Loving Men - An Interview with Mark Moffett

A detailed interview between the 15-year-old Mark Moffett and the American cultural theorist and literary critic Sylvère Lotringer about love for men.

Source: Kids Club Anthology #1; Out the Mouth of Babes - Youth speak out on youthlove; March 2019

Loving Men

Mark Moffett

This originally untitled interview between gay teen Mark Moffett (15 at the time) and theorist Sylvère Lotringer first appeared in Loving Boys, part of the Semiotext(e) Special Intervention Series 2, in the summer of 1980. Mark Moffett was a part of both the gay youth and youthlover scene, being an active member and spokesperson of Gay Youth of New York and serving on the steering committee of the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

Sylvère Lotringer: What role has man love played in your life?
Mark Moffett: A very important role. The first time I ever began to express sexual feelings toward anyone was within a man/boy relationship. Man love is also something which has helped thousands of boys discover their own sexuality and get in touch with what they really feel. A lot of people think of “man/boy love” as just man/boy sex – a man’s lust for a boy. They don’t believe that between them there can be love, or the possibility of it. They are wrong.

Lotringer: Sex is only one aspect of it?
Moffett: Yes, although in some circumstances sex is the only aspect.

Lotringer: Do you think there are men who actually abuse children sexually?
Moffett: Of course. Between man and boy there can always be sexual abuses, rape, coercion.

Lotringer: Always on the part of men?
Moffett: It’s a little hard for a boy to rape a man (he chuckles). He is out-powered.

Lotringer: Precisely. People fear boys are out-powered anyway. Moffett: Actually, it’s often not the man who goes out to seduce the boy, but the other way around. In my first experience, I did the seducing.

Lotringer: Have you ever been abused?
Moffett: Perhaps once, although I really can’t say that I was coerced into it. I was coming home from school and I met this guy. He had this incredibly large cock and I said, “Don’t fuck me because I’ve only been fucked once before.” I didn’t want to be fucked, but he did it anyway. But I don’t know how you’d call it since it wasn’t me being dragged on to his house. I invited him over to mine…

Lotringer: Do you think this is exceptional in any way?
Moffett: No. It is mostly the boys who go out in search of sexual satisfaction from men. Of course the men are willing to get it, and they can find boys anyway. But where are they going to find these certain boys who need them and want to have sex with them? They just can’t go to a school park or some-thing. It’s easier for boys to find out where gay men would be hanging out.

Lotringer: Do you think boys realize that it is harder for men to find boys, that men may be afraid to approach them because of the law?
Moffett: Oh, yes, I’ve encountered that. Lots of times. As soon as they found out how old I was they tried to get rid of me. Some of them had careers and family to worry about.

Lotringer: How long have you been involved in these encounters?
Moffett: Since I was 13.

Lotringer: That was two years ago.
Moffett: Yes.

Lotringer: How did it all start?
Moffett: One day I was doing the laundry and there was an ad on the bulletin board for a gay dance and it said: “For further information call Frank.” So I memorized his number and called him up. I asked him if he was gay. He said yes. I said: “Do you15 want to have sex?”

Lotringer: Had you had sex before?
Moffett: Before that I had sexual explorations with friends my own age. But I didn’t consider that I lost my virginity then. When I had sex with that man was really first having sex.

Lotringer: What if he hadn’t been gay?
Moffett: I would have hung up.

Lotringer: You’re not interested in straight men?
Moffett: I’m interested in whomever I’m a:racted to. Mainly they’re gay. I find some straight men attractive, but they wouldn’t want to have sex with me. At least I doubt it. So the men I do have sex with are gay.

Lotringer: Do you consider yourself gay?
Moffett: Yes.

Lotringer: Boys have to be gay to be interested in men?
Moffett: I’m sure lots of them term themselves bi, or just don’t term themselves anything.

Lotringer: Would most boys use your direct approach to men?
Moffett: I don’t think so. Boys I know have a lot of sexual hang-ups. They are embarrassed to talk about it. They wouldn’t approach a man directly. I don’t know why I did it myself. Maybe I was just desperate.

Lotringer: You can be desperate for sex at 13?
Moffett: Oh yes.

Lotringer: Few people would believe that.
Moffett: It seems that adults, or parents, always keep this discovery of sex from their children. I don’t know where that originated.

Lotringer: Did you feel you were prevented from discovering sex?
Moffett: No. We never discussed sex in my home. So I was impartial (is that the word?) to the whole idea of sex really. I didn’t think it was bad to talk about it because it was never talked about.

