A website called CougarLife, a dating network targeted toward “women in their prime,” has called Google out for sexism because the search engine has classified CougarLife ads as not safe for families. But CougarLife’s CEO says Google doesn’t make the same distinction for “sugar daddy”-type dating sites, whose ads can be seen by anyone.

A Google rep told the National Post today that the classification of CougarLife ads as for-adults-only was “not just about the ad, it’s about the ad and the landing page of the site[…] Anything that’s considered non-family safe will not run on the Google content network at this point.”

But defining “family-safe” is a confusing exercise in community standards, it seems.

The CougarLife Angle

CougarLife’s landing page states, “Cougars are classy, confident women that already possess many of the finer things in life — but now want the young, hot guy to go with it.” The copy and the images that go along with it are fairly innocuous:

Even a CougarLife YouTube ad, which touts the attractiveness of a late-30s/early-40s woman to a group of construction workers, comes off as cute rather than trashy:

The Sugar Daddy Angle

On the other hand, SeekingArrangement is considered family-safe by Google but is totally sleazy by other standards. Copy on its landing page reads, “Sugar Babes are college students, aspiring actresses or someone just starting out. You seek a generous benefactor to pamper, mentor and take care of you — perhaps to help you financially?”

The site goes on to describe a mutually beneficial relationship as “a relationship between an older and wealthy individual who gives a young person expensive gifts or financial assistance in return for friendship or intimacy.” Inviting young people to walk the fine and blurry line between sex-related leeching and bald prostitution is safe for families?

And since “family” is a euphemism for “children,” let’s make the distinction even clearer: Would you rather have your kids know that mature ladies can be desirable to cute young guys, or that college girls can get their bills paid by having sexual relationships with older men? One message seems fairly sex-positive, and the other just creepy.

A Culture of Stigma

When it comes to online dating, statistics show that women over a certain age typically have a more difficult time than their younger counterparts. Yet men in the same age range don’t suffer nearly as much when it comes to getting attention from potential partners. This latest revelation — that someone at Google considers something about CougarLife inappropriate — might have less to do with childproofing online ads and more to do with the larger cultural bias against mature women dating younger men.

Have a look at CougarLife, and let us know if you see anything there that you personally would consider unsafe for families — especially when comparing the site to dating networks of the “sugar daddy” variety.

[img credit: dracobotanicus.]

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: cougars, Google, online dating