When people think of older men dating younger men, it's often met with a look of shock, or disgust for whatever reason. However, the idea of intergenerational love is not a new one indeed, it was a concept that was originally practiced during the Ancient Greeks and Romans. These days, many people realise that age is just a number, and that relationships with large age gaps shouldn't be something that's frowned upon or treated with such disdain. Many relationships, both gay and heterosexual, have large age gaps and its becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Some of the issue festered last year in 2015 when it was announced that Tom Daley was becoming engaged to his partner Dustin Lance Black who is 20 years his senior.
A quick search will reveal many gay celebrity couples in a relationship with a considerable age difference and these include; Matt Bomer and Simon Halls (14 years), Tom Ford and Richard Buckley (14 years), Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (15 years), Derrick Gordon and Gerald McCulloch (24 years), Victory Garber and Rainer Andreesen (13 years), Stephen Sondheim and Jeff Romley (48 years), and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, from Modern Family, and Justin Mikita (10 years). As you can see, there are a myriad of couples out there with significant differences in age. The question then becomes, why are there so many famous couples that have considerable age differences and is this a reflection of gay dating or is it merely a reflection on the shift of social attitudes towards intergenerational couples?
Firstly, let’s get the definitions out of the way. Since for the most part we often refer to ourselves as 80's born, or attributing that to a specific decade then we can safely isolate intergenerational love as being a period of ten years between the ages of each partner. No-one can really define the sudden and seeming influx of intergenerational love, but it has to beg the question has it always been there and we're only just noticing it, or has the recent shift towards a positive view of homosexuality resulted in the surge? Now that gay couples can get married (this is still pending in parts of the word, let's face it though it is inevitable) there has been a subtle shift in the way that couple hood can be viewed. Married (and non-married) gay couples can now adopt and raise children on their own succumbing to the traditional views of couple hood. As such, gay couples can settle into relationships that demonstrate more stability through an expression of their love, and combined with the social views towards queer couples.
It's undeniable that there is a great need for every individual to be in a loving, stable relationship. Could this be one of the driving forces for gay men? From the perspective of the younger guy he is embarking towards a relationship with an individual who’s older, experienced, and more mature and generally considered to be a more emotionally balanced man? For the older guy, whilst there could potentially be a vanity in the validating idea that a young male who’s both handsome and youthful still finds you attractive, this isn't always the case. Blair Fell didn't feel this vanity when he wrote his article "Don’t Call Me Daddy: Loving Someone 25 Years Younger" what he felt was an attraction towards the idea that his younger boyfriend, Colin, was constantly curious in regards to the world, and hadn't yet reached that jaded stubbornness that blocked him off from new experiences. Until meeting Colin, Blair defined himself as a 'daddy loving daddy' who adored crow’s feet and cherished the idea of a lived in body as being sexy. Blair struggled immensely with his young BF, and he struggled in terms of the security that Colin could provide in the sense of a 'real relationship'. Ultimately, in a sense, love won as Blair surrendered to the idea that there were never going to be guarantees when it came to relationships.
There are a lot of powerful forces when it comes to relationships, and ageism is often considered to be one of them. Does ageism stem from some Freudian ideology, or does it stem from a perceived fear of our own mortality? Some people feel that intergenerational relationships have more to do with the younger gay male, than what it will with the older. The reason for this amazing piece of logic is that older men, whether they be straight or whether they be gay, will almost always be physically and sexually attracted to the beauty of youth and innocence, therefore an older male will almost always be more open to intergenerational coupling than younger guys. This, we believe to be incorrect. Whilst there is a consensus in research from evolutionary psychologists that suggests that men are programmed to be sexually attracted to the ideal healthy partner as it helps with procreation. When the markers for 'healthy' are considered to be youth and beauty, then the logic that older men are programmed into liking younger partners kind of makes sense. Except, when it doesn't. The concept of beauty has changed over the centuries and is subjected to the understanding of 'inner beauty' as well which is defined as a broad range of psychological factors, if you were to look at the markers for beauty from the ancient Greeks through to Dark Middle Ages, through to Classicism and the Victorians, and to modern age, you will find the markers for beauty and handsomeness to be vastly different across each age. Whilst this argument could be true, in part, it shouldn't be the driving force behind explaining intergenerational love.
So if that's not exactly the case, then the question remains; what drives younger men towards older partners? It could physical attributes, they likely admire the look of an older male more so than their peers, they might be driven by the intelligence, wisdom and experience that an older male could provide. It might be neither of this things and simply be a reflection on an individual’s ability to fall in love with a person, as opposed to an age, number or particular look. There are going to be issues though - cultural references that neither of you might necessarily connect with, such as who Barbara Streisand is and why she’s important. It's certainly something that's going to be challenging.
One of the arguments against intergenerational love is that a lot of mature guys, weren't into mature guys when they were young. Part of this stereotype is grounded in the perceived insecurity of older men. The stereotype is that older men are insecure and they’re always afraid of losing their younger partner. As such, older partners will become controlling to a certain extent, dictating the lives of their younger partners and in some cases even asking them to wear chastity devices as a demonstration of their loyalty!
So, why are some young people hard wired into liking mature men? There's no real answer here. Sceptics will reiterate Freudian psychology by saying that they have daddy issues, others will say that they enjoy the money and 'power' within the relationships. Ageism is peppered throughout our society, driven through a fear of our own mortality. If you're in the camp of disbelief when it comes to ageism, have a look on Grindr, Scruff, or any gay dating website. With phrases that dictate 'no one over 30' (As if 30 is the arbitrary point where people get old), 'gay and grey stay away', and 'If you're old enough to be my dad, move on'. Try a little experiment if you're still a little unsure. Switch your age forward by ten years (or even backwards) and see the difference in the replies and messages that you will get. At the same token, there's a lot of mature men on these websites that have no interest in dating younger guys and they will make that quite clear in their profiles.
At the end of the day, we like who we like for a variety of different reasons that can only be explained by us. There's no real laws of attraction here and to reduce love, companionship and relationships to some scientific formula is going to be very limiting. The list of intergenerational couples is out there, and it's clear that intergenerational relationships, in some form or another, have existed for an extended period of time. With that in mind, does age really matter?