Lotringer: There isn’t just home. There is also school.
Moffett: We had sex education.

Lotringer: How old were you when you had sex education?
Moffett: Not until I was 12.

Lotringer: Was it a good thing to have?
Moffett: That late! But it was a good thing to have anyway. It was basic stuff, like the parts, the organs of the body, how they operate. They should have gone into more details.

Lotringer: Did you learn anything?
Moffett: I learned about heterosexual sex, of course not about homosexual sex.

Lotringer: Did they talk about it in class?
Moffett: Not that I can recall. Not the teacher anyway. The students may have made some remarks.

Lotringer: What should you have been taught?
Moffett: The basics. Not the basics of learning about organs and how they operate, but the basics of accepting sex as good. It should start when children want to experiment, whenever they start touching themselves or wanting to breastfeed off their mothers. I can remember being three years old and saying to this friend of mine, I’ll show you what I got if you show me what you got. I was told that it was dirty, that it shouldn’t be done. There was nothing wrong with it. Things like that should be allowed between kids. They should be made aware of how children are born and alternate ways of doing that too as soon as they enter school.

Lotringer: Where else did you learn about sex?
Moffett: When I moved from living with my mother to my father, he was much more open. He used to let me look at his pornography magazines. I began to feel that it wasn’t a bad thing to talk about sex and to learn how people did things.

Lotringer: Have you ever had any relationships with girls?
Moffett: I’ve had friendships with girls, but no sexual relationships.

Lotringer: You never felt a:racted?
Moffett: No. I never had the desire.

Lotringer: What was your reaction to the pictures in straight porno magazines?
Moffett: I didn’t look at them. I just read the stories.

Lotringer: Is your father very open on this subject?
Moffett: No. He didn’t want to discuss it himself. I think he would have been very uptight about it.

Lotringer: Is your father aware of what you feel and what you do?
Moffett: Yes.

Lotringer: For how long has he been?
Moffett: I came out to him in December of 1978 and so he knew I was gay. When I was in NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) he somehow found out about it. Oh yes, I was on a news show talking about my relationships with older men so he naturally assumed I was doing that.

Lotringer: Did you ever talk to him about it?
Moffett: Not directly. I never discussed what he feels about man/boy love.

Lotringer: Did he ask you anything after the news show?
Moffett: Not that I can recall. He was only questioning the organization. He knows how I feel about the issue. He read past speeches I made on behalf of Gay Youth of New York about the age of consent.

Lotringer: What do you think about the age of consent?
Moffett: I was made aware of this issue a year and a half ago and had never really formed an opinion on it. Now I think the age of consent should be lowered and probably abolished. But only after coercion laws have been strengthened and there’s been adequate education of pre-pubescent children. As it stands now, a lot of kids would be in danger since they don’t know much about sex and sexual relationships. If they start having sexual relationships very young in life, by the time they’re 9 or 10 they are going to know if something wrong is happening. It all comes back to education. After that children can be expected and given the freedom to have sex with whomever they want to have sex with.

Lotringer: Do you think our society plays the politics of the ostrich and buries its head instead of giving children the proper tools to handle sexual situations?
Moffett: They don’t want to confront it. They think that laws and threats of prison and death are going to solve the problem. Instead of trying to work the other way around, from the children’s side and try to educate them, all they think of is pu:ing away people who want to have sex with children. I don’t think rape is being stopped now with the age of consent laws.

Lotringer: To educate children would be assuming that they can be responsible for their own lives. If you are given the tools to choose, it means you have a right to choose in sexual ma:ers, and quite a few others. I’m not sure our society is ready for that.
Moffett: Children will be able to make their own decisions if they are forced to make them. As it is now, all the decision-making is done for them, so they’re not used to doing it. When I first started making independent decisions on my own, it was very difficult because I didn’t know how to go about it. But if children start much younger to decide if they want to go out with a friend of theirs, play doctor or undress, they will be more relaxed with making decisions, and be be:er at it. No one seems to believe that before 18 a person is capable of making an intelligent decision. No one under the age of 18 is even valued in his opinion on anything. In my school we’re treated like stupid little nothings who can’t do anything for themselves. And yet each year we go higher in grade and we’re told, Oh, you’re smarter, you’ve got to do more on your own this year - and it’s just the opposite. They take more freedom away from us because they want to have their own power trips, and the only place they can do it is in a school where they won’t be threatened, or at least don’t feel threatened, or don’t seem to be threatened by us in school. We can’t do anything. It’s a private school and we chose to go there.I remember thinking once, Oh when I’m an adult, then I’ll have a sex life. It shouldn’t be the way it is. I wanted one then. I shouldn’t have had to wait as long as I did. I had to sneak around and do it secretly, which I shouldn’t have had to do.

