'Cougar' sex campaign lands Air NZ in hot water

A campaign that portrays single middle-aged women as "cougars" who prowl bars looking for sex with young men has landed Air New Zealand in hot water.

The country's national carrier was already causing turbulence with its latest uniform range, which critics say make women look like drag queens in Russian military garb.

Now they've ruffled the feathers of women's rights groups and rape prevention organisations with a risque online promotion portraying the mating habits of the mature single woman.

In the Discovery Channel-style documentary clip complete with David Attenborough-esque voiceover, a so-called cougar is shown "starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night" by stalking a young man at a bar.

Despite the man's attempts to ward off the woman's advances, the cougar has "not tasted fresh meat for days" and drags her prey to an inner-city apartment.

In the ad, the women, aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s, routinely prey on men in their 20s, many of whom "pretend to be gay" to avoid them, says the voiceover.

The promotion, which closes tonight, encourages women aged 35-plus to send in photographs of themselves out on the town with their "cougar mates" to go in the draw for a deal including a flight and ticket to a sporting event.

New Zealand's Rape Prevention Education has labelled the ad appalling, disgusting and degrading to women.

"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," director Kim McGregor said.


An airline spokeswoman said the campaign was supposed to be "light-hearted" but some older women had "taken a bit of offence to it".

"[They] felt it was an unfair kind of blanket comment," she said.

However, many didn't, with 60 women signing up to go in to win flights, tickets and cougar costumes to attract the attention of young males.


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