In pop culture, we all know a MILF (Mother I’d Like to Fuck) when we see the trope acted out—The Gradutate’s Mrs. Robinson, Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom,” Younger’s Liza Miller. They’re “cougars” on the prowl, women “robbing the cradle,” and for some reason “mothers,” even though there’s a good chance they don’t even have kids.
For all the objectifying, degrading terms society has given to older women who attract younger men, however, one British writer has come up with an acronym that puts the power back in the hands of the women themselves: WHIPs, or Women who are Hot, Intelligent, and in their Prime.
“It may be a trend, but I can’t be the only person to find the term ‘cougar’ repulsive. It’s predatory, naff, insulting to the woman and the man. And ‘toyboy’ isn’t exactly complimentary to anyone, either. (A boy to be toyed with? No, thanks),” Bibi Lynch, a London-based writer, pens for the Telegraph. “I’m going to campaign for older women who are dating younger men to henceforth be called WHIPs—Women who are Hot, Intelligent and in their Prime. And the men shall be called really bloody lucky.”
Expanding upon her reasoning on British talkshow This Morning, Lynch said that cougar sounds “very predatory, and a bit sly, and a bit creepy,” making the younger men themselves sound like “prey.”
Lynch makes a strong point—at 51, she’s being DM’d on Twitter by 20- and 30-year-old men who are “pore-less, firm-jawed, clever, successful, creative, and absurdly hot.” Messages from these nuanced men—far from the “boy toys” they’re made out to be—progress to phone calls, then bar dates, which are fun, not awkward. And this is normal. This is what dating younger men is like for older women—not seductive, not exploitative, not unnatural. Just dating.
Of course, if we’re going to challenge the rules on MILF, we could entertain the argument that other dating labels should go back to the drawing board. While society appears to criticize older men less for dating women 10 years or more their junior, what is the DILF equivalent? MHIP doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like WHIP does, nor does this replacement label necessarily need to convey the same message—men who date younger are already seen as powerful, whereas women doing the same seem to be more sinister, or even stripped of their agency when referred to as a “cougar” or “MILF.”
Slate’s Christina Cauterucci more so takes issue with Lynch’s assertion that a WHIP is in her prime—after all, everyone has a different “prime,” be it during the college years, or later. She also takes this new label to further task, posturing that these WHIP partners, the men who are “really bloody lucky,” would be much cuter if they were called COOLWHIPs, REDDIWHIPs, or WHIPPETs (Chaps who Ogle, Osculate, and Love WHIPs; Real Easygoing Dudes who Date Intoxicating WHIPs; and WHIP’s Partner and Enduring Teammate, respectively).
“…The only thing better than no labels is a ton of labels, so if there is going to be WHIPs, there should also be WADDLERs (Women who Ably Dismantle Dioramas of Little Elves and Rabbits), WEGMANs (Women who only Empty their Garbage once a Month so their kitchen Area smells Nasty), and WHOOPS (Women who are Healthy, Open, Out there, but also demonically Possessed, Sorry),” Cauterucci writes.
Yes, the politics of love labels, dating labels, and relationship labels seem kind of silly when compared to artificial whipped topping. From Facebook’s notorious “it’s complicated” relationship status, to the non-committal “we’re talking,” to the social-media-stalker-y “haunting,” these labels are an easy way to compartmentalize nuanced situations and broadly compare them to a zillion individual experiences.
But even if WHIP isn’t quite the correct descriptor, we can agree with Lynch that no matter how “fun” they sound in movies and TV, “MILF” and “cougar” are ill-fitting at best and reductive at worst.