Anthony Carter

Prolonged Adolescence

Filed By Anthony Carter | May 01, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: consumerism, critical thinking, internalized homophobia, relationships, self esteem, self hatred, self love, sexuality, six pack abs

Six pack abs, huge cocks, all night sex parties, and drug-induced orgies are now officially over. gay-pride.jpgWe are now officially required to man up and grow up and take our rightful place in society as responsible, trustworthy citizens.

I want to address what is society's part in the creation and sickness (pathology) of gay male culture. Society and gay society have teamed up to make sure that we never grow up. I heard a term recently that I have taken to heart and truly believe sums up what it is we are doing and where we remain trapped if we refuse to wise up.

Prolonged Adolescence.

Somewhere along the lines we have been sold a pack of lies. It is the mindset that all gay men are young, fabulous, wealthy, problem-free, and drugged up party animals. While this may be one segment of the population, it is not our only reality.

If this is our only and most important place of belonging, we as gay men have a serious problem.

The larger society and our self-created subculture are by and large in agreement that we stay young, in a constant state of wanting and never make inroads into developing our individual and collective gifts.

What is so fascinating to me is both the level of charade this presents and the agreement by so many individuals that this behavior is OK and should be lauded.

This would be downright laughable if it didn't cost us so much and so many of our players. In my previous post regarding cruising, I made the point that cruising is neither good nor bad and that it may or may not ever go away. The deluge of passionate comments I received let me know that many folk didn't get the point.

Prolonged adolescence includes both cruising and so much that makes up our culture. The problem is that we are only presented with a few choices which seemingly diminish as we age.

If we want to spend time in fantasy world there is a huge market that is all but to eager to make a huge profit off our delusions and need to belong. There is a great deal of money being made when we are kept hyper sexual, strung out, emotionally unhealthy, isolated and just plain feeling bad about ourselves.

It is easy to deceive and manipulate people if you can determine their self-esteem and then of course their buying habits.

What I am suggesting and have been suggesting is consistently having a closer look at our habits and ways of being and then making intelligent, discernible decisions that determine what makes the most sense given the time, context and all involved parties.

Many of us think critically looking at situations is a drag and takes the fun out of life. This is a fallacy of the highest degree. When you work on having a mind that works and a healthy emotional life, you tend to enjoy your decisions and consistently look forward to the life you can create.

When things are examined critically, life is engaging and unlimited.

This is a very different way of existing in a world that is only to happy to offer you the crumbs at the table if you will allow yourself to be opportunistically pimped.

When I strive for emotional well being and truly growing up, thereby leaving Prolonged Adolescence behind me, I move from a position of choice and not manipulation and reaction.

Prolonged adolescence keeps me stuck.

Choosing to define self, regardless of the manipulation by people who have the most to gain via my misery and self-hatred, makes me free.

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I think that this "prolonged" adolescence is not just something unique to our gay community. It also happens to the straight population.

Consider all the "Girls gone wild" videos and all the "Guys gone wild" ones as well.

But, eventually you reach an age where all this stuff gets old and is no longer a part of our lives.

We grow up.

Dieter Michaels | May 1, 2011 1:45 PM

Two words that prove this author is correct:
Circuit party!
A bunch of 40 something year old men, strung out on crystal after a year of lipo, and botox, and hair plugs,and gym going, and tanning overdose, all to hopefully give the appearance of being youthful and perhaps getting lucky with some of the poor younger unfortunate souls who have yet to understand what a circuit party is all about.
What a sad thing our community embraces in these circuit parties.and one of the leading places we lose many of our own to aids, and drugs.I can assure you that when I am dating, anyone who says they can't wait for the next circuit party, is promptly crossed off my list of potential partners.

It does create a very counter-productive image of the LGBT comnity as a whole and gives credence to the claims of the Christian Right. I am not suggsting that it be condemned wholesale, but to have it as the marketing image of the Gay Community drags the rest of us along with it

Dan Massey | May 1, 2011 3:47 PM

Eroticism is the healthiest part of human experience. Cultural repression of eroticism by social bullies to obtain unfair advantage and control over others is the current "gold standard" of human existence. This is horrible. Queers of all sexes and genders experience healthy eroticism more strongly than the closeted sex virgins of the het-cis breeder crowd.

