AN ENGLISHMAN IN SYRIA, 1970S
The following account of the sexual liaisons of an Englishman with boys in Syria is from Chapter 9, “The Impact of Other Cultures” of Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (originally published in 1976). This chapter of Dr. Rossman’s book, introduced here, and intended to show how pederasts from repressive countries were changed by their experiences in accepting ones is a primary source for the history of Greek love, drawing on his interviews of the men involved.
It would appear that the Englishman of the title’s amorous adventures were recent to the time of writing.
An Englishman in Syria
The tradition is that the Arabs of the desert were untainted by pederasty until they conquered Syria and took over its luxurious houses and sexually-trained slave boys. Tradition also is that Emperor Hadrian was seduced into pederasty by a boy he met in a Syrian garden, which was also a kind of brothel-amusement park. Until recent years the city of Tripoli had a large community of pederast foreigners, all in the same neighborhood, each living with a young boy. It is not yet clear whether or not a Marxist society will be more successful than Christian and Muslim theologians who earlier sought to end pederasty in the Middle East. It would appear, from reports of recent pederast visitors, that as elsewhere in the world, stricter law enforcement and a police state mentality simply drives three thousand years of history underground. A tourist who tried to talk to a boy at a Damascus swimming pool was told that it was not wise for them to talk beside the pool, but they could meet at a private place afterwards. And when another visitor stopped a young teenager on the street to ask directions, the boy shook his head, pointed to a nearby policeman and crossed his hands as if in handcuffs. An Englishman said: “Once you speak the language, you meet teachers who worry that the age of marriage should be lowered, there is so much sex play between older and younger boys. There isn’t much gay-homosexuality, but man-boy sex play is pretty much ignored unless a parent complains or unless a tourist is involved, as they do not want a bad press in Europe. I got acquainted with, and used to sit and talk with, a boy who ran an amusement stand. He told me all the gossip about men and boys, and offered to ‘fix me up’ with almost any boy on his street if I would meet the boy privately at the end of the bus line. He said there was a great difference among boys of different neighborhoods, by which he really meant different religions and social classes.
“I would ask boys who were walking hand in hand if they were lovers. Sometimes they would blush and say No, sometimes they would say Yes, or the older would say: ‘I can’t tell you. His father would kill me!’ I got acquainted with a pimp and asked him if boys were available. Not to foreigners, he said; the boy brothels were all gone, the last one having been at Aleppo. Later, when I had earned his trust, he took me to see various establishments catering to pederasts. One was a coffeehouse where men and boys played games and sipped soft drinks together. Upstairs were private rooms where boys came in the middle of the night. Some were street boys who had no other place to sleep. They would dance to amuse men and many would be selected as partners for the night. Others were boys who worked as apprentices and clerks. They came to play cards and often ended up sitting on men’s laps and going to sleep with them afterwards when the entertainment was over. The shop boys didn’t dance for the crowd, but they often played a kind of strip poker which involved a great deal of hilarious sex play.
“At this coffeehouse I met a Syrian who spoke excellent English, having for many years been employed by the British Army in some capacity. He had two wives, he said, and wasn’t much interested in boys, although on occasion he had slept with a young Armenian who was great fun. I asked about meeting the Armenian, and he said that if I wanted to meet some boys who were a cut above the semi-prostitutes at the coffeehouse, he would invite me to his home for dinner. I was warmly welcomed by his own 12-year-old son, a fascinatingly handsome boy with deep black eyes, who promptly installed himself on my lap. During the course of the evening the boy’s eyes grew increasingly glazed, he showed obvious signs of sexual arousal, and he played with me sexually in full view of his parents. When I prepared to leave, the father invited me to spend the night, saying his son wanted to sleep with me. I declined, with a sodomy gesture to suggest that something unfortunate might happen. The father laughed and said that the boy was of an age to have a mind of his own and was a very sexy boy. When I left, the boy was in tears. As we walked to the bus, the father said: ‘He’s a lovely boy and you could have great pleasure with him. His 14-year-old brother is living with a man in Istanbul who enjoys his favors very much. Why don’t you take him with you for a week or so?’ I replied that I was not a rich man, and the father’s face flushed with anger as he said: ‘My son is not for sale! And while I would like for him to find a foreign friend who would later help him go overseas for an education, the main thing is that he likes you and wants you. Have you no love in your heart?’ “
 The only identified loved-boy of the Emperor Hadrian was Antinous, whom he made a god following his death in AD 130. However, no surviving ancient writing hints at how they met. It is guessed that it took place in Antinous’s birthplace Klaudiopolis in Bithynia, near the south coast of the Black Sea and nowhere near Syria. However, it is a modern invention that Hadrian was “seduced into pederasty” by Antinous, since the biography of him in the Augustan Histories makes it clear he was already an aficionado of boys before he became Emperor in 117.
 Similar episode in Dennis Drew and J. Drake, Boys for Sale (New York, 1969), p. 77 [Author’s note 14]. The similarity is hardly a coincidence since Drake was the pen name of Parker Rossman, the author.