HEALTH: MATURING GAY MEN

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Everyone knows life doesn’t stop at 45, yet many people assume that sex does. As we mature, many gay men feel increasingly alienated from social venues such as clubs and bars that, for many, form an essential part of our so-called gay culture and which often cater to a younger twinky crowd.

Likewise, many maturing men are made to feel unwelcome, unattractive or simply invisible on gay cruising sites, with younger guys ignoring them or at the very most, just tolerating them. (Unless the younger guy is into dad/son-type scenarios or is looking for material security with a financially established older man.)

When it comes to cruising, most gay men treat each other as mere physical objects. We are attributed a relative value and ‘desirability quotient’ based on our age, our bodiliness, the size of our package and our preferred sexual role. Often, a top rates higher than a similar-bodied bottom guy of the same age, illustrating the added value many of us attribute to tops.

Although many guys scoff at the very notion of someone describing themselves as being either top or bottom, insisting that everyone should be versatile, this is contradicted by the number of bottom guys who describe themselves as versatile on their online profiles.

Whatever the case, there are very clear indications of a pervasive quest for youthful masculinity among countless gay men. And sadly, many of us define masculinity in terms of bodiliness, preferred role and of course, the package.  We are reminded of this by the frequent exclusionary limits stipulated in online profiles: “…no fems, no total bottoms, no older than 32…”

I often think older guys are partly responsible for younger guys feeling the need to place such blatant statements on their profiles, certainly in terms of setting an age limit. Ask yourself who you were attracted to when you were aged 25, guys your own age or men over 45?

Place this reality within the context of the high number of maturing gay men who are only attracted to younger guys, to the point that they ignore potential partners within their own age group. Ageism, a strong word for what is basically a personal preference related to age, is therefore equally evident among both younger and maturing gay men.

Besides these social factors related to maturing as a gay man there are also clear health-related factors that need to be highlighted:

• Many responsible sex campaigns focus on younger guys, perhaps forgetting that older gay men also remain sexually active.

• Having sex at a mature age carries the same health risks as it does for younger men. Older guys remain susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially if they are bottom for oral or anal sex.

• STIs and HIV are often overlooked in older men. Some symptoms of HIV may be similar to natural effects of the aging process. In addition, medical staff may fail to suggest HIV or STI checks for older guys because they may assume they’re sexually inactive.

• Conditions attributed to aging, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and arthritis may occur earlier in men who are HIV positive. Such men may also be more prone to depression and forgetfulness.

• Men over 45 should have their prostate gland checked every year. Such yearly checks should commence at age 40 if they have a family history of prostate cancer.

• There are countless reasons to stop smoking and drinking, including the fact that nicotine and alcohol contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). Cholesterol can also be a contributing factor to ED. HIV infection itself can cause ED, as can taking medication. Some ARVs can contribute to ED as well. Don’t use any products to boost your sexual functioning without your doctor’s consent; simply using such products could mask an underlying health problem requiring medical attention.  

Many healthcare workers are uncomfortable talking about sex at the best of times, but more so with an older person. If you have concerns or questions and have a need to talk about sex, raise the subject yourself.

Remember, Health4Men clinics offer free sexual healthcare to gay and bisexual men, including twinks and maturing men. For more info go to health4men.co.za.

Tell us what you think. Are older gay men valued in the gay community or are they seen as being past their prime? What have been your experiences?
 

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