2 min

In defence of dirty old men

Being sexually unattractive is one of our biggest fears

Nobody wants to be a lech. It’s one of the least desirable personas in the world, only a half notch up from paedophile, perhaps half a notch down from cult member or terrorist. We hang a lot of our self-esteem on our sexual desirability and judge people by theirs. To contemplate that one’s horniness is an out door without the companion in door is just too awful.

The dictionary meaning of lecher is a man (women don’t seem to have this problem) who lives in debauchery or who has excessive sexual desire. But in our Viagra-enriched society, it’s come to mean somebody who has the drive, but little other than conniving and cash to feed it. And conniving and cash aren’t supposed to contribute to sexual success. I’ve seen 21-year-olds refuse free drinks in horror, fearing the interests of an older man.

Gay men had traditionally warded off the smell of lecher by transforming themselves into eunuch clowns, who would hang out with women and channel their energy into the arts. That identity was built in the closet and isn’t so handy anymore – straight women now tell their enervating gay pals to go get laid. We grab for other things.

Fear of lechery drives couples to commit some of their most cloying behaviour. I think it even drives some couples, period. Being in a relationship is proof positive that somebody in this world finds us attractive. Everybody else might think I’m an ugly, boring, dumb, lying thief, but my snookums hasn’t left me yet – that must count for something.

Single people are left to play the defensive. Without the physical evidence of another breathing human being, certain questions loom. Why are you alone? Is it because you’re having so much promiscuous fun or is it because you’re a big loser? Are you merely between relationships or are you staring into a future filled with nothing but canned cat food eaten alone in front of a porn video?

Being queer in a straight society amplifies these doubts: If I’m a single homo, is there something fundamentally wrong with me and the nature of homosexuality, just like God/the rabbi/the priest/the minister/dad/ mom/my textbook said? If you ever wonder about the hullabaloo over same-sex marriage, you’ll find the answer nestled in this anxiety.

It’s not easy having sexual energy when there’s no one there to direct it back, though there are a few management strategies beyond loveless marriages and sex for cash.

The latest lightening rod for lechery is the raid by Montreal police on the dancer bar Taboo (see the next item).The place has a reputation for older clients buying good times with young-looking guys. Though all the dancers but one were of age (and that one was a 17-year-old who got the job using a fake ID), patrons feel it was the older-younger relationships that triggered the police interest in Taboo. Police were confident the raid wouldn’t cause a fuss in Montreal’s gay community, patrons say, because gay leaders want a squeaky clean image, an image that doesn’t include intimacy for money between men.

“It was just touching, harmless touching. Some of the older gentle-men need that attention,” one patron told me.

But somehow their needs are painted as tawdry and not worth fussing about, perhaps because we’re all afraid we might end up in the same place, looking for intimacy in the compassion of others, rather than in their desire. And that’s hardly fair.

Paul Gallant is Managing Editor for Xtra.