Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Arab Sexuality: Holding Hands = Gay or Compassionate Expression?

I’ll be one of the first to shout about ‘western ice’ in western societies. Fucking your friends isn’t warm; sex is sex and often very cold, and compassion is compassion and always warm. Over here, Arabs, like many Europeans, they’re compassionate enough to greet one another with kisses. Back home, some people consider a hand shake to close for comfort. See the difference?

Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned to show affection to my mother, my sisters, and my close friends. I believe I’m the only one of my mother’s children who actually kisses her upon each greeting or departure. As it turns out, in many ways I’m also the closest child to her.

When people first arrive here from abroad, they show shock and disgust and all the men walking in public holding hands, ’Oh my God! I didn’t know gays were free to walk in public here!’ They fail to realize that between these men holding hands, is no sexual attraction, no relationship and nothing even remotely gay.

Now, I’m not saying gays don’t exist here; whether male or female I assure you there are plenty of them. I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t been a little closer than comfortable with a lesbian here, some time in my past. I’d be a liar if I said I’d never met a gay guy, or been told stories about male rape, or male to male sexual propositions. They all exist, and possibly in numbers larger than more ‘modern’ societies.

But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about just now.

You see, I remember when my son was just little, possibly just over a year old; my father-in-law was playing with him. Please note that my father-in-law is an incredibly old man, who doesn’t have any teeth in his mouth and most certainly lost his vitality many, many years ago. Also note that I love this man, dearly.

Anyway, what seemed out of nowhere to me, he started gently flicking my babies penis. And even as my child laughed; I freaked out, picked him up and walked away. I screamed for a short while at my ex-husband, and complained about it to my sister-in-law.

No one seemed to understand what the big deal was.

I spent a long time thinking about this occurrence, and even more so, the reaction I got for bitching about it. Finally it hit me; Maybe the problem wasn’t with my old father-in-law, or the in-laws in general. Maybe the problem was with me.

When does sexual assault, become sexual assault? When does a touch become too far? What are the bases we decide these things on? And if no sexual intent, or sexual emotions are felt, can it be considered sexual assault? Was that abuse?

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember a daycare counselor I grew fondly attached to. His name was Jeff, and he became my best friend for the short time that he worked in my Daycare. I remember one summer day while outside in the playground, Jeff was laying on his back. I crawled up on his stomach and laid myself on top of him, face to face. I must have been younger than ten years old.

I’ll never forget how quickly he shouted at me to get off him, and how he tried to ever so lightly explain that what I had done was wrong and I shouldn’t do such a thing again. I remember how guilty I felt; and I remember not understanding why.

I remember that moment, when compassion became a shame for me.

Sexuality is something that’s highly influenced by society, by the people around us and our own experiences and beliefs.

Holding hands doesn’t make a person gay; it makes them comfortable in expressing their appreciation for their loved ones. A kiss on the cheek (though uncomfortable initially for us westerners), tends to strengthen a relationship, and leave you knowing that should that person pass away before you get the chance to see them again, you’ve had a change to properly say good-bye.

I tend to believe that Arab sexuality is more often than not, misunderstood and misinterpreted by the masses. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but not really concluded my thoughts on. But so far, it’s leaning towards:

Cold : Warm


Western : Arab

And today, I decided to share it with the rest of you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you Tainted.. I am a brit who used to live in the UAE, you are right people are more compassionate, holding hands / greeting friends with kisses is normal.

Now I’m back in the UK it’s totally the opposite if I were to walk down the street holding my friends hands people would assume we were gay. I miss that bit of compassion amongst friends.

8:57 PM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger black feline said...

your highness...the indians, bangladeshi, pakistani do it all the time...holding hands..just like lovers. Having said that..based on inside information...we have many IT staff (guys) from India..they told me it's not unusual for guys in india..especially those from the village..working in cities..to engage in man to man "bonding"..u know what i mean?
Your father in law is probably in his second childhood...no need to be alarmed...another form of bonding..heard it's a "guy" thing.

6:47 AM, May 10, 2006  
Blogger Anon said...

Beautifully written TF, We are the problem, unfortunately paedophilia exists here too (how many kids have been kidnapped that we don't know about?).

I think the only answer is to ensure the child knows what's OK, and what isn't.

Sexual grooming of kids by (usually) men is becoming a worldwide epidemic and problem.

Openness with your kids is the only answer.

10:24 AM, May 10, 2006  
Blogger Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

When I moved to Syria, the first thing teh struck me was teh men holding hands and saying i love you to each other like it was "hello how are you".

It really was hard to understand coming from sweden where although one has a relaxed attitude towards homsexuality, two male friends will rarely sit next to each other on the bus or train if they can avoid it... stupid ey?

I learnt like you said, that one has a different view of expressing emotions between two males in such cultures and til this day I am not one hundred percent comfortable with it. Although I understand it much more now than when I saw it the first time.

Naturally the problem lies with me and the influence the swedish culture has had.

12:48 PM, May 10, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...

I don’t really know if there is any problem at all, when looking at both sides, other than the fact that we need to learn to accept others for what they feel their personal boundaries are not make assumptions based on things that seem out of whack with our own. It’s that perspective thing again…

Anon, I feel for you. And remember what it was like going home to Canada, as a girl, and not having that compassion between friends.

And UC… But when does petting become sexual? There has to be sexual intent. Based on that, my father-in-law for example, did NOTHING wrong. He certainly wasn’t lusting after my son. And you’re right, children must be taught… but they need to be taught to restrict what makes them uncomfortable, and not what we think should make them uncomfortable. There’s a huge difference.

And feline, I had to re-read this after your comment cause I was sure I mentioned Asians alongside Europeans when it came to the similarities… But I didn’t, it seems. Thanks for pointing it out.

1:28 PM, May 10, 2006  
Blogger buganah said...

i agree, this region is a step toward understanding your own compassion and soul and heart.....but i ran into trouble. I met a very nice couple. Had a few drinks, and became friends for the night, if you can give your trust, which i did? Then things went wrong. The short story is i went to another gathering with them, little did i know it was a set up. Later i think that these other men were not normal. I rememeber them giving me a drink, possibly druged and then rememeber having my arms tied to the bed. What occured after was the most horrible experience i have ever been put thru. These men thought it "ok" to restrict a person, dress them in another gender, then force them selves into me and have there way and their fun. A sad reflection on them. There is a large step between holding hands and having forced sex with a man. And there is a small step when the lights are off. Perhaps I was stupid, probably, but to trusting?....dont be fooled. Human nature is never keep a surprize. Listen learn and live,...hopefully you will have love. I have forgiven. I can now love again.

10:01 PM, July 18, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


It sounds like a horrific event you went through and I’m sorry for the pain you must have endured. I agree, this sort of thing happens just about everywhere.

It seems you’ve dealt with it well. May you continue to do so.

12:37 PM, July 19, 2006  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home