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Thursday, March 29, 2012

SL Letters of the Day: Campsite Rulers

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Same exact question as "One Concerned Dad." Except I am 44 and he is 23. Please tell me if this is not OK. Neither of us are out...

Love Your Work

My response—and another letter about OCD—after the jump...

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Well, 23 isn't 18, closeted or not. But I'd put some of the same questions to you that I advised OCD to put to his 18-year-old son's 31-year-old boyfriend: How did you two meet? Are you being safe? Are you using condoms? Are you making promises you can't keep?

If you have a sexual connection, if you're being good to each other, if you're both getting something of value out of this relationship—and sexual pleasure is something of value—and no one is being exploited, lied to, manipulated, or abused, then the age difference isn't a problem. It isn't even relevant. Please see my "campsite rule."

The closet, however, is a problem. Dating while closeted is hard, it can lead you to settle for someone who isn't good for you (because when and how are you going to meet someone else?), and I would encourage you—both of you—to come out already.

Another response to my advice for OCD:

At 17, I was outed when my Dad found a note in the car he often lent me.

After I casually explained that what he found was merely directions to my friend's house, he poignantly inquired if I made a habit of recording the cock sizes (and circumcision status) of all my male friends. He had already consulted his office gay. I was encouraged to seek the office gay's counsel, as they both shared concerns about my hooking up with a 24 year old.

I enjoyed the amazing sex I had with that young man. I don't regret it to this day, despite the lack of formation of any emotional bond. Nor do I regret other encounters I had with even older guys when I was even younger.

Today, when I mac the younger gay friends of my straight friends, I am perceived to be "robbing the cradle." Their perception forced me to, yet again, reckon with that ugly question I faced back when I was 17 (now 28): What if he was a girl? Yeah, what if I driven my dad's luxury car into a gated Christian community and fucked a hot 24-year-old blond, religious GIRL? Would my dad have gone to a straight co-worker in a panic?

Only to high-five over the good news would be my guess.

My straight friends don't leave me guessing: older guys who get young chicks do so because they are awesome looking and do the correct number of crunches at the gym. Younger straight guys admire and emulate such achievers.

But gay guys who get younger guys—and I think you may know at least one—are sick pedophiles.

I enjoy the handsomeness and optimism of some young men, Dan. I don't risk breaking the law like some of my old-time hookups did. But younger guys can, have, and do enjoy my company in the same way I enjoyed the company of older guys when I was younger. Certain forces have led to the mathematically incorrect correlation of gayness with pedophilia (most child molesters are straight, despite the salacious headlines we're bombarded with to this day as you know). Our community has responded with an un-natural suspicion of May-December romance and courtship that is virtually non-existent in the straight world.

Why not ask this question: What if he—the gay, older, spends-a-lot-of-time-exercising-and-bettering-himself—were a she?

Would we have reason to sound the alarm of suspicion? If not, maybe "we"—the syndicated national voice of gays everywhere—ought to ask that simple question: What if this were a straight relationship? Would there cause for alarm?

Many teens need the help of your "It Gets Better" Project. Many more are growing up to lead "normal"
lives. But by continuing to help cast a shadow of suspicion, Dan, you further isolate groups of people that could make each other happy. Why maintain artificial barriers to our happiness imposed by the very forces we know to be so wrong and hateful? Why is it that your column never features happy Mays like myself?

Please recall what brings you joy in this world.

Please also recall that fact that your candor and honestly led to your being so popular and mainstream accepted. If you stray from that, to stay cool with the Google-General Electric-Halliburton-NSA crowd, you will have lost what made you so special and beautiful.

Thanks again for all your good work.

Your Loyal Reader

Against May-December romance? Me? P'shaw. Remember my "campsite rule"? I'm not against olds hooking up with youngs—so long as the relationship isn't harming the younger person. (Or the older person—remember my "Tea and Sympathy Rule.")

And I didn't say—I have never said—that older guys who are attracted to younger-but-legal guys are pedophiles, YLR. In fact I've railed against those who would define pedophilia down to include men (and women) who are attracted to young adults. (You think eight year olds are hot? You're a pedo. You think 18 year olds are hot? You're a normo.) And I didn't tell OCD that his son's relationship was abusive or destructive due to the age difference. I said that the relationship, due to this particular age difference (and the fact that OCD's son was still in high school, and still living at home), merits a greater degree of scrutiny.

Reread my response, YLR: I didn't advise OCD to break up his son's relationship; I didn't tell him to murder his son's 31 year old with his bare hands. I advised OCD to talk to his son's boyfriend, to ask him son's boyfriend some pointed questions, to listen to his son's boyfriend, and to communicate with his son about his concerns. I basically advised OCD to be his son's dad. And all of my advice to OCD rests on the premise that this relationship might, in actual fact, be good for OCD's son.

If I made a mistake in my response to OCD, YLR, it was in failing to mention the fact that some young people are attracted to older people. If I had it to do over again—and, hey, I do!—I would add the bolded bit to my response to OCD:

As for your son, OCD, tell him that you realize gay guys his age sometimes date older men because there aren't a lot of boys his own age to choose from. (If you didn't already know that, now you do.) And tell your son you realize, of course, that some young people are attracted to older people. And tell your son that this gay dude you know—that would be me, OCD—told you that something's usually wrong when a 31-year-old is dating a teenager.

As for why you're not seeing letters from happy Mays, YLR, it's for same reason you don't read a lot of letters from the happily GGG: people who are content with their sex lives generally don't write to sex-advice columnists about their non-problems. Lots of happy Mays wrote in way, way back when I codified the campsite rule, though, so I know you're out there. OCD's son, for all we know, is a happy May, just as you and I both were back in the day, YLR.

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