Hello, Dr. Olson!
I am in my early thirties, and I came out about a year ago after years of casually dating women while having discreet sexual encounters with men much, much older than me. Since coming out, I have tried to date guys closer to my own age but have found that the sexual attraction just isn’t there for me.
I am grappling with the fact that my desires are what they are and trying to reconcile them with expectations for where I want to be in my own life, how I present myself to others, and my fear of judgment from friends and family.
Why don’t I feel the same attraction to guys closer to my own age than I do to guys 20–30+ years older than me? How could a 65-year-old man and I possibly live every day together? I feel that I should be seeking a more “practical” lifelong partner. We are so vastly different in terms of schedule and lifestyle. These are the questions I ask myself.
This is an important question and one I am asked about frequently. First, loving another person is never practical. Our attraction to another is not a rational process but happens due to forces outside of our consciousness and control.
This age difference in attraction is quite normal for a lot of men. One of the best ways to know what people are thinking is to look at what they search for on the internet, especially porn sites. A search for DILF (Daddies I’d like to f***) on Google turns up over 1.7 million references, and SilverDaddies.com, a gay dating site for intergenerational relationships, has tens of thousands of subscribers. You are not alone.
Sexual orientation is characterized by attention, interests, attraction, and genital arousal, and it is stable over time. Your attraction to older men will likely persist as you get older. One researcher found that age was as stable as gender in terms of sexual orientation.
Age is more than a number. We have a chronological, physical, psychological, and sexual age. These ages are not consistent from one person to the next or even within the same individual. Men like you often feel more comfortable in the presence of older men and may have less in common with their contemporaries. They often describe their attraction to older men as an interest in their wisdom, experience, stability, and even their slower and more sensitive approach to lovemaking.
In other words, even though their chronological and physical ages may be much different than the older man’s, their sexual and psychological ages may be quite similar. Ageism in our culture provides a stereotype of older men as declining and being sexless but oversexed. But men are often sexually active well into late life, although sex function does change. I believe that older men make better lovers; they are often much more attentive to the sexual needs of their partners.
Relationships between different ages tend to be a bit more open because as we age, our sexual desire diminishes somewhat, and the younger man’s desire may outpace the older man’s. However, the key here is for the two men to be open and honest in their understanding of their commitment to one another; honesty is more important than fidelity and helps keep the integrity of the relationship intact.
Some frequently occurring characteristics of these younger men include being masculine, having an interest in sports, and being attracted to an endomorphic partner, who has a soft, round build and a higher proportion of body fat. Often, they have a wish to please the older man. (I have a theory that this may relate to levels of oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, but this theory is untested.) Some have suggested the explanation for this is because the younger man has “daddy issues,” but no real evidence supports this.
None of us knows why we are attracted to the people we are attracted to. Younger men are often asked to explain their attractions but are unable to do so. Some will accuse you of seeking a “sugar daddy,” while younger men typically know they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. The attraction to someone older does tend to be persistent, and as you age, you will likely continue to be attracted to men much older.
Families and friends often don’t understand it, but then they don’t understand what makes us gay either, and we don’t know how to explain it to them. In my experience, most loving families come to accept the older partner, wanting you to be happy in whatever way that is. My partner is fifteen years younger than I am. Our age difference has almost never been an issue, at least no bigger issue than any other ones that develop in a relationship. Many of our friends are also in intergenerational relationships, and I find that they are quite stable and loving.
Many of these older men have been married to a woman before, and children are often in the picture. I believe this demonstrates that they are typically committed to long-term relationships.
Bottom line: You’re normal. I would encourage you to embrace this attraction you have. Follow your heart. We don’t choose whom we fall in love with. You do not have some deep-seated pathology that is responsible for this. Your preference is likely permanent.
I wrote about this in my book, Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, in a subchapter called “Men with Rounded Corners.” The title came from a young man who said, “I like men with rounded corners,” which was both literally and metaphorically true. I have also written two frequently accessed essays for Psychology Today, “Age as a Factor in Sexual Orientation and Attraction” and “The Curse of an Attraction to Older Gay Men.”
Try to accept that you must not rely on others’ approval in your mate selection. Be prepared that some will find it a bit unusual, if not frankly a bit weird, but you owe them no explanation.