“Hi, cute!” I type into the app without thinking. It’s the third time in a day that I’ve used this standard response to a message from a guy aged anywhere between 19 and his late twenties. Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s a tad patronising, but it’s my way of channelling my bemusement at being propositioned, at age 36, by a young guy who could be young enough to be my son. The truth is I’m not quite sure how to react to the increasing number of much younger guys who hit me up online. Am I flattered? Of course. Would I actually meet them in the real world - for sex? Unlikely, unless we’re going to sit there and compare notes on Justin Bieber. It’s easy to judge and jump to conclusions about what drives younger men towards older partners. But what is the reality? What fascinates younger guys about older men? What are they looking for - and what do they think men like me can offer?
James, 55, who works in the film industry in New York, is no stranger to approaches by much younger men; indeed, his Facebook feed is often filled with pictures of a bevy of younger beauties. While he doesn’t class himself as a “Daddy”, he readily admits that this is how he is regarded by “Daddy chasers”. He is currently involved with a 23-year-old man, who he says is “basically straight”.
“It’s a bit like being a mentor, but we do have sexual relations. That’s the thing with this kind of relationship; it doesn't fall neatly into any kind of description that we are familiar with. In my experience, ‘straight’ guys seem more open to the Daddy/Son thing. Young men are desperate for answers. They’re not interested in their fathers. They can see how affluent gay men have choices, and they want them too. Choice is everything. They want to understand the secret of choice.
“I’m delighted that young men see me as attractive,” he muses, “however, I’m also realistic about what it means and the prospects. But it’s hard not to be flattered by the attention of a beautiful young man.”
James defines a “Daddy” as being “older, wiser, more accomplished.” The stereotypical “Daddy/Son” relationship, I suggest, is based upon the younger man seeking financial advancement. Has James found this is the case?
“If they’re attracted by my money then they’re barking up the wrong tree. Besides, I’m not rich enough to keep one for long,” he laughs. But James does concede that if there is a new trend here it can perhaps be related to young men’s desire for security in an increasingly unstable world. “But it’s not all about money,” he adds. “I’ve been thanked by younger men for fighting for their future, for allowing them to live freer and more equal lives.”
Roy, a music producer, is 36, and like James is financially secure. He is having a relationship with Adam, who is 10 years his junior. Adam also works for Roy, and it’s too easy to jump to the conclusion that he is (in Roy’s words), “just a toy boy to a music chief executive”. He speaks of the genuine love in their relationship - and the fact that has most confused his friends: Roy, the older man, is usually sexually submissive to Adam. “That really plays with people’s preconceptions. People always assume the younger guy is the ‘sub’,” Roy winks.
Roy says that he is approached by a lot of younger guys online and believes the reasons for this vary. “Some are after being a kept boy, others want to be a house boy or a sex slave, but the rest are genuinely sexually attracted to someone who is older. It’s different for each individual.
“You can’t deny that times are certainly much harder for the young. and there are less opportunities for them. Some are seeking financial security, but I also believe that if an older guy does have something to offer someone younger, then why not?”
Both Roy and Adam repeatedly emphasise the “incredible emotional support” they give one another. This was one of the most important things to Adam from the outset of the relationship. “Roy provides fantastic advice, a shoulder to cry on. I get the entire package: a relationship built upon love. Our sexual tastes also compliment one another, as do our interests. Together we bring the world alive and are fantastic companions in and out of the sheets. I was never looking for financial gain.” But does he believe that many guys are?
“I feel that the younger generation have been brought up with the belief that they should be given anything they wish for. It’s a ‘take take’ society, and I see this a lot with guys in their twenties who have little yearning to progress or achieve anything professionally on their own. In Roy I’ve found a person I love and admire - I’d take a bullet for him - but I am sure there are guys out there using the Daddy/Son relationship to get their career to the next level.”
A.C., 25, from Italy, has always been attracted to older men. He was 21 when he had an affair with a 49-year-old man, who has now fathered a child with an American woman. Like Adam, he was never driven by money, and is primarily attracted to older men because of the life experience they offer.
“In real life older men are more interesting than younger guys. It’s to do with the tenderness they can offer. Younger men are less masculine, and they don’t seem so capable of giving that level of tenderness. I love an older man’s knowledge, the benefit of his years.
His words mirror those of a 20-year-old guy I questioned on his attraction to my age: “I like a man to hold on to, not a delicate guy. Self-confidence, manliness, initiative. They’re important to me. Young guys are not usually men - they’re boys.”
When pressed, A.C. states that he does feel that more young men are seeking older partners because of the difficult economic times we live in. “Unfortunately, I think this can be the case. Younger guys are afraid that they won’t succeed on their own.”
But it takes more than financial incentives, A.C. believes, to sustain a partnership with a significant age gap. Roy and Adam have now been together for a year, and it’s hard not to be convinced by the genuine affection - and respect - that they have for one another. “It’s about trust,” Roy concludes. “Adam didn’t know about my job or lifestyle when we started seeing one another. Money should not be the only reason that people get together. It’s has nothing to do with our dynamic. Sure, tougher economic times do sway a lot of people’s desires to have cross-generational relations, but at the same time we can see that not all Daddies are rich, so that is where the trend is bucked.”
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