You're at some nondescript point in the future where casual hooking up is no longer a public health risk, and you're checking out the local talent on Recon. After some brief scrolling, you fixate on a profile bursting at the seams with stunning pictures and some deliciously worded paragraphs. Your interests align to the letter, the attraction to the man under the hood feels instantaneous, and in the final seconds before you hit the cruise button, you read the sentence that stops you dead: an indelicate variant of "boys aged 18-30 only". Your thirty-three-year-old carcass slumps back into your rocking chair; the rotary phone you cling to slips from your hands. As flesh and bone disintegrate into nothingness and a gentle breeze wafts through the remaining ashes, you recall the running joke that turning thirty conferred either invisibility or death. Thus, spoke the ex-twink; Am I too old for this shit?
That's a lie. With my early onset facial hair and melanated skin, I'm not sure if twinkdom was ever an option. But I haven't been carded in years, and in the rare moment where I'm mistaken for being in my mid-20s, I offer up my wallet and my hole. Crossing into my fourth decade has also made me hyper-aware of where age preferences are flatly stated on hookup profiles, and worse, how often I'm on the wrong side of them. But what surprises me the most is not the fact of preference, but how often the insistence of youth is demanded by a man decades older than his desired playmate.
"I suppose it's all about the dominance thing" says an older friend who maintains such a preference. "Younger guys are probably easier to dominate." If exaggerated power dynamics sit at the heart of all kink, then making a fetish spectacle of generational divides makes sense. Where age implies maturity, wealth, and stability, youth not only implies beauty and suppleness - a necessity in some of the more challenging of bondage asanas - but also, a kind of innocence. Sure, there are early Zoomers who've spent more time encased in - or wielding - leather and chains than their millennial counterparts. but that conflation of innocence and inexperience with youth stubbornly remains. It allows the fantasies of older dominants to be infused with narratives of nurture and corruption. Everyone wants to be someone's first, right?
I first experimented with kink at 23, initially with someone aged 37, followed by someone aged 48, both of whom provided incredible experiences, one of which has even led to continued friendship. Experience and age aren't always perfectly correlated, but to be in the hands of someone visibly equipped and, admittedly, imbued with an air of paternalism, made it easier to calm my nerves and open my mind, among other things, to the then new experience of rubber and bondage. Sometimes you just want a Daddy.
But not everyone can have one. Not all entries into the world of kink are equal, and some arrive later than others, missing the supposedly optimum 18-30 window to get a firm foothold in filth. If we all log onto Recon to make fantasy a reality, do everyone's fantasies get a fair shot? A well-equipped Boomer wanting twenty something playthings to adorn the walls of his playroom will find his fantasy easily catered to. But what happens when you're no longer young enough to pass as an object of decoration? All other things being equal, to borrow unfortunate market lexicon, do I simply have less value as a cocksucker at 33 than I would have at 18?
The playwright Tom Stoppard said that age is a very high price to pay for maturity, and my greater self-confidence and kink experience has corresponded with a rising anxiety, questioning when I will need to quit the S part of BDSM, and will that be far sooner - decades sooner even - than I would quit the scene entirely? It's too easy to imagine a normative sexual path from teenage discovery to the moment one puts his toys away for good. At 18, he commands universal desire and the liberty to submit at all times with limited equipment, but with each year, he needs to not only build a formidable collection of gear to offset his loss of youth in the eyes of a play partner, but to also take on more dominance. What starts as a sub twink with naught but a smile, must end a dominant daddy sat in his fully equipped dungeon. Once daddy dungeon reached, he too can demand his conquests fit a particular demographic, as would befit his talent and earned pedigree.
But this isn't true. I have friends, dominant friends even, who lie about their age on both hookup and dating apps, and I know I should be angry at them. I should be telling them the honesty underlying consensual kink is impossible to reconcile with flagrant lying about one's attributes. I should be telling them how, in being dominant - and extremely well equipped - they have so much more leeway to express their true age without fear of losing interest. But the justified response would be, how could I know? I have neither the standpoint nor life experience of middle-aged and older men. Moreover, do I know how many searches I've been cut out of on the basis of not being under thirty anymore, even by a year? Who's to say if I too wouldn't slice five, maybe ten years off my stated age when I reach a half century, even if I somehow morphed into a playroom-owning pro dom?
Short of a utopian disconnect between youth and beauty, demanding radical honesty from anyone suspected of being over thirty isn't a solution, just as suggesting anyone is entitled to or is owed the attention and attraction of strangers isn't a solution either. Social determinants are more powerful than individual moral convictions. For the men whom, up until now, would say they only play with men under thirty, just as for men whom only previously would play exclusively with white, or thin boys, I don't want to be a charity fuck. Pity is a poor substitute for intimacy.
It's why in some ways, I long again for the sexual libertarianism of the bar and the darkroom. Youth may still be coveted as much as certain body types and skin colours, but at least immediate attraction precedes certainty. Someone insistent on an upper limit of thirty may ignore as much when confronted with the opportunity to tie up a beautiful forty-year-old, simply because you can't restrict search functions within real world contexts. But if the last year has taught us anything, it's that the kinds of intimacy that we take most for granted aren't the floggings or suspensions, but the welcoming embraces, the lilting touches, or the momentary contact during shared humour. In other words, the intimacies that leave space for sexual connotation but don't demand it.
I'm not the first person to suggest there's more to intergenerational kink life than sexual utility, but in the face of serial lockdowns, I'm especially thankful not only for the older kinksters in my life and the digital companionship they've provided, but for the time and ability to make new friends - Boomers and millennials alike. Some with a view to play post-pandemic, others with whom I simply wish to continue the passionate conversations we started so many months ago, with the additions of coffee cups and prolonged hugs. Perhaps this speaks to the chosen family dynamic that queer people, within and beyond the kink community, have aspired to, and that the relationship between older and younger members can be one as rooted in mutual mentorship, respect, and even love, in addition to desire and filth.
And I write this all whilst stuck in my early thirties, where I can almost hear the collective voices of men in their fifties and sixties and beyond decrying all this angst as embarrassingly naive. And they're absolutely right. Rather than lament what I assume to be an eternally lost youth, perhaps I ought to enjoy the body and perspective I have right now, and follow the advice Kristin Scott Thomas relayed to Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag:
"And what had Jesus done by 33?"
"Exactly, so get out there and flirt"
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