Willy-Vanderperre-Modern Gay

There is something disconcerting about older gay men enjoying the company of younger gay guys. While I realize that this isn’t a practice that is typical only to the gay community, there is something particularly unsettling about seeing a group of 60-year-old men socializing with boys 40 years their junior.

Recently I saw images of a group of gentlemen who were probably in their 60s, enjoying a spring day on a yacht surrounded by a dozen scantily dressed young guys who were no older than 23. The sight of the grey-chested men posing amongst the hairless bodies of the younger guys made me feel rather uncomfortable.  I wondered how these young guys had befriended the older men in the first place. I wondered how the older men were comfortable to be photographed in the company of guys who looked like their children. I wondered what the conversation would be like and I wondered what everyone on the yacht hoped to get out of the experience.

I never understood how young gay guys can be comfortable in these situations when they surely must be aware that the only reason they are included is to be the visual stimulation and sexual fantasy of their hosts. While I am completely pro intergenerational friendship, I find it hard to comprehend what a 20-year-old twink and a 60-year-old grandfather have in common. It would be wrong to assume that these boys don’t have legitimate friendships with these older gentlemen but the fact that they all looked adolescent, presented well in speedos and are known to be overly flirtatious makes we wonder on what grounds these “friendships” were formed.

Before you start accusing me of being a jaded, jealous gay I should make it clear that I critique these boys based on my own experiences with older men and women. When I was 18 years old and living on the east coast of America an older lady took me under her wing (so to speak) and taught me a thing or two about the female species. The only thing we had in common though was that her son and I both played football. When I was 19 years old I had my first encounter with a much older Southern gentleman who invited me to spend the summer with him on his plantation in Alabama. The only thing he and I had in common was that we both liked whiskey. Both these early experiences left a lasting impression on me. Although it was fun to be looked after and spoilt, there certainly was the feeling that I was indebted to this man and woman. The attention was exciting at first but that feeling quickly waned when I realized that these encounters were based on superficial characteristics and not on deeper, legitimate commonalities. They weren’t interested in my opinion or my values or my intelligence or my goals for the future; they were interested in something else.

When I was somewhat older and living in Milan I became even more aware of the older/younger gay man relationship. In Europe, particularly amongst the wealthier classes there is a culture of older married men having affairs with young handsome guys and in Milan there were plenty of rich old men and just as many young handsome guys. Although I never had any personal affairs with these men a few of my friends forged “special” relationships. I was often invited to join them and their older companions at complimentary dinners in extravagant restaurants, to sit at tables at the most exclusive clubs and to spend weekends lounging on yachts. This may sound appealing to some but for me they were uncomfortable experiences that I was unable to enjoy. To be frank, I felt like a prostitute. In return for my company I was offered food, alcohol and excessive experiences but there was always the underlying and unspoken expectation that at any time I would be called upon to offer more than my company. I couldn’t partake in this behavior and luckily I stopped it before I lost all of my dignity.

I wondered then and still do now, how some boys my age are so comfortable in these situations. Are they more confident in their sexuality or are they blinded by the gifts and attention? Are they ignorant to the real intentions of their older friends or are they willing participants? Why did I feel cheap and used while others seemed to revel in the company of older men? Maybe I have a stronger sense of dignity and self-worth or maybe I’m not secure enough with myself to enjoy the experience without worrying about the repercussions? Either way, I would suggest to any gay boy who finds themselves in a similar situation to ask themselves “what is this experience worth to me?”. If you’re happy to enjoy a free holiday in exchange for swanning around a pool in your speedos in front of 60-year old men then go for it but if you have the slightest intuitive doubt that something’s peculiar about the situation, rather stay home and enjoy the company of men from your own generation instead.

Image by Willy Vanderperre 

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  1. writer2050 says:

    True. And when they’re Asian as well.

  2. I agree but I also feel that like you said, it’s more about what our self-worth is. If we value who we are, then we know if we want to hang around certain people based on actual bonds created rather than being bought.

  3. Rusty Liberal says:

    I also think a lot is to do with self-worth. Plus many guys who have faced rejection for being gay, especially from fathers, may look to an older man for reassurance and reliability. They may have come from poor backgrounds and see this as a way out. We should also remember that some young guys genuinely like older guys and some young guys only care about the shallow things in life.

