02/25/2008 10:59 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Real Cougar Woman Are Not Sugar Mamas

Why is it that any time a woman breaks free from the conventional box society has placed her in, she inherits a degrading label? It's not fair. If she succeeds in climbing the corporate ladder, she's a bitch. If she looks 10 years younger than other women her age, she's called a predator. And now, taking it one step further, if she is in a relationship with a younger man she's suddenly a "sugar mama" or more commonly these days, a "cougar."

It seems these days that you can't pick up any magazine or turn on any channel without someone talking about cougars. While I love that women over 40 are being claimed in the public domain, I hate the vulgarity -- and frankly the lack of truth -- that accompanies those discussions.

This month in New York City a speed dating contest took place. It was billed as Sugar Mamas and Boy Toys. To be part of this spectacle, the woman had to be older than 35 and earn a salary of $500,000 -- or have at least $4 million in liquid assets. There was just one rule for the men -- they had to look good. This newest version of speed dating doesn't make any sense to me at all. Why would any successful woman want to be part of such a high profile publicity stunt? Ask yourself would Anna Wintour, Martha Stewart, Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow, Katie Couric, Arianna Huffington -- all Real Cougars -- be part of such a charade? I don't think so.

While it may be true that more women over forty are enjoying relationships with younger men they aren't putting themselves on some kind of public auction block. We are not desperate, sex starved broads. We are women who understand that we have choices, that we need not live by someone else's set of rules and that if that means there are more wonderful choices available to us when we consider romance, then so be it! We will enjoy the expanded landscape.

Of course, I am not denying that it's extremely flattering for an older woman to capture the attention and admiration of a younger man, but there are limits. Good looks and sexual prowess aren't enough to sustain a satisfying relationship. Any Real Cougar woman wants a companion who is confident and as emotionally and financially independent as she is. If she finds that in a younger package, what's the problem?

So let's make this perfectly clear once and for all. A Real Cougar is not out stalking young guys. Younger men are seeking her company because she has so much to offer. Real Cougars are trend setters and every woman wants to be a Real Cougar whether she admits it or not. We have worked hard to earn what we've got and one thing is for sure is we don't flaunt our cleavage or our bank accounts in the hopes of snagging a "boy toy".

Most women hate the labels that men make up for us. It doesn't matter whether its it's been trophy wife or Mrs. Robinson. It's no surprise then, the women who showed up at the speed dating event the other night notwithstanding, all the smart, sexy women who are I know and who visit my site hate the term "sugar mama." If there's going to be a name for us out there in the ether, we will decide it. And it's Real Cougar.

It's Real Cougar whether we're married or single. It's Real Cougar because understand how to get what we want with being exploited and without exploiting someone else. It's Real Cougar because finally, it really is our turn to roar!

Linda Franklin is the founder and director of High-Yield Living,, a web-based information and product service for women.