Cougars and Silver Foxes: Gender Perceptions, Relational Age Gaps and The Sexual Double Standard

A.M. Longoria & Y. Zaikman (2021)

Conferences Presented At:

  • (2021) Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference (SPSP), Poster, Virtual
  • (2021) National Conference for McNair Scholars and Undergraduate Research, Poster, Virtual


Research has shown that people tend to be more prejudicial and perceive more relational inequity towards age gap relationships (AGR’s). In addition, labels such as “cougar” or “cradle-robber” tend to be used to describe the older half of the couple (Collinson & Ponce De Leon, 2018). There is, however, less research on specific perceptions of these couples as related to gender and the sexual double standard (SDS). The SDS posits that men are rewarded while women are punished for engaging in sexual activity (Marks & Fraley, 2005). Additionally, evolutionary theory suggests that men tend to prefer younger and more attractive mates (Buss, 1989), while female attractiveness is perceived to decline with age (Maestripier et al., 2014). Therefore, it is possible that women will be judged more negatively when they are in an AGR. This study used an experimental method to determine perceptions of women and men in AGR’s and examined the relation of SDS endorsement with our sample of participants (N=588). Our results indicate that despite our assumption that older women (“cougars”) would be evaluated negatively in AGR’s, the opposite was true. In addition, SDS endorsement and relationship length both influence perceptions of the man and the woman. Our results indicate that regardless of endorsement and gender, long-term AGR’s are a variable of interest. People seem to feel more strongly about more committed AGR’s rather than more casual AGR’s. This could be indicative of previously outlined AGR prejudices, but further research can uncover why exactly they exist.


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Nini Longoria (Anna Maree)
Nini Longoria (Anna Maree)
MSc Social Psychology Student

My research interests include sexual satisfaction, sexual identities, sexual desire, gender, feminism and intimate relationships.