There is something very positive in a sex affirming erotic attitude and philosophy that merges all phases of one's life into a common canvas of love on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. The "LGBT community" is well equipped to show the way towards a better, more loving and humane society.

I agree that perhaps "The "LGBT community" is well equipped to show the way towards a better, more loving and humane society."

However, it's going to be hard to do that if we succumb to the temptation to stereotype and demonize "the closeted sex virgins of the het-cis breeder crowd." Any attempt to make "breeding" in general seem necessarily bad is pretty nihilistic, and also ignores the fact that many of us are also "breeders," one way or the other.

Why posit ourselves as "better-than?" Aren't we asking others to see us all as "better-with?" Isn't that "...the way towards a better, more loving and humane society?"

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 1, 2011 4:03 PM

"Eroticism is the healthiest part of human experience."

Well, that may or not be true....and I'm not quite if Dan's statement is meant to be a pushback against Anthony's criticism. I think we should avoid over-stereotyping gay men in general as hopelessly adolecent.....while at the same time realizing that placing eroticism on to high of a pedistal misses the mark, also. In medio stat virtus.

Telling people to "grow up" is probably one of the fastest ways to turn them off.

It's patronizing, and over-simplification of the basest sort.

I wonder what would happen if we worked toward understanding and shared a vision or goal rather than simple, shame-based prohibitions?

There are too many variables at play, here. For lots of gay men, the exploration that characterizes adolescence doesn't start until after high school, when it becomes safer to be gay. And by that time, when we realize that we're not alone, when we've found a group to fit into, we succumb to the desire to conform to the mores of that group, such as they are. So, I'm not sure that our adolescence is any more prolonged than any other group's, but I do believe it starts later, sometimes a lot later.

Thanks for this comment, I hadn't thought that through. I am a transsexual woman, and many - of those of us who transition later - are accused of being juvenile in our presentation. I still often think of myself as a young teenager, experimenting with self and relationships. It's always struck me that this was actually psychologically necessary, that, having repressed part of our growing up process, we had to roll the clock back and just get on from there with growing up as women. Now I can see that this principle applies more broadly, and in a way that is comforting. Thanks.

I would note, however, that I also see myself as a 53-year old human being, and try to keep the wisdom of that in the process of regrowing myself.

nothing like a little bit of shamed based heteronormative cacophony like this to end my day. thanks, but next time i'll just throw myself under the bus to prove how normal and deserving yall are... uggg!

Dieter Michaels | May 1, 2011 5:10 PM

nothing shameful about asking gay men to behave in a way that is safe, and productive. Sorry but countering heteronormative behavior by doing drugs, having risky sex and pretending to be 20 when you are mid 40's is HARDLY a good solution, and a poor excuse to behave irresponsibly. Wow, I don't want to be stuck in the "hetero" mold, so I am gonna go have unsafe sex, multiple partners, and do it all while inhaling poppers and crystal meth. Hardly seems like you are Proving anything to anybody other than your own inability to be an adult, and responsible for your own actions. But you go ahead and fight those hetero norms. maybe when you die of aids, you will have a friend or two left to attend your funeral and say boy he sure showed them heteros...

wait, how are meth, condomless sex with multiple partners, and poppers "adolescent"? Your teenage years sound wild.

MRambrose | May 1, 2011 5:20 PM

It's unclear to me what you think "growing up" entails. If it does not include sex parties and orgies... does it include long-term monogamous relationships? Does it include marriage, children, and no more fabulous gay dance clubs?

You also fail to clarify what you mean by "emotional well being." The mental and physical health of queers should be a priority in LGBTQQAI+ activism, but telling those to grow up without providing real solutions (i.e. accessible health care) can really only cause more damage. Let's also critically think about why queers abuse alcohol and drugs. I'm pretty sure it's not because of prolonged adolescence, but it's the trans/homophobia and heterosexism that is woven into society (and creeps into queer spaces as well).

