Fact: Gay men get old. But many want to remain sexually active, and maintaining that sexual activity is vital to our identity. And yet, sexual activity at an advanced age is viewed as inappropriate in American culture overall.
Fact: Gay men often fixate on the type of man that appeals to them sexually.
Fact: Older gay men are often taken advantage of in sexual situations.
Fact: Older men becoming targets of predators is a harsh reality spanning many generations.
How do we address the problems? We wake up and face reality. All beauty fades.
Many older gay men are blessed with genes that let them retain an animal magnetism that appeals to other (younger) gay men. But the clear majority (I include myself) show our age. If we take an honest look in the mirror, we’ll see an ordinary older man, much like our father. That takes some serious adjusting.
Many of us moved through our lives with above average looks, making it possible to attract pretty much anyone we set our gaze on. But that ”gaze” from other men eventually excludes us. At some predictable stage, every gay man becomes invisible on the sexual market.
That, too, is a fact in this youth-focused subculture of men.
Another biting reality is that any attention given to older gay men by, say, men in their 30s is suspect. Rare is the heart-of-gold daddy chaser. No, the motive is usually darker. There are men completely void of decency that see us as prey. They will lie. They will hustle.
They will do anything to get an older gay man alone.
These men are often not even gay themselves. They are just predators that see us as weak because we’re gay ourselves.
Too often, the older gay man succumbs easily to the overture, refusing to face the reality of who they have become. In their mind’s eye, they are still hot, still on the market.
Hook swallowed. The end.
Sometimes, after a few drinks, some cash, the predator is gone, taking nothing with them but another chunk of their target’s dignity.
Other times, the shark senses the loneliness and isolation. He attaches; he moves in. Any available bank account pays for his cigarettes and meth. And, in a worst case scenario, the older man is murdered, his home ransacked and his possessions pawned — in the end, a pathetic tale.
So what can we do to avoid that pathetic end. Here are a few suggestions:
1. First on my list is to hire a sex worker. You enjoy sex with a specific type and age of man. Great. Most do. Professionals regularly entertain an older clientele. They are respectful and highly accommodating. You get what you pay for, and you get exactly what you want. Your upfront cost is a guarantee that you will not be nickeled and dimed into poverty by a low-class hustler.
2. Consider becoming involved with both the leather and bear communities. These men are far more fluid in their attitudes about age than in the mainstream gay culture. Younger men’s involvement with older men is highly encouraged and practiced. Leathermen have developed a unique respect for each other, and average gay men should borrow from their system. These men inhabit a much more secure environment because of their ability to clearly acknowledge boundaries. There is much to borrow from this world that could ensure one’s safety.
3. Make CraigsList absolutely off limits. It is extremely dangerous for older men, and it is nearly if not totally impossible, to get information on someone met through CL.
4. Grinder, Scruff, Adam4Adam and all the other sexual hookup apps are worth a consideration. The offers on those sites are for the casual encounter one seeks. But the risk of being targeted is still extremely high for older men. It might be possible to get information on someone you met on these apps if some violent incident happened. But it would be after the fact, and the damage would be done. These sites must somehow be held responsible for the risk inherently involved. Subscribers must demand they institute safety measures.
4. Dating sites for older men might be appropriate, but remember that most of these men are looking for permanent relationships. Shoveling through an onslaught of senior citizens who have never considered LTR until this advanced stage can be daunting for those seeking only casual encounters.
5. Revisit bathhouses. You could be pleasantly surprised. There’s even a slim opportunity of hooking up with younger men. Whomever you encounter, it’s a safe environment to play in. (Spoiler note: The tweaked-out drug crowd never left and are still drawn to these clubs.)
Sexual intimacy. Anonymous sex. Hot encounters — All of that is available to us as older gay men. Let’s not retire into total irrelevancy.
We are sexual beings, and we should remain as such.
For us to get to that will take a level of honesty we have suppressed since the beginning of the “family values” assault launched on our community.
To counter the homophobia, we focused on our own credibility as family. But in the process, we began to mimic the hetero-norm in some unhealthy ways.
We are not heterosexuals. Sexually we are another species — men who have sex with each other; women who have sex with one another.
Let’s own that once again. We couple, we marry and, in doing so, we create loving and long-lasting bonds.
We are not our heterosexual relatives and neighbors. We are different. We need to shed the ridiculous notion that we are made in their image.
And as we age, we need to be realistic and safe. We are not statistics. We are not crime-scene outlines. Older gay men do not need the embarrassment of sitting in a police station or some adult protective service office having to explain to someone the need to engage in high-risk sexual behavior that has landed them in these rooms as victims.
We are proud men never seen in such numbers ever before. We have survived prejudice, violence and disease. We have been involved with the advancement of human rights for all people. We have helped define LGBT culture. The threat of violence increases for gay men as we age. We have always known that. Part of our legacy is ending that, and that is a goal we can achieve.
So, in the words of Ru Paul, “Don’t f**k it up!”
Gary Bellomy is a longtime Dallas activist working on issues of LGBT equality, HIV/AIDS services and family violence prevention. He is a war resister and a Trump resister.