What’s the Difference Between Cougars, MILFs . . . and WHIPs?
The definitions for some porn terms are difficult to pin down. After all, there is no desk reference or dictionary that gives you the potted history of “gonzo” or “CFNM.” Nor is Merriam-Webster likely to celebrate “bukkake” as its word of the year anytime soon. As a result, the precise nature of certain porn themes is often elusive and open to interpretation. In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, we thought we’d take a look at the terminology that reflects one of porn’s most popular tropes: the attractive older woman. MILFs, cougars, and . . . WHIPs? Read on!
Cougars vs. MILFs
The terms are often used interchangeably, since both designate a sexually appealing older woman, usually one who enjoys the company of younger men (or women). According to most resources, though, there’s a key distinction between the two. In his book The Compleat Motherfucker: A History of the Mother of All Dirty Words, author Jim Dawson notes that MILFs are simply moms who are deemed to have retained their sex appeal into their 40s and beyond. They may be utterly oblivious to the fact that they’re regarded as sex objects. (Dawson also makes the interesting observation that the term MILF pre-supposes that most women lose some of their attractiveness once they reach a certain age or have children, an idea that understandably annoys many observers. Actor Andie McDowell, for instance, criticized that concept sharply in an interview with The Guardian.) MILFs are beautiful older women who may or may not leverage their appeal as part of sexual adventures.
Cougars, meanwhile, as per Dawson’s view, are always in the loop. They actively pursue relationships with younger partners (thus the term cougar, with all its associations of hunting prey). Interestingly, this makes Stifler’s mom — the MILF who brought the term to the masses via 1999’s American Pie — more of a cougar than a MILF, since she is the primary aggressor in her flings with younger men. “Cougar” is also a more inclusive term in that it does not contain motherhood as part of its definition. As Dawson puts it, “This is one mother (whether or not she actually has children) who has trimmed her body at the gym and sculpted her features at a local plastic surgeon’s office, and now she’s ready for a tiger who can do all night what her aging ex-husband used to take all night to do.”
Pumas, Sabertooths & WHIPs
The question of what age marks entry into MILF and cougar-dom is another difficult-to-define area. Porn often slaps the MILF label on performers under 30, but MILF fave Jodi West has pointed to the age of 36 as a benchmark that is often cited as a delineation point. This fuzziness has given rise to several other similar terms, all of which point to more specific age ranges. According to dating guru David Wygant, a puma has been colloquially defined as a woman in her 20s who pursues sexual relationships with younger men, while a sabertooth is a woman over 45 who does the same. (In Wygant’s view, this makes the cougar period 30-45.) Porn themed around pumas exists (to say nothing of the the beautiful Swedish star Puma Swede, who technically falls outside Wygant’s puma age range at this point), but the 45+ “sabertooth” genre does not seem to have inspired any adult movies, at least in those among Adult Empire’s vast range of offerings.
The perceived baggage associated with the highly sexualized terms cougar, MILF, puma, and sabertooth have led to the development of other, less common terms. Writer Bibi Lynch suggested “WHIP”: “Woman who is Hot, Intelligent, and in her Prime.” “With ‘cougar,’ the men are prey,” Lynch told the Independent. “WHIPs felt funnier, smarter, and sexier.” As of this writing, the term does not appear to have caught on, and there are no WHIP-themed porn movies (yet).
Whether they’re cougars, MILFs, or even WHIPs, mature women are hotter than ever, both in porn and in culture at large. Joanna Angel gave some insight into the phenomenon in a recent interview with Adult Empire: “If you look at the top 50 porn stars right now there’s at least 10 that I can think of off the top of my head that are over the age of 35. Hell, the most popular porn star in existence right now is Stormy Daniels, and she is certainly not a girl-next-door teen. I think everyone’s career is different and everyone ages differently as well so this really varies from person to person, Also these days performers don’t need roles from studios as much as they used to, so even if they aren’t getting booked for traditional mainstream porn work they can still have a long career in porn. I can’t speak for everyone but I’m 37 and I feel like I’m doing better than ever.”