Judith Halberstam writes in the article "What's That Smell?: Queer Temporalities and Subcultural Lives" about radical queer subculture and its relationship with prolonged adolescence and "growing up." Basically, Halberstam reveals that what we understand as "adulthood" is extremely heterosexist and pro-assimilation. What about all those queers who choose to reject heterosexist expectations of adulthood in a politically conscious way? Read more of Halberstam's article here: http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/ps/halberst.htm#section1

Mainstream gay cismale culture stereotypes should certainly be critiqued. Its essentialization of gay men's gender presentation, age, and apolitical ethics are particularly harmful in marginalizing many gay-identified people. I appreciate your short critique of gay cismale consumerist culture. I'm totally not okay with capitalism seeping its way into my community more than it already has.

Also, Why must nonmonogamy and dancing diminish as we age? If this is true, I never want to grow up.

I wouldn't call it so much prolonged adolescence, but rather arrested development.

Gay men don't really get to experience healthy adolescence. In middle and high school they don't get to play the dating game. They don't get to brag and banter with their male peers about their hopes and conquests. The parties they go to are strictly heterosexual and any non-heterosexual behavior endangers the person.

Basically, many gay men never get their wild, sexually exploratory and carefree phase. They get stuck in an asphyxiating closet or they censor and sanitize themselves to straight peers so as to not clash with them by open sexuality (a neutered gay, not bothering people with thoughts of gay sex).

Therefore, it's not surprising that when they finally get to safe spaces to vent, they go full force on what they've hungered for in years. Most heterosexuals get to intimate and satisfying relationships starting at 14-15 by now. Most gay kids have to wait till college to have a shot at intimacy.

It's not prolonging. Gay men are just catching up to all those years of sexual starvation and expression. That's why it may seem overboard. You should start keeping track of heterosexuals, though. Overall they engage in just as much.

And if you ask me, it isn't fair to expect of gay people what is not realistically expected from heterosexuals.

Even if gay men were perfectly adapted-- in a straight, heterosexist society they would get slammed and slandered for something regardless.

"Six pack abs, huge cocks, all night sex parties, and drug-induced orgies are now officially over."

What??? NO!!!! Huge cocks are OVER??! Say it ain't so! Will the cock police come in and cut us down to size?

Paige Listerud | May 1, 2011 6:47 PM

Umm . . . 'scuse me . . . but has anybody here gone to a straight night club lately? Let the bisexual tell you that straight people are getting wild, straight people are getting drunk and using drugs (okay, discreetly, in the bathroom or in the alley or before they arrive), straight people obnoxiously displaying themselves and slobbering all over you when hitting on you. Okay? Twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, engaging in their own straight bad behavior.

And you know what? They'll either continue on that way into their forties or they'll settle down with someone of the opposite sex and they'll marry and/or get divorced and go out on the market again. Maybe some of them will try kink and fetish and some might try open relationships or some will just be horny, cheating heterosexual whores--like the ones you can catch on "Cheaters" late at night. Okay?

But the right will never call attention to heterosexual bad behavior or expound on how it's ruining America because:
1) That kinda talk turns off too many heterosexuals and, when mounting an argument against the existence of queers and queerness, you've got to make it seem like a whole "us vs. them" situation.
2) Too many heterosexuals on the right have been/are engaged in the same bad behavior. (At least they ain't no homos? Homos don't leave bastards, honey.)

Please. What straight people have are outlets where they can settle down and have their relationships protected under the law. They also have the whole world to go cruising in, so there's less pressure to find sex or love in a 6 block strip of gay bars. Really, when you're straight (or bi) you can meet some opposite sex person at a supermarket or laundry mat or on the fuckin' street.

