An Opinionated Daddy's View of Life

Friday, January 9, 2015

Boytoy? For the Boys in the Crowd...


Freaking Out About Age Gaps in Gay Relationships Is Homophobic

The Daily Beast
by Samantha Allen

In straight relationships with an age gap, words like ‘gold-digger’ and ‘trophy wife’ get thrown around. When it’s a gay relationship, those words change to ‘pedophile’ and ‘pervert.’

When news broke earlier this week that British actor and comedian Stephen Fry, 57, is now engaged to 27-year-old comedian Elliot Spencer, homophobic social media users suddenly decided they should try to be comedians, too. There have already been innumerable and equally unfunny variations on the joke that Spencer looks young enough to be Fry’s son, as Hannah Jane Parkinson relays on the Guardian. (And yes, someone has already called Spencer a “Small Fry,” har har.) The Internet reaction took an even darker turn when “Stephen Fry disgusting” reportedly trended on Twitter for a brief time following the announcement.

In the media, the couple’s age gap has been treated less like a scandal and more like a spectacle, with headlines predictably highlighting Spencer’s youth. The major outlets have remained more or less respectful beyond these gawking headlines but, as the Advocate reports, tabloid and entertainment sites have taken a more sensationalistic approach which has only been amplified by their comments sections, where people have been calling Fry a “pedophile,” a “pervert,” and a “dirty old man.” As for Spencer, the British tabloid that leaked the news referred to him as a “toyboy,” which, to be honest, would make a great novelty license plate for the Aston Martin that Fry lent him if he’s ever in the mood to reclaim the insult.

If it’s not obvious by now, the outsized reaction to Fry and Spencer’s age gap is deeply homophobic. Plenty of straight men—especially famous straight men—have wives that are decidedly their juniors: Harrison Ford is 22 years older than Calista Flockhart, Michael Douglas is 25 years older than Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Clint Eastwood is a whopping 35 years older than his ex-wife. George Clooney’s paramours, too, have waxed ever younger over the years. Sure, these Hollywood May-December relationships are surrounded by plenty of hubbub about “trophy wives” and “gold-digging,” but no one thinks that Clint Eastwood is a pedophile just because he married a much younger woman. However much we gossip about heterosexual couples with large age gaps, we at least refrain from calling them sex offenders.

The news of Fry’s engagement, on the other hand, has done nothing but stoke the flames of a particularly virulent brand of homophobia that sees male homosexuality as a synonym for pedophilia and pederasty. University of California at Davis psychology professor Gregory M. Herek has meticulously documented (and discredited) the history of this unfounded association. In 1970, Herek reports, over 70 percent of respondents to a national survey agreed with the statement: “Homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children.” In the 70s, this myth kept openly gay people out of teaching positions. In the 90s, it kept gay men out of leadership roles in the Boy Scouts of America. Today, it continues to circulate freely on the far Right. Even the tired old yarn about homosexuality being just a stone’s throw away from bestiality got some recent attention when Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson said as much during an interview with GQ.
Harrison Ford is 22 years older than Calista Flockhart, Michael Douglas is 25 years older than Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Clint Eastwood is a whopping 35 years older than his ex-wife.
But you don’t have to be an ideologue for the decades-long association between homosexuality and child sexual abuse to shape your thinking. When Bradley Cooper, now 40, started dating the now 23-year-old model Suki Waterhouse, the Daily Mirror called them “the sweetest celebrity couple ever” and repeated the old adage that “age is but a number.” This same outlet worked the phrase “engagement to toyboy lover” into the headline of their article on Fry. What happened to true love knows no boundaries and all that? Cooper had to put up with some gentle ribbing when he started dating Waterhouse but now that Fry has come out as the fiancé of a 27-year-old, he has to face down a half century of sedimented sexual suspicion. No one has to outright call him a pedophile for the old myths about gay men to do their work, they just have to not call his relationship “the sweetest celebrity couple ever” and 50 years of conservative scare tactics will do the heavy lifting anyway. And while we’ve probably moved past the point where most people would honestly think of Fry as a sex offender—according to Herek’s report, those percentages were looking a lot slimmer by the year 2000 and they’ve likely fallen since—that doesn’t mean that he and Spencer are immune from being endlessly psychoanalyzed for their age difference.

My friend Jeremiah Bratton, who co-hosts the gay video gaming podcast Gaymebar, is familiar with all of the stereotypes that surround gay men who date across an age divide. His partner is 16 years his senior and he has heard it all. Without missing a beat in our phone conversation, Bratton can perfectly mirror the sort of pop-Freudianism that outsiders bring to bear on his situation: “They look at me and [according to them] I have daddy issues and [my partner] is a pedophile. I’m a child from an early divorced family and my father was never around and I was raised by my mother so, if I was straight, I’d be dating my mother but now I’m looking to have sex with the father I never had.” And then he finally takes a breath.

