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