fredag 11 december 2009

Dear Joseph Massad.

As a Westerner studying Arabic and researching about LGBTQ societies in the Middle East makes Joseph A Massad’s book ” Desiring Arabs” a very important tool.
”With this scholarly, intellectual history, Columbia professor Massad critiques how Arabs have narrated their sexual desires in scholarship and literature and attempts to explain recent changes in such narratives as a response to, and to some degree an internalization of, pervasive and pejorative Western views of Arab sexual desire.”

When you read, it absorbs you and every step that could be considered Western biased gives you a Massad slap, the Massad effect

After I read it, I came back with a lot of ideas. Thoughts where planted in my head that makes my work wider and richer. But the same criticism Edward Said’s book Orientalism got, is given to MR. Massad. In his attempts to point out the ”pure” Arab sexuality he create a state of Orientalism in Reverse.

I’m happy to have read it as a Westerner studying and researching in the Middle East. But there is a lot MR. Massad chooses not to take in to his story. And his critic for the Lebanese gay organization HELEM to minimize and makes them” agents” of the west is Orientalism in Reverse.

HELEM have replyed to Massads critic on Dialoges on Civilazation read it here

The quote is from a review on

fredag 4 december 2009

Stop the moral code now!

It has been an intense Eid Kabir Holiday in Damascus. Intense partying from Friday to Sunday, that felt like a hedonistic Midsummer weekend in Sweden. The pressure from the moral code has made the town explode, especially when the door is closed. And me, the “undercover, superlover spy”, was invited behind the locked doors this past weekend.

The first day of Eid started with Hussam, a guy I met on one of the gay forums on the internet. We went to my place and locked the door. He came from a village outside Damascus and wanted a job as an electrician, unmarried and labeled himself straight.
With my stay here I don’t give a shit about sexual identity anymore. Straight is gay is bi is curious and back again. You’re married with kids; you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend on the side, forget the wife or husband. Behind locked doors, Syria is the most gender bender versatile hedonistic country I have ever been to. It makes Berlin look like a moral outpost.

We chat, drank, and had sex- the holiday season could finally begin! Next day he called me and asked me if I had any western girls for him to have sex with. And he really sounded sincere. I felt that the label he put on himself was actually true. I felt kind of sad for him. For instance, if a man is what I want a man is what I want to get. I wouldn’t like a moral code to prevent me for having what I want. And it’s never nice to be the second best. When the moral code is condemning same sex relations as well it all get a little bit confusing.

It doesn’t stop here.

I went to Damascus’ unofficial official gay bar the next day. As always, the Damascene bear elite were strutting their stuff next to the long table. The big men were bitching and every man was given a female name, as bitchy and lovely as only a gay bar can be. After the bar closed, I was asked to follow my friends to a nightclub. I haven’t been out dancing since Amman, so I decided to join them.

The car started to drive from the city center and after a while I fell asleep. I woke up and found myself in the middle of nowhere. Literally nowhere. We stood in front of a building, loud folk music pumping from behind closed doors. Inside there was a room with a stage, upon which women were lined up, seemingly for display. Surrounding the women were tables of young men, energetically sipping glasses with arraq. As we sat down I tried to figure out what was going on. The women appeared to be for sale, at least for a dance. The hostess walked around the table singing love songs into a microphone to get the guests in the right mood. One of the guys from the gay bar, escorted by a rent-a-boy, knew the girls. Consequently, I kept on getting invited to the stage to perform my little Justin Timberlake performance.

I tried to figure out where these girls came from- the villages of Syria, Iraq or the refugee camps? One of them was even wearing a veil. I kept on wondering what symbol the veil played in this place. Was it for her own personal integrity or was it to indulge in the fantasies of the men? Onstage the guys mostly danced with each other, but when a boy dared to go to a girl with the right price, the most puzzling moment occurred. The scene in front of me was the most innocent dance ever. They held hands- standing an arms-length distance from each other, with looks that could match The Lady And The Tramp. This innocence made the place look like a pre-teen school disco dressed up like a whore house.

When I looked at the guests present, they were not the average sex/escort etc consumers. It actually felt like; that all they wanted to do, was to knock out the hole in the wall that keeps the sexes segregated in their society.

The moral code is preventing teenagers to build up healthy relationships in the hetero normative society. It’s more okay to have same sex relations as long as nobody watches it. The moral code is pitched so high, it is unreachable. The moral code is so extreme that it stands side by side with what the society would call the immoral.

I think Hussam should have a woman, if that is what he wants. I know that there is enough gay men here for all of us, let’s not be greedy. I think the young men in the club should be able to dance with a girl without paying for it. The sad thing is that customers will always exist for these girls, but I promise; if these boys had a choice they were choose a non priced relationship.

The Eid weekend ended with a Gay Bear Party in the suburbs of Damascus. The spirit was high, the Lebanese sugar pop music made us jump. Every man from the gay forum was there. Big men were belly dancing- it was sort of a drag show without the wigs and makeup but with the dress. Shirts went off, nobody got paid to dance and a man was what everybody wanted. This ending party felt like the most moral moment in this hectic Eid weekend.

I am inspired by Desiring Arabs, a book by Joseph Massad, that explain the sexual orientalism that goes deep into West’s projection of the Middle East. I’m aware of how the Westerners branded “Arabs as decadent” in the past. But with our sexual revolution the brand changed to backward.
But approaching situations such as these without a west-centric bias is hard. I know sexuality is dressed differently within every society and that there isn’t only one way to express your sexuality.
But maybe, if a little bit of what is going on inside the locked door could unveil itself and exist on the outside; this would neutralize the acidity of the moral code, and stop corroding society.