For his part, Bratton is disappointed but not surprised that the same narrative is already being mapped onto Fry and Spencer. He likewise observes that straight men like, say, Billy Bob Thornton receive nowhere near the degree of push back that Fry is facing when they wed their much-younger lovers.
“It’s scandalous but it’s not disgusting,” he says. “And [the controversy] doesn’t last as long. It doesn’t seem to stick.”
When Bradley Cooper, now 40, started dating the now 23-year-old model Suki Waterhouse, the Daily Mirror called them “the sweetest celebrity couple ever” and repeated the old adage that “age is but a number.”
But while the media is busy rubbernecking at Spencer’s youth, few gay eyebrows seem to be rising, likely because large age gaps are relatively common among same-sex couples. A Facebook study from last year found that both gay and lesbian couples tend to have much higher age gaps than their heterosexual counterparts with the difference—or the age gap gap—widening as people leave college and start new relationships in adulthood. The reasons for a gay age gap are as varied as the couple. For some, it’s about finding stability and maturity. For others, it’s simply about accepting love wherever you find it.

Whatever the reason, people in same-sex couples are already living their lives orthogonal to one major taboo, so what’s another one at the end of the day? To gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, the oft-whispered heterosexual rule that older partners should date someone who is at least half their age plus seven years feels weird and arbitrary. In fact, one popular lesbian blogger jokingly suggested that the equivalent rule for same-sex couples should be “one-third your age plus ten years.”

Even using that generous formula, Fry and Spencer’s age difference still seems quite large but it’s certainly not unheard of nor is it unacceptable. June Thomas at Slate has a better guideline: “As long as everyone involved in a relationship is a responsible, mature adult, arithmetic should play no role in deciding a couple’s compatibility.” Sure, a 30-year age difference is nothing to sneeze at and, like any couple with that size gap, Fry and Spencer will have to do some extra work to make their lives coalesce across their generational divide. But that’s their business as consenting adults and not anyone else’s. Spencer is plenty old enough to know what he’s getting himself into and, in all likelihood, he’s thrilled to have landed one of the savviest, smartest, and funniest men in Britain.

Or, as Bratton put it between bursts of laughter after learning Spencer’s age: “I’m sorry. He’s not even ‘chicken’ anymore. Twenty-five is the absolute breaking point for homosexual adolescence. You’re done. You’re old now and you’re lucky you’ll get a man. Between 25 and 30, you’re trying to decide how much longer before you start growing a beard and calling yourself ‘Daddy.’”

And while we often highlight the difficulties of relationships that take place across large age gaps, we hardly spend any time at all looking for their beauty. With Fry and Stephen, there’s plenty of beauty to be found. Two handsome, funny, and well-dressed men—one late in his career, the other early on—holding hands in public while beaming from ear to ear? Whatever their ages, whatever their orientations, that’s sweet no matter what anyone else thinks.

Two adults falling in love and deciding to declare their love through marriage.  Isn't that a most natural thing?

At least, that is what THIS DADDY thinks.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Old Sailor and the Young Marine

There once was a grizzled, old sailor.

Cynical and cranky, one day the old sailor met a young Marine.

The young Marine was virile, brave and stalwart.

With eyes as blue as sapphires and a smile as bright as the sun, the young Marine entranced the old sailor.

Thought to have a heart as cold as ice, the older became smitten, his heart melting like chocolate in a heated pot.

Then the young Marine went far away, to serve the country he loves.

Upon arriving in the far away land, leading by example, the young Marine made life tough for the younger Marines with whom he served. They, the younger Marines, called him many names and thought of the old sailor's young Marine as a hardass.

While it was true that the young Marine had a hard ass, round, firm, beautiful and tight, as the old sailor knew, it was not that he was a hardass, rather the young Marine cared deeply about his subordinates and therefore he was tough on them for their own good. So that when tested in battle, they would be thoroughly tested.

While the old sailor was left lonely and horny and his missed the young Marine intensely, he was very proud of his young Marine, and his service and happy to have the young Marine in his heart, no matter might the future bring for them both.

To be continued?  Who knows?  Likely the story of the old sailor and the Young Marine will not have a happy ending.  But, hopefully both will feel the time they shared was special, however long it might last.

At least, that is what THIS DADDY thinks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's Wrong with Age-gap Relationships?

