Just a number?

Jake Shears opens up about dating a man twice his age when he was still in high school

Let’s be honest, what gay guy hasn’t dated someone more than a few years older than him at some point in his life?

In a candid new interviewJake Shears is opening up about a May/December relationship he had with a man nearly 20 years his senior when he was 16-years-old.

The Scissor Sister frontman, who will make his Broadway debut as part of the cast of Kinky Boots in January, spoke to Attitude about what he describes as a “confusing” relationship with a 33-year-old man that began when he was an adolescent.

“It wasn’t the best or entirely appropriate,” Shears recalls. “I was lucky in the fact that I didn’t feel taken advantage of.”

Related: Jake Shears: “If all you’re giving the world is your body on Instagram, check yourself, f*ck off”

He continues, “He taught me how to play the guitar and introduced me to a lot of great music. But still, there was a lot of confusing, hurt feelings that surrounded the scenario that I could have done without.”

In the interview, 39-year-old Shears also reveals that staff members at his high school in Seattle once threatened to out him to his parents.

When he finally did come out to them, they had a “negative reaction.” Shears developed a close friendship with LGBTQ advice columnist Dan Savage and his now-husband Terry, who he says helped him find peace as a struggling gay teenager.

“They changed my life,” Shears recalls. “They made me feel like I had something to offer.”

Related: Jake Shears Gets Serious About Acting, The Persecution Of Queer People And Performing In Drag

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  • Frank

    Jake was always one-step away from a drug overdose when he was in high school and he was longing for MUCH attention and did MANY things to get it…

    Keep in mind little sleepy Seattle in 1994 was not on the nation’s radar and there were many gay men who had their fill of younger boys and men (yes that includes you Ed Murray)…

    These young gay men needed and wanted to be loved and these older gay men had money and power to shower them…

    Dan and Terry did their dealings as well

    • Stache

      I lived in Seattle in 1994. Sleepy is right. I saw kids as young as 14 yo with older gay men but for some reason it didn’t register as wrong as it does today. Maybe because I was young myself and felt like an outcast. Being gay in the 90’s was a bit different. Plus, their wasn’t a good support network for gay kids back then.

      I agree. There is no such thing as a relationship with a 16 yo when you’re a 30 something. Only abuse.

    • Frank

      Thank you Stache…people would have been shocked at the seeking out that young gay men did here in Seattle and the older men that was happy to have them as “status symbols”…

  • Armiya

    “Dan and Terry did their dealings as well…”

    Wow, that’s a loaded statement. Can you back it up?

    • Frank

      Don’t need to back it up…I know what is true and they what is true…nuff said!!

      Also Jake did not date this man he “fooled around” with this man and this man gave him what he needed and wanted!

    • Stache

      2017 seems to be the “metoo” era.

    • DCguy

      In other words, no he can’t back it up so it’s no doubt a lie.

    • DCguy


      You wrote “Also Jake did not date this man he “fooled around” with this man and this man gave him what he needed and wanted!”

      Well now I understand why you hate Dan Savage, he advocates coming out and is against child molestation and you are obviously a big fan of it.

  • Frank

    For the record Jake…you can not “date” someone 20 years older than you when you are 16 years….you can only be abused and violated by that person…let’s keep our language above the line here

    • Stache

      This reminds of Milo Yiannopoulos attempt at normalizing the sex he had when he was a young boy with that older priest on the Bill Mayer show. That ended him pretty much.

    • Frank

      So tired of gay men now thinking that they were in control when they were 16 and having sex with someone 20 years older than them…they were SO NOT in control and YEAH it did and does leave a mark…from Jake Shears to Cheyenne Jackson

    • Tobi

      Rubbish. I had sex with at least half-a-dozen thirteen year olds, when I was the same age. However, they really weren’t what I wanted. I was desperate to get to grips with some hunky muscle stud in his 20-30’s, and managed to achieve that when I turned fifteen. I find it hilarious that no-one raises any objection to sixteen year olds getting a job, driving a car, joining the army, even getting married, but insist on clutching their pearls in horror should said sixteen year old fancy some healthy recreational sex with an older guy. Jeez.

    • Stache

      We don’t. Kids are kids and adults should know better. If say a 30 something guy targeted 16 yo’s would that be ok?

    • Tobi

      Here in the UK the age of consent is 16, with the rest of Europe a bit younger at 14-15. You seem to have bought into some Judeo-Christian myth that there is something inherently wrong with sex, like it’s definitely dirty, disgusting, evil and bad, that you should only do it under sufferance, as part of procreation, but that enjoying it is really, really awful, the equivalent to drugs, drink, smoking, etc. etc.

      If a 16-year-old’s preference is for a 20-30-40-50-60-year-old, who are you to deny them that?!

    • Xzamilloh

      Yeah, even I have to admit that 16 is a reasonable age of consent — although I could never see myself with someone that young — namely because the difference between ages 16-18 is purely arbitrary and we’re only talking legal ramifications. If we really are talking about maturity, no one should be having sex until they are in their mid-20s.