Lotringer: When did you first realize that you were gay?
Moffett: A week after I turned 13.

Lotringer: Was that the consequence, or the conclusion of other events?
Moffett: It just happened. I even forget where I was. I just thought I am gay, that’s all.

Lotringer: Do you know that 13 is a symbolic number? It’s a time of initiation in many Western religions, a rite of passage. The child is given a place and responsibility in the community.
Moffett: I never thought of that.

Lotringer: So it’s coincidental that your realization corresponded to your 13th birthday.
Moffett: Perhaps. Plus I had just moved to New York so I was exposed to gays for the first time. I mean in Tennesse and Virginia people are not openly gay. Being in a city where people were obviously gay, it was a lot easier for me to recognize that I am gay. I had realized it but - this is the strange part - never said it to myself.

Lotringer: When did you move to New York?
Moffett: January 1, 1978.

Lotringer: How old were you?
Moffett: I was 12.

Lotringer: When did you first feel a:racted toward men?
Moffett: When I was 10. I didn’t think bad thoughts about it either. I just accepted it because I really had no bad views of sex. I didn’t think that sex was dirty. Plus we had never discussed homosexuality. I had never been told, except once, that it was sick.

Lotringer: How did this happen?
Moffett: I remember once using the word queer. My mother told me what it was. She said it was men who loved one another, and it was sick. It was the only comment I ever heard about homosexuality.

Lotringer: What specifically a:racted you to men - was it that they had more experience, or a social position?
Moffett: It was the physical a:raction. Before I was a teenager I was a:racted to men with hairy chests, it was for that and no other reason. Then I was a:racted to more parts of their bodies. Then I was just a:racted to men. That’s what started it: physical a:raction. I didn’t want them because they had more experience, although when it came down to it, that helped a lot.

Lotringer: Do you think some form of equal-ity can be established between a man and a boy?
Moffett: It is possible, although I don’t know how often that happens. There really isn’t an equality, except in that the boy wants something the man has and vice versa. It is the basic a:raction that is equal. And a kind of care about the other. That’s the only kind of equality I can find between the two. And the fact that they’re both human beings.

Lotringer: Men you went out with, had they previous experience with boys?
Moffett: With young people, yes, but not as young as I was, I guess.

Lotringer: Did you find these men helpful and loving?
Moffett: The man who owned a restaurant, he was very kind and loving. But also he asked a lot. He was very jealous. He didn’t want me to have sex with anyone else, which I found difficult.

Lotringer: You were fourteen then?
Moffett: Almost. The other people (an interior designer, a biologist, a carpenter, a student in economics), when they first met me they thought I was older, so that when we had sex they treated me as if I were eighteen.

Lotringer: Have you had any relationship where sex was not the prime motive?
Moffett: When I first came out, what I needed emotionally was friends. And I found that in Gay Youth. So what I am really looking for, occasionally, is just sex. But if I were to lose my friends, I’d fall back in the position of wanting a man to love me.

Lotringer: Sex is not the basis of your relationship with your friends in Gay Youth?
Moffett: No. Most people in Gay Youth don’t have relationships with each other. Their relationships are outside. And generally it is with someone older.

Lotringer: What did you learn in Gay Youth?
Moffett: I learned a lot about the gay lifestyle, because that’s what you choose when you’re gay. I didn’t know anything about it. I also learned more about females - lesbians - since it is very open at Gay Youth.

Lotringer: Do you get along well with lesbians?
Moffett: There is only one regular lesbian at Gay Youth, and she doesn’t jump to conclusions. The rest of Gay Youth expects her to care about youth sexuality and recognize youth rights to sexual freedom, and most lesbian feminists expect her to realize that lowering the age of consent means that all these li:le girls are going to be raped. So she’s methodical about it, thinks things out, hears all sides and just puts them together in her head.

Lotringer: In our society as long as a child is not financially independent, he usually has to accept limitations to his freedom. If you were to push your father too far, he would probably tell you, Look, you live at my place, so do what I want you to do. That’s where money is involved with authority. Sexual freedom too has to do with the fact that children are in a state of dependency. Do you think this still holds true now? Do you think you have more freedom than previous generations?
Moffett: I think so. Last fall I ran away from my home because my parents were trying to stop me from seeing my gay friend. Also they didn’t want me to go to Gay Youth. I ran away for 6 weeks. I was lucky enough to get a job. I got a room service and a roommate. Before I ran away, my father told me, you can’t handle freedom. After 6 weeks I told my parents, Well, it’s obvious that I can handle freedom so if I come back home I’m going to have total freedom like I have now. And they agreed to that.I don’t actually have total freedom. I promised I’d make school my first priority. I also agreed to let them know where I was going, or at least give them a number, which is not too much.

