Thursday, January 29, 2015

Young boys as Sexual Objects in Persian Art

Shah Abbas with Bacha bazi - young boys as sexual objects in Islamic art

In Islamic culture for over 1000 years we see a fascinating acceptance of Homosexual Child Molestation while at the same time condemning Homosexuality.

We see this dichotomy in the acceptance of Amradhā (young, beardless boys ) as sexual objects and sexual partners for mature men. Amradhā or Bacha bazi as they are also called are considered appropriate sexual partners up until they grow a beard with certain limitations.
Two key distinctions are drawn. Liwāṭ i.e pederasty is acceptable as long as the man uses the boy for anal or oral sex. What is forbidden and seen as shameful is for men is Ubna that is to receive a man in ones anus or mouth. The line of demarcation is the onset of the beard. The ubna male or mokhannas is condemned as a passive homosexual worthy of death.

We see this in the great Persian poem Gulistan (The Rose Garden). Sa’di of Shiraz (1213
-1295 AD) wrote:

Tatari ke koshad mokhannas rā
Tatari ra degar nabāyad kosht

A Mongol who kills a mokhannas
Is a Tatar who should not be killed.

To put a point on it Sa’di was writing during the onslaught and early occupation of the Mongols who ravaged Persia. Yet he sees a submissive homosexual as of so little consequence as to be worthy of death by the hated oppressors.

Then of course we see some who take a somewhat softer line such as we see in Jalāl ad-Din Rumi (Mawlana) (1207-1273 AD)  who wrote in his great poem Masnavi-e ma’navi

Keng raft kudaki rāyāft khord 
Zard shod kudak ze bim-e qasd-e mard
 Goft: iman bāsh, ey zibā-ye man
Ke to khāhi bovad dar bālā-ye man!
Man agar houlam mokhannas dān marā
Hamchu oshtor barneshin mirān marā

A man had found a little boy.
The boy paled with fear, afraid of his intentions.
The man said: Don’t be afraid, my beautiful boy!
If you want, you can be also on the top!
If you are afraid of me, you should know that I am a
mokhannas [a passivehomosexual],
So sit on me and ride me as if I was a camel!

Floor, Willem, A Social History of Sexual Relations in Iran, Mage Publishers, Washington 2008
Foucault, M.,History of Sexuality , Vintage Books, New York 1990
Piotr Bachtin, Department of Iranian StudiesFaculty of Oriental StudiesUniversity of Warsaw
Male Homosexuality in Medieval Iran (Persia):Between Perversionand Ideal Love

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