    • Xzamilloh

      Okay, 60 on a 16 year old is gross. I mean, do you , but gross.

    • Tobi

      I’m not at ease about extreme ranges either, for example Hugh Hefner, but that’s my hangup. I don’t believe my emotional discomfort should be a benchmark that gets inflicted on anyone else. If a 16 year old has a thing for 60-year-old silver foxes, who am I to say that’s disgusting, wrong, perverted, etc. ?!

    • Brian

      No, 16 is plenty old enough to be making sexual decisions. They’re not always going to be the smartest ones, but a lot of 30 year olds aren’t making the smartest sexual decisions either. Such as the ones that are dating 16 year olds.

      It’s not a good situation, but it’s not automatically abuse and violation either. I had plenty of sex with older guys between the ages of 16 and 18, and it was all done QUITE willingly on my end.

    • Xzamilloh

      I mean, let’s have an honesty hour here… a LOT of us — including myself — have had sex with an older guy(s) when we were teenagers. I liked older guys then and still do.

  • buzzy58

    When I was 16, I would never have turned away an older guy. They could have taught me a lot. As it is, I had to find out the difficult way. Now, as an “older” man, I certainly would love the attention of a 16 year old. I would, however, not have sex with them until they are 18, even though I would LOVE to.

    • Stache

      I hope that attention gets your locked up some day Buzzy before you abuse some kid.

    • Tobi

      He said 16, not “some kid”, which is legal age of consent here in the UK, as is 14-16 in most of Europe and Latin America. Just because you infantlise adults in the USA whilst sexualising children, doesn’t mean you’re right, nor that the rest of the world has to follow your lead, just because people like you are hung up about consensual intergenerational sex.

    • Stache

      Yeah, except he’s 58. Like Xzamilloh said. That’s just gross.

    • Tobi

      LOL, there’s an awful lot of heterosexuals in the world who think gay sex is “gross” and would happily see it made a capital offence. I trust you don’t think their opinion should be respected either?!

  • Lucas23

    thats very relative. My 1st too was about 40 when I was 16/17. Age of consent it’s 14 in my country. But it’s funny this discussion in america, where you can drive a car by 16, a 12 can buy a shotgun/rifle, but you only can drink by 21.

    • Frank

      I do not care about the analogies regarding driving or purchasing a gun…can you legally drive at 11 or legally buy a gun at 9 the answer is NO…so RESPECT the AGE OF CONSENT in relation to your state/country or go to jail…END OF DISCUSSION

      On a personal note: how creepy are you? Answer REALLY CREEPY

    • Tobi

      The only one talking about 9 or 11 year olds is…. you!

    • Stache

      @Lucas23. Hopefully that 40 yo was stopped by the authorities or someone took out some vigilante justice. You weren’t the first and definitely not the last kid abused by him.

    • Stache

      @Lucas23. I take that back since you’re in another country. Still a very sick 40 yo looking for 16 yo’s for sex.

      Btw. why are there so many foreigners on this thread? I didn’t realize Queerty was so international.

    • Tobi

      @Stache — How about… Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall. Who was the predator? Who was the prey? Ditto Hugh Hefner. You talk about abuse, but honestly, I was fifteen when I seriously stalked a 28-year-old at my local swimming baths. He was a muscle god, in the days when they were rare, and I wanted him so badly I would have crawled over broken glass to get at him. The age of consent law in England at the time was 21. I wasn’t going to wait, and I consider myself truly lucky that he eventually gave in and took me to his bed. He remains one of the real highlights of my life’s sexual experiences, kind, gentle, funny and considerate, and he gifted me an indepth and amazing sexual education! I’ll always be grateful to him for breaking the law.

  • Frank

    If you break the age of consent laws in your state/country you deserve to be prosecuted and possibly go to jail….PERIOD

    • Tobi

      LOL, do you really think it’s an age of consent law that makes everything OK? You do know there are at least half-a-dozen countries where appallingly the age of consent is just 9 years old?! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent

    • Frank

      I follow the law of TODAY and do not have to cite some century year old BS to make my point…YOU ARE DANGEROUS IDIOT

    • Heywood Jablowme

      @Tobi: But why do you think 14 is cool? That seems ridiculously low too. Barbaric, even.

      I don’t care if some countries in Europe still have that. In the US we make fun of backwards Southern states that have awful laws (though none of them have an age of consent of 14).

      There is also a big push in the US right now to RAISE the marriage age in states where it is ridiculously low.

      And I’ve corrected you before (or I think it was you) about that “army” stuff. The age to join the U.S military is 18, or 17 with parental permission. Been that way since WWII.

    • Tobi

      LOL, you’re just an idiot, that list is up-to-date, not centuries old.

    • Tobi

      @Heywood Jablowme — I definitely don’t think an age of consent of 14 is “cool” I’m just aware that countries that have it like Austria, Italy, et al don’t appear to have issues with it. In the UK, you can join the army at 16 with parental permission, as you point out it’s 17 in the USA, but that still means you can join the army and kill people but you’re not allowed to get laid in some states! There’s also a much more serious side to this. A friend-of-a-friend’s 18-year-old nephew received a 3 year gaol term for having consensual sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. Unfortunately, this was in California which doesn’t have a Romeo & Juliet ruling, and her parents insisted he was prosecuted for statutory rape. His whole life ruined because of an ‘age of consent’ law.

