Carolyn will be disappointed if I don't write about cougars, and I do try to give the people what they want. It would also be a shame to have watched the show "Cougartown" for nothing. If you haven't heard of "cougars", I'd be a bit surprised because they've been getting a lot of press lately. Cougars are simply older women who are dating younger men. Since the opposite (older men, younger women) has been going on since time immemorial, I really have no idea why we are suddenly so fascinated with cougars. Now that women can make as much money as men, and don't necessarily have to marry for financial reasons, why shouldn't we pursue men of whatever age we want? Of course, it's telling that when women date younger men, it gets a name and is pegged as a social phenomenon, unlike the reverse situation with older men.
The cougar phenomenon even got its own TV show on ABC called "Cougartown". I've been watching this show because I was convinced it would give me something to blog about; it did, but as you'll see, the meat (or tofu) of this post won't be about cougars at all. Anyway, the show is about a 40-something divorced woman (Courtney Cox) trying to "get back out there". Contrary to popular belief about cougars, she isn't having a ton of random sex. I guess that would be more HBO than ABC. In fact, there is only one younger man that she dates in the show, and he receives relatively little screen time. It's been a while since I've watched a half-hour show with commercials, and it's remarkable how little actually happens. For example, one episode concentrates on the efforts of the main character, Jules, to get her cranky neighbor to play a game of golf with her ex-husband. Although the cougar concept might sound titillating, "Cougartown" is actually pretty mundane.
I was sure I'd find something about "Cougartown" disturbing, and I did, but it had nothing to do with cougars. In the show, Jules' best friend is a married woman with a baby who lives next door. In one episode, this woman gives her husband a few cards that say "SEX"; he can use them for sex whenever he wants and she "can't say no", an arrangement she doesn't seem very happy about. Ah yes, the phenomenon of "gift sex". It's been discussed on AVEN before, where people generally seemed to think it was a bad idea. There are times for all of us when we just don't feel like having sex-- the difference is only that for asexuals, it's usually all of the time. I think using sex as a currency is just asking for problems-- isn't it likely that you'll resent unwanted sex, even if you're agreeing to it? For me, the concept hearkens back to the day when men would "expect something" from women if they took us out to dinner, bought us gifts, etc. Even if you're highly sexual and you've had sex with your partner 10,000 times, you should still be able to say "no" to sex whenever you want to, something that gift sex makes a lot harder and more awkward to do.
Anyway, gift sex is something that is commonly explored in pop culture, usually for laughs. For example, in the current HBO show "Bored to Death", the best friend of the main character is dating a woman who rarely has sex with him, something he complains about in every episode. The only time they'll have sex is if the guy, Ray, agrees to jump through some sort of hoop, such as going to therapy or getting a colonic. All this couple seems to do is argue about and negotiate the frequency of sex. They aren't married, and they don't have kids-- since they both seem so unhappy, why are they even together? It really isn't clear. One might think it would be beneficial to asexuals that so many couples with disparate sex drives are portrayed in pop culture, since many of us contend with this issue. However, the story is always the same and doesn't offer very many alternatives. It's most often the man who wants sex, and he either nags until the women gives in, or they go through gift sex-related rituals. How the woman feels about all this is usually never explained. Maybe it's funny that a man would endure a colonic for the promise of sex with a chronically annoying woman, but if so, it's a joke I just don't get.