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Young Man, Older Man: Why Intergenerational Love Works

by Bryen Dunn
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Sep 19, 2011

Intergenerational relationships are often referred to as "May to December," if only because one person is in the awakening spring of life while the other is entering the dormant winter. Such liaisons have existed for centuries, of course, but in today's celebrity culture, we glorify cougars like Celine (and her Rene) and the proto-cougar, Demi Moore, who managed to bag Aston Kutcher -- 26 and 15 years' difference, respectively.

Often in the gay world, there appears to be even less acceptance and more catty criticism about such age-differing partnerships. The daddy-son complex is often mentioned. Chicken hawk, cradle robber, gold digger and grave digger are just some of the terms we use for predators young-on-old and vice-versa.

But where are we -- or maybe, where should we be -- in terms of accepting that sometimes, birds of a feather don't flock together, that like doesn't always choose like? What if -- gasp! -- some older men and younger really do make a go of it.

I had the opportunity to speak with other male couples who are in, or have been in such similar type relationships, to find out how much age disparity plays a role and, if so, how they are able to overcome it.

"Boys Who Love Men Who Love Boys"
Canadian writer Gerald Hannon made headlines in late 1977 when he published his now infamous article "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" for a local Toronto queer publication, "The Body Politic." He wanted to shed light on the fact that such relationships do exist in a consensual context; nor should they be categorized as pedophilia, molestation, or predatory.

"I've always been attracted to younger partners, and my most recent affair was two years ago with someone 30 years my junior. It lasted six months, and it was he who sought me out", explains Hannon, now 67. That often happens, he adds, even though most of us subscribe to the stereotype of the older man preying on the younger one.

For Hannon, age differences are no bigger or less an obstacle than anything else in the complexities that make up a relationship. "It does help to be a bit eccentric", he laughs. He recalls the first gay couple he met back in 1968 as having a 20-year age difference between them. They remained a couple for many years, eventually opting for an open relationship and maintained a strong friendship until the death of the elder partner.

Two Un-Married Men

Mac and Bob are 16 years apart. Both had been married to women: Bob is widowed and Mac divorced. Bob didn't come out until about 15 years after his wife's death, when he was 65 years old.

They each have children and grandchildren from those marriages. They have now been together for 22 years. They were introduced to each other by another intergenerational couple, where the younger partner was about 18 at the time.

"Our commitment to each other was to stay together as long as life or love lasts," Mac says. Bob, now 87, adds that "mutual respect and understanding for each other, and the freedom to do things together as well as separately" has been the key to their success.

Mac simply sees Bob as his "best friend and lover." The most challenging aspect for Bob is being less active and able than Mac in many regards. On Mac's end, "It's the misunderstandings that occur in their conversations."

The two men continue to have dinners and parties and attend social events with younger gay men. They also host a group called "Word4Play," which deals with four-letter words and what they mean in our lives. "Most of the men in the group are younger than us, some by a generation or more," Mac explains.

Both men agree that staying within the legal ages, whatever and where ever that may be, is a good and safe thing to do when considering consensual sexual relations of any sort. The gentlemen currently maintain a website called the Speights of Life, depicting life as a journey.

Next: The Dividing Line: 25 Years' Difference


  • Snyper, 2011-09-19 10:05:04

    BRYEN !!! What does NAMBLA and hebephilia have to do with mature relationships?!?! Chrissakes, you idiot! Here comes all the gay=pedophile crap again ... and at a time when we are fighting for our lives in 6 States. Who are you REALLY working for? ... our opposition? And you EDITORS !! You got sawdust for brains? We’re out here spending millions to establish our rights and you let pedophilia enter the discussion. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING !!!! Were you at all ???

  • hallam, 2011-09-23 18:54:18

    The motto of the Order of the Garter might be applied here: "Honi soit qui mal y pense" -- Let him be ashamed who thinks evil. I thought this article was balanced and objective, enunciating several views of the subject without advocacy or judgment. If we can’t do that, we’ve already bought into the predator-myth conditioning of heterosexual society, and we effectively deny our young people the mentorship and support of those who have the experience to preserve self-esteem and even life itself for young people who might otherwise be at risk of suicide.

  • KickingBear, 2011-09-24 11:28:19

    I think if people really do what they say they think is ideal, that is know the person, first. Then age would probably be a lot less of a dynamic in relationships if my experience is any indication. The best people come in all kinds of packages. My husband and I have the best relationship either of us had previously experienced. However, we never would have been attracted to each other based only on the physical. I am twice his age, and I am not attracted sexually to younger men, the vice versa is also true. It works because we are almost identical intellectually, something I never expected to find in anyone younger. I do have a lot more knowledge and experience which is very beneficial for someone open minded. My first long term relationship was with someone my own age, we had nothing to teach each other. All trial and error is exhausting. Looking back I think I would have had a much better time if there was someone who already knew the ropes close at hand. There is great wisdom in not being isolated in one small area. What my come of a larger circle of friends is anyone’s guess. Sex, while wonderful, and an important part of a successful marriage, has very little to do with the dynamics of happiness or love. The attraction that lasts follows love, not the other way around. [Having said that please do not interpret that to mean gay men can learn to be straight. Been there, done that, with a woman who was also a profound intellectual match, a very terrible mistake that ruined a beautiful friendship].

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