Boys for Rent in Syria
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.