  4. Chris + Ernie says:

    Clearly in the scenario you painted, such young men are usually out to get something out of it themselves. Money and material is my first assumption, but it could also just be a daddy or granddaddy fetish. As long as the youngsters are having a good time and are not being held against their will, let them be admired. Not all young guys wanna sit back and always think deep thoughts about their choices. I’m sure it’s an all-in-the-moment experience.

  5. John says:

    you failed to acknowledge that this practice goes back at least to ancient greek pederastry.

  6. sjaraarroyos says:

    Reblogged this on You + Me and commented:
    It’s been a while since my last post, but it has to begin somewhere. There’s more to come.

  7. joshcetin says:

    As the teacher says in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, “we accept the love we think we deserve”.

  8. Devin Palomino says:

    I have to disagree here. At least on some points. I am 18 and live in rural Colorado. There are these three men who are gay and all friends. They range from 50 -75. I love spending time with them and so do a few of my other gay friends. I have to admit they do pay for me a lot of times including a hotel and food for this last summer’s gay pride in Denver, but it was not for sexual gain. It’s because we all enjoy spending time with each other and I wouldn’t have been able to have gone otherwise. I look up to these men as role models and fathers and teachers to teach and hopefully guide my friends and I in the right direction. I am not ashamed to walk with them down the street and the situations are never uncomfortable or anything at all. There are always exceptions to the majority and I feel lucky that I know these guys. I truly do love them.

    • joshvansant says:

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. It sounds like you have an amazing relationship with your older gay friends. To have friends of different ages is so important, particularly when it comes to role models. What you described sounds like an authentic and genuine friendship. What I describe above is a critique of relationships that aren’t necessarily based on true friendship, but rather something else; something more sexual and superficial. I unfortunately did not discuss friendships such as the one you have with your friends but I’m glad that you shared a different perspective. Thank you.

  9. sftroybob says:

    I think it’s interesting that the one thing you don’t seem at all curious about is why it’s any of your business who associates with whom, where you are not personally involved, no matter what anybody’s age. your experiences don’t define those other relationships any more than fundamentalist Christians get to define what gay relationships are ‘really’ about.

    at least ‘critique’ comes across as more honest than ‘wonder’, which is a stand-in for ‘judge’. but I think it’s no less presumptuous or insulting than decades of straight people doing it to us.

    • Not so buff says:

      Amen. I’m in my fifties and I have tons of younger gay friends. I also have younger men that I have sex with — not for financial gain, but because we’re attracted to each other. Why anyone would have a problem with that is a mystery to me.

  10. Steve says:

    Possibilities that you don’t seem to consider:
    1. They actually enjoy what each other have to offer – the older men appreciate the energy and exuberance of youth and the eye candy, and the young guys get to do things that they otherwise might not be able to such as cavort on a yacht and eat fine food.
    2. Maybe it’s a strictly monetary relationship, where the boys have a commodity (beauty) that the gentlemen want to buy. And what’s wrong with that? Is that not what models are hired for $1,000’s of dollars for – to sell their looks?
    3. Why do you assume that there is a quid pro quo of sex involved in these relationships? That says WAY more about you and your suspicious mind than it does about either the youth or the gentlemen. And if sex is involved, who is it hurting?
    4. None of this is any of your business. All parties are adults, so get your judgmental nose out of their affairs.

    BTW, I fondly remember one time when I was in my 20’s and traveling around Europe. While admiring the view one evening in Florence of the Arno, an older British gentleman stopped to talk with me. He invited me to dinner the next evening, and I reluctantly accepted not knowing what his intentions were. It turned out that all he wanted to was to treat a handsome (if I do say so myself) young man to dinner for pleasure of the company. He was a charming man and we had a lovely evening with nice conversation, wonderful food and wine and no expectations beyond that. I estimate that he was at least 40 years older than I was. Just what is wrong or creepy about that? My first instinct had been to turn him down because I thought that maybe he wanted sex, but I’m glad that I went with the flow and enjoyed the experience.

    • joshvansant says:

      Hey Steve, thank you for your comment and for sharing your perspective. The purpose of this post and the blog is to stimulate debate, share stories and put forward different opinions. So, thank you for sharing your perspective. You’ve made some interesting points and encouraged me and I’m sure other readers, to see the situation from another point of view.

      • Chad says:

        I have to concur with Steve. I have been in the type of relationship you describe for 4 years, and there is a mutual attraction that goes beyond the physical. Not to mention that we are now very close friends and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I think the presumption that it is a quid-pro-quo relationship (which I encounter constantly) is a sad statement on society; in addition, as noted by Steve, even if that is the case why is it an issue as long as there is consent from all parties involved?

