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Middle East

Used for discussions covering cultures in the Middle East generally. See also specific countries/regions, also Arabic and Islamicate.

LHMP entry

One of the features of medieval Islamic societies, at least among the urban elite, was a strict segregation of the sexes. This might imply a clear distinction in gender roles however the approach to sexuality in these cultures--in particular regarding male homoeroticism--resulted in some approaches to gender roles that contrast sharply to those of Christian cultures. These approaches included significant allowance for specific classes of persons to transgress the accepted forms of gender expression within certain limits.

Western interpretations of variant sexuality in Middle Eastern societies have often been filtered through stereotypes and Orientalism. There can be a fixation on certain key gender-related social differences, such as the harem and the veil. From an early date, Western commentaries have attributed to Islamic societies the acceptance or promotion of self-indulgence, licentiousness, and sexual deviance--views that often say more about Western attitudes than Islamic ones.

Babayan examines the poetic narrative of a late 17th century Iranian widow’s pilgrimage to Mecca. While this would not appear to be a fertile ground for themes of same-sex desire, the social context of gender segretation and the structures of women’s friendships and relationships brings to light a number of relevant motifs. The article is relatively long and I will be skimming it for these most relevant aspects. Therefore my summary is likely to present a rather skewed understanding of the entirety of Babayan’s analysis. 

I desperately desperately wanted to love this novel. Unfortunately, it fought me every step of the way.

Habib is a scholar of the history of sexuality, and particularly female same-sex desire, as reflected in medieval Arabic texts. This novel grew out of that research and weaves a complex portrait of the lives of several women recorded in 9th century Baghdad, at a time when it was possible--if not at all easy--for women who loved each other to make a place for themselves, sometimes in private but sometimes as public figures.

This work is a compilation of two lectures and a collection of primary texts in translation. The first chapter is a lecture sponsored by Aswat a Palestinian lesbian organization. It discusses issues of identity and especially issues around coming out in modern Islamic society.

Chapter 4: A close reading of Aĥmad Ibn Yusuf Tifashi’s Nuzhat al-Albab - Toward re-envisioning the Islamic Middle East

Part I: Introducing studies on female homosexuality and contemporary critical theory

Chapter 1: Introduction - Contemporary views of female homosexuality in the Middle East

Chapter 2 - Constructing and deconstructing sexuality: New paradigms for “gay” historiography

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