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Google Tells Sites for ‘Cougars’ to Go Prowl Elsewhere

from – IF you’re a woman who would like to date younger men, you can find lots of articles about these relationships by doing a Google search.

But as a woman looking for a man, you might be a little confused by the advertisements that accompany these articles. One promises to help you find sexy Latin women, and another, hot Latvian ladies. But there are no links to the growing number of “cougar” dating sites, matching older women with younger men, on content sites that show up in a Google search. Google has recently deemed those dating sites “nonfamily safe,” and therefore its ads for such sites containing the word “cougar” will not be allowed on so-called content pages.

The Google advertising system has two components: one for ads that appear next to search results, and one for its content network. For a company like, now banned from the content network, that means its ads will no longer appear on more than 6,700 Web sites, including, YouTube and MySpace, which accounted for 60 percent of its traffic, said Thomas Koshy, vice president for marketing at CougarLife, a Toronto-based site that says it has a half-million members, men and women.

Google continues to allow similar advertising for the many sites that match older men and younger women, like, which assures its clients they can meet “sugar babies.”

So cougars and cubs are out, but sugar daddies and sugar babies are in.

Blurbs and “sponsored links,” which typically pop up on the right side of the screen, for dating sites like and other “nonfamily” sites (one screams “Date a hot cheating wife!”) will still appear along with a list of search results.

Google, which has more than a million advertisers, would not comment on why sugar-daddy sites are still considered family safe, but cougar sites are not. The company’s decision, made public this week by, has rankled not only advertisers but women who have embraced the cougar concept as a symbol of empowerment, of older women bucking dating stereotypes.

Many feminists still take issue with the word “cougar” because it may conjure the image of a predatory, aggressive older woman on the hunt for a boy toy. And plenty of cougar dating Web sites are salacious, as are other dating sites.

With television shows like “Cougar Town,” many movie plots based on these May-December romances (not always portraying cougars in a positive light) and a steady stream of tabloid reports on the comings and goings of celebrities like Demi Moore, the concept has taken hold in pop culture.

But that’s a far cry from a societal stamp of approval. Experts on female sexuality and women’s history say Google’s decision provides a glimpse into a pervasive discomfort with older women as sexually active players on the dating scene.

“It’s relatively new that women have felt O.K. to be sexual and be attractive and continue to be alive in that way as they aged,” said Lonnie Barbach, a psychologist in San Francisco who specializes in female sexuality and relationships. “It’s always been an acceptable part of culture for men to be sexual at all ages and all levels.”

Last week,, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising and place it on content pages, was notified by the company that its ads, which had been appearing since October, would no longer be accepted.

Google confirmed that “cougar” would now automatically place a site into the adult category, but would not say which other words would do that.

“We can’t comment on specific advertisers, but our policy is that adult dating ads are classified as nonfamily-safe, meaning that they will not show on the Google Content Network,” the company said in an e-mail message.

When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend).

But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.

“It’s just wrong all around,” Ms. Opdenkelder said. “It’s age and gender discrimination. It’s just about older, successful, independent, strong women who enjoy someone that’s younger. Some of the men sites, they are borderline prostitution, and Google has no problem having them advertise.” CougarLife said it was considering filing a discrimination complaint with a Canadian agency that oversees equality issues between private parties, and was looking into possible legal recourse in the United States. is owned by Avid Life Media, which also owns, which describes itself as “the original Sugar Daddy service catering to ambitious and attractive girls seeking successful and generous benefactors to fulfill their lifestyle needs!”

Avid Life Media executives said that while some specific advertisements for the ArrangementSeekers site had been rejected, the ads were evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the site was still advertising with Google.

Mr. Koshy of said his site was, however, continuing to advertise on Facebook, spending $100,000 monthly. Facebook, he said, had objected to some specific content of proposed ads but had not objected to the cougar concept.

A Facebook spokeswoman said there was no “broad ban on ‘cougar ads,’ ” but that any advertisement’s “image and language cannot be overtly provocative or sexual.” In the messages to CougarLife, Google said it might revisit the new policy. But for now, the cougars would be confined.


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