She's young, sexy and looking for a meal ticket
SHE'S single, gorgeous and financially ambitious, yet hates work, says Anna Coogan
For the 'piranha' the solution to her money problems is to trick an older, wealthy man into making her pregnant - and financially supporting her for life.
Leading UK family lawyer Diane Benussi caused a stir recently when she wrote about the increase in the number of cases she is dealing with involving 'piranhas', single women who have children by rich men in order to chase them for long-term financial support.
A specialist in matrimonial and family law at Benussi & Co, Benussi outlined her experience of "the piranha phenomenon", and drew a picture of young women ruthless in their pursuit of the good life, and amoral to the point of thinking that work is for other people but not them.
Benussi declared: "In the past year I have seen a big increase in the number of wealthy men who have been the victims of piranhas.
"These are cases where I believe rich men have been targeted by gold-digging women who fall pregnant on purpose as a career move."
There are fewer young, rich guys around, so older, if fatter and balding, men with money are increasingly becoming a target for young money-hungry beauties.
Benussi goes on: "The relationship barely lasts but thanks to their child the woman is free to demand he pays out a monthly 'wage'.
"Forget about having a baby to secure a council house. Have a child with a loaded lover and you can secure yourself a mansion."
If the man is rich enough -- and piranhas tend to do their homework -- then Benussi estimates that a woman could be paid as much as €2m during the first 18 years of her child's life.
For piranhas, having a baby is a career move. They are paid to stay at home and look after their baby.
Benussi believes: "Each case is different but, almost inevitably, the men tend to be richer - and older. After all, what middle-aged, balding man wouldn't be flattered to have a gorgeous girl focusing all of her attention on him?
"All the piranha needs is a fleeting moment in bed and most men are sucked in by her charms before they even realise what is happening."
It's not the first time that some women's behaviour has been compared to that of animals who are hunters by nature - think cougar and puma.
Benussi feels the comparison with piranhas - an omnivorous freshwater fish which inhabits South American rivers and are known for their sharp teeth and a voracious appetite for meat - is more than a sweeping generalisation.
Of course, there are some people who will think that old men who are foolish enough to think young women fancy them get what they deserve when they are fleeced.
Marriage is off the agenda for the piranha, according to Benussi, who is drawing from her experience of dealing with clients who feel they have been left out of pocket, and believes the piranha doesn't see why she should be lumbered with the responsibility of a husband.
Benussi writes: "These gold-diggers have discovered that they don't even need to go to the trouble of marrying their prey.
"Instead, by luring him into conceiving a child, they can then hit him where it hurts -- directly in the wallet."
Lisa O'Hara is a relationship counsellor with relationshipsireland.com, and says: "There are of course men and women who engage in exploitative behaviour in relationships, as well as in other areas of life.
"The particular type of behaviour Benussi is describing is just one of many ways in which people seek to exploit others for financial advantage by taking advantage of their neediness or vulnerability in relation to their desire for an intimate relationship," Lisa says.
"In Relationships Ireland, an important aspect of our work is dealing with people who feel they have been exploited in a relationship, often with long-term financial or emotional consequences. We help them to move on from the feelings of anger and exploitation and address the issues that made them vulnerable to that type of exploitation in the first place," she says.
Benussi reckons that on top of a monthly allowance for the child, which can be as high as €4,000, piranhas can sink their teeth into a furnished house, car, nursery and university fees -- even money for holidays.
She believes it's not unusual for a settlement to reach upwards of €2m for what might have been nothing more than a one-night stand.
So if you're a bit on the plain and portly side yet are positively rich, and you're approached by a beautiful woman, beware of her intentions warn the experts.