posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th May 2010 16:27 UTC
IconAh, American society and sex. For the number one producer of pornography, American society sure doesn't tolerate sex. We already have Steve Jobs going the 'think-of-the-children' route, and now it seems Google has similar problems - Google is banning so-called "cougar" dating sites from advertising via its network, while on the other hand, it does not have a problem with ads where older men can seek younger women. Hypocrisy, thy name is society.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, a "cougar" in this context is an older woman looking for a younger man. Or, as Wikipedia puts it eloquently, "a woman, 35 years of age or older, who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior. The origin of the word is debated; however, it is thought to have first appeared in print on the Canadian dating website Cougardate.com and has been used in TV series, advertising and film." Speaking of Wikipedia, could someone please enlighten these guys? I mean, that acronym should retain its happy meaning.

In true internet fashion, several dating sites exist that cater specifically to women and men who prefer these kinds of relationships. As someone from The Netherlands, according to some neo-conservative American puritans the home of Satan (we party all night every night - honest), I really couldn't care less about this kind of thing. If two (or more) consenting adults of whatever sex want to do the nasty then by all means go ahead. What happens in your bedroom isn't anyone's business - especially not the government's.

A majority of people in the United States see things differently, and have a lot of trouble openly dealing with sexuality; 'nipple-gate' really confirmed that one. As such, American companies know how to score big bags of brownie-points by taking a stance against anything even remotely related to sex; the well-known 'think-of-the-children!' approach.

Only a few days ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that one of the strong points of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is that it provides "freedom from porn" - something which obviously isn't true (Safari has a Google search field, after all), but will score well with said demographic. While I have no problems with Jobs adhering to standing morals in the US, it's sad they have to be exported to countries that are a little ahead in these matters.

Apple, however, is not the only major technology company struggling with sexuality. Google, too, is having issues in that it doesn't really know what to do with the concept of the aforementioned cougar dating sites. The website CougarLife.com has told The New York Times that its advertisements have been removed from Google's ad network because the search giant deemed them "nonfamily safe". All advertisements containing the word "cougar" are now labelled as adult.

"We can't comment on specific advertisers, but our policy is that adult dating ads are classified as nonfamily-safe, meaning that they will not show on the Google Content Network," Google told The New York Times in an email.

The crazy thing is, however, that similar sites that cater to the reverse type of relationship are not being banned. Websites that serve older men seeking younger women (that sounds wrong on so many levels) are not banned, nor are sites where younger women can seek rich older men.

CougarLife.com offered to alter its advertisements to show older women and younger men together, or even just showing the company's president, Claudia Opdenkelder, who is 39 years old and lives together with her boyfriend who is 25 (yes, The New York Times mentions this, and if it's good enough for the 'Times, it's good enough for us). Google then informed the company it wasn't the advertisement itself that bothered them - it was the cougar dating concept in and of itself.

"It's just wrong all around," Opdenkelder told The New York Times, "It's age and gender discrimination. It's just about older, successful, independent, strong women who enjoy someone that's younger. Some of the men sites, they are borderline prostitution, and Google has no problem having them advertise."

The way I see it, the problem we are facing here is as follows. Before the internet, the prevalent morals dictated the type of content you saw in the media, and anything deemed immoral - no matter how innocent - would simply be kept out of the public's eye. That way, people could comfort themselves with the idea that such immoral behaviour simply didn't exist.

Now that the internet is here, that has changed. Everyone has a soapbox now, including people whose morals might not align with those of the majority. The end result is that these two worlds now collide with one another, causing friction all over the place; companies like Google and Apple have to walk a tightrope to keep both sides reasonably happy.

According to Google, I can just about date Fiona Apple, currently 32 years old. There's just a 7 year age difference there, so I guess I'm safe. Now that's a load off my mind.

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