    • Frank

      A friend-of-a-friend’s 18-year-old nephew received a 3 year gaol term for having consensual sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. Unfortunately, this was in California which doesn’t have a Romeo & Juliet ruling, and her parents insisted he was prosecuted for statutory rape. His whole life ruined because of an ‘age of consent’ law.

      Well your friend of a friend son broke the law and therefore got what he got…PERIOD..he should have done himself a favor checked the laws when he turned 18 years old.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      Well okay… in the California case I agree with Tobi and disagree with Frank.

      I think 18 is a ridiculously HIGH age of consent and I’ve always been puzzled why supposedly “liberal” California doesn’t change that. It would certainly help a lot of L.A. celebrities with their legal defenses. (ha ha)

      Also “Romeo & Juliet” laws are totally appropriate and every state should get them.

    • Tobi

      @Heywood Jablowme — 100% agree. I also believe that when the age of consent is 16 or below, then there need to be exceptions regarding position of authority, use of coercion, offer of benefits, etc. etc.

    • Tobi

      @Frank — If no-one was willing to challenge the laws, then gay sex would still be illegal!!

    • Stache

      Women in those countries were considered property so not a great example.

  • Prax07

    15 and 16 I was having oral sex with a classmate of the same age, and a classmate’s 30yo uncle. I had and have no issues with it. That said I’m not into younger, more than say ten years, so doing it with a 16yo isn’t even on my radar. Did hook up with an 18yo last spring and wasn’t into it at all. But if it’s two consenting “adults”, go for it.

    • Frank

      Well, your classmate’s uncle abused/violated you no matter how much you “enjoyed it”

  • Durwood

    Frank, when I was 16 the UK age of consent for gay men was 21, would you seriously expect me to observe such a ridiculous law?

    • Tobi

      +1 — I too lived through it being a criminal offence, then the discriminatory age of 21, still discriminatory at 18 and finally fall to equality at 16. I’ve always joked that if I live long enough, I’ll probably get to see it made compulsory!!

    • Stache

      Funny that at 16 sex wasn’t even on my radar. I guess you were different.

    • Tobi

      You weren’t even masturbating before 16? OK, I feel like a total slut now!!

  • tdh1980

    “I was lucky in the fact that I didn’t feel taken advantage of.” Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that you weren’t taken advantage of.

  • natriley

    There is only one way to determine if a relationship is abusive, and this with evidence. Relationships are difficult and the tensions don’t prove abuse. This is not a gay issue watch the movie Reader to see the difficulties that occur in a heterosexual relationship. What is critically important are gay-straight alliances and Community Center. The needs of adolescents and grown men are different and without discussion and advice, they are often unable to understand how these differences lead to misunderstanding. In the 80s and 90s, we confronted inter-generational sex openly, and of course, we reached for the criminal law to do it with. This is a mistake and one Europe by and large avoids. Sex between a 30 year old and a 16 year old may be a reason to open an inquiry, it is never a reason to draw a conclusion. In fact, it is probably a good thing to ask the individuals what they want rather than forbid. Each person is entitled to narrate their own life. We concede this for the transgender and we deny this for drug users with increasingly deadly results. The current hostility to intergenerational sex will drive it underground, it will not end desires.

  • Charlie in Charge

    It’s very unsettling that a 36 y.o. thought it was acceptable to be romantically involved with a 16 y.o. Young gay folks may think they know what they want but it’s the role of the elders of the tribe to look out for them and protect them.

    • Tobi

      … from what?!

  • ham

    When I was 16, I was not a puritanic, innocent child. I was a curious man locked a inside a body that didn’t help me. I wanted to live in a different society, where self-knowledge and responsibility came early. Native American at the time of colonization, classic Greece. I acknowledge there is a large window of maturing that is not eual to others. I grew up when18became adult for everything (from alcohol to marriage and everything in between), it’s silly that a switch turns on at 21 or 18. I have met 20 something’s that are still innocent children. I was not one. I had had sex with folks my age and I knew I didn’t know what we were doing; the inexperience felt very obvious to me. I wanted older men.

  • seaguy

    I have lived in Seattle since 1993 when I was 20 and I don’t recall there being anymore older gay men with young boyfriends than I have seen anywhere else. Maybe some were more out and visible but I don’t think Seattle was a hotbed of pedophiles.

  • Luvstoread

    I was very impressionable as a kid. I remember quite distinctly having oral sex with a very cute guy who was a really good friend of my first cousin. I was in middle school and he was in his late teens. In this day and age, I’m sure he would have been castigated. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was being abused or mistreated; however, I do believe as children we can’t make rational and positive decisions like most adults. I do believe the age of consent should be lower though. At 16, I believe all teens know right from wrong.

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