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18th Century Ottoman Art depicts Boy-Beloveds in a world before "homosexuality" was a thing

Though depctions avaiable online are rare, in the ancient or even not-so-ancient pre-Christian Muslim society of 18th century Turkey, homosexual love was no big deal.

Two Erotic Scenes by Abdullah Bukhari

In a fascinating article titled "What Ottoman erotica teaches us about sexual pluralism" found on Aeon.co,  İrvin Cemil Schick discusses how in Turkey, as well as much of the Muslim world prior to the tyranny of Christianity, no one was freaking out over homosexual sex. 

For one thing, there was no term for "homosexuality," until 1868. Wasn't even conceptualized as odd or negative. Same sex relationships were merely viewed in pre-modern times as merely a predilection or practice. Sexual relationships where not divided by gay or straight, but by penetrated or penetrator.

Illustration by Abdullah Bukhari

He writes:

"Although there is no doubt that the vocabulary extracted thus far is not exhaustive, some clear patterns have emerged. In particular, it indicates that one can speak of three genders and two sexualities. First, rather than a male/female dichotomy, sources clearly view men, women and boys as three distinct genders. Indeed, boys are not deemed ‘feminine’, nor are they mere substitutes for women; while they do share certain characteristics with them, such as the absence of facial hair, boys are clearly considered a separate gender. Furthermore, since they grow up to be men, gender is fluid and, in a sense, every adult man is ‘transgender’, having once been a boy. 

"Second, sources suggest that there are two distinct sexualities. But rather than a hetero/homosexual dichotomy, the two sexualities are defined by penetrating and being penetrated. For a man who penetrates, whom he penetrates was considered to be of little consequence and primarily a matter of personal taste. It is indeed significant that the words used for an ‘active’ man’s sexual orientation were quite devoid of value judgment..."

Read the full article here.

18th Century Ottoman illustration

We leave you with a final rare 18th century Ottoman works depicting same-sex male sex. Surely there are many more, but as we slide socially backwards, fewer and fewer are available.

 Illustrated Turkish Erotic Manuscript

 Illustrated Turkish Erotic Manuscript by Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Mustafa Al-Misri

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