So, you want a different culture where non-partying queers can meet and mingle and behave more maturely? So do I. I'd also like to have the freedom to meet my next girlfriend at my local supermarket or laundry mat. I want the SAFETY and the FREEDOM to do that. It would take the pressure out of my life and create a more humanizing environment for me to run around in. I think all that can be done right now is just to create more alternative spaces where queers can meet THAT DON'T INVOLVE BOOZE and might involve, I don't know, chatting with each other? In a comfortable environment where you don't have to yell over the music blaring? Anyone?

John Gagon | May 2, 2011 1:38 AM

"party etc etc." - That's a very stereotypical description of fortunate gay male who is allowed to be gay as a teen. The all night bible studies, the castor oil induced hug-fests with homophobes and who scowl behind our backs, trips to the fish-n-strips clubs. Alas, those days are over too. Not everyone gets an adolescence but a few of those who don't get a mid-life crisis where the pickings are a little slimmer, more STD'd, etc. Still, those awesome days are over for us too. ... actually, they aren't. Some of us just have to mix it all in as those days just started. Sure, it's still fun but heart problems, ED, and perpetual immaturity make it a bit soggy. True, the early outers had to deal with some bullies and mature quicker. In the end, we all put on our pants the same, work jobs and deal with the continued homophobia.

Actually this author falls into the trap that many of our enemies do. They buy into the stereotypes of gay men. I am in my mid 40s and most of my gay friends have never been to a circuit party, they have never touched crystal meth, and most have never been to a gay orgy. It might be the people you are exposed to but it doesn't account for the many gay men I know. Don't damn a whole community by your perception of what you think our community is. It's obvious you need to get out more and experience the breadth of the gay community at large.

It was probably meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but what does working out have to do with prolonged adolescence? Older folks with muscles don't look like kids, they look like strong, health-conscious adults.

When did six pack abs, huge cocks, all night sex parties, and drug-fueled orgies become exclusive of responsible, trustworthy citizenship? We could probably have quite a debate about the drugs, but the other items coexist peacefully with my responsible day job. And the kind of attention to fitness required for six pack abs is downright laudable; we should all be so healthy.

Part of maturing is realizing that there are many healthy ways to approach life. Yours is not the only way to be a good citizen. (Thank goodness, as I'd have nothing to do with it--how boring!) Every time I read one of your essays, I imagine how silly you will feel in 15 or 20 years, when life and experience has shown you that this kind of negative judgment of others is absolutely unproductive and unhealthy for you. I recommend that you stop worrying so much what other people think and do, start focusing on enjoying your own life, and let other people live theirs without your condemnation.

Ron Avila | May 2, 2011 9:33 PM

I appreciate and agree with your article. I do believe that the ones who need to hear it most will never see it. Many in our community have been damaged by homophobia starting at birth.
"When you work on having a mind that works and a healthy emotional life, you tend to enjoy your decisions and consistently look forward to the life you can create.
When things are examined critically, life is engaging and unlimited."
Many simply have no way, or at least a very difficult way, to get to this point. Whether it is a lack the patience, the inability to delay gratification, or the belief that they do not deserve anything better, they remain caught up in behaviors that ultimately leave them (me) empty. Also take in the addiction/illness model around drugs, sex and consumerism to get a fuller picture of what we are up against.
I live in SF and there are so many opportunities here for remaining a adolescent AND for personal growth. Probably the same elsewhere. We get to choose. This article is an excellent jumping off point. A discussion group around this topic might benefit many, may even be popular.

I think there are two issues with this one big one being the fact that many parts of what is experienced and done during adolescence for Heterosexual people, dose not happen for gay people until after they come out, thus most often latter in life.

Then there is the idea that we are not "grown up" and acting like the hetros because we are not acting like the idealized hetro mold. I think the idea that we all must fit into this idealized mold is ridiculous when the vast majority of Hetros don't even fit into the mold. It dose not matter how well or not well we fit into it those that don't like us still won't, and they give a free pass to the hetros that don't fit their mold any way because if they had to actually admit that no one fit it then they would have no ground to stand on. I think that more LGBT have realized their is no point in doing the mental and emotional and relationship harm that is trying to fit into an achievable mold of what and "good adult" is.