Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Youth and Age [II, 49]

As we know from the kouroi (nude statues of young men) and the poems of Pindar, the ancient Greeks idealized youth. Christianity has taken a more complex position. One the one hand, the apostle Paul counseled putting away “childish things,” while Jesus maintained that retention of a quality of childhood innocence was needed for salvation.

Over and above the preferences of particular cultures, biological factors may condition sexual attraction to youth. Among these are energy and a fresh appearance, together a greater capacity for procreation and childbearing.. At all events, gay men have, many at least, tend to adopt this asymmetrical preference. In fact, they are not inaccurately targeted for their ageism. Lesbians are more likely to take a balanced view of the advantages of youth and age.

According to one classification, the dominant pattern of male homosexual relations in the various cultures of the world can be analyzed as belonging to one of three types: age-differentiated, gender-differentiated, and egalitarian.

The first type, age-differentiation, is central to this section. For example, the ancient Greeks divided male pairs into the erastes and eromenos, the first being the older, experienced partner, the other the youthful ingenu.

While this dichotomy is less prominent in our culture, older gays nonetheless tend to seek out younger partners. At one extreme, this general tendency finds a more specific and controversial application in sexual relations with underage individuals, phenomena described as pedophilia and pederasty. Such relations are sometimes termed intergenerational sex. Adults who seek such relationships tend to call themselves boy lovers (or BLs).Street language labels them chicken hawks.

By contrast, a few individuals are gerontophiles, who feel most comfortable with persons older than themselves, sometimes considerably so. Such persons may be sought out in bars known as wrinkle rooms.

Needless to say, most gay males are neither pedophiles/pederasts or gerontophiles. This broad intervening field does not preclude a proclivity for younger partners who are adults.

Because of the premium placed on youth and beauty a number of terms have arisen for sex objects conforming to this type. Some have the connotation of a kept boy, or one perceived as such. Going back to Renaissance times are such terms as catamite and minion (mignon in French). Elizabethan English supplies ingle. Giton, from an ancient Roman literary character, was once common in French. In contemporary America the twink or twinky is a cute young guy, typically slender and hairless and perhaps not overly intelligent. The muffin is “good enough to eat.” If he is a stud muffin, then he is perceived as sexually potent.

A hundred years ago in France an attractive ephebe would (rather daringly) be called by the religious epithet Jésus. Today in that country a minet, a crevette or a glabre is a smooth-bodied young man, who may be just coming out. In contemporary Spain such individuals are called efebos or querubines, cherubs. Of course, such sex objects may be more generally called chicos or chulos (the latter nowadays having a somewhat sinister connotation).

Gay men tend to fall for blonds, perhaps because blondness is associated with youth. "Golden boy" is not specifically sexual, and there seem to be no special terms for this preference, however.

Terms for older gay men, those “over the hill,” are generally uncomplimentary. Among them are auntie and (if considered particularly unattractive or obnoxious) troll. Contemporary Spain offers two choice specimens, histórica and momia, mummy.


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