he agreed to come because he’s “down for fun things.” Brett said he thought most men there came either because they wanted to get laid or just simple curiosity. He said he has girlfriends who are 31-37 and they consider themselves cougars. “It all depends,” he said, “anyone who’s five years older than you is a cougar.”
Another group of five men, all good friends, came at the urging of Danny, 27, who found out about the event from Gold Star. According to Danny, “A cougar is 10-15 years older than you.”
His friend, Chris, 26, said he agreed to come to the event because he wants to find a cougar for himself. “I think it’s a novelty and I’m open to having my mind changed about having a relationship with an older woman,” he said.
A woman in her mid-30s who came to write a story for a local newspaper said she found the event embarrassing and degrading for the women. “There’s no female empowerment in sight,” she said. “The ‘cougars’ are supposed to be the ones hunting the ‘cubs.’ But this looks more like men preying on older women who seem to be desperate, lonely individuals.” She said the sex toy display just added insult to injury. “They’re selling vibrators and raffling-off a stripper pole. As if older women are horny strippers!”
However, for most of the women and men who actually came to participate in the event, excitement was in the air – the chance to fulfill a fantasy – and as Brett mentioned, the possibility of getting laid by an experienced older woman and for the women, the opportunity to have a relationship and great sex with a ready and willing younger partner.
Most of the journalists left after Lucia’s keynote address. By that time, the men had lined up around the edges of the room, eager for their cub initiation. I bailed out before the raffle for sex toys, passing women posing for photos with stud muffin cowboys, so I can’t tell you how it all ended or who was crowned Miss Cougar California. However, I do know there was a long line of cars filled with women 50 years plus, wearing cocktail dresses and dramatic makeup, coming in as I left.