We’re not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s Valentine’s Day: the darkest day of the year for many of you single folk. Rather than offering tales of love (barf) or romance tips (like we’d share), we’ve decided to feature an interview with a man who dedicates life – and his passion – to enabling intergenerational relationships. Love does, after all, come in many shapes, sizes and ages.
It all started when former holistic therapist Chris Turner noticed a gaping hole in the world of internet dating. Most sites skewed toward the twink coupling, while older men – daddies, if you will – and their admirers were left out in the technological cold. In an effort to fill this void, Turner founded Daddy Hunt, a personals site for older men and younger men looking for love, lust or just plain sex. Turner even found his own man – author Armistead Maupin – on the site.
With 130,000 members ranging from 18 to the late-90s, Daddy Hunt’s more than just an online cruising ground, says Turner, but a “political statement” against “mainstream” aesthetic. Read what else Turner had to say, after the jump.
Andrew Belonsky: Hi Chris! How are you?
Chris Turner: I’m good, thanks!
AB: So, just to establish, you’re the founder of DaddyHunt, yes?
CT: Yeah, I actually started my first website about five years ago, it’s called Hotoldermale.com. That originally was a confidence site. We kind of had a personal section on there, but the software wasn’t that great. I really started it as a hobby and, much to my surprise, it started getting very popular very quickly. After a couple years we decided to split the personals off. I took on a business partner and we formed DaddyHunt as a separate site. It’s really only since then that the personals business has really taken off. The other part of the business, Pantheon Productions, focuses on the same group as DaddyHunt: men over forty and their admirers.
AB: Men over forty? So, that’s the cut-off?
CT: That’s a general guideline – it’s what I say, but it’s certainly not set in stone. Well, it is for our videos. We always have at least one guy who’s over forty years old. And on DaddyHunt, it’s much more flexible – there could be a 32-year old looking for a 25-year old, but it’s loose.
AB: You define “daddy” as 40 and above – that’s your interpretation – but a 32-year old can describe himself as a “daddy”. Is “daddy” more than just age?
CT: You know, I think there’s all sorts of different interpretations. For me, I think it’s just an affectionate term for an older guy. I’ve always been into guys older than myself. I know a lot of guys have that daddy/boy role play thing – that sort of thing certainly exists in the leather community, as well – but for me it’s just an affectionate term for older guys.
AB: So, how does the site work? People go to DaddyHunt.com and they fill out a personal, right? Can you walk me through it?
CT: Um, yeah. The site is 95% free. We don’t let guys see all the photos if they’re not a supporting member, there are also some advanced search features that don’t work if you’re not a supporting member, but otherwise you can contact as many people as you want, see as many profiles, navigate the site as much as you want –
AB: Do you have to have your own profile?
CT: Yeah, in order to get in and really start poking around the site. You can do a quick search without having that, which will show you a few pages of profiles. You can’t really see much at all until you place your own ad. We don’t allow people to put X pictures up front. The reason isn’t because we have any issue with those pictures – I think they’re great – we just think it creates a more friendly community if people put face pictures up front.
AB: I see…
CT: I get feedback from members all the time and they’re just really amazed at how nice guys are on the site. They’re nicer than most of the other places they’ve been on the internet. I think that’s largely in part because we require people to put G pictures up front. And, unlike some other sites, it’s a place that’s not ageist. I don’t think it has to be older guys looking for younger guys and vice versa. There are a lot of older guys on the site who are looking for each other. Some guys say to me that he’d like to go on the site, but they don’t get into the whole daddy thing and I try to explain to them that it’s not some sort of fetish. I really just started to site to create a place that’s not ageist.
AB: Do members have complete agency or do you ever step in to help the matchmaking process?
CT: We don’t really step in in any way. There are something like 130,000 guys on the site, but there are all kinds of search features and people can see who’s online and guys just tend to communicate a lot with each other on the site. I think it just happens naturally. I met my partner – my husband – through the site and I keep hearing from other guys that they’re meeting people, too, so it’s certainly doing the trick. It’s somewhere in-between the hook-up now sites and the sites that are strictly for dating. We’re somewhere in the middle there.
AB: Before you got into all of this – you said you started it as a hobby – you used online dating sites or online hookup sites?
CT: Yeah, I’ve been a computer geek since I was twelve – I’m 36 now – and I can remember even before the internet was really popular, I used to be on this old bulletin board called “The Back Door” and you had to dial a specific phone number to get into. This was before there was much going on on the internet at all. So, yeah, I’ve been fascinated with the online thing for a good ten years or longer.
AB: So what’s the fascination?
CT: I think the one limitation with meeting guys online is it takes away the whole element of chemistry – walking down the street, seeing somebody and having that spark. Obviously you can look at somebody’s picture online and get that sort of feeling, but it’s not quite the same as seeing someone in the flesh for the first time. Having said that, I think there are enormous benefits – people are willing to be honest about who they are and want they want.
AB: Do you think – going back to what you were saying about the chemistry – does it take the romance out?
CT: Um, no, I don’t think it takes romance out of the equation. Writing to somebody can become more of a romantic situation than, again, just meeting somebody in a bar or whatever. In some ways people are more courageous when they’re not standing in front of a stranger. I think romance is certainly more than possible. Again, I actually connected with my partner through our site.
AB: And how old is he?
CT: He’s 63. He’s a writer, Armistead Maupin.
AB: Really? I didn’t know that.
CT: You didn’t?
AB: Nope. Um, interesting – you guys are reversed: he’s 36 and he’s 63. Cute.
CT: Yeah! I’ve always been interested in older guys. He’s actually a little older than guys I’ve dated before, but it really doesn’t seem to come into play. We just get along extremely well and have a lot in common. I’ve had my fair share of frustrating relationships and it’s great meeting somebody who’s just really open and available for intimacy. He’s wonderful.
AB: Do you find with your experience that a lot of the attraction between people of different ages – obviously you can learn something, but it’s easier to trade ideas? If you’re dating somebody that’s your age, you’re drawing from the same historical experiences, so it may not be as exciting?
CT: In a lot of ways many gay men search for the other. A lot of guys go out with guys of different races, different cultures. I think when it’s an age difference, it’s the same thing, it serves its purpose: relating to somebody who’s different from yourself. I’ve never really been able to pin down why I’m attracted to older guys. I know there’s a whole assumption. I remember when I was coming out – I lived in New York – I felt that a lot guys my age were really critical: people just assumed that I was looking for a sugar daddy or I was a hustler. They didn’t believe that I could be attracted to older guys. That’s one of the reasons why I started the site: it’s a political statement saying that it’s okay to be attracted to something different than what the mainstream media tells us we should be attracted to and I’m kind of amazed how many people are on the same page.
AB: There’s a site that premiered earlier this year, you may be aware of it – I wish I could remember what it’s called, it’s basically a gold digging site that’s based in England. What do you think of that? It’s geared toward the same community, but it’s specifically financial arrangements, rather than relationships, sexual or otherwise.
CT: I guess my big issue with that is that I feel like I’ve always struggled with people that delegitimize my attractions – people assume it’s about money, so I love the idea of starting a place that really emphasizes that there are younger guys who are looking for love with older guys, who are looking for a real connection. And I’m sure there are guys on the site looking for a sugar daddy, too, but it’s certainly not the emphasis. I think that most guys who are intergenerational relationships are attracted to each other just like anybody else who falls in love with somebody because they think they’re hot or they like them emotionally or whatever. So, that’s my only issue with that site: it feeds into this stereotype.