This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
If there's one thing gay men recognize about their milieu, it's the rather severe ageism that pervades it. Profiles on sex sites often set strict guidelines around age: No one over 40, no one over 30, some even say no one over 25. Not only is being gay expensive—a new leather jacket is required every year—but it's also, apparently, a young man's game.
Thus Montrealer Chris Wilson—out and proud since the early 70s—is definitely a trailblazer. At the age of 82, he remains active on the sex and singles' scene in La Belle Province, cruising sites like Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Squirt. Wilson sat down with VICE to chat about what it's like to meet up online when you're an octogenarian.
VICE: When did you first get into sex sites?
Chris Wilson: About seven years ago. I think I got some spam, which interested me, and I went to a site called "Horny Matches." Everyone seemed to be really fake and never around. Then I saw an ad for Squirt. So I started Squirting! About five years ago I was visiting with a friend from Concordia, a hustler, who introduced me to Grindr. Very slowly I looked at it, and it took me a while to get acclimatized. There are various codes you have to pay attention to, and ways that people communicate things. For me it's really important to have a sense of how distant people are, and Grindr does that. I'm happy to chat with people in Montreal, but to chat with people across the border, not so much, because there's so much scrutiny of people crossing the US border these days, I wouldn't want to end up on any watch lists. I don't do any chats with people in Ottawa, because it's too far and the city is too boring.
You weren't daunted by the ageism on Grindr? It seems like it's mainly younger people who use it.
When I first started on Grindr, there were a number of offensive gay men who would say, "What are you doing on this site?" My response would be that I'm gay, that this is a gay site, and that gays come in all ages and sizes. I would say, "I've as much right to be here as you, and watch what you say because you'll be my age soon." I don't pick quarrels with users. Occasionally I see something offensive. If I see something about bestiality I will report it. Generally speaking, the people are more polite lately. I used to work for a volunteer help line, the Gay Line, in Montreal, and that gave me a handle as to how to deal with chatting online. I had chats with people on Grindr and ended up talking to them about how sad they were, and ended up counseling them out of suicidal talk.
Have you found romance on these sites, or is it mainly about sex?
I wouldn't say romances, because I'm past the stage of looking for that. I have a straight roommate, and we get along very well. But having a handsome straight roommate means I sometimes get horny and restless, and Grindr is good for that. I have four friends-with-benefits situations going on. One is from Sri Lanka—he's a nurse and comes over to my place every now and then. It's very relaxing. I met another friend from Lebanon.
Your sex life sounds like a bit of a UN tour.
Yes, it does! I have traveled a lot and like men from all over the world.
Do you visit sites other than Grindr and Squirt?
Adam4Adam and GayRomeo, too. The problem with GayRomeo is that I'm always being hit on from overseas. I get hit on by guys from India or Jamaica. I think when people see an older guy they think that they can get money out of me, or gain entry to Canada. My profile reads, "Fancy an octogenarian?" Occasionally, someone will ask me what an octogenarian is, and that's a good filter, so I don't get together with someone stupid. I also write, "I'm not your daddy, but I could be your dirty old uncle." That works. It gives them the message that I'm not really into being a sugar daddy—I don't want to support someone who would become my dependent. I get hit on by guys who have fond memories of being hit on by their dirty old uncles.
Is there anything too kinky that you've been asked to do?
Sometimes I show pictures of my dogs. Once I was asked about bestiality. I report them right away.
Did you see the film Gerontophilia?
Yes. I teared up a few times. I think it was very well done. I think it appeals to the boy still lurking in old men. It was also illuminating. There's a lot of ageism in gay society, and I think it's important people talk about it.
Do any of these sites offer a senior discount?
No, not yet.
Do you take Viagra?
I tried Viagra. I prefer Cialis, but it doesn't kick in until the next day, so I have to plan ahead. These pills work, but for me they're not necessary.
On your profile, included in your likes are "younger guys." I thought it was a good thing that you aren't into older guys, as there can't be many guys older than 82 on these sites. Do you bump into other men your age anywhere online?
No. There are definite age groups on the sites. There are a number of guys in their 60s. Fortysomethings and 45s are very active. And then there are those in their 60s. I think it's a big turnoff when someone says they're lonely. Enjoy your solitude. There's a difference. I'm never lonely.
You seem to spend a lot of time online—you've got your phone on now to Grindr. So how often do you hook up?
About twice a month—that's my batting average. I'm not really a top anymore. With a great deal of persuasion I could be, but mainly I like to give oral or bottom. There are people who are quite happy with that, even with an older person. Sometimes if they had an early experience with an older person, they're comfortable with it. Some young people aren't that into their own age group. I'm happy to share my intimacy with them. I love culture, so sometimes I might just go to a concert with someone.
You came out a long time ago. How would you compare cruising then to now?
Coming out in the 70s meant going out to bars and people were often drunk. You could stay somewhere all night and not get picked up, or take someone home who you weren't sure of. Going online gives you a lot of options. Obviously, you have to figure out who's sincere and who's not, but once you do that, you can set your own parameters and filters, and meet people you're genuinely into. I find Grindr especially helpful when traveling. When I was in London, England, I got hit on by about 40 guys. I had sex eight times in seven days!
The British seem to have a real inter-generational thing going on.
Yes, they do.
Related: VICE sits down with sex writer Maureen O'Connor and chats about online dating.
So you really don't experience much ageism online?
I've seen "no old men" on profiles, or age limits. But I don't feel threatened or upset by that, because when I was younger I had exactly the same feelings. I didn't like older guys. I can respect that preference, but people should put it in a way that's polite and respectful.