While driving through a small town, I spotted a sign on a 1950s era motel that said, “Free Internet Access.” As I went to the desk to check-in, I could smell the curry dinner of the East Indian family who owned and operated the motel.
I signed into the internet, slow and choppy because of the the truckers parked in the parking lot to gain free access. I signed into a sight called “Silver Daddies” that I had only just heard about.
The person who put me on to Silver Daddies had suggested that the site was more fun with a webcam. I purchased one right before I left on this trip. I told the clerk I wanted it to visit with my grandkids. He looked at me with an expression that said, Yeah, sure. That’s what all you old men say.
After scrolling down the list of prospects and contacting a few, I turned on my camera and began to chat with a man whose age was listed as thirty-five. He was blond with a receding hairline, sturdily built and handsome. I found him very attractive, and I was surprised that he wanted to chat with me.
I could see from his image that he was athletic. His profile said he was single. He told me he was not out to his family or friends. His online friends were his only connection to a gay community.
A bright, educated, and well-spoken man, his Southern accent added to his charm. I told him I was new to chatting on camera, and he took it slow and easy with me.
Sexual arousal comes from a combination of desire and opportunity.
He was shirtless. He seemed sensitive and sensual, other things I found appealing. It eased my anxiety. The visual images of his home made me feel more at ease.
After we had chatted for a while, he asked, “Do you mind if I call you ‘Daddy?’”
Age may be a stable element of sexual orientation.
In a paper called “The Puzzle of Male Chronophilias,” Dr. Michael Seto writes that the age of one’s sexual partner may be as stable an element of sexual orientation as gender.
GLAAD defines sexual orientation as “the scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual (straight) orientations.” In their definition, gender is the sole criterion to establish sexual orientation.
But Seto seeks to define sexual orientation more broadly, including “a stable tendency to preferentially orient — in terms of attention, interest, attraction, and genital arousal — to particular classes of sexual stimuli.” He emphasizes classes of stimuli that include age rather than gender alone.
He uses the term chronophilia (Greek: the love of time) to describe a preferential treatment of specific age categories.
Seto’s research focuses on men because, as he says, there is almost no research on chronophilias in women.
We have a chronological age, a physical age, a psychological age, and a sexual age. These ages differ from one person to the next and even within the same individual.
In addressing age, Seto does not limit age to the chronological age but also includes physical and sexual maturity. Sexual age, then, is reflected in body size and shape, secondary sexual characteristics, and other visible signs of age, such as wrinkled skin and white hair.
We have an incomplete understanding of how human sexuality is oriented if we focus only on gender as the important dimension. — Dr. Michael Seto
A study of pornography gives us a window into the hidden world of sexual desire.
Daddies I’d Like to F**k.
How often does age factor into sexual attraction? When considering sexual attraction, the default position is typically two sexually mature young adults engaged in regular sexual activities, the most common representation of sexual activities fed to audiences in movies and television.
Attraction to an older man or woman is common enough for the Urban Dictionary to have an entry for DILF (Dads I’d like to f***) — a crude but specific term — and a Google search for DILF turns up nearly 1.7 million hits.
Porn sites include heterosexual, same-sex, and bisexual references to “Daddies.” If you wish to filter your search, Google recommends searching for naked DILF, gay DILF, black DILF, and monster DILF.
“Tumblr” has categories for dream daddies, hot daddies, and bear daddies. “Silver Daddies,” one of the largest chat sites for inter-generational gay relationships, posts over 155,000 profiles from a wide variety of countries and cultures.
Age and Gay Men
The most studied aspect of sexual orientation is gender, with age being the second most studied. Still, age has been studied almost exclusively in the context of pedophilia, and most research on gay men has centered on young, urban men.
Huge gaps exist in our knowledge of maturity as it relates to sexual orientation. Seto writes, “I am not aware of any empirical research on individuals attracted to middle-age [or older] persons.”
Seto focuses on four features of sexual orientation — age of onset, neurobiological correlates, association with romantic and sexual behavior, and stability over time.
In researching Finally Out, I had the opportunity to interview a large number of younger gay men in age-discrepant relationships, and I found some common themes:
- A vast majority — if not most — of them believed they have always been attracted to someone fifteen to twenty years older or more, and as they age, that age difference in their attraction persists.
- Many were or had been in enduring relationships, and frequently as the older man has grown frail, the younger partner had become the primary care provider.
- Demands are often made of the younger man to explain his attraction to an older man, even though he doesn’t understand it himself; people rarely ask older men to defend their choice.
- The younger man often explains his attraction with words like wisdom, experience, sensitivity, a life well-lived, but the appeal was very erotic as well.
- Younger and older men resent any implication that a wish for “a sugar daddy” or a “trophy boy” forms any part of their relationship.
- These younger men often questioned if their relationship with their father was responsible for their attraction. But they were about equally split between those who had a good relationship and those who had a bad relationship with their fathers.
Atypical sexual interests [are not] a mental disorder unless it causes personal distress, causes another person psychological or physical injury, or involves a person unwilling or unable to give legal consent
Age-gap gay relationships are not a mental disorder.
Although these relationships are atypical, they are not as unusual as commonly believed.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not define atypical sexual interests as a mental disorder unless it causes personal distress, causes another person psychological or physical injury, or involves a person unwilling or unable to give legal consent (e.g., pedophilia and pederasty). The APA made these distinctions to show that individuals who engage in atypical sexual behavior do not have a mental disorder.
Sexual attraction is not a linear spectrum but a matrix of infinite combinations.
When we think of sexual orientation, we usually think of the continuum of gay, straight, and bisexual. Still, sexual orientation is a deep-seated attraction toward a certain kind of person.
Erotic desire includes attention, attraction, fantasy, thoughts, urges, genital arousal, and behavior. Variations of dominance or submission, sadism and masochism, fetishes, and consent or no consent further complicate the discussion.
Sexual attractions may be single or multiple, exclusive or nonexclusive, idiosyncratic or opportunistic, stable, or fluid. Possible legal consequences, lack of opportunity, and unwillingness or inability to act all work to constrain our behavior.
Explanations for all of the elements of our sexual attractions are complex and probably unknowable.
“The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” — Alfred Kinsey, in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
Researchers have obsessively analyzed our sexual choices. They have imposed an undue emphasis on categorization rather than accepting the great diversity of same-sex attractions.
But the act of categorizing all of these atypical sexual attractions does not mean that acting on them is either legal or morally acceptable nor unacceptable.
All research runs the risk of reductionism, but when research on sexuality focuses exclusively on genital sexual activity — to the exclusion of considerations of attraction, affection, and affiliation — it falls short in understanding our sexual orientations and our sexual identities.