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Always Sexualized But Never Prioritized

December 1, 2023 By Kero Saleib As the Founder of Middle Eastern Nights, an event created by queer folks and is for queer folks, I get to see and observe...

December 1, 2023

By Kero Saleib

As the Founder of Middle Eastern Nights, an event created by queer folks and is for queer folks, I get to see and observe how non-Middle Easterners, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community, often fetishize Middle Eastern gay men. This unsettling trend, marked by stereotypical physical appearances and a lack of understanding of our diverse cultures, has urged me to talk about these issues.

In my conversation with non-Middle Eastern men, this fetishization of Middle Eastern men has reduced us to mere physical stereotypes. When I ask them “why do you like Middle Eastern men?” I always get responses that are almost like describing a sex toy: “tan, hairy, big dick, etc” I even get details about circumcision preferences sometimes. There’s this assumption that we are cut/uncut dependent on religious background – a really mixed-up way of thinking. I always challenge these responses by replying with “you’re not describing Middle Eastern men.”  The assumption that all Middle Eastern individuals possess tan skin and are inherently hairy is not only wrong but it perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

Being Egyptian myself, I often expose these misconceptions by highlighting the diversity within our own cultural and ancestral backgrounds. Many Egyptians, including myself, are not particularly hairy, a trait we get from our black ancestry. Addressing and dismantling these stereotypes is an important part of my advocacy. Thankfully, more Middle Easterners are joining the conversation and speaking out against this fetishization.

Unfortunately, some men within our community, who seek relationships with white partners, may misconstrue fetishization as a form of validation or elevated status, but being fetishized does not validate us! This type of thinking needs whole chapter of unpacking and decolonizing, but an over simplified way to put it is that it’s a complex issue surrounding identity and worth.

Educating individuals about the harmful effects of fetishization is very important to me. I often encounter Middle Eastern gays who believe that being liked for their ethnicity is a valid reason to enter a relationship. I emphasize that this is much like being reduced to an object, comparable to the same fetishization found in kink, BDSM, and other sexual practices. There’s the stage of initial fascination, but it often leads to boredom or dismissal, leading to many broken relationships down the line.

Moreover, those who fetishize Middle Eastern men often overlook the mental health implications and fail to grasp the cultural and religious complexities we navigate. Our diverse foods, distinct Arabic dialects, and varied traditions are often overlooked, which contributes to a huge lack of understanding.

In my efforts to dismantle this issue, I come across individuals who try to impress me with a few Arabic words they picked up here and there. When I tell them I don’t understand the words they’re saying because I speak Egyptian Arabic, they get shocked that there are different Arabic dialects that can be very different from each other. I make it a point to educate them about the richness of our diverse linguistics and cultures, emphasizing that the assumption of uniformity