Saudi Arabia’s Secretive Society – Acts of Homosexuality Amongst Saudi Men


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There is a huge underground culture forming amongst gay men in Saudi Arabia even though by law the act of homosexuality can be punishable by death. The strict division between genders, which is enforced by the Mutawwa’in, defiantly provokes these acts of homosexuality amongst Saudi men. The Mutawwa’in is the religious authority that is active in part with the government to enforce,“The promotion of virtue and prevention of vice”. Basically in Saudi Arabia they have moral police patrolling the streets that really focus on keeping the division between the sexes.

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Many Saudi citizens fear being stopped by the Mutawwa’in because of the governmental and social power these policemen hold. Men and women cannot be seen in public together unless they are related and must always carry their ID’s with them in case they are stopped and questioned about their relations. Therefore some men simply find it easier to be a gay man in this divided society.

Yasser a 26-year old artist from the town of Jeddah said, “If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions, but with a man I can be left alone.”

The interesting thing about this unspoken society is the fact many men that preform these homosexual acts would not consider themselves gay. This is because most Saudi men take the dominant role when preforming these sexual acts. Meaning most men will only have sexual relations if they are “on top”. The sociologist Stephen Murray the author of, Islamic Homosexuality: Culture, History, and Literature, explains,

“Sexuality is distinguished not between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ but between taking pleasure and submitting to someone (being used for pleasure).”

Most Saudi men believe to be on the bottom is to be shameful, but at the same time many males take on this role when they are of inferior status and are therefore excused of their younger behavior in the transition to adulthood.

In a society like Saudi Arabia that focuses on family and long-standing Muslim traditions like arranged marriage there is little room for same-sex relationships. For instance there are spaces in restaurants and café’s that are dedicated to only families. Certain establishments will even show signs that will read, “Families Only.” Simple acts of public discrimination are intended to encourage the ideals of starting a family. The community expects men to marry and fulfill their procreative obligations with their wives or else they will be seen as disgraceful. Some Saudi men may admit to participating in homosexual deviations, but hardly any would consider not marrying to pursue a relationship with another man.

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It seems to me that the laws, which the Saudi Arabian religious police enforce like the strict separation between men and women, have powerful influences on the society’s philosophy. The lack of interaction between male and female has cause desires between same-sex affairs. My question is if it were possible to have interactions between the opposite sex would these homosexual acts still continue behind closed doors or at all? 

Resources:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39118941/ns/world_news-mideast

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8 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia’s Secretive Society – Acts of Homosexuality Amongst Saudi Men

  1. Once again this is an article that really shows the cultural difference in Saudi Arabia and the United States. Homosexuality is becoming more culturally accepted in the United States and more same-sex marriage laws are being implemented in the states and it’s very eye opening to read about how these acts are carried out for a reason other than embracing homosexuality. This perspective really showed me how strict the laws are in Saudi Arabi considering that homosexuality can lead to death yet these actions are carried out by the fear of getting stopped by the police.

  2. It’s funny when you consider that they are attempting to enforce these rules in order to ‘establish virtue’, and yet by these very rules they are causing men to perform in acts these police consider ‘sinful’. It just goes to show you how any act will always cause more reverberations than originally intended.

    Homosexuality in the middleeast as a whole has very peculiar traditions not generally seen in the west, with the standards and strong opinions against it you can imagine why that is. It is all very similar to the recent “Dont see, Dont tell” disbanded rule of the Army in the west. The governments attempt to ignore the entire affairs, finding it easier (with good reason since it is near impossible) to try and quell the entire ‘issue’.

  3. This was a very interesting blog. It reminds me of times back in European history when men of high stature would have “relations” with younger boys. They would still marry and have kids of their own but before they would find a wife they would have relations with boys younger than them. They never saw themselves as gay or homosexual either. It is an interesting correlation between the two different time periods and cultures.

  4. I have really never thought of this before. It is crazy how strict Saudi Arabia is compared to the United States. Homosexuality is on it’s way to becoming more accepted in the United States so I can’t imagine being homosexual in a strict moral society such as Saudi Arabia. I don’t think men would continue these homosexual acts if they were allowed to interact with the opposite sex.

  5. This whole situation kind of seems like a catch-22. The law “pushes” same sex individuals to participate in homosexual acts because they do not have to prove their relation to a same sex companion. However, if they are caught doing homosexual acts, they could be punished by death!

  6. This issue really bothers me. I am emotionally affected. I feel for the people who are homosexual and want a way to express it but are seen as sick and dirty.

    In fact its only acceptable when the homosexual business looks a lot like rape

    They see that having sex with men does not make you a homosexual. Its about power.

    Just the same with rape:
    Having sex with a person in that case ALSO does not mean you love this person and its about power.

    What kind of people is this producing?
    sexually frustrated
    morally guilty
    and thus secretive
    pretending to be perfect
    judgemental of self and others

    1. There have been several cases in Saudi wherein a misguided or uninformed man had injured his new wife or lover simply because they were not told the basics of how to perform with a companion. I recall a case where a newly wed husband had to escort his wife to the emergency room because apparently he had accidentally injured her during their first night together. He stated to the news “I didnt know I was injuring her, we are never taught about this”.

  7. This is really interesting, and is an topic that our country is struggling to deal with as well. The concept of sexuality as being a biological vs a cultural construct is one that is complex at best. In reality, it seems almost impossible to figure out.
    To me, it is almost as if Saudi men (and women) are using the cultural restrictions to almost explain and justify their homosexual actions, yet their religious customs are what make them feel the need to justify them. Do you think these men are of homosexual orientation, or do you believe that they are just platonically engaging in homosexual acts because of the restrictions their culture poses on heterosexual relations?

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