Lotringer: Why did your father change his mind?
Moffett: He didn’t want me being around adults.

Lotringer: Why?
Moffett: I’m not really sure. Maybe he seriously thought I would get hurt, or maybe he felt threatened by me hanging around people who are older and learning things from them.

Lotringer: People as old as he is?
Moffett: Not really as old, but adults.

Lotringer: Do you think there might have been a sense of competition?
Moffett: Yes. Against him.

Lotringer: Do you see your father differently as a result of having a close relationship with other adults?
Moffett: I don’t think so. I always thought of him as my father. Since he is my father I have to give him some respect.

Lotringer: The same holds for your teachers?
Moffett: Yes. For some reason I thought that.

Lotringer: Do you still think that way?
Moffett: No. Now I still care and love him because he is my father, but I speak more and more on an equal level. Before I ran away, I would never talk to him. If something pissed me off that he did I would never talk about it. I was afraid I would be told to shut up. So we never had much of a relationship.

Lotringer: Do you think he recognizes you now as having valid opinions on the way you want to lead your life?
Moffett: I really don’t know. Sometimes I feel he thinks that I am just a stupid kid. Sometimes I feel that he doesn’t care.

Lotringer: When you ran away from home, you were lucky enough to find a job. Lots of boys in that situation go into hustling.
Moffett: I’ve hustled, and I’ve known people that have. But I never saw it as a relation-ship with men, just as a way to get money - as a job.

Lotringer: You never thought of hustling as a permanent professional?
Moffett: No.

Lotringer: If you had to, would you do it again?
Moffett: More than likely.

Lotringer: Has your opinion of adults in general changed?
Moffett: I think they don’t give us enough respect. My father told me I had an a:itude of defiance. I’ve been “rebellious”, as they say, against a lot of things they didn’t want. But I also learned from them. I respect their opinions on things. When a man tells me (it happened this week) that school should be my number one priority, it gives me a new determination to do well. It’s much easier to listen to him, although I’m more willing to19 listen to my parents too afterwards. It helped me mature in a certain way. Had I not been involved in sexual relationships with adults, I would have ended up a typical teenager, like all my friends.

Lotringer: Now that you know them more intimately, do you still feel like becoming an adult?
Moffett: Naturally because then I’ll gain this independence.

Lotringer: If you could become independent without growing up further, like Oscar in The Tin Drum, would you rather remain a boy?
Moffett: I would like to be an adult, creating something, building up. Of course, I hope to bring up a family.

Lotringer: A family?
Moffett: Not a wife-kids-dogs and house. A lover. Right now I don’t know what I feel about having children. I don’t know if I would or not. I don’t think it’s even legal now to adopt children. I just want to have a life-long relationship.

Lotringer: If you could get married to a man, would you do it?
Moffett: Well, I don’t know what I think about this whole marriage business. I would rather live with someone so that I still have that sense of freedom.

Lotringer: You said earlier that sex education should teach you that sex is good. Do you recognize any boundary to sex? Incest, for example, involves the same cross-generational relationship that you are into, only within the family. Would you feel as comfortable sexually in an incestuous situation as you would be having sex with any adult? Is there something you consider “natural” and something that you don’t?
Moffett: (Silence) That’s very hard to say.

Lotringer: It would be hard for anyone. Would you feel there is something weird about incestuous sex?
Moffett: Do I?

Lotringer: Imagine having sex with your parents. They are adults. They would be capable of being objects of desire. Have you ever thought about it?
Moffett: Yes. But I’m not really a:racted. I’m sure it could be very normal because I hear stories all the time about it. It doesn’t seem to be abnormal - as long as it is not rape and doesn’t hurt the child.

Lotringer: You mean it would have to be consensual.
Moffett: Yes. I read a story about a father and a son. The son just told the father he is gay and that he is interested in older men. And they just form a sexual relationship.

Lotringer: Do you find that shocking?
Moffett: When I first read it, yes, because it’s sort of rare. But as long as it was consen-sual, I really don’t see what’s wrong with it.

Lotringer: You don’t think the law should forbid anything of that sort.
Moffett: No. I think the state should stay out of people’s bedrooms.