Judge Judy recently heard a "gift versus loan" case regarding two men of a significant age disparity who met on a hook-up website. In under three minutes she discerned that these two had likely entered into an unhealthy relationship based solely on sex and money. She didn't like it but, why? Sex doesn't seem to be the likely problem since all relationships gay or straight include that element. Also despite the controversial idea that money is evil, even before currency was established, resources have always been a consideration for mating. Judge Judy's assessment was based solely on their age difference which she deemed inappropriate. Since Judge Judy took both litigants to task equally, the younger for being a user and the plaintiff for looking for love in the wrong places I'm curious to see how she ruled viewing both parties guilty of one moral ineptitude or another.
Judge Judy reminds me of one of those people who ask if I was molested after finding out I like men. I always find it to be disturbing and offensive. The assumption that my sexuality is a result of an unwanted negative interference is outright demoralizing. Unfortunately like most stereotypes, pedophilia is a very real part of many gay experiences. Although I was never sexually abused, I've legally consented to relationships with people considerably older than myself. The only thing I think about when entering a relationship is it's ability to endure. Since I didn't really find love until I met someone my age;I have to ask myself are relationships with older guys doomed from the beginning?
I was raised by my grandfather. As a result I often engaged in conversations with people generations older than me. Although I'm sure they were merely entertaining my inquisitive and spunky nature, I considered these people to be my friends. This trend continues today of course, unlike then I'm responsible for creating and maintaining boundaries. Recently I visited a one of those friend who's struggling with being a gay male of a particular age. Since I have no illusions about my own mortality this subject really hits home for me. He had been upset with the insinuation by a coworker that his preference for men much younger than him equated to him being a pedophile. I can sympathize with this indignation since he maintains that he's never entered into a sexual relationship with anyone who wasn't old enough to consent. Considering he's preparing to celebrate his 63rd birthday; that distinction includes a span that would make many in society uncomfortable. Personally, I don't see the appeal in dating someone much less experienced than myself. Still is this how we reward people who've survived and lost so much over the years by vilifying their submission to our culture's overwhelming idolatry of youth?
Let me be clear, I'm no defendant of illegal conduct with minors. One of my favorite TV shows is "To Catch A Predator." I love the varied reactions of the would-be-offenders once they are caught with their hands in the proverbial "cookie jar." I honestly think it's comedic. I also find solace in the thought that one child might have been spared the challenges of growing up under the shadow of molestation. Surprisingly some of my friends are disgusted by what they describe as entrapment organized by the tv production and local law enforcement. I on the other hand, believe these guys needed to check their fetishes. When your attraction is solely based on your needs and desires without a regard for the other person, you've entered into fetish territory. Although we're only examining legal relationships. I think we should begin with the long and controversial history of men who like younger guys.
Many people in the mental health community draw distinctions between pedophilia and pederasty. Pederasty has been documented in human history as far back as the 6th century notably in Greek culture where affluent men would engage in romantic mentor-like relationships with younger males. Dr.Bruce Rind's paper published in 1997 asserts that:
"In the absence of social taboos and moral condemnation, negative feelings such as guilt and shame and doubts and conflicts about masculinity should not arise for children and adolescents who experience such contacts. The cross-cultural and historical literatures provide examples of societies where sexual contacts between boys and adults, rather than being condemned and pathologized, instead were approved of, encouraged, or even regarded as necessary for healthy development."
Similar to Rind, I am weary of the motivations of people who engage in the shaming of others. These forces share responsibility for the global homophobia that leads to the delayed expression of sexuality in so many people. This arrested development if you will, has repercussions long lasting and similar to those of people who have actually been molested. Although we are making progress in many parts of the world; many older men still struggle day to day as they cope with navigating a very high tech high stakes courting culture. Many come to resent themselves for choosing career, family, or substance abuse over finding love and thus, embark on a futile journey to reclaim their lost youth. Today being gay continues to gain acceptance as a permanent lifestyle and people's life expectancies keep getting longer. This has translated into a number of older gay men being forced to learn new technologies and social commonalities in order to connect with others. There's a natural appeal to wanting to connect with someone native to the new normal; someone who speaks the language. Nonetheless, all people of all ages should feel encouraged to be gracious for now and optimistic for the future. The idea that you're best days are behind you is useful for no man. It matters not if he's reflecting on eons or hours.
The relationships mention earlier that existed in ancient Greece featured numerous safeguards that would alleviate many of today's societal fears. One of the most notable was the requirement that any one looking to take on a younger lover be part of the upper class. Today younger men (and women) who date dramatically older than themselves are often characterized as lazy, opportunistic and deceitful. Youth is certainly valued in today's social economy; but not always in ways that cultivate emotional maturity and financial independence for the future. Relative personal wealth on the part of the mature party was intended to ensure meaningful benefits and an avoidance of the resentment that inevitably arises when you are attempting to provide with limited resources. Another guideline was that these relationships almost always came with an expiration date, at least for the most intimate aspects. This allowed the adolescents to begin more sustainable relations with their peers. Data from the 2014 US Census states that over 75% of married couples (gay and straight) are within 5 years of each other. This statistic would suggest what many of us already suspect, that romantic relationships become more difficult to establish and sustain when there's a greater age disparity. That's why many people practice the half your age plus seven rule.
Truth be told, if two people are in love; they'll find a way to be together. Still, I began researching this topic to see if there was any historical or statistical data that would shine a light on this taboo and provide some insight for gay singles of all generations who are looking for their happy endings. According to a recent Washington Post article "People who marry young are happier, but those who marry later earn more". It seems to comes down to what was prioritized then and what you're priorities are now. In order to reverse the perception of gays as a sex obsessed emotionally unavailable sect that preys on its own, it would be great if experienced members were willing to think less about their fetishes and instead share what they've learned. Together, we can help the spread of positive priorities. If wisdom truly comes with age. I say be iconic and love wisely.