        Perhaps you should write a post to encourage debate on why there is a stigma against inter-generational friendships and relationships? I would be very curious if you analyze the root cause of the unease you felt and find something unexpected about your own prejudices, values, and desires! Please let me know if you do decide to do so!

  11. testudo1110 says:

    Hi Josh

    I’m in my early 20s and I’ve been with guys much older than me. I have to agree with some of the things that you mentioned but I guess I have to add something interesting based on my experience.

    Being a young Asian guy naturally there are a lot of older men who are attracted to me and some of them are dirty old men who just consider me because of my age and my race. When I was really young and naive I fell for an attractive older man, it was his charm and his kindness that made me fell on my knees but in the end it didn’t work and it led into a major heartbreak. Turned out he wasn’t interested in forging a relationship with me but we had something beyond friendship and fuck buddy. It was a grey area. He had too much baggage (financially and personally) and he wasn’t confident enough to go out with someone like me instead he went out with a Thai whom he met in Bangkok when we were still seeing each other. It really shook me to the core, I wondered what was wrong with me.

    I grew up very privileged in Asia and received the best education. Could my background really intimidate some guys who are interested in me. They instead go out with someone who’s less intimidating than me. Someone who doesn’t speak English properly and settles as a ticket way out for a better life with a foreigner, something they seek more than the guy itself (I assume)

    It happened to me again recently. He was older and charming yet his baggage made him move to Bali. We were attracted to each other but the distance between us made it almost impossible to be together. I flew over to him for a visit and he’s seeing someone, a local boy. It really made me really insecure.

    I’ve been rejected a lot because of my age, race and background. I guess it will make me stronger at the end.
    I understand that opposite attracts that’s why I understand the age gap attraction. Older men somehow seem to be more secure but after my experiences they’re no difference than any other boys with problem with commitments. Maybe circumstances played a big part of it. Secondly, I could relate relate to them genuinely, they could easily tell the difference between Pinot noir and Shiraz, or Pollock and Twombly. It’s the genuine interest and intellectually challenged conversation that makes me attracted to them.

    Hope this gives you a better insight. 🙂

  12. Alan says:

    You post both interested and still saddened me.

    I am one of those OLD gays who likes to hang around with young gays.

    the reasons are many – and NOT one of them is sexual

    1) I am just recently out after 65 years in the closet. Here is a little background for you.

