The age of sex

A new reality show pits fresh young things against seasoned veterans.

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From the trailer of NBC’s new reality dating show, Age of Love:

“These 40-year-old women have experience, confidence and sophistication. But what if they had to compete with a group of 20-year-olds to win the heart of one of the world’s most eligible bachelors? Will he pick a kitten or a cougar?”

Nothing like a little high-concept reality TV to start off the summer!

Admittedly, the idea of a “cougar” is so five years ago. And yet, it remains an inescapable part of both the cultural lexicon and the urban dating scene.

Forty-plus, confident, wealthy, with an (in)famously robust sex drive, the modern cougar rose to prominence in pop culture with Kim Cattrall, assorted Desperate Housewives and Stacy’s and Stifler’s moms. Reality television tried out the concept with leggy vintage bombshell Jerry Hall’s VH1 show, Kept (in which she picks a young stud to be her sexual plaything), and former trophy wife Ivana Trump’s Oxygen program, Ivana Young Man. (Her motto? “I’d rather be a baby-sitter than a nurse.”)

That neither was a runaway hit underscores the fact that we haven’t embraced some women’s steadfast refusal to stop being sexy after 40. And yet, here comes Age of Love, hitting us with a perplexing conundrum: “If given the chance to choose a woman in her twenties or a fortysomething on the prowl, will [a man] go for youth or maturity?”

First of all, why is it always the fortysomethings who are “on the prowl”? Have these producers never visited Cancun during spring break?

And maybe these so-called cougars don’t want anything drastically different from their fresh-out-of-college counterparts. “She doesn’t want to get married, cohabit or have kids,” explains 50-ish veteran cougar Valerie Gibson, author of Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, “but she does wants a good-looking younger man on her arm and she does want to have sex!”

“Once a Cougar gets her claws into you, you’ll have that scar for the rest of your life and I say that with a big smile,” says Steve Santagati, relationship expert and author of The MANual, out this June. As an 18 year old, he hooked up with a woman twice his age. “Put it this way,” he brags, “younger girls may have perky chests, but older women know how to use their bodies.”

Ryan, 29, an artist, agrees. “They just want to use you because you’re young, in shape and have stamina—but being used is awesome.”

Hmm. Hot women in their forties using a gorgeous 30-year-old man for his body? I just may set my TiVo after all.

E-mail her at jallison@timeoutny.com.

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