Gay dating culture can be quite difficult to navigate. While some have been fortunate enough to be in fruitful and lasting relationships, others struggle to find longer term partners. We recently saw a conversation about age surface on social media when media personality Somizi Mhlongo revealed that he was dating someone almost twice as young as him.
According to a recent Mambaonline poll, 61% of gay men said they’d dated guys ten years and older than them, but there seems to be a belief that people opt to date older men because of their social capital. Is ageism an issue within the gay community? Mambaonline spoke to young people to find out if age matters or should matter in gay relationships.
Sibongiseni Mthungatha, 23, King Williams Town
I don’t think it really matters and I think every gay person should experiment, to know what exactly they want, to see if they’re capable or suitable to be in a relationship with someone who is older. They should test the relationship dynamics. Well, I’m a student, I’m 23 and I would very much like to be in a relationship with someone older. I’m talking about from 26 to 40. Fifty is too old for me. I don’t date people my age, I only have consensual sex with them. I only date men above 23 to 40 because I feel like if I’m dating someone the same age as me, we have the same mentality, I guess. I doubt that they would be financially stable, so no. Older men, tend to have a sort of strong stability, they have independence and they are more mature and grounded – and I like people who are like that.
Franklin Magutywa, 24, Port Elizabeth
I don’t feel like age matters in relationships because some people mature faster than others and they get to experience certain life things earlier. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that adults should date underage kids cos that’s statutory rape. I’ve been in a relationship with older men before and some of them if not most were so immature and not cognizant about social ills. That’s why they never work out. I do have an age limit when it comes to dating. I wouldn’t date a person younger than 20 because they have some growing to do and I can’t be with a man over 60 [as] their time is almost up. I don’t, however, think we have limited dating pool, not in 2018. Gay people are all over and everywhere. Our dating scene isn’t limited at all.
While some young people say age differences don’t matter in relationships, others believe that they should, especially when one wants to commit or find a partner
Mpumelelo Ngwenya, 22, Katlehong
Age differences definitely do matter in relationships. As much as people mature at different rates and ages, I don’t see myself dating someone below 19. My minimum age will change as I get older. At 30 I don’t see myself dating a 19-year-old. I don’t know what I’d talk to a 19-year-old about when I’m 30. By then I’d know who I am and what I want whereas a 19-year-would still be finding themselves.
I definitely wouldn’t mind being in a relationship with a guy older than me. I’m 22 and I’ve grown a lot, I know what I want and I know what to expect in relationships. I don’t think the older guy would easily manipulate me (because of age difference) because now I know what manipulation looks like and how to deal with it, having gone through it when I was 18 and dating much older guys. I’m talking about manipulation because that’s how older guys navigate through relationships with much younger guys. Well, most of them. I do have an age limit for dating. I have very young parents so I wouldn’t date anyone who’s as old or older than my parents. At 22, my dating limit is 35; 7 years younger than my parents.
Ageism is a real thing in the gay community. The older you get, the smaller your dating pool gets. I can’t really give you the exact reason why this happens but I can guess, from my experiences: We’re shallow. Well, most of us are. We want what’s new and shiny and that translates to always wanting to dating young and ‘fresh’ guys. It’s even worse if you don’t have money. Because then, you have no leverage, no selling point when it comes to dating. The more money you have, the more options (in terms of dating) you have, because a lot of gay people will overlook their prerequisites if you have money. Well, not just gay people…
Age generally does not seem to be a major issue for many, as long as it is with a legal and consensual adult. On people in relationships with a notable age difference (the likes of Somizi and Mohale, for example), some agree that the assumptions and backlash the couple have received is unfair.
Alutha Tshezi, 24, Cape Town.
I do not think I have an age limit, but I am also in that stage where the socially acceptable ranges become blurry; you’re not sure when young is too young, or old is too old. So, if I’d have to give a range I’d probably say between 19-45 years old, even though I have absolutely no problem with being with someone way older than even 45. As we grow older, we get to experience more, specifically more trauma in the form of rejection and heart breaks; and I believe this happens more rapidly and commonly for queer people, especially in the early twenties. So, age difference would a determining factor in many relationships because the experience just is not the same, and the emotional responses to situations wouldn’t be the same either. The dating pool is limited generally within the gay community because desirability is based on certain standards of beauty, class (and education), etc. We are a shallow bunch and that makes it very difficult to widen our horizons when it comes to dating. In essence, the dating pool is limited, but logically, how is it that we’re all single then, why aren’t we dating each other?
I don’t think the criticism that they (Somizi and Mohlale) are facing as a couple is unique to them as a gay couple. The way the relationship is set up is actually quite common – a wealthy much older man, with a young and very beautiful partner – especially in entertainment. Having said that, I think people should just mind their business and let the couple be. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship is authentic or not, and it doesn’t matter if it’s transactional; maybe that’s something that also needs to be normalised between consenting adults.
Mncedisi Wotshela, 22, Bloemfontein
So many gay guys hide under preferences and we tend to not open our minds but we say we are. For an example [some] gay guys wouldn’t date a feminine guy because they believe, no, we are both “girls”. We tend to think with our penis more than our minds. The dating pool is really really big, it’s just it’s hidden behind discretion and preference.
I love Somizi. Somizi loves Mohale wholeheartedly. I watched the season of Living The Dream (Somizi’s reality show) where I first started seeing Mohale and how he wasn’t interactive. Whenever Somizi introduces him to people he greets them and gets back to his shell. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe that’s his personality. Again we tend to think Mohale is after Somizi’s money, [but] maybe he loves him and shows him love differently. My take on this is I don’t know or have a clue on what’s happening behind closed doors. If Somizi loves Mohale let him, no matter the age. He’s happy he found love there. So who are we that we are going to change that?
Is a large age gap a yes or no factor for you when looking for a relationship? Let us know below.
Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity. All images have been supplied.