Monday, April 24, 2006

Boys for Rent in Syria

So, I spent the weekend in Damascus. Of all the problems that I wrote about in my last post, things in Lebanon are certainly not as bad as they are in Syria, where no one has any freedom to speak out. For while we have the limited freedom of having semi-open places like Acid and X-OM, Syria has nothing of the sort.

I did see one thing of note, however.

I wanted to see the gay hammams that I had heard about in Syria, but due to their extremely secretive nature, I couldn't find them. So I visited the famous Nour al-Din hammam in the old city of Damascus. While I was undressing, I noticed a portly, balding American in his late forties accompanied by a young, buff Syrian in his late teens. They had come in right after me, and thus followed the same path through the hammam as I.

The Syrian boy acted as a guide, leading the man from room to room. It became clear that the Syrian did not speak a bit of English, as all conversation with the tourist was done through gestures and pointing. He stood by as the American was scrubbed down and massaged. He showed the man how to use the clam-shaped sinks and metal dishes. He even rubbed the American down with soap, and let the same be done to him, at the American's request, of course.

I, of course, had realized what was going on from the beginning, but it was solidified at the end. At the end, as I was sitting, wrapped up in towels and drinking tea, the couple emerged and sat near me. Waiting for his tea to cool, the Syrian thumbed through an English-Arabic dictionary. He found a word and tried to pronounce it, but couldn't. He showed the book to the American. "Oh, 'wrestling,'" said the American, and nodded with a smile. The Syrian then pointed first at his own lips, then the American's lips, and then shook his head.

The couple left before I did, ducking into the neighboring barber, where the American was apparently buying the Syrian a haircut.

I was, and still am, a bit appalled at the situation. I understand that often young men have no recourse other than offering themselves to tourists, for unemployment is high and even if they were employed, salaries are meager. I cannot blame them in the least. In addition, I find it hard to blame the tourists, for they tend to treat the boys well and often offer them plenty of compensations.

Nevertheless, I still strongly feel that such situations should not exist. I am not necessarily against prostitution, but prostitutes should choose the vocation because they want to, and not because they will face poverty otherwise. But I can see no solution. As is the situation in many parts of the world, as long as gay tourists want to have sex with young men and can pay more than other jobs would, there will be plenty of boys willing to sell themselves. Such is life.


Blogger Charles Malik said...

I understand your disgust, but I'm against your analysis.

In fact, it was the gay community that pioneered the modern acceptance of prostitution (well, not quite acceptance, but slightly changing minds, you know...).

I remember reading a paper years back about transexual prostitution. They aren't in it because they are poor. In fact, they often have plenty of men willing to be their sugar daddies, and they can get plenty of jobs.

For them, prostitution is a choice. People enter the profession for different reasons, but some declare that they just love sex with random people a lot and want to make a profit at it. Allegedly, many deny unattractive clients or offer their services to particularly attractive men for free.

April 30, 2006 1:08 PM  
Blogger Al-Fil said...

I heartily disagree. I would be interested in what paper you read, for it goes against everything I've seen.

I agree that there may be some who just love sex and want to make a profit, but I doubt this is a majority.

I think that most people in the gay community who choose to engage in prostitution, especially transsexuals, do so because of necessity created by lack of other opportunities. In fact, I had a conversation last Thursday with one of the most well-known transsexuals in Beirut, whose name I shouldn't mention without her consent. She said that it was extremely difficult for her to find jobs, and was barely keeping herself afloat. In her mid-30s, she was still living with her mother. She said she doubted she could get the money to achieve her dreams without resorting to prostitution, like most of her peers had done, which she said she would not do.

I have known countless transexuals in my life, all of which have had incredibly difficult lives. Many do not have the luxury of choosing occupations.

The same can be true of gay men, especially if they are young and rejected by their families. There are many young male prostitutes (like the ones who hang out near high-class hotels or by the gay freeway) who do it for the reasons you mention. But if you see a raggedy guy by the beach in Ramlet al-Baida, he's probably not in it for fun.

May 01, 2006 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with the use of the word "Syrian" in your almost last sentence, Al-Fil! Not only Syrian boys are willing to fight poverty like this, but also Lebanese, Egyptian, European, you name it boys who are in need of some extra (pocket)money.

May 04, 2006 1:52 AM  
Blogger Al-Fil said...

Dear anonymous,

I agree. I only used the word "Syrian" in the last paragraph because the post is about Syria. In no way did I mean to imply that there is not similar circumstances in other countries. In fact, in many other countries, such as Thailand, the situation is much worse.

I will alter the last paragraph for clarity.

May 05, 2006 10:21 AM

May 05, 2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger rooky said...

no gayboy in syria i was there and i spent 10 days there fond nothing

July 08, 2009 8:15 PM  
Blogger joe5710 said...

no problem finding guys in syria..took me 10 minutes after i arrived in aleppo.just make eye contact

June 04, 2010 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

"many deny unattractive clients or offer their services to particularly attractive men for free."

Hmm, a prostitute who does not charge not a prostitute. By definition, prostitution has an element of money exchange :/. I don't fuck repulsive or unattractive men and I don't charge highly attractive men for sex either, and I'm not a prostitute lol neither the girls I know. It's just call being a normal healthy individual (gay or straight).

June 24, 2011 3:54 PM  
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