Older women preferring the company of younger men is not just a Hollywood phenomenon, it's a real trend, and there are biological reasons behind it, according to new research published by University of Texas psychologists.
In the modern classic "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," Angela Bassett's 40-year-old character falls for a much younger man on a Caribbean beach. It worked. She got it back.
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Published in the journal "Personality and Individual Differences," Judith Easton, one of the study's lead authors, says that older women are on the prowl for a completely different set of reasons then are their male counterparts.
Just ask "Sex in the City's" Kim Cattrall. The 53-year-old sex kitten (or should we say cat?) dated Alan Wyse, a chef 20 years her junior.
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Teenage and young woman get pregnant so easily that they have little biological reason to have a lot of sex, according to the research. But later on, the tables turn.
Drew Barrymore, 35 and technically a cougar-in-training, has embraced the term, according to the gossip rags. Two years ago, she hooked up with actor Ed Westwick, who was 21 at the time.
As women reach their 30s and 40s, the researchers hypothesized that their primal urge for reproduction intensifies to take advantage of their final fertile years.
Mariah Carey was 38 when she married Nick Cannon, a man 10 years her junior. She is reportedly pregnant - so maybe those good old reptilian instincts provided the impetus to settle down?
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In short, the older a woman is, the more sex she may need to become pregnant, and younger male mates can help with that. While young men sexually peak in their teens, women don't peak until their 30s and 40s, reports Buss and his colleagues.
Cameron Diaz was 31 when she started dating Justin Timberlake, 10 years her junior. He was able to bring her sexy back for a good four years before they split.
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After menopause, women's sexual desire typically drops dramatically. That's not true for everyone, though. Take 64-year-old Bo Derek, who doesn't seem to have slowed down a bit. Some say she's been unfairly called a cougar, since John Corbett, her new-ish husband, is only four years younger.
Researchers questioned 827 women about their sexual thoughts and lives, and found that women aged 27-45 indulged in more frequent and more elaborate sexual fantasies.
Suzanne Somers, 63, is certainly still the object of young men's fantasies. She is ranked on "Hottest Cougars" lists on numerous blogs.
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In the study, women from 27-45 were also more likely to enjoy a casual fling than were younger women.
Courteney Cox, 46, who stars as a reformed cougar on the popular drama "Cougar Town," plays the foil to her cougar-licious best friend.
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Researchers found that women 27 through 45 reported having significantly more sex than the age groups below and above them.
Yet Demi Moore,47, and husband Ashton Kutcher,31, seem to be doing just fine.
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Men's sexual interest goes from zero to intense during puberty, say the researchers. Then their interest declines a little and pretty much stays steady for life.
That would exclude the temporary spikes some might experience from exposure to images of "Celebrity Cougar" Pamela Anderson, age 43.
There may be some holes in the study. For example, how does this dynamic affect lesbian couples like Ellen DeGenerous, 52 and Portia de Rossi, 37?
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Plus, French men and feminists have long acknowledged that women become more comfortable in their bodies and in their sexual selves as they age.
Supermodel Rachel Hunter seems to have grown into herself quite well. One year after divorcing Rod Stewart, the then 37-year-old landed Jarret Stoll, a 24-year old hockey player.