THE ARAB NEAR EAST IN BOYS FOR SALE
The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by D. Drew & J. Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 71-81, where it was presented as a chapter titled "The Middle East".
Inconsistently, the authors presented separately from it a short article on Iran, but included a much longer a article on Turkey. On this website, the latter is presented separately and what follows is just the Arab Near East.
THE MIDDLE EAST
The taste which Arabs have for young boys is of universal notoriety. So says Paul Reboux in Sens Interdit, (Paris, 1951). There is some disagreement whether or not they inherited this taste from their conflicts with the Greeks. Certainly, the nomads who came into the rich cities from the desert enjoyed all the luxuries they conquered, including pretty young boy servants and the boys in brothels. There was also a tradition in the Arab world which permitted a man to do what he pleased with his slaves and which allowed for prostitution. It is more likely that strong emphasis on protecting women, rather than Greek influence, led to the training of Arab boys as entertainers sexual objects. At any rate, the Arab world has continued the traditions of brothels and the ancient schools for training boys in vice for profit. (See Farago, Arabian Antics, N.Y., 1938, re the existence of such a school in the 1930’s.)
Arab literature makes many illusions to love making with boys and to the boys’ brothels which existed almost up to the present in Arab-Africa as well as Syria, Iraq and Arabia itself. These brothels were for the most part populated with slave boys — they have gone downhill with the decline in slavery in recent years. Western-oriented governments have also become self-conscious about their images abroad and have closed brothels or forced them into underground activity.
A. Amin, in an article in Sesso e Liberta, (formerly published in Milan), tells of forms of Middle East prostitution that include bath boys, masseurs, dancing boys (wandering and private) as well as shop boys, bell boys in hotels, busboys, waiters and delivery boys who often practice a little vice on the side for fun and profit. Then, of course, there is the boys’ brothel.
What is a boys’ brothel really like? Nowadays, it is generally an apartment above a business place (such as a coffee bar) where there are private rooms and an entrance lounge. In Saudi Arabia (where a number of them were still going strong in 1965) the boys in one brothel were in masks so that for their own moral protection they could not be recognized on the street. Sometimes, they kept their entire head on one side of a curtain. Since the customer would be on the other side, there was no kissing — anal intercourse was about all that could be performed besides a little hand manipulation. This was reported to be a new development since slavery was passing out of the picture and the boys employed there were in the business voluntarily.
There have always been varied boy brothels at Mecca. Pilgrims making the haj (required Muslim pilgrimage) to that city, often take children to sell as a form of living “travellers’ cheques” to pay for their return journey. These are usually African or Asian children — usually the offspring of prostitutes. Journalists have frequently pointed out the number of one-way half-fare airline tickets sold to Mecca.
With the disappearance of many Middle East boy brothels, trade has been stimulated by soliciting fathers pandering for their sons. However, about the only access to boys that tourists have, in lands where boy prostitution was formerly quite common, is through special contacts with persons who have been there before. One visitor to Syria decided to visit the ruins of Palmyra. This involved a long hot six-hour drive by chauffeured car. The driver arranged for a 12-year-old boy to go along and keep company. The boy entertained the tourist here and there behind an occasional ruin during the day, and slept with him at night in the hotel.
The driver arrangements are the usual thing for those interested and hotels rarely pose problems for accompanied tourists. One of the authors of this book had a tourist agent in Damascus contact an experienced driver who brought along his 12-year-old nephew for a voyage. The nephew had made other trips and despite his “experience” cost a supplement of only $2.00 per week plus room and board. The boy, on being introduced, immediately made sexual overtures and asked “to spend the night at no charge” to prove his worth.
In Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, there are several kinds of boy prostitutes. The most common are streetboys, beggars and vendors. They are dirty and cheap — sleeping for 25 cents with men of the street, taxi-drivers, bus drivers, porters, salesmen and just about anyone who wants them. Then there are nice clean schoolboys who patronize businessmen and professional men for $2.00 or so a visit. They are amateurs but would be easily available for tourists too if it were not for the language barrier. Because of alienation with their families, or because their families cannot support them, some of these boys run away from home and get themselves swept up into the professional prostitute trade.
An Arab may have several wives with children by each one. If he is a responsible father, he finds his sons a trade at the age of 12 or so. But, if he is neglectful, the boys drop out of school and often hit the street to try to earn a living. The handsome ones are immediately propositioned and if they do not become a permanent favorite for some man, they easily slip into full-time amateur prostitution.