Stephen Fry's engagement: what's wrong with age-gap relationships?

News has broken that actor, QI host, and probable pub quiz supremo Stephen Fry, 57, has become engaged to Elliott Spencer, a comedian 30 years his junior.

It is thought the couple have been dating since at least November last year (or as Mail Online had it: “November of this year”), and on 23 December made a formal application to marry.

Of course, in a world in which everybody’s love life is ostensibly fair game, “Stephen Fry” was trending this morning on Twitter, and while Fry tweeted that he was very grateful for congratulatory messages – including from the actor Robert Webb, activist Peter Tatchell and pianist James Rhodes – plenty of people were quick to call out the age gap.

Age gaps in relationships seem to a be a perennial taboo. I cannot for the life of me (all 25 years) understand why: they’re great. I don’t have a specific type of romantic partner – either gender, any colour of eyes or hair, don’t care about height – but I do tend to go for people significantly older than me.

Why am I attracted to older partners? Well, I moved abroad at 18, and so was just generally around people a lot older than I was. I realised while living in Russia that I was more interested in the intellectualism of an Alexei Karenin than the dashing, whippersnapper partying of a Count Vronsky.

And, well, the sex tends to be much better. The exact opposite, in fact, of crappy sixth-formesque sex such as this scene in The Inbetweeners.

But society (and my friends) view age-gap relationships as odd. There are myriad banal reasons, such as “but all of your cultural references are different”. Well, no, not so much, when the internet and box-sets and streaming music services exist.

I might not have been born in the 1960s, but doo-wop is one of my favourite genres of music, and if I’m not listening to the Platters, I’ll be awkwardly air-drumming along to 80s post-punk and new wave.

OK, so I might not have been there sweating out pills to rave music at the Haçienda as an ex of mine was, but I was doing the exact same years later, so tangentially at least we still shared the same experience.

I didn’t get into politics via an opposition to Margaret Thatcher or the introduction of the poll tax, but the current crop of expenses swindling and hegemonic egotistical MPs motivates me just as passionately.

Another objection people raise is the idea of the individuals in an age-gap couple being at “different life stages”. Newsflash: this scenario can happen whatever the ages of partners. An individual’s maturity isn’t necessarily dependent on their age, and neither is broodiness, or the desire to marry or purchase property.

There’s also the fact that because of the rising cost of living, plenty of adults are having an extended youth. Thirty- and 40-year-olds are still living with their parents; plenty of us based in fast-paced cities eschew car ownership for public transport; men in suits are just as likely to be brandishing white earbuds and listening to a spoof video on YouTube as kids on the bus; mature students are on the rise.

This negates the impact of many age discrepancies. There is a difference, too, in how society views age-gap couples according to gender and sex.

Generally, younger dudes who date older women are viewed positively. The trope of a Milf is well rehearsed – at least in American high-school movies – and a 22-year-old regaling his mates with a tale of how he pulled a hot older woman is met with high-fives and the cracking open of beers.

The woman in the same relationship, however, would be viewed as a “cougar”, as in the Courtney Cox sitcom Cougar Town; or even more pejoratively, as a “cradle snatcher”. Just look at the horrified reaction when Madonna (56) dated Jesus Luz (27), or Cameron Diaz (42) hooked up with Justin Timberlake (32).

More recently Homeland fans were squeamish about CIA operative Carrie Mathison (35) sleeping with undergraduate medical student, Aayan. Or as Peter Quinn put it: “You’re fucking a child.”

As for older men dating younger women, well, it rarely raises an eyebrow. It’s almost de rigueur for middle-aged guys to show off younger trophy girlfriends, or for older married men to trade in their wives for younger models. Websites exist to match rich sugar daddies with younger women.
I suppose this is related to other inconsistencies in how society views the sexes. Women who like sex are “sluts” and “slags”, whereas men are just, well, normal.

Age differences in same-sex couples don’t seem to attract as much stigma - Stephen Fry aside - and seem to be more common. Perhaps this is because the LGBT community is more accepting in general, or because there’s a smaller pool of partners to choose from.

People need to get over the idea that individuals who go for older partners are harbouring Freudian fantasies, or that those who go for younger ones (so long as they’re above the age of consent) are somehow a bit creepy. They’re not. They’re just in love.

So, good luck to Stephen and Elliott.

I agree completely! I mean, I like to think I am not somehow a bit creepy.  Crazy, perhaps. Dysfunctional, definitely.  A bit creepy, not so much.

At least, that is what THIS Daddy thinks.

You're Not Sick You're Just In Love sung by the amazing Donald O'Connor and Ethel Mermen in the 1953 film Call Me Madam