Air New Zealand's 'Cougar' Contest Angers Some

Rape-prevention group says there's no joke in older women stalking men for sex.

January 19, 2010, 1:09 PM

Jan. 20, 2010— -- Sexy older women preying upon younger men isn't just a trend on TV. Apparently the travel industry loves to cougar craze too.

First there was the cougar cruise pairing older women with their younger "cubs." And now Air New Zealand is seeking cougars to send off to a rugby tournament.

But some are concerned the latest promotion goes too far.

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Air New Zealand is running a contest on its discount airfare site, Grabaseat, encouraging women 35-plus to send in photographs of themselves out on the town with their younger "cougar mates" -- often called "cubs" -- who must be at least 10 years younger. The women will then be entered into a drawing for a free flight and tickets to next month's Wellington Sevens rugby tournament.

In total, 60 tickets will be offered to older women "who prefer their meat rare," according to the company. The contest ended on Monday at midnight, and winners will be notified by Friday.

As part of the promotion the airline launched an online spoof documentary -- think Discovery Channel -- tracking a cougars who starve themselves during the day and then go "hunting large slabs of meat at night" by stalking young men at a bar.

The women, in their 30s, 40s and 50s, prey on men in their 20s, many who "pretend to be gay" to avoid them, says the voiceover.

But the women prevail.

"Eventually the young male is dragged off to the cougar's inner-city apartment where it will cruelly be made to listen to Enya or the Eurythmics," the commercial says.

Though tongue in cheek, some the ad has offended some. Kim McGregor, director of New Zealand's Rape Prevention Education, said that males who have been raped by women are complaining about the ad and are "very distressed that their situation is being laughed at."

She believes the ad is degrading and could encourage harmful behavior.

Rise of the Cougars

Cougars have gotten a lot of attention recently, in part thanks to ABC's comedy "Cougar Town," which features actress Courteney Cox.

The term has risen from relative obscurity at the turn of the century to become an accepted, though much parodied, lifestyle choice for many, described by as: "An older woman, typically early thirties to mid-forties, who has abandoned traditional rules of romantic engagement and taken as her mission the seduction of as many game young men as she can possibly handle."

It can either be viewed as a word of empowerment or one that is misogynistic.

But the concerns about Air New Zealand's campaign seem to have flipped that concern on to the younger men.

While the airline said it has been overwhelmed by the number of entries and has closed the contest, not everybody is happy.

"Why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory" behavior, McGregor asked the New Zealand Herald.

An airline spokeswoman justified the ad, saying it was intended to be "light-hearted," but admitted that some older women had "taken a bit of offense to it."

Last month, nearly 300 "cougars and cubs" sailed away on a three-night Mexican cruise out of California aboard the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation. The event was promoted as the world's first cougar cruise.

"When people go on a cruise, all of their inhibitions go overboard. If you want to meet somebody of the opposite sex, this is the best way to do it," Rich Gosse, chairman of the Society of Single Professionals, which came up with the trip idea along with the Singles Travel Co. said at the time.

But now it appears that the cougars and cubs are going to need a new Love Boat.

When the group tried to book another Carnival trip, the cruise company said no. Carnival said it didn't have any problems with the Cougar Cruise group but has chosen to discontinue such "theme" bookings.

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