When I was 27, I briefly went out with a younger guy. I stopped because, frankly, I didn't know how to handle the relationship. It made me nervous. Why? Because he was one hell of a lot more mature and confident than I was.
That, combined with him being seventeen.
We'd met at, of all places, a drop-in STD testing centre. I was there because a friend I sometimes had sex with had got paranoid about AIDS, and I was taking the test to reassure him. The other fellow was there to keep someone else company...and wound up discussing music with me. He asked me out.
A few days later we met up for a drink and a bag of chips - somehow a lot more romantic than it sounds - and later that night kind of...fell into bed together. Later he even met my parents - and went amazingly gay and girly over their cute little dog.
I mean, I've never tried to hide being gay - even at thirteen I couldn't be bothered to lie about it - and I've always gone a bit soppy over dogs. But this fellow - no hangups about masculinity at all, no thought that it might be awkward to turn into a flamer in front of someone's parents they've just met.
And able to give me some wise sage advice that I've later found to be spot on. Like I say, it made me nervous.
At about the same time, I was going through a period of spending all night in chatrooms. Some were about computers or music, some were a kind of group dating forum, some for arranging quick shags, and some were community forums. Though the distinctions between all of these tended to get rather...blurred.
One night, some guy asked to 'go private' - one to one instant messaging - and I said okay. Largely because he didn't start with "ASL?" or "fuck?". We talked for about half an hour.
He was 23, into clubbing, multiple non-serious relationships and having as much fun as possible. So maybe I could be a small part of that fun? Sure, why not.
Anyway, he says, he's got to go soon because he's got school in the morning.
School? He must mean college.
No, he says. School. He's thirteen.
So when he said he was 23, that was a typo. Right. Well it's been nice chatting but I've got to go to so...cheerio!
Mand8 dot com is a site for, well, exactly. Except it's evolved to have more of a community feel to it.
If Mand8 is dating but often community and friendships, Gaydar (last time I checked, years ago) is a quick-shag-arrangement service...that's more communal in practice. OutEverywhere is a gay community site that's essentially a glorified bulletin board, and even Squirt - the archetypal shag 'n' cam site - is going more communal.
So one night a couple of years ago on Mand8, someone logs in and pipes up with something like "Horny 11 yr old boi. Parents out. Wanna sex chat?"
Everyone ignored it. I thought it was probably some lonely troll trying vainly to start an argument. Or just possibly the vice squad trying out an inept new tactic.
Then, "Boi 11 getting naked. NE1 wanna see my cam?"
Oh...kay. So it probably is an actual young boy, on his parents computer while they're out, being hormonal. At eleven I was certainly hormonal - about other eleven year old boys, most of who despised me. Which is one reason I didn't get to do anything about it.
A few patrons said things like "This is a place for men, please leave".
Then minutes later, occasional scattered comments like "[Boy's Username] cam. Srsly hot!", balanced with an equal number like "Too young! Mods kick him off. Where's the mods?"
I left before the issue got resolved.
At about age 30, I was walking down a street at around 9pm. A high pitched voice called out "Hi mate!", and a boy of about 14 skipped across the road to join me.
I didn't know him, so I cautiously said "Hello". He fell into step beside me, talking animatedly about his family. There were some possible double meanings in some of what he said, and over the next one or two minutes they got stronger.
When I was certain they weren't accidental, I stopped and said "I'm not what you're looking for".
He gave a big smile, said "Okay!" and skipped off.
Months later I met a man and we spent a very pleasant night of sex punctuated with cups of tea - or possibly the other way around - and over the tea I mentioned what had happened, and where.
"Oh yes", he said, "That's [boy's name]. He's always doing it. He's got issues with adult approval".