It seemed very natural

An interview that Brandon K. Thorp conducted with a young man. The young man had submitted an article before the interview, which could not be published due to the content that Thorp considered explosive. Malcom reported on his relationship with a man as a 13-year-old in the interview.

Taken from the collection Positive Memories, compiled by T. Rivas.

Source: Just Like Greece? — Gay Teen Dates Septuagenarian, an interview of “John”: von Brandon K. Thorp in, June 2006.

John, a young gay man in his early twenties answers questions from interviewer Brandon K. Thorp about his relationship with an elderly man when he was a teenager:

Brandon: Alright, John. Just for the record, you do understand why we couldn’t publish your article, correct?

John: Sure. Sure. My viewpoint can’t be safely sanctioned by anybody, without a fear of legal reprisal of some kind.

Brandon: Because—

John: Because that’s just the climate.

Brandon: But it’s not that it’s illegal to want to abolish the age of consent…

John: No—opinions are still legal in a lot of places around the world. But it’s only a very short leap from expressing your opinion to being stuck in a room filled with men in suits who want you to name names, and that’s pretty scary for anybody.

Brandon: Let’s talk about why we’re here. When you were thirteen, you began a relationship with a . . . with a what?

John: With a human being, who just happened to be sixty-seven years old. His name was Malcolm.

Brandon: How did that happen?

John: I was volunteering at a museum, and so was he. We started talking a lot, and he thought I was a very weird kid—and I thought he was a pretty weird guy. I still haven’t met anyone quite like him.

Brandon: Weird in what way?

John: Him or me?

Brandon: Both.

John: Okay. Me first, then—I was weird, because I hadn’t been very popular in elementary school and I wasn’t very popular in junior high, and I had spent a lot of time reading books. That was my entire development—by the time I was thirteen, I already understood a great deal about literature and culture, and I was very actively interested in that. It wasn’t some casual thing—I actually looked forward to sitting down with big stacks of library books and devouring them. I made time for it, and I didn’t resent the fact that books had been my friends for most of my childhood. I liked it. I think that was something that Malcolm really responded to—it was a very pure thing, and guys who go for much younger guys are really into purity. Purity is a big turn-on for those people.

Brandon: And what about him?

John: He was genuinely excited about things—the things I was into, science and learning. He was very passionate about his interests, and he didn’t have to fake it. That’s something that—I don’t want to call them “pedophiles,” but—

Brandon: We can call them hebephiles. (Editor’s Note: “Hebephilia,” or “ephebophilia,” is a term for sexual attraction to adolescents—“pedophilia” is attraction pre-adolescents)

John: Okay, then—that’s something that a lot of hebephiles don’t do a lot. I think they always pretend to share the interests of whoever they’re pursuing, but it’s very rare that you actually encounter a situation where the interest is completely unforced—totally genuine and mutual. I mean to say that Malcolm wasn’t interested in me solely because I was young—he thought I was an interesting person, he thought spending time around me was a really enjoyable thing to do. The fact that I was young just made it a little extra novel, I think.

Brandon: Okay. But what about parents? It takes a certain kind of person to be willing to help a kid pull the wool over his parents' eyes for—how many years?

John: Seven. Yeah, but you don’t know my parents. Haha. I’ve had to pull the wool over their eyes about almost everything forever. They’re not the kinds of people you can actually talk to.

Brandon: Why?

John: They’re . . . um, they’re very cold. I don’t think they’re bad people, but they’re just not the kind who were born with very well-developed parenting instincts. They were good disciplinarians: They taught me about hard work and they definitely kept me in line, they taught me how to conform, when need be. And I don’t think that this is unimportant, especially these days, when it seems like no one’s willing to do anything unless it’s easy and pleasant—

Brandon: You know that, but did Malcolm know that?

John: Eventually, he got it. He definitely thought he should get to know my parents, as, like, my older best friend. He—

Brandon: But that’s deceitful, isn’t it?

John: No! God, no. I thought of him in pretty romantic terms long before we actually consummated anything.

Brandon: How long?

John: About two years, I think. My parents—

Brandon: So you were fifteen before you actually slept with him?

John: I think so. And long before that, my parents knew that I spent most of my free time with this older guy named Malcolm, whom they’d met and liked. But it wasn’t like they were actively involved. It was more like, as I got farther in my teenage years, I had more and more time that was just my time, where my parents weren’t structuring every aspect of my life.

Brandon: Did you feel, throughout your relationship, that there was any kind of power differential?

John: Power differential? Do you mean, like, could Malcolm manipulate me?

Brandon: Right, that. Or did you feel in any way subservient?

John: No, I wouldn’t say so. There wasn’t a power differential, though there was a wisdom differential. I understood that, and I liked it—I didn’t expect to know as much about people or the world as Malcolm did, and neither did he. But he took me seriously, anyway.

Brandon: And you weren’t manipulated?

John: No, I don’t think so. He could have manipulated me if he tried, maybe, but that’s true in almost every relationship. Someone has the ability to manipulate the other person. That’s not what’s dangerous: It’s actually using that ability that causes problems. Besides, I could manipulate Malcolm, too—I was younger and could get away with a lot. I probably could have wrapped him around my finger, but I didn’t need to, because he gave me most of what I wanted anyway. That’s the difference between exploitation and love.

Brandon: And the sex—was that his idea, or your idea, or what?

John: I can’t really recall. It just seemed to sort of develop. It seemed very natural—it didn’t seem at all weird. If it had, I probably wouldn’t have been into it.

Brandon: But you were into it?

John: Oh, absolutely.

Brandon: You were physically attracted to a seventy year old man?

John: Well, I was attracted to him in every way. Looks only get you so far, you know: Once you know a person really well, you stop seeing what they look like. You see through the surface. You can’t really help it. You start seeing the whole package, and once you do, you can’t unsee it.

Brandon: Let me read you something from the article you submitted. You said: “The decadent Greeks had their problems with pederasty, but pederasty had its perks, too. The passage of knowledge from one generation to the other is very seldom a function of love anymore, and this deficit makes all development as cold and sterile as the word used to encapsulate so much of it—‘institution'—would seem to imply.” Did you really see this as some kind of Greek thing?

John: In retrospect, yes. I think it’s pretty natural to want that kind of relationship—though, obviously, not everyone will.

Brandon: Okay. I think you’ve addressed most of the concerns that a lot of people would have about this sort of thing, and—

John: But I’m not saying that all trans-generational relationships are good, you understand.

Brandon: Right.

John: In fact, in this culture, most of them are probably bad, because people have such warped views on sex and propriety, and also because that kind of climate has made it so that most of the older guys who would consent to this kind of relationship are scum-bags.

Brandon: I’ve got you. But, let me ask you this: What about ordinary friendships? I understand you weren’t popular with your peers when you were younger, but that’s true of a lot of people who wind up becoming popular in high school or college. Did Malcolm get in the way of any of that?

John: No. My social life really started picking up when I turned sixteen, or so—when I discovered fags on the internet. And there was time for them. But I always made sure that there was time for Malcolm, too. This was not because I felt obligated: It’s just what I wanted to do. I spent maybe a little less time with Malcolm, once I started developing a social life, but I still saw him at least once a week. And we didn’t always have sex, or even that often. Sometimes, I was in the mood and he wasn’t, because, you know, a lot of the hormones kind of disappear when you hit a certain age.

Brandon: Did you date other people while you were still seeing Malcolm?

John: Yes. I don’t think this trans-generational thing works really well if you plan on being completely monogamous, because then you won’t learn how to deal with ordinary dating scenarios—the kind you’re going to run into when you’re an adult, looking to settle down.

Brandon: Did your boyfriends know about Malcolm?

John: The serious ones did, but it’s funny—they weren’t threatened. It’s hard to feel threatened by a seventy-year-old. Especially since, when I was dating other boys, Malcolm and I wouldn’t sleep together at all.

Brandon: At all?

John: No. It wasn’t that important to him.

Brandon: Cool. Last question: Where’d it wind up?

John: The relationship?

Brandon: Right.

John: Malcolm died when I was twenty. Heart attack.

Brandon: Was that bad?

John: Yeah, really bad, but it was also kind of okay. He enhanced the quality of my youth, and his influence will likely enhance the quality of my entire adult life. And I enhanced his old age. We both got something out of it. I was never under the illusion that he was going to be around forever—I understood that we found each other at very different stages of our lives, and that the dimensions of our relationship would be defined by that difference. I miss him, but I wasn’t heartbroken when he died. He was old. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Brandon: It’s been two years.

John: Two years.

Brandon: I don’t suppose you’ve struck up any relationships with any much-older men since then, have you?

John: No. You can’t just go out, looking for people-replacements.

Brandon: All right. Thanks for your time.

John: Thank you! Sorry you couldn’t use the original story . . .

Brandon: Yeah, me, too. Try to write something a little less felonious, and we’d love to see it.

John: Haha. Got you. Thanks.