Trigger Warning: this article contains themes of sexual relationships between teens and much older people and discusses consent. Troye Sivan, the Australian pop star known for songs like ‘Bloom’ and ‘My! My! My!’, took to Twitter recently to share an experience he had on Grindr at age 17.
His well-known song entitled ‘Seventeen,’ which details the experience, includes the lyrics “I went out looking for love when I was seventeen/ Maybe a little too young, but it was real to me/ And in the heat of the night, saw things I’d never seen.”
Sivan recently took to Twitter to share the reasoning behind the lyrics, which he noted in a recent profile in the New Yorker.
also grateful to finally have had the chance to discuss online grooming of young people by predators – which is personal and close to my heart. some serious + light shit in there.
— troye (@troyesivan) June 17, 2019
The New Yorker Article, on this topic, read:
“‘Seventeen’ is based on an experience common to young gay men but rarely talked about. When Sivan first joined the hookup app Grindr, he had an encounter with a man who was in his 30’s. Years later, Sivan was scrolling through old text messages and found a selfie he had sent the guy, in which Sivan thought he looked shockingly young.”
My first reaction to this article was the realisation that I cannot remember a time I’ve heard someone talk about this phenomenon before. It is something that’s been skirted around, but never touched upon directly in personal conversation or media.
loved that was brought up and discussed a little bit in there. definitely a topic that ought to be discussed more often ❤️
— ??? (@Iuckynights) June 17, 2019
This tweet then had me immediately considering, how young did I look when I was 17?
Looking back at myself, I can see the youth in my face and in my smile. Although I am only 20 now, the emotional and sexual maturing I’ve experienced in the past three years are very significant.
At 17, a flicker of youth is still inside you, and there is a sense of selfishness about the world and a naivety.
For gay teenagers growing up in the 2010’s, having conversational and sexual access to much older gay and bi men is extremely simple. It is easier than ordering Dominoes Pizza, really. Going onto Grindr as a teenager almost ensures a message from an older man, someone who might identify themselves as ‘DL,’ ‘bi,’ or ‘discreet.’
This is where things get muddled and messy. To understand the interactions between older men and teenagers is sure to muster up ambivalence, confusion, and secrecy. Consent, power dynamics, safety, and emotional maturity- not easy things- are brought up too.
thank u for using ur voice to bring attention to something so important
— grant (@BLOOMSlVAN) June 17, 2019
I find that Sivan’s opening up about this issue is a shining of light on to something that has been constrained and stigmatized for many people, and see the New Yorker article as a courageous step for Sivan.
There is an immediate and agreed-upon secrecy when hookups like Troye’s happen, which is perhaps the biggest issue here.
The issue of rural and suburban isolation from LGBT+ youth stands out also. Sometimes men that are older are the only potential sexual partners accessible to youth. While straight and cis peers might have many outlets for their sexuality, for young queer kids this is not the case.
Therefore, young people can be in situations where they are expected to have a maturity that is impossible for them to achieve.
Is it wrong to consider retrospectively, was that okay? Even though I consented to it happening, are there parts of this situation that may have been problematic, that I couldn’t have understood then? What do I think about this now?
At the same time, is there a sex-positive take to be had? Isn’t an age difference hot? Can older people be a safe place to explore sexuality? If there are consent and safety, then what’s the issue?
For any person who has been with a much older person as a teenager, I think these questions are worth asking.
thank u for speaking out about it!!
— em! 22✈️? (@bwaytroye) June 17, 2019
I don’t think for myself, and for many people I know, that we’ve been able to let ourselves go to that place and try to conceptualize the many factors that led us into being with a person so vastly older than ourselves.
What I know for sure is that this issue shows up uniquely for young gay people in comparison to straight peers, and exploration from Troye Sivan of this phenomenon in his own life is a positive example of critical thinking for others.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.