Boys on Wall at Water's Edge
(circa 1955–1975). Photograph by Manuel Carrillo.
From "Rethinking Sexual Initiation: Pathways to Identity Formation Among Gay and Bisexual Mexican Male Youth" by Héctor Carrillo and Jorge Fontdevila, in Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 40, No. 6 (December 2011).
An important additional emic term that emerged from our qualitative analysis, and which has been noted in other research in Mexico (Carrier, 1995; Carrillo, 2002; Prieur, 1998), was the term mayate (believed to be associated to the indigenous name for a dung beetle), which these men often used to refer to their sexual partners (see Prieur (1998)). (We understand that other Latino populations use the word mayate to refer to African Americans in a derogatory way; this is not the use here.) The following passage by Emilio, a 24-year-old man born circa 1980 in a small town near Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, illustrated the use of this term:
Mayates are supposedly straight [in English in the original] guys…who like to have sex with homosexuals. They don’t really like to suck [perform oral sex]…they like only to get sucked. And when you finish sucking them off, they bend you over [in English in the original] and they want to stick it in.
Emilio’s use of the phrase ‘‘they bend you over’’ was significant; it represented a perception that heterosexually-identified Mexican men who seek to have sex with youth or men whom they perceive as effeminate establish strict rules of sexual interaction. Such strict rules seemed to be used to convey that these men were merely seeking sexual pleasure and that the sexual encounter involved no romantic feelings or sexual attraction toward their partners.
Emilio, who had his first sexual experience at age 12 with a young mayate from a nearby town, explained:
My first [sexual encounter] was when I gave a blow job [in English in the original] to a guy from outside my town. [He came] to the town’s fiestas, which take place on April 25. I clearly remember. We left the party and it was my first experience. He took me to his pickup truck and he made me suck him off. I sucked him off and the guy came, that was all…. [He was a] very attractive guy. He was around 18 years old.
Emilio reported that this sexual partner told him that he was very attracted to him, and also wanted to kiss him all the time, which to some degree contradicted Emilio’s own sense of what mayates were willing to do sexually.
Sometimes strong and lasting emotional bonds were established between a mayate and a joto. Moreover, we found that these emotional bonds sometimes were sustained by the mayate’s expectation of receiving gifts and favors from his joto partner. One example was offered by Octavio, a 27-year-old Mexican man born in 1977 in Mexico City. In talking about his attraction at an early age to other boys, Octavio described falling in love with a young man in the context of a relationship that could be characterized as involving sexual abuse (although Octavio did not interpret it as such):
When I was around 8 years old, 9 years old, a young man [un muchacho] started talking to me, started seducing me, we could say, until I had my first relationship with him. He was around 18 years old, 17. And I was in primary school, perhaps around 8 or 9 years old. But I was really attracted to this person. I loved him…maybe I still do, although I haven’t seen him in many years. It’s been about 12 years since I last saw this person. But the time I spent with this person was very nice…. When I had my first relationship with him I don’t feel it was rape or something that made me a deviant. I feel I was a deviant from the beginning, I mean, I was homosexual from birth…. I always loved him. I was very attracted to him. Although I had sex with other people while I was with him.
In another example, Rogelio, a 36-year-old man who was born in Mexico City in 1969 and who grew up in Tijuana, left his family home at age 12 and moved in with a group of young gay men, who ultimately introduced him to gay life in Tijuana. In his new household, he shared a bed with one of his roommates, who was 18 years old, and he had his first sexual experience with this young man: ‘‘I didn’t feel bad. On the contrary, it gave me pleasure. I felt really good. I am pasivo. That is, pasivos are the persons who are the receptive partner.’’ In this case, although Rogelio referred to his role as the receptive partner, nothing in his description made reference to ideas about masculinity or femininity. Through his roommates, Rogelio was able to discover an urban gay lifestyle in Tijuana.
Five Mexican boys on steps (1975). Photograph by William Reagh. Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States
. California History Section Picture Catalog, California State Library, Sacramento.