    I am a gay man who has never lived one single day as a gay man out in this world. The reasons are many. The reality has been difficult at best.
    From my earliest memory of any kind of sexuality, I have always liked boys better than girls. I recall kissing a girl in 1st grade and thinking to myself “What’s so great about that?” It did not do a thing for me. But I was in first grade what would you expect. But as I grew up I just knew in my heart that it was not the girls that interested me, it was the boys. All of them. Any of them. From the way that they looked, and smelled, and walked and acted. The way they held their heads when they spoke, those sly smiles when you could almost read their devious little minds, the sudden outbursts of laughter, the quick and fit bodies that responded in an instant with the ability to move in any direction without effort. I loved boys. They alone held my interest and my heart.
    But there was a problem. Liking boys in ‘that’ way was wrong. I just knew it. I can’t recall anyone actually ever telling me that when I was young, but it was just a known fact. Loving, even liking boys was evil, wrong, dirty, unacceptable, sinful, of the devil and worthy of hell. That was just a known truth. No way around it.
    But, liking and even loving boys was what existed in my heart. Thus, I just knew that my heart had to be the thing that was wrong. I was therefore evil and dirty and sinful and bound for hell. What other conclusion could I come to?
    Thus the pattern was set for the next 40 years of my life. My heart told me that I was gay and loved men, my head insisted that this truth was not really true at all and I just needed to accept that. I could not be gay, I could not love men, I could never feel the loving touch of a male or ever hope to actually love another man. And as a result of that inner battle, my life was filled with an almost daily struggle.
    At times my heart would win. I would look at men and dream. I could be close to a good looking man and draw in his scent without him noticing and feel a brief moment of joy. I could give a hearty hug to a guy and for him it was just a very friendly greeting but for me so much more. I could create entire dates and evenings in my mind and smile as I thought of it happening one day. But it never did. My head made sure of that. I had to keep in line. I had to live the image of a ‘normal’ man. I had to be straight. Anything else was unacceptable. Anything else was impossilbe. Anything else could have eternal consequences.
    Time passed. Ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty. And the daily battles between head and heart continued. It was an emotional civil war over my sexuality. For a time, head would win and push the heart down nearly into submission. But just when it was near victory, the heart would leap back up and moments of hope and possibility would return for a brief time, perhaps only minutes, before head would begin to counterattack.
    That daily stress does bring challenge. Self-loathing, self-destructive feelings and actions, depression, detatchment, apathy, low self-esteem, separation from others all were frequent emotions and daily parts of daily life. To be honest, life was simply miserable at times., and almost liveable at other times. It was a life with no love, no passion, needless to say no sex and often no real living.
    Finally events came to a head. A death in the family, a persnonal health scare, the end of a career and a decision was made. I am a gay man and I intend to live as a gay man. I intend to have what I have always wanted. I must. Heart needed to win. Heart needed to feel. Heart needed to love and be loved. It had to.
    An internet chat room was found where a person could be himself, could be real, could be accepted. And it quickly became home. They guys were great. Loving, accepting, fun, real, more family than strangers. All was right. Hope returned. Decisions were made to leave the past and move forward.
    Then another reality quickly appeared. In a personal message room the question of age came up as it had so many times before. The truth was shared. Silence and then these words ”Well what the fuck is an old guy like you doing here with all these young guys – looking for some tight ass to fuck.”
    I froze.
    Why was I really in that chat? Was that the reason? In my heart it was certainly not for the reason this person stated. It was to be with people like me. Other gay men who could be themselves, who could enjoy each other, not just in a sexual way but as normal human beings. It was a place to by myself.
    And then it happened. The totally unbelivable. There was a guy. He was fun – lots of fun. There was joy – incredible joy. There were feelings that developed which came out of nowhere. Feelings so long beaten down, held in check, avoided. But feelings which were so wanted and desired and needed. And there they were. The smile returned. The heart raced. The body responded.
    And then it was ever. The age thing. A moment of joy in my mind alone and only. I had become caught so caught up in the dream, so lead by my heart that my head did not stop me when it should have.
    And then the despair returned. The reality of a life lost never to be regained. How could I have waited so long? What kind of fool had I been?
    All those wasted years gone with no posibility of recovery. The self-loathing was back along with the depression. The apathy grew once more.
    Self-destruction was not an option but a brief consideration.
    I had fallen in love with the idea of being in love. I had opened my heart in a way that it had never been opened before. In an instant the feelings had expoloded and in the next moment the destruction was felt.
    So here I sit. A newly thickened layer of emotional protection surrounding me. It may be a long time before that drops and the heart opens itself up again.
    The journey of a gay man over time has been and remains difficuly. I am so thankful that yonuger men today often do not need to be burdened as I was. Our society is much more open and accepting today than it has even been and I hope that it continues to open up even more. But for those still feeling the pressure to remain and live in secret – I urge you to come out now. Risk whatever may come. Live as you really are. Life can not be recovered once it is gone and passed. All you have left is the future. Live for that.
    I will recover. I will start again. I will move on. And someday, I will let my guard down again and hope to finally have the thing I have longed for my entire life. A man to love me, to touch my heart, to open himself up to me as much as I open up myself to him. I will find a man to love who will love me in return. And it will be great.
    Men, do not wait for it to just happen. Reach for it. Risk for it. Yearn for it. Live for it. That all you can ever do.

    After coming out and moving to a very gay friendly area I began to go to the LGBT center and I joined the ComingOut/Living Out group. They exist for men of all ages who have recently come out and who might have issues with it or the new way of life after coming out. One of the best things that they said – and which I quickly discovered to be true is that it does not make any difference how old you are when you come out – it feels as if you are 18 again. I never experienced any of the coming out feelings and emotions and decisions and trials and tribulations as a young gay man. I never WAS a young gay man in reality. I could not be. I was living at a time when being gay was still considered a mental illness – something that needed to be treated – changed – something that was NOT normal – an evil choice one made.

    But I knew it was not that way for me – it never was a choice – but I also knew that no one coild ever know the truth. I lived in a very small town ( 490 people ) I knew my career would be ended. Fear of find out who and what I was surrounded me at all times. If I were to come out – my job would have ended. SO I remained in the closet – for all those years.

    Finally I moved out to California and found a home – a place to be myself – a place to be who I was.

    But the people who were my age were not really interested in a newly OUT older person. They had ALL lived their gay life – many of them for many years. They were ready to just sit back and continue to live their lives. Not date – not get out and have fun – not experience all the things that are so new and exciting to a newly out gay man. They talked about death and dying cremation vs burial living wills etc NOT what I was interested in – I wanted to talk travel and guys and fun and living the gay life for the first time.

    SO I began hanging around with younger guys – who still were ready to live. And they have accepted me. It is NOT a sexual thing at all. I don’t pay for things for them to make them be my friend – I don’t take them out to dinner and movies and other things to attract their attention to ME. We are just friends.

    I am sorry you see this age difference as a negative – I see it an an opportunity to help each other. They offer the fun side of a life I never had – I offer a life experience which might help them avoid some of the truly difficult challenges that life can bring.

    SO please don’t assume the worst – don’t think that this old guy is a creepy sex starved guy who is out to see what he can get from an innocent young gay man. I have made friends – actual friends who I enjoy being with and who also enjoy my company.

    Rather than focusing on the negative – lets rejoice that even the age gap can be removed and we can simply be men who love other men – no matter the race, creed, color, body type, or age

  13. Maurice says:

    I have been in this situation before at an extravagant christmas party where I could tell I was there to be a piece of eye candy. I did partake in some extra activities after everyone left and although I didn’t do much I still felt cheap. Like I had paid for my invitation to this free party with endless bottles of expensive alcohol and fine foods by allowing this older gentleman to run his hands across my flesh, almost worshiping my body.

  14. juanitogallo says:

    The first older guy I ever dated was on unemployment. Needless to say, it wasn’t about the money. I just enjoyed his company, both in the bedroom and out on the town, and where we didn’t have much in common, it was fascinating to learn from each other about our different experiences. no agenda.
    I’m not saying superficial relationships between older and younger men don’t exist, but I wouldn’t ever assume that based solely on the age gap. some like it hot; some like it cold; some like their men over fifty years old. desire shouldn’t need to be rationalized.

  15. I think the author writes from a very narrow and immature perspective.

    First, those sorts of “relationships” are as old as humanity itself. Whether sexual or non-sexual.

    Second, the author fails to take into account the mutual exchange in such a situation.

    Third, merely because, in his youth he was a frightened prude, does not mean all young man have such narrow views or such a weak sense of self.

    Fourth, their are actually young men who LIKE older men.

    Fifth, there are actually older men who MERELY enjoy the youngsters for their beauty, god knows you one may not want to listen to their childish prattling regarding how a momentary fad is the ultimate expression of …..

    6th – GET OVER IT! Not everyone in the world needs or wants to live their life from your point of view. Just in case you aren’t aware of it, your narrow-minded judgmental assumptive POV is not in fact the definition of reality, nor necessarily shared by anyone other than other narrow-minded judgmental assumptive self-impressed prigs.

    And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Narrow minded judgmentalism is merely an expression of the how limited is that person’s perspective.

  16. Bob Zetwinz says:

    Yeah, Josh: Take THAT (*smack*), and THAT (*smack*) and THAT (*smack*) ! ! !

  17. Sam says:

    I’m 42. For 6-7 years now I have been in a relationship with a man who is now 26. I came out late. He came out at 14. I met him when he was 19. He has always liked older men, he pursued me. He taught me so much about what it meant to be gay (I only came out at 35.) hr was my first love. We broke up for a while and his other partner after me was also my age and unlike me on an unemployment pension (I do have a good income). We love each other, and we live together. Interestingly as he looks older than his age and I look younger we are never really never clocked as being age divergent. The thing is I loved him, his personality and who he is. Not his age. It was never about that for me. People can and do love who they love. All my other relationships have been with people who were age level, or older than me. It’s hard being judged and my internal judgement was the worst at least initially. But I’m glad he’s in my life. I know he will be in some way shape or form for the rest of my life

    • themoderngay says:

      Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your message and for sharing your story. I really appreciate your honesty and openness. I wrote this post a long time ago and my perspective has changed dramatically. In fact I plan to write a new post on this very topic in the coming weeks. I’ve learnt a lot since it was originally published, in part thanks to people like you who have shared their stories and experiences with me – which was actually the purpose of starting this blog in the first instance. I hope this post wasn’t upsetting or triggering.



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