Dominant gay dating
“If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions.
But if I have a date upstairs and my family is downstairs, they won’t even come up.” Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam, and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal code.
Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company.
Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.” Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman.
(For this reason, the names of most people in this story have been changed.) Ask many Saudis about homosexuality, and they’ll wince with repugnance.
“I disapprove,” Rania, a 32-year-old human-resources manager, told me firmly.
This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual behavior a degree of freedom.They make sure that single men steer clear of the malls, which are family-only zones for the most part, unless they are with a female relative.Though the power of the mutawwa'in has been curtailed recently, their presence still inspires fear. Though that penalty is seldom applied, just this February a man in the Mecca region was executed for having sex with a boy, among other crimes.During the afternoon, traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to keep boys away.But they exert little control over what goes on inside.