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Message Board > Cruising for Sex: Africa > Northern Africa   Huffington Post on Algiers: Cruising the Kashbah

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Old 16th December 2015, 09:18 AM
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Bob S: Administrator / Manager / Editor
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Huffington Post on Algiers: Cruising the Kashbah

There's a new story posted yesterday in the Huffington Post by Austin Blake Mullins called Cruising the Kashbah about the gay scene in Algiers. It's a medium-length read but truly fascinating for the insight into another culture and how gay men (or men seeking men) live and operate in this part of the world quite different from the West.

I'll pick up only two paragraphs here and urge you to click through and read the rest for yourself:

In the various Arab cities I've visited over the years, the saying, "We don't have a problem with men who have sex with men, but we don't accept the gay life," is common. This is a somewhat clearly drawn line, since the vestiges of what many would consider a gay lifestyle -- clubs, bars, bathhouses and theatrical parades filled with costumed go-go dancers -- are non-existent from Rabat to Beirut, save in Tel Aviv. Yet, walking down the streets in Algiers provided me endless opportunities to engage with horny young men.

However, these young men do not identify with an organized or vocal gay community, simply for the fact that such a faction does not exist. This is due largely to the laws of the deep state, le pouvior, which condemn and punish homosexuality in Articles 333 and 338 of the Penal Code, with violators subject to fines and imprisonment. Though persecution occurs, it is generally understood to be a familial and not legal matter. Moreover, the importance of family, marriage, and children remain the largest obstacle to openness in the African city. These foundational elements reinforce the marginalization of the queer community by casting them as outsiders bent on disrupting and destroying society. Algeria's queer scene is certainly alive, but is muted and suppressed. There are no civil rights or legal protections and little-to-no safe private space for meeting. Therefore, gay men occupy the only place where they can find other like-minded men: the street.
Some of this reminds me just a little of the 1960s Morocco scenes in the Joe Orton biography Prick Up Your Ears as shown in the 1987 movie of the same name. The difference, if there is there is one, is that Joe Orton's story is really about the British Joe Orton, while the HuffPo article is more descriptive and focused on the lives of men in North Africa.

I hope that KewlDewd66 will see this and add some comments. I know he's described his life experience is from the Eastern Med region and also his college-age group. There seem to be cultural commonalities.

~ Bob
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Old 17th December 2015, 10:19 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 400

There are quite amazing commonalities among all the Mediterranean countries on practically every level. The sea which has been the living core of everything the Mediterranean world has stood for the millennia continues to play its pivotal role.

Virtually all the Mediterranean cultures are sexually very positive. The notions of celibacy, restraint, etc., are deemed to be both entirely undesirable and seriously unhealthy. The notion that people should be getting together to promise each other that they shall remain celibate until they wed has never gained any traction in our cultures. Most people around here would view such a set up as a purely laughable matter.

Within this wider context, no one ever really viewed m2m sex as any aberration that would require any measure of sanctioned and organized oppression. Quite on the contrary, as described in the article, men having sex with other men was a widely known, if almost never talked about phenomenon. Being openly gay and demanding a separate identity based on your sexual orientation, on the other hand used to be seen as disruptive and actually, counterproductive in societal terms.

In contrast to so many commonalities, the major cultural difference among the Mediterranean societies and their respective attitudes towards homosexuality has to do with vastly disparate levels of economic development and general wealth of the population.

The North African societies remain largely very impoverished and unstable on many levels. Virtually every aspect of life is being overshadowed by the daily survival struggle. Hence, sexuality, too, functions within this context of general scarcity, and thus, meeting other men for sex is very different in Algiers, Morocco, Tunisia, etc., on one hand and, in Spain, France and Italy, on the other. A degree of prostitution is practically a default in North African societies, and an exception limited to the relatively few escort boys on the European shores of our common sea.

Globalization has brought the notions of the separate gay identity to the European shores. Actually, quite a few people choose to go openly gay, participate in gay events, and work on promoting the gay agenda. Discrimination based on sexuality has been legally abolished, and the once proud bastion of Catholic conservatism - Spain, was one of the first European countries to legalize gay marriage.

This 'new', openly gay, sometimes even militant identity peacefully coexists with our very old, underground ways in the cultures of the Western Mediterranean. A few very openly gay men here have close relationships with men who choose NOT to be openly gay, are married or engaged, wish to live a str8 lifestyle, etc.. Equally so, quite a few apparently str8 men cultivate their friendships with gay men who may be out or not.

An interesting manifestation of this coexisting duality is the fact that both the proximity based apps (Grindr, Scruff, Hornet & Co.) and the old, secretive, blogs and boards enjoy almost the same level of activity among the local guys.

Some of this may be explained by the original, if very deeply rooted misunderstanding about the nature of the gay identity as it hit our shores in the '80s, and made itself very felt in present in the first years of the 21st century.

Quite a few people had hoped that the new, openly gay identity would be far more beneficial to them on personal level than could have ever been the case.

People coming out massively felt relieved of their 'secret', which actually had been none, but which became a legitimate subject of conversation. The expectations that openly gay men would attract other gay men sexually irrespective of their looks and levels of attraction, naturally, never materialized. No one seriously thought of having sex with someone whom they found unattractive but who was openly gay - well, just because they were openly gay.

The politics of the new identity suggested strong communal links among the gay men as such political discourses usually tend to. A few people took this propaganda for granted, and were disappointed that the communal links limited themselves to having a few drinks after the gay parade but that you still had to pay your phone and electricity bills yourself.

When all's said and done: we used to have sex with other men but never really spoke openly about it with other folks. Then, we continued to have sex with other men, and we spoke about it with everybody who cared to listen. And now, we are back to having sex with other men but relatively very few men really care to talk any more about it, and even fewer folks find it any interesting to listen to it.

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