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Gay Sex After 50

Gay Sex After 50
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By Steve Weinstein

We’ve heard it so many times, it’s become part of the accepted wisdom: Faced with a youth-obsessed gay community, older gay men are forced into the shadows, lonely, isolated and sexually stigmatized. “It’s harder for us to age; there’s a real fascism about youth and body culture,” Steven Petrow, a 57-year-old gay man who writes an etiquette column for the New York Times, said in a Huffington Post roundtable on “gay mid-life crisis.”

The good news? Don’t believe a word of it. Far from suffering a generational mid-life crisis, mature gay men are finding greater fulfillment in all aspects of life, including sex. “We’ve become more diverse and more accepting of diversity,” says Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist and one of the foremost authorities on LGBT mental health.

What mid-life crisis? “There is a coolness to being older,” says Carl Sandler, the CEO of Daddy Hunt. “They have experience. They take control. People are viewing them as sex objects.”

If anything, gay men over 50 are having more fun in bed than younger guys. “With age comes the increased ability to engage in sexual behaviors that are most satisfying,” says Joshua Rosenberger, a professor at George Mason University who has done extensive research on sexual health among gay men. “Older gay men are more confident and self aware about what they do and don’t like during sex.”

Defined by the sexual revolution: Gay men experienced the huge burst of sexual energy unleashed in the years after the 1969 Stonewall Riots kick-started the modern gay-rights movement. Author Brad Gooch called the 1970s “the golden age of promiscuity,” when gay sex was considered a political act of rebellion.

“The gay liberation movement started out as a sexual liberation movement,” Drescher notes. “Calling someone ‘promiscuous’ often meant that you were envious of their having more sex than you were.” Sex, he adds, was “subversive and revolutionary.”

Despite having lived through the subsequent darkest years of the AIDS epidemic, older gay men still retain the sense of freedom and experimentation that marked the ‘70s. Many younger gay men who grew up associating gay sex with a life-threatening virus have picked up on that sense of playfulness. “Older men’s experiences are more visible to younger people,” Drescher says.

Daddies rule: Research indicates older gay men have a lot more fun in bed. “Older gay men report higher rates of satisfaction and pleasure compared to younger counterparts when it comes to their sexual hook-ups,” Rosenberger says. And younger gay have taken notice.

Perhaps observers like Petrow who bemoan “body fascism” and a “looks-obsessed” gay culture need to get out more.

A good place to start would be the local gym. This was the first generation of gay men who embraced working out and watching their diet. Now that they’re older, they see no reason why they should give up the physical exercise that keeps them healthy, vigorous — and attractive. Hot older men are so prolific that they have their own version of the cougar, the “daddy.”

“Daddies” have become an integral part of gay life. “I don’t remember ‘daddies’ ever becoming popular until I became one, so I’m happy,” says Craig Nelson, author of “Finding True in a Man-Eat-Man World.”

They’re celebrated (fetishized, more like) in coffee-table books like Tsia Stuart-Yip’s “Daddy” and erotic fiction like “Hot Daddies,” an anthology edited by Richard Labonte. There are Tumblr pages and bloggers devoted to displaying photos of them and extolling their sexual prowess. “In the last five or 10 years, there’s been an increased appreciation of older guys,” Sandler says. “We’re in a cultural shift from having to be young. There’s a proliferation of this idea that masculinity and age are worthwhile. Guys are not trying to look younger, but look their age.”

Cruising goes digital: What has changed fundamentally is the way gay men seek sexual partners. As I noted in an article on “The End of Promiscuity” in the Village Voice, “technology—websites like the ubiquitous ManHunt.com and mobile apps like Grindr—has taken the place of public spaces or even semi-private ones like the baths.”

If the fox, as they say, wants eggs, he goes to the hen house. For gay men in the 21st century, the Internet and mobile platform is where the boys (and men) are. Cruising on a computer instead of a bar, however, requires a different mindset. “Some older people don’t know what it’s like operating in this environment,” Sandler says.

Several websites and apps cater to older men and the men who lust after them, but there are plenty of older men everywhere men are seeking men. Manhunt still dominates online, while Grindr has by far the most members of any mobile app.

Navigating the online world: The gay online scene has developed its own set of rules, which can only be learned by diving in and looking at what others have posted. Older men who may have only recently come out or come from conservative families have to grasp openly stating what turns them on. For older men especially, the photos posted with a profile have to strike the right tone. Sandler recommends choosing flattering “lifestyle” photographs in a non-sexual setting that helps define oneself for the “public” photos.

As for the “private” ones accessible only to others, older men should be careful that they choose ones that make them look most attractive. Selfies are OK, but better is having a trusted friend give you the best lighting and pose. There are plenty of professional photographers willing to take erotic photos, even in small cities. These days, no one need be ashamed of posting these photos; the Internet has brought the world into the bedroom.

The real challenge, however, comes with the actual hunt. “Instead of introducing themselves with ‘How are you?” Sandler explains, “they give a long dissertation.” Face it: The men on this site are not looking for Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now. It’s always best to cut to the chase.

It’s also important to respect other people’s boundaries. “Men looking for partners have to be realistic about their expectations,” Rosenberger notes. “If their preference is to date someone younger, they should recognize that there will be younger guys who are not interested in becoming involved with older guys.”

It’s only natural that many men in their 20s don’t want to meet men in their 50s. Not to worry: Sites like Daddy Hunt provide an environment where “older guys can approach younger guys and not worry about being shut down,” Sandler explains. Daddy Hunt and similar sites also facilitate men over 50 meeting men near their own age.

Most importantly, no one should compromise his health in return for the promise of hot sex. “Recent national data has shown that older gay men were less likely to use a condom during their most recent sexual encounter compared to younger gay men,” says Rosenberger, who adds that “they also had fewer partners, more relationship partners, and had known their partners longer.”

Nevertheless, Dr. Howard Grossman, a New York doctor in general practice who was the founding head of the first society of AIDS physicians, recommends that older men research enrolling themselves in the once-a-day HIV-prevention program known as PrEP, which has been shown to reduce HIV infection by 99 percent.

With the right attitude and an online presence, no one over 50 has to give up nature’s favorite pastime, the bedroom antics gay men refer to as “recreational sex.”

 

 

 

 

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