Re: Transgender and henna, adolescence and companionship


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Posted by Catherine Cartwright Jones on August 21, 2002 at 16:05:44:

In reply to: Transgender and henna, separation of sexes, and little boys posted by Catherine Cartwright Jones on August 21, 2002 at 16:02:54:

So, the young boy was chucked in with the older men, whom he might
barely know. He wanted a cuddle. If the boy still had henna on his
hands from his circumcision, had learned to dance and sing with the
women, he could become the pretty darling of the men?s quarters. A
father, or uncle, might take pity on the lad and give him the
affection and attention he craved and was accustomed to, and would
soften the transition into men?s life. The boys were darlings, and if
they were talented and winsome, they might always have a lap to sit on
and their pick of the desert tray. Whether or not this developed into
a sexual situation ? sometimes it did, sometimes it didn?t. But, a
talented little soprano who could dance was much beloved (think
Michael Jackson about 40 years ago, very charming and engaging!).

The ?darling boy? of the men?s quarters often slept in the same bed
with others. Sometimes things happened when the lights went out.
Sometimes mullahs and pious clergy got the sheets pulled back by their
enemies who?s sussed what was going on, and their lives were ruined.
(Miniature painting of that from a few centuries back ? what was
interesting there was the performance of emotion by the onlookers: one
was repulsed by the notion of an older man taking an adolescent male
to bed, one was drooling lasciviously, one was thrilled to trash his
political enemy through this vindictive ?outing?, and others just
shook their heads sadly, knowing that such things happened. The king
in this picture was in a difficult position, being called upon to ruin
a man who was a respected leader, for something that was private,
wrong according to religious law, but tolerated.) This shows me that
this situation was never simple.

Men in Middle Eastern and North African society often form emotionally
warm affectionate relationships with each other. There are no women
available to unmarried men, and sometimes a guy?s gotta have someone
to talk to, to hold on to, to cry on, to boast to, joke with, to scrub
or scratch a back ? so men form relationships with men. These
relationships are often expressively affectionate and loving, and may
be sexual. It?s not unusual at all for a man in the Middle East to hug
and kiss another man, or for them to walk hand in hand. They?re
buddies. They?re not necessarily sexual partners, but they love each
other. Masturbation is deplored (pollutes the right hand) and sexual
release than a same sex relationship with a buddy is more common than
masturbation (World Health Organization stats).

It is more common to go to a brothel than to have a same sex
relationship, but brothels cost money, and men who frequent brothels
incur wrath from their wives. Women who are sex workers are regarded
as unclean/polluted, that is to say potentially full of malevolent
spirits attracted through sexual activity, so visiting her risks
contact with that pollution. Sexual contact with a woman who is
unclean puts one at risk for all manner of disaster: disease, madness,
impotence, crop failure, death ? and a really pissed off wife. Risk
adultery or fornication with a honorable/pure woman? Dangerous.
She?s got family keen to uphold honor, and both of you may get killed.

Male relationships develop. Adolescent boys try out their equipment,
and some boys take a passive position, with each other or with older
men. Sexual behavior doesn?t fall into neat categories of
heterosexual and homosexual. Many people are some of both, and switch
back and forth through their lifetimes. Some boys find they enjoy
being a passive sexual partner, and enjoy performing a female gender
role. Some boys never like being passive, and are only comfortable
performing a male gender role. There are, of course, infinite
variations on passive/active sex roles and male/female gender
performance. A bride is expensive, and young men often have to work
for years to afford one. What do they do in the meantime? They cope
with what they?ve got: each other, one way or another.

 


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