Is the Cougar on the rise or are all of us just cats on a hot tin roof, getting our tails and paws burnt? Is this relationship that has come about between women and our feline fur friends ‘good for strokes’ or has it reached the end of its nine lives?
“…flirting, falling and yawning everywhere
Like women who want no contract
But going their own way
Make the way of their lovers lighter”
(Louis Macniece (1907-1963))
In the observations of the Irish poet, Macniece, the age-old cultural and literary tradition that equates feline characteristics and qualities to that of women is clearly demonstrated. The Aristotelian puss is once again scratching her claws, that most lecherous and flirtatious of beasts, that actively wheedles and wiles the male counterpart into the act of sexual congress.
In Western traditions the cat was the anti-thesis of all good, associated with witches, maleficence(oh, the irony of that spelling) and bad luck. The cat/women were inextricably linked in a familial/r relationship and were dealt with, with torture and flames, to teach them to conform, to be good, and to put their claws and cleverness away. And they were burnt in their droves.
No more witchcraft, or earth wisdom, natural medicine and midwifery.
The Cat Once Had The Cream
Whilst once Bastet, the bare breasted, lion-headed goddess once roared with all the feminine energies, bestowing virility, nurturing and children, now she must retreat to lick her paws. Her raunchy, wild festivals came to an end. This misogynist denigration of women’s ‘cleverness’ and sexuality continues today, not just in the sneering attitude that prevails around women’s art, intuition and role in birth, but in the presentation of the older, sexually active or seeking woman.
Rise Of The Cougar
In more recent history, a dangerous ‘in-between’ space has began to emerge between the two cultural archetypes of the mother and the crone. A space that can be occupied by the ‘older woman’, deemed sexually rapacious and unconfined within the roles of the caregiver and one to whom care is given. That naughty minx – the cougar - just slinked her way out from the hearth and is looking for a nice, cozy bed. The emergence of this beast is not surprising. Women are living for longer, are more financially independent and slowly their sexual needs throughout their whole life cycle are being recognized.
Be Careful – This Pussy Bites!
Yet, the patriarchal mistrust of the feminine pussy remains: the fear of the vagina dentata, the pussy that bites. The cougar is neutered by societal portrayals of this particular cat, in that the role is simultaneously glamorised and mocked. This ensures that her ‘tail’ remains firmly trapped…Indeed, there is no more powerful method of ‘reining in’ than making a social group foolish, and therefore, easily dismissible. Is this backlash due to Freudian fears of what some may perceive as incestuous, Oepidal-like mother-son/daughter relationships or the threat of non-fertile/non procreative sex? Or is society uncomfortable with a women acted out of her ‘expected’ role, in which she slows down, becomes sexually neutral and nurtures the extended family in her decline?
The Cat Has Kittens
It also seems interesting that popular culture is extending the definition of the ‘cougar’ (40-49years), to the ‘cheetah’ (woman in her 30’s dating someone in their 20’s), the ‘puma’ (30-39years), and the ‘Sabre tooth ’or‘ Jaguar’ (50years+). The cats seem to be getting their cream…but are they? Does it take away the rationality of being human, as in dehumanize and make irrational to categorize sexually active women as big cats? Or does it present them as a threat? Or does it all become tongue-in-cheek, making women and their sexuality a caricature?
I shall go off to lick my paws and leave it with you.