In an as yet unpublished diary, a visitor to Beirut reports being taken to a back street coffee shop where there were about a dozen 12-year-olds gambling on the sidewalk. Among them were a news-stand vendor, a waiter, a beauty shop apprentice, an apprentice cook and a bar boy. The tourist was taken up to sit on a balcony where one after another, the lads came up to take off their clothes and provocatively display their charms. During the course of the evening, each boy went off with a man. Some of them were cuffed about rather rudely as they left — one boy was slapped when he looked back at another passing man so he quickly apologized by planting a fat juicy kiss on the mouth of the man who had slapped him.
Beirut has legalized female brothels but there are no longer any legal male brothels. Nevertheless, young boys are available at some of the female brothels. They work at nearby soft drink stands and when a boy is wanted, the patron orders a soft drink and the boy appears with the order. Generally speaking, it is impossible for tourists and foreigners to learn about this or to be “served”, but there are bellhops in some of the luxury hotels who will assist the tourist who wants to get in touch with a luxury prostitute.
Luxury prostitutes are young boys between the ages or 10 and 13, occasionally still younger. They are kept in a “stable” by a pimp for the exclusive use of foreign tourists. Such tourists are not usually Westerners, but wealthy Arabs who come from the oil-rich countries to Beirut to indulge themselves in a wide variety of diversions. There is, in Beirut, a private club with dancing boys but it is difficult, if not impossible, for Westerners to get in to see the show. Westerners who express interest in the right places, however, may get information about luxury boys at a number of leading night clubs. The manager of one of the largest and best-known clubs nearly always has a few boys on the string. One of the authors met a 13-year-old boy who had been brought there by three different men within one week. The boy, a free-lance bar-boy, took his customers to the cheap hotel next door.
Our unpublished diary, mentioned earlier, tells the case of a 12-year-old boy who belonged to a young pimp who drove a flaming red convertible. This pimp had an arrangement with a luxury hotel in the mountains. He would meet tourists in the night club area, and then introduce them to the boy. If an agreement was made, the pimp would give the tourist a key to a hotel room and put him in a taxi to the mountain resort. An hour later, when he arrived for the night, he would find the boy already in the room — cost, $20 for the night. This particular boy, Mohammed, had slept with at least one man every day for six months. He had run away from his home in Tripoli where he had been an apprentice barber-boy. While learning the barber trade, he had been seduced by one of the many customers who propositioned him. When his father learned of the seduction, he kicked the boy out of the house. The boy ran away to Beirut and fell into the hands of the pimp who trained him in the special dancing movements which intensify the pleasures of anal intercourse — one of the ancient, delicate arts of the Middle East. The boy was such a natural that he soon performed well enough to cause him to be reserved for the “luxury trade”.
After the war and until 1964, when a few arrests were made, there was brisk trade in German and Austrian boys who were “sold” into the Middle East. In Vienna, one American witnessed the sale of two 13-year-old Austrian boys for $50 each. These particular boys were purchased by an oil-rich Arab from Saudi Arabia for his own “harem”. The boys were taken by plane to Athens and then by boat to Sana in Yemen from where they were to make the last lap of the trip to the harem.
Arabs are very partial to blonds, both male and female. Some German boys were traced to a Syrian brothel in Aleppo — a piece of detective work which led to the closing of one of the last “wide open” establishments in that city. (It was an institution which had been in business without significant interruption for 400 years!)
The Aleppo brothel, similar to some of the places in Damascus (also recently closed), was an upstairs all-night coffee house where men came to eat and smoke after work. Street boys were allowed to come and sleep there, and often, after midnight, they would undress for the men by simply lifting their nightgowns as an invitation for someone to take them home to bed. Other more professional prostitutes worked at the bar as waiters and kitchen boys. A customer simply asked for a private room and gave the number of the waiter he wanted for the night. Some of the boys were Syrian, Armenian or Kurdish (often blond and beautiful) and a few were Europeans or half-Europeans. Those supposedly Bulgarian, Italian or Polish were actually little Greeks. Poor Greek boys in Aleppo and Damascus were sometimes impressed into the business to pay for their fathers’ debts. These are the “playful coffee shop boys” that Edwardes speaks of in Jewel in the Lotus. When Aleppo and Damascus were under Turkish rule, many of the boys were Circassian. Some came from the Balkans, others from Greece. During the many centuries of the Ottoman Empire, sexual relations with boys over 13 were legal — punishable with boys under 13 only if there were four witnesses!!
As a result of the zealousness of present popular reform governments, there has been a decline in boy prostitution of late. The decline is not terribly serious. There have been other reform governments which have tried to take even more severe measures, but, so far, their efforts have had only a temporary effect. Perhaps only when poverty is eliminated from the area can there be any real control of prostitution — especially control of amateur boy prostitutes like the ones who operate in the balconies of cheap motion picture theatres. The corruption of police and prison officials is almost impossible to regulate in a culture where salaries are low and bribery is an ancient custom. A pimp can get a boy out of a prison in just a few hours by bribing the judge, prison officials, and a lawyer or two. It is, therefore, impossible for officials to take a boy away from his pimp and to keep him away for long.
Indeed, in 1965, when a Turkish police officer was sent to jail for some departmental offense, his superior officer claimed the jailed officer’s 11-year-old son in payment of a debt, then sold the boy to a pimp. The boy was first offered to a visiting Britisher as a houseboy for the sum of $100. “You can have a lot of fun with him” the police officer said. “I guarantee he is a virgin and doesn’t yet know anything about anything.”
One pimp told the diarist that the best age to begin training a boy is when he is about 8 years old. A boy prepared psychologically and physically through anal massage and dilation at that age will always be more pliable and affectionate. He will give more pleasure because he enjoys more pleasure himself. The pimp’s system is to give each new boy an anal dilator of carved ivory. He uses it on, or rather in, himself as much or as little as he wishes (but sugar and sweets are withheld until the dilation has satisfactorily readied him for the next phase of training.) He is best prepared according to the pimp, by memorizing songs and poems and by watching more experienced boys having sexual relations together. No boy prostitute is as aggressive or as affectionate with his customer as the Arab-trained boy. Few boy prostitutes in other parts of the world can probably enjoy their trade as much.
Since the recent crack-downs of reform governments, a new type of prostitute has appeared in Arabian cities — the “auto boy.” At dusk or after dark, these young hitch-hikers stand at certain corners where automobilists must stop. If the driver looks at them and waves, one of the boys comes and gets into the car for preliminary conversation and bickering over price, if a deal is made, a drive is taken out into the country. Foreign tourists have been astonished at the aggressiveness of the youngsters who come up to their car windows and offer propositions. Many of these boys work in teams as part of a gang of street boys who are managed by a man who pimps for them (and also fences stolen merchandise they manage to pick up from careless clients, distracted during love-making.)
In 1966, there was a raid on a Beirut house where a man was living with some twenty orphan boys he was “protecting”. He was a genuine 20th century Fagin. The boys often wound up being tortured. One boy had been drowned, or so his would-be murderers thought, but he survived the treatment to report the operation to the local police. The newspaper reports didn’t say so, but all of these boys were salesmen by day and “auto boys” by night. They were from 9 to 13 years old.
There is a great deal of prostitution by shoe-shine boys who will go to a customers apartment “to shine all of his shoes” on request. These boys are usually homeless street boys who come to the city from a village or sneak across the border from some neighboring country. They often operate in pairs, the younger being the prostitute while the older keeps watch. The older boy, in exchange for protection, enjoys the favors of his young associate in their “spare time.” Street prostitution in Middle East countries grows out of a situation where there is a great deal of sexual activity among lower class adolescent boys because girls are so strictly secluded and protected. A boy of 15 who does not have a little boy lover is the exception in the village or the city. Often their activity consists only of mutual masturbation during “off” hours.
Runaway boys are easily seduced. The boy apprentice who works in a garage or shop with a large number of young men is subjected to sexual overtures and pressures that would be unbelievable in the West.
The large number of single men who marry late in life provide a large clientele for both female and male prostitutes. When the apprentice’s salary is only a few cents an hour, he is quite understandably tempted to accomodate this ready-made clientele. After all, boys the world over crave luxuries which only money can buy.
All Arab boys know a few men who will buy them some luxuries in exchange for little favors from time to time. It is but a short step from this type of seduction to part-time work in a brothel, especially if a boy’s regular job is in a brothel area. A poor, fatherless boy is often encouraged by an uncle or cousin to take advantage of his youth to “get ahead” in this way. Fatherless boys are also frequently seduced by their employers and then offered to customers as an incentive to increase business.