Homosexuality in ancient Rome features in many literary works, poems, graffiti and comments on the sexual predilections of single emperors. Graphic representations are, on the other hand, rarer in ancient Rome than in classical Greece. Attitudes toward homosexuality changed over the time and from context to context, ranging from strong condemnation to quite open acceptance. Indeed, it was also purported to be one of the cultural facts of certain provinces.
In discussing such attitudes, it is fundamental to recall that the term homosexuality is entirely problematic for the ancient world since there is no single word in either Latin or ancient Greek with the same meaning as the modern concept of homosexuality. Although it again and again becomes apparent that bisexuality was more common, even the ancient authors agree that there were ancient Roman men who had sexual relations exclusively with men.
Greek attitudes gradually became accepted in Rome during the late Republic and early Empire, however, a new form of same-sex relations emerged that was quite different from homosexuality in ancient Greece, but owed much to it. As men, particularly the pater familias, wielded complete authority in Roman society, the Roman experience of same-sex relations is often characterized by master/slave-style interactions. Slaves still were considered legitimate sexual partners, often if not always regardless of their wishes. In short, an adult Roman citizen male could acceptably penetrate (whether a male or a female) but not be penetrated – catamite was commonly used as a slander.
Pederasty largely lost its status as a ritual part of education — a process already begun by the increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan Greeks — and was instead seen as an activity primarily driven by one’s sexual desires and competing with desire for women. The social acceptance of pederastic relations waxed and waned during the centuries. Conservative thinkers condemned it — along with other forms of indulgence. Tacitus attacks the Greek customs of “gymnasia et otia et turpes amores” (palaestrae, idleness, and shameful loves).
Other writers spent no effort censuring pederasty per se , but praised or blamed its various aspects. Martial appears to have favored it, going as far as to essentialize not the sexual use of the catamite but his nature as a boy: upon being discovered by his wife “inside a boy” and offered the “same thing” by her, he retorts with a list of mythological personages who, despite being married, took young male lovers, and concludes by rejecting her offer since “a woman merely has two vaginas.” Among the Romans, pederasty reached its zenith during the time of hellenophile emperor Hadrian. Commodus had a number of male lovers. Elagabalus also had numerous male lovers and even married one of these in a public ceremony. Philip the Arabian was also known for his fondness for young men.
DANCING BOYS: Native to Afghanistan, these “dancing boys” are actually sex slaves , lured off the streets by pimps , taught to dance and sing, to wear make -up and to dress like girls. Then they are made to perform before large groups of men. All of them are sexually abused. But in Islam, sex with boys under 18 is not considered homosexuality, so it is allowed.
“Dancing boys” are a lucrative business. Powerful former warlords and businessmen love to watch them and will pay a lot of money to have their own boy for Bacha Bazi. Some of the boys are traded like swap cards amongst the rich and powerful and if they disobey their “owners” they are killed or brutalised.
The trade in boys is well known to the United Nations. According to Nazir Alimy, who compiled a report on the issue for the UN, there is no doubt who is funding this practice and why the police refuse to stop it.
“According to our research these dancing boys are used by powerful men for sex,” Mr Alimy said. Paedophiles and pimps search for young boys so they can sell them or groom them to be trained as “dancing boys”. In one case a journalist goes in the car with a paedophile named Dastager. As they drive, Dastager explains the type of boy he is looking for. Then in broad daylight the “dancing boy master” stops the car, goes to a shopfront and brings a boy back to his the waiting car.
In a report prepared for the United Nations there is evidence that the practice of bacha bazi and the sexual abuse of boys is common throughout the north of the country. It confirms that young boys, some of them only 10 years old, are lured into life as a sex slave.
There is also evidence that this type of abuse is spreading throughout Afghanistan. “It’s true they make the boys wear girls’ clothes and make them dance in front of many men,” he said. The powerful customers are often former warlords who helped drive the Taliban out of the north. Others who involve themselves in the trade of boys are wealthy businessmen. Under the Taliban, Bacha Bazi was outlawed.
Today it is still a crime but clearly there is no concerted effort being made to stop the practice and the criminal activity that surrounds it.
Man boy sex (Pederasty):Bacha bereesh and bacha bazi. Boys are taken from their families at a young age and sold or given to wealthy and powerful business men, politicians, and military commanders. The boys are dressed in women’s clothing and makeup and forced to dance to entertain their master and his guests. They are also forced to perform sex acts on their master or his guests.
The few boys who are able to escape their slavery have a difficult time ever making a living doing anything else. They are forever branded in society as a bacha bereesh, or a “boy without a beard”; a boy who dances and dresses as a woman. Their plight is not unlike that of women forced into sexual performance or prostitution, who also have a difficult time being accepted into society and finding work after their ordeal. Bacha bazi boys often return to the industry even after they have left, because they have no other means to support themselves. Women who have been forced into commercial sex often do the same. Perhaps so many similarities exist because bacha bazi feminizes these boys in order to degrade them. By forcing them to perform in women’s clothes and by raping them, this tradition not only seeks to humiliate these boys for the pleasure of wealthy men, but also to reinforce the idea that women are inferior and for a boy to have feminine affectations is degrading for him. It’s a window into the severe gender inequality that pervades Afghanistan.
Rules for men having sex with boys:
Man-boy sex is institutionalised to the extent that the locals wrote rulebook specifying who should and should not be the object of a man’s amorous attentions. Apart from the requirement that the boy should be beardless (bacha bereesh), there are also some restrictions regarding family members.
— If a baligh (adult) person commits sodomy with a boy, the mother, sister and daughter of the boy become haraam for him. And the same law applies when the person on whom sodomy is committed is an adult male, or when the person committing sodomy is na-baligh. But if one suspects or doubts whether penetration occurred or not, then the said woman would not become haraam.
— If a person marries the mother or sister of a boy, and commits sodomy with the boy after the marriage, as a precaution, they will become haraam for him. In other words, if a man dates a woman and finds her kid brother or son attractive, he must choose one or the other. He can’t have both.
by Shabab Khan
Author is a Journalist, Political Analyst, Export Entrepreneur and a Social Activist.