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Peak Year: 2008

Our culture’s obsession with the “older woman” dates back to, you know, Oedipus or some shit, but the fetishization of older women’s sexuality made a come-back this decade with a couple of catchy new nicknames: “Cougar” and “MILF.” When Sarah Palin hit the national scene in 2008, she got her own acronym about people wanting to have sex with her: “VILF.” The terms have been playfully embraced by some in the over-40-mom set (CougarChannelTV, anybody?) but beneath the jokes, the terminology reflects our culture’s lingering discomfort with older women having sex. “Cougar” paints older women who have sex as predators, as no one would want to pursue them; “MILF” assumes that no one would want to fuck any old mom. “Cougar” and “MILF” also work to extend extreme beauty standards to older and older women, who must choose elective plastic surgery or risk being denied sexuality. The cougar phenomenon inevitably devolved into the “Housewives” craze, which celebrates ostensibly attractive (actually: rich) older women without jobs.

Ambassadors: Demi Moore, Sarah Palin, Housewives (“Desperate” & “Real”)

Uniform: Whatever your teenage daughter is wearing.

Activities: Dating younger men, being the “cool mom,” dieting.




Peak Year: 2009

Don’t think bisexuality counts as a trend? Tell the entertainment industry. In 2003, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Madonna sealed a VMAs performance with a kiss. The aughts would bring plenty more instances of staged, for-profit bisexuality, from Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” to T.A.T.U.‘s manager’s admission that the bisexual couple in the band was inspired by “men looking for underage sex.” But the decade also ushered in the rise of the authentically bisexual It Girl—-where a performer’s relationships with women and men became just another aspect of her celebrity instead of a marketing gimmick. Lohan’s relationship with Samantha Ronson brought the starlet the most favorable tabloid fodder of the past few years. And Lady Gaga‘s admission to Barbara Walters that she has had sexual relationships with women helped to reinforce Gaga’s subversive artistic image as well as her gay rights advocacy. (Megan Fox, who claims to be a bisexual woman who won’t have sex with bisexual women because “because that means they also sleep with men, and men are so dirty that I’d never want to sleep with a girl who had slept with a man,” isn’t doing anybody any favors, however).

Ambassadors: Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga

Uniform: Elaborate wig bows, platform armadillo shoes, balloon body suits—-uhh, they don’t really have a uniform.

Activities: Dating women and men.

Britney photo via samlavi, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0