“I can barely stand,” Seth said, swaying innocently on the soggy sidewalk. (Seth’s a gentleman and asked that I change the names and obscure certain details in unfurling the horrors that so thoroughly furled him that night, in order to protect the honor of a woman.) He was 24 at the time, a magazine writer.
Joel said, “O.K., I think he needs to go home.”
Dana, who was 29, said, “Let’s go get another drink!”
“I wanna go home,” Seth warbled.
“O.K., I’ll take him home,” Dana said.
Joel gave Seth a “WTF?” look and said, “I’ll take him home.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dana said, hailing a cab and then bundling Seth inside.
“I woke up with a condom still on my dick,” he told me.
A few months later, Seth found himself watching helplessly late one night as Dana picked off one of his pals much the same way she had him: The fellow was babbling, stumbling drunk, and Dana chirped: “I’m heading the same way, let’s share a cab!” Another poor shmo who hosted an after-party at his pad one night to enjoy a little group reefer session suddenly found himself alone, except for Dana. Game over.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Seth told me.
MUCH HAS BEEN made of the so-called cougar, the older dame, early 40s on up, who has developed a taste for the younger man-beast. Dana’s hunting methods and psychology bear no resemblance to the cougar. As Seth aptly points out, “A cougar would fuck and then leave and not feel bad.”
Instead, Seth awoke to Dana’s limpid eyes, followed by an awkward kiss in broad daylight as the two parted ways on the street. The cheetah stays the night.
The Dana “type” was familiar to me. There was a girl I knew in L.A. who fit the bill. She’d sunk her teeth into at least 20 percent of her lopsidedly male friend group. All you had to do was watch the faces when she approached to know which ones she’d had her way with.
Good God, I thought, how many of my fellow men are at risk at this very moment?!
I thought the same on a recent night here in New York, when my wife showed me a “funny” text one of her girlfriends sent her inquiring what she was up to—we were in a car, heading home—and sniggering that she herself was “out on the prowl.” I immediately thought of the widely held view that single women are keen to get their paws on a hunk of man to hunker down with for the winter months. I looked out the car window—it was raining. A cold, insinuating rain. The conditions were perfect for a cheetah to a strike.
The cheetah is most often a just-one-of-the-guys girl. That’s her cover. In nature, a cheetah will lurk in the high grass and use her spots as camouflage.
I called up an accomplished and self-described cougar named Angela, who works in TV production, to see if I was out on a wild limb. “Well, she’s not a puma,” Angela told me. A puma, Angela further explained, is a woman in her late 20s to early 30s who preys on “the babies—guys who are like 21.” Angela said she wants to write a sex memoir, with any luck before she enters the saber-toothed stage.
She noted that her friend K.C. was a cheetah. Recently out of a relationship, K.C. has discovered that getting a man was no longer as easy as it once was. “It seems like whenever she can, she winds up going home with the drunkest guy in the bar,” said Angela. “Of course, in the back of her mind she’s hoping that her pussy’s still good enough to keep him.”
A.J. DAULERIO, who runs the sports news website Deadspin.com, first put his finger on a phenomenon he dubbed “cock loitering” back in 2005.
“A cock loiterer is typically a girl who has recently come out of a relationship that she’s been in for a long time, and she suddenly realizes that getting laid is not as easy as it once was,” Mr. Daulerio explained. He noted that the cheetah hunts alone, and prefers gatherings where she can blend into the crowd until the quarry grow weak and sloppy. “You know, she’s the type who’ll come out to the sports bar for Sunday football and then, whereas most people will leave after the 12 o’clock game ends, she’ll stick around for the 4 o’clock game,” he said.
He added that the cheetah was not necessarily unattractive but that for some reason or another, she was not aware of her attractiveness. That said, the cheetah he had in mind was notorious for looking dreadful without her makeup on and, as with Dana, working her way through his friend group.
New-media mogul and man-about-town Lockhart Steele is part of that friend group. He rightly pointed out that the cheetah isn’t just looking for whatever carcass she can haul out of the bar—incidentally, cheetahs are one of the few animals that will not eat carrion—but rather it is about women past the first flush of youth wanting to date or at least fuck “above their station.”
“Women in New York tend to be at a huge disadvantage,” said John Carney, of Businessinsider.com and another cheetah victim, via Gchat. “Many moved here from elsewhere, severing the kind of social bonds that ordinarily would provide introductions to potential mates. The cheetah is an ill-conceived attempt to overcome this situation.” He added later: “It is tragic. They should put a warning in cabs, like they used to about seat belts and remembering to collect your belongings: ‘This random hook-up will not likely lead to a relationship. Please exit the cab with all your dignity.’”
The troubling thing about the cheetah is that it’s a lose-lose for both predator and prey. Both her Auntie Cougar and Cousin Puma have a certain dignity. They’re out there shakin’ it up, slaying dudes and taking names. Not so the cheetah, who hopes that her victim will find something in her searching eyes when he rolls over the next morning, and will try to subtly guilt him into another round next time they meet: “Hey, where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you in so long.”
Angela would like to do the cheetahs of the world a favor: “Heed my warning: You’re never going to get a boyfriend or a husband this way. Men like to chase. The only man you’ll ever get to stick around by being a cheetah is going to be a total pussy.”