In the world of online advertising, lewd as it often is, there are still some boundaries — at least among the big players. Google, the New York Times reports, has banned “cougar” dating ads from its content pages because the internet giant considers them “nonfamily safe”.

As far as I can work out, “cougars” are a media creation based on a few women celebrities who have much younger boyfriends. A television series, movies and magazines have spread the idea that this is a significant social trend and there are “dating” websites that use the term. One of them has been paying Google $100,000 a month to run its ads, but Google has picked up the message that people don’t like the idea of a “predatory, aggressive older woman on the hunt for a boy toy,” as the Times puts it, and banned the word.

The Times says cougar ads are only banned from Google’s content network, but if you do a search, as I have just done, on “dating” or “cougar dating”, the word does not appear in the sponsored ad links at the side either. They contain equally objectionable things, however: “Local Moms Looking For Younger Men (18+). Sign Up for Free!”, “Have an affair” etc. And “sugar daddy” sites still pop up.

But, evidently, the “cougar” theme has created bad social vibes, and we can only be grateful for that. Feminists may have had something to do with Google’s decision. But certain “experts” are not so happy with the implied sexism:

“It’s relatively new that women have felt O.K. to be sexual and be attractive and continue to be alive in that way as they aged,” said Lonnie Barbach, a psychologist in San Francisco who specializes in female sexuality and relationships. “It’s always been an acceptable part of culture for men to be sexual at all ages and all levels.”

And the female president of Toronto-based CougarLife (What is it about Canada? The horrible infidelity outfit AshleyMadison is based there too.) Claudia Opdenkelder complains that “It’s age and gender discrimination.”

Maybe she is right, strictly speaking, given that “sugar daddies” are still acceptable, but it is reassuring that women have not completely lost the particular respect that their maternal role attracts.

This development opens a couple of avenues for action. First, Facebook still runs cougar ads: what can be done about objectionable ads on the social networking site?

Second, Google has said it might revisit its new policy (especially, perhaps, if threatened lawsuits eventuate, or if it decides it really needs all that money it is losing): it’s a small thing in view of the much broader problem of “adult” stuff, but it would be worth letting them know you approve of dumping cougars.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet