Airline's "cougar" advert blasted by male rape victims

AUCKLAND (Reuters Life!) - An advert for an airline competition that portrays older, single women as “cougars” who prey on young men at night is to close on Monday after incurring the wrath of both male and female rape victims in New Zealand.

Actress and executive producer Courtney Cox answers a question during a panel discussion at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena January 9, 2007. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

“Cougar” has become a popular term for sexually aggressive older women on the hunt for younger men, with actress Courteney Cox recently starring in TV comedy “Cougar Town.” But the term can be viewed either as misogynistic or a word of empowerment.

An online spoof documentary by Air New Zealand, promoting a competition for free tickets to a rugby tournament, tells of a so-called cougar starving herself during the day then “hunting large slabs of meat at night” by stalking young men at a bar.

The voiceover says despite men’s attempts to ward off the woman’s advances, the cougar has “not tasted fresh meat for days” and drags her victims to her inner-city apartment, often forcing them to listen to “Enya or the Eurythmics.”

The promotion (here) by the airline's Grabaseat discount airfare site encouraged women aged 35 plus to send in photographs of themselves to compete for tickets to next month's Wellington Sevens.

Grabaseat Manager Duane Perrott said the campaign was designed as “light-hearted humor to kick off the New Year” and most people saw it as a celebration of the “quirky sense of humor Kiwis (New Zealanders) are renowned for.”

“We’ve been overwhelmed by entries and are closing the competition,” Perrott said in a statement on Monday.

“However, we are cognizant of the fact that some organizations have raised concerns about the promotion’s content.”

New Zealand’s Rape Prevention Education has labeled the ad appalling, disgusting and degrading to women, adding that some Air New Zealand staff were also concerned about the promotion.

“They find it degrading and that it is encouraging potentially harmful behavior, so my question is why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory behavior?” director Kim McGregor told the NZ Herald newspaper.

“We have also had complaints from male survivors who have been raped by women and they are very distressed that their situation is being laughed at and made out to be humorous.”

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy