Mating Rituals of Gay Men and Other Animals
I just received this question from a younger man:
Hi doctor, I like this site and I want to ask why I can’t find an honest and kind man in the gay world? I’m looking for a relationship with an older man over 60, but I want him to be romantic, honest and kind. I don’t think I can find him in this world, because everyone one seems to be looking for fun and sex without love.
Here is my response:
Initiating a new relationship is never easy; as Brother Ramos said, “Love and risk are inseparable.”
Writing in the New York Times, Carey said, “Sexual taste is a wild card, in short, and one that many people would prefer be kept face down.” (Carey, 2004) As they age, both men and women experience a gradual decline in the attributes that are considered attractive. Women experience it more dramatically and earlier than men, and gay men are said to experience it sooner than heterosexual men.
Research on the topic of what makes someone attractive has been neglected because in a democratic society everyone is supposed to be equal and have equal gifts, but in our “hetero-normative” society has reached a consensus about some things that make a person attractive:
1. Younger are more attractive than older.
2. Age has a greater impact on women than men, and a greater impact on gay men than straight men.
3. Physical attractiveness is important for friendship, marriage selection, marital happiness and success.
4. Attractiveness begins at a very young age
In middle age, men are still coasting, but age may enhance some aspects of an older man’s attractiveness; grey hair on a man may be considered distinguished and a sign of wisdom. One younger man said he likes older men because “all of the corners have been rounded off.” I have previously written about the attraction between younger and older men and an older man responded about his experience in finding a younger man.
Most animals choose their mates in a non-random fashion, something called “assortative mating.” Some animals favor mates with certain characteristics, e.g. traits that they possess themselves, or alternatively, traits that are distinctly different from their own. In this process they reduce the field of their selection of potential mates.
When animals mate, the male often will spread his feathers or puff up his chest to appear to be the strongest, most masculine and most attractive he can be in hopes of impressing a potential mate. In the process, what one sees in themselves as their virtues are exaggerated and weakness and vulnerabilities are minimized.
I think the rituals that gay men go through in seeking mates are not much different than the rituals for animals. Unfortunately, when men are trying to enhance their attractiveness, they often are deceptive about those things which they find make themselves unattractive.
When a man steps into a gay bar, he immediately scans the environment, and his unconscious mind goes through a sorting process; he knows within seconds which of the men are prospects he might consider and that might also consider him. The same is true when men go to websites and review profiles of other men. The unconscious finds patterns in situations and behaviors based on little information, and the list of prospects is trimmed.
Frequently for gay men this mating dance or ritual focuses on a verbal description of something sexually explicit. When another man has responded to that in a sexual way, it is often heightens sexual arousal for both persons. It is unlikely that at that point the conversation will focus on “hopes and dreams for the future.” The center of attention of the interaction progressively focuses more and more on a sexual interaction to the exclusion of an exchange of information about who the two are as individuals.
Many older men perceive themselves to be on the downhill side of their attractiveness and sexuality, and they may distrust some who says, “I find you attractive.” Inside their head they are thinking, “How could you find a fat, aging out-of-shape man attractive. You must want something from me.”
Mature men cannot accept compliments about their physical attractiveness until they begin to perceive themselves as attractive. If an older man has experienced a reduction in sexual drive and potency, he may find it difficult to accept that another younger man will find satisfying his slower paced and lower intensity love making.
Men often have not learned the language of emotional intimacy, but can only speak the language of sexual intimacy. Perhaps an exchange of explicit sexuality is necessary, a kind of secret handshake that says, “We both belong to the same fraternity or social group.” Without some confirmation that both men experience sexual attraction to other men, perhaps the relationship cannot progress beyond a superficial level.
When you say, “Everyone one seems to be looking for fun and sex without love,” I’m sure it seems that way to you. Some are only looking for a casual and quick sexual experience, but many same sex relationships, romantic or platonic, begin with a sexual experience before they move to a more emotionally intimate relationship.
Sometimes younger men appear too desperate, professing their love for an older man before they really know who he is. This may exaggerate the older man’s fears that the younger man has motives that go beyond a loving relationship.
Many older men believe in the value of long term relationships but are already committed. Some are men who are leading conflicted heterosexual lives and are still concealing their same sex attractions. Some are afraid to let themselves love someone because they don’t feel lovable. The pool of available men may seem small, but I assure you it is much larger than it seems.
“Love and risk are inseparable.” But for younger and older men, behind it all is a fear of being alone, of not finding anyone who loves them for the person they are. But the risk of eventually being alone falls even to those who have found just the right man.