Every gay man I know in a position of power has a “boy” for a boyfriend. By boy, I mean a kid between the ages of, say, 15 and 22, when your chicken card gets revoked. Many of my friends have had to contend with the unsuppressible desire of older men. And some of us are sick of it.
As the post-Stonewall generation ages, many gay men are embracing the pederast within. Consider the recent glut of films like Get Real and Edge of Seventeen, which feature gay boys doing things to each other that result in an R rating, thereby preventing gay boys from seeing these movies about them. Britain’s miniseries Queer as Folk titillated gay men the world over with its 15-year-old boy who gets rimmed by an older man. This sort of softcore drama reflects a widespread recognition of the boy as lust totem.
Mainstream gay culture dresses up its kiddie porn in a pretense of serving teens. As nice as it is to believe that magazines like XY and Joey are actually consumed by gay teens, it’s obvious to me that the shirtless kids in provocative poses who fill their glossy pages are there for older men to masturbate to. Who do you think is buying all those gay magazines that feature fresh 18-year-olds spreading their cheeks? Surely not 18-year-olds: We’re too busy having actual sex with boys.
Then there’s the hardcore world, where the hung stud of yesterday is being replaced by the jailbait superstars of auteurs like Georges Duroy and Jean-Daniel Cadinot. Boy-porn even has its own subgenres. Which do you prefer: skaters, wrestlers, Boy Scouts?
Gay fiction is rich with idyllic accounts of “intergenerational relationships,” as such affairs are respectfully called these days. Usually in these books, the man is invigorated and the kid is empowered. That may be true for some, but not for most of the boys I’ve known—and not for me.
By age, face, and physique, I fit into the category of The Boy. But inwardly, I do not fit. The Boy connotes a blank slate of naïveté and innocence on which The Man may inscribe his wisdom and experience. Yet in today’s world, adolescent males lose their innocence before they even hit puberty. There is nothing to corrupt.
For the gay kids I know, there is also nothing to lose. Many of them have nothing—and have slept with men for something. It could be money, drugs (especially crystal meth), or just a place to crash. But there’s usually some sort of exchange.
Many of these men make a hobby out of meeting their needs. They find a place where disadvantaged youths gather. These men have an m.o., and they collect boys like a habit: younger and more.
Successful gay artists go about the chase in a more tasteful way. They can respond to the amateur boy who sends them his poetry, and “encourage” their way into his pants. Those kids with talent (or at least the ability to project an aura of talent) can become golden boys and make their way through the circuit, bagging and shagging fashion photogs here, club promoters there. These boys get directly jacked into the cultural mainframe. The men get to be seen with someone decades younger. How is this any different from the millionaire letch and his silicon bimbo?
The man/boy ideal hinges on assumptions about both. The boy, who is traditionally beautiful and innocent, values the man for his power, for his name. Although the boy’s sexual interest may or may not be genuine, he can fake it. Women have done that for thousands of years, and although it can be difficult for a gay boy to fake an orgasm, he is young, horny, and sperm-rich.
No doubt there are gay boys who owe their happiness to older lovers. But in my experience, the pressure to conform to the expectations of powerful men creates a certain personality type. The man-centered gay boy tends to be slutty and narcissistic. He develops an inflated sense of self-worth based solely on his sexuality. Many kids I’ve known come from emotionally impoverished backgrounds: They’ve been told by their parents and their community that they’re worthless. Then they discover that they can command the (usually temporary) attention of gay men, and proceed to sleep with anyone who shows an interest.
Not all boy chasers are predatory. Some use emotions as their bait, and offer the nurturance that the boy’s parents neglected to provide. Sometimes this exchange is genuine, but often it’s just another technique. Sex is the point—and most deprived boys will provide it because it validates their existence. When they awake from this ephemeral daze, washed-up at 22, they turn to Ketamine.
Today’s gay boy generally doesn’t need a Socrates to initiate him into the world of adult physical love: He’s already aware of his sexuality and its value. He’s a self-conscious commodity, willing to accept objectification if the compensation is fair. Like the gold diggers in old black-and-white musicals, the boy has the power of pulchritude. Because he’s desired for his appearance alone, he can act as he pleases and the man has to tolerate it. The gay boy is a bitch because he can get away with it. He never grows up because he doesn’t have to.
I know that some boys yearn for men and find contentment in their company. But what about boys who just want other boys? How do teen queers meet each other?
Traditional gay hook-up spots like the bars or the baths are out because you have no ID, and everyone’s scared to try the public-toilet thing because they might end up with George Michael. The rave scene used to fill that void until scary straights moved in and tainted The Love. That’s the problem: Wherever gay kids gather they are followed by gay-bashers and midnight vultures who flock in for the feed. After all, gay men want to be where the boys are.
My gay teen years were unremittingly bleak. I went to one pathetic GLBT alliance picnic in ninth grade, but the unholy mixture of socially maladjusted closeted high school counselors and the motley handful of kids who were out just made me sad. All I had to choose from was a crack-addicted bisexual girl and a goth boy who smelled bad. Larger events were no better—there was something limply forced about the “GLBT Rave” I went to. Like Kurfew.
The lack of options made my teen years a smattering of unsatisfying flings with guys I had no interest in—most much older than me. Finally, at age 19, I found Travis. He’s 20. In choosing him I virtually forfeited my sex ticket to the elite, my access to success, but so what? My reward is equality. We’ve been through the same things, and we can help each other to outgrow the long string of emotional mistakes that constitutes young gay life. Plus, he’s my very own boy.
I like guys my own age, but what about when I get old? Will my taste in men age with me—or will I become a chicken hawk, too? Will I tolerate bitchy idiot kids just to get at their hairless chests? Will arrogant boys write articles indicting me? Only time will tell.