The latest celebrity media trend: Inappropriate behavior by female ‘cougars’

Special to

By Grace Vuoto

On the recent episodes of NBC’s America’s Got Talent the female judges, former Spice Girl band member Mel B. and former supermodel Heidi Klum are salivating over young male performers.

This is part of a larger social trend whereby older women are dating younger men — and also talking about the male body in much the same manner as previous generations of males objectified females.

Heidi Klum and Mel B on NBC's America's Got Talent.
Heidi Klum and Mel B on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

When aspiring 21-year-old singer Miguel Dakota auditioned for America’s Got Talent, Mel B. noted that he does not have a girlfriend, likes to cook and is very attractive. After the singer made it to the live shows at Radio City Music Hall and sang “Come Together,” she fanned herself and swooned again over the boy’s dashing looks. She made a checkbox in the air, indicating he is the ideal man for her. Evidently, the 39-year-old wife and mother of three finds men half her age “hot” and is not embarrassed to say so.

Klum has also perked up when attractive young men are on stage, even openly flirting with a young tap dancing duo known as “Sean & Luke.” The teenagers are 17 and 18 years old. The scene was so surprising that even fellow judge and shock-jock Howard Stern declared with contempt, “I would almost swear that Heidi is flirting with you.”

The 41-year-old mom of four did not hesitate to respond. “Might have been flirting just a little bit,” she admitted.

Mel B. and Klum are so brazen in their repeated gushing over the bodies of young men that Stern — no embodiment of Victorian morality — calls them “cougars” in the behind-the-scenes footage of the show. Clearly, the women are on the prowl for young flesh.

It is true that all the four judges make occasional comments about the looks of the performers — whether they are male or female — as part of ascertaining if they can succeed in the looks-obsessed entertainment industry. Fourth Judge Howie Mandel has said, “We are looking for the whole package.” Yet, Mel B. and Klum go beyond making objective statements as judges in assessing the entertainment “package.” They are visibly engaged as women courting the youngsters, not judges providing an analysis.

Never mind that this clearly violates the ethics of the show. Talent-show judges are required to maintain a professional distance. However, it is even more troubling that on prime time television women are now behaving towards male contestants in a way that would be considered harassment if it were done by the male judges.

Stern and Mandel, for example, are much more careful with the words they use to express admiration for female contestants. Their behavior is appropriate whereas that of the women is crossing a fine line we used to uphold.

Why do they do so with impunity? There is now a double standard in our society. When older women court younger men it is seen as part of their “liberation” from the social expectations of their age. When older women date younger men, much of the media applauds this as “breaking barriers.” And when women ogle male body parts, it is often considered a testament to their own age-defying sexual vibrance — part of the feminist quest to equalize sexual relations.

However, when men do the same they are often derided as “dirty old men,” lambasted for “objectifying the female body” and sneered at for “sexual harassment.”

The cougar trend gained media prominence by a string of high-profile celebrity relationships such as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas and most recently, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. It is not just the Hollywood elite that engages in this behavior. An report featured in December titled ‘Older woman, younger man relationships’, states “almost one-third of women between ages 40 and 69 are dating younger men (defined as 10 or more years younger.”

All the celebrity relationships listed above — with the exception of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon — eventually failed. Yet, the media has not explored whether perhaps the cougar model is inherently doomed precisely because age matters.

Liberals generally have a hard time dealing with reality. They argue that “age” is another “social construct” that we can ignore, leaving the choice up to individuals.

Yet, age is not an abstraction. It is real. It means our existence on this earth has natural stages, each of them rooted in the time we are here. To ignore this is idiotic: it means one wants to chase one’s youthful years as though they have more meaning than the latter years. Ultimately, this is not liberation but enslavement to the past.

When older women chase younger men, they are really chasing the ghost of their former selves instead of tasting all the treasures of their current selves.

Both Klum and Mel B. had glorious heydays. They could still be captivating — and truly free — if they embraced the gift of their many years instead of acting as though those years are an encumbrance. They may wish to deny their age but most of us observing can see the truth.

These are middle-aged women acting like fools — and imitating the worst traits of some men instead of leading us all, in this new age of liberation, with exemplary behavior that reflects female empowerment well beyond the focus on looks and sex. That’s the trap feminists repeatedly said men have put us in. Now that we are free, why crawl back in that hole?

Grace Vuoto is the Editor of Politics and Culture at World Tribune, host of American Heartland with Dr. Grace on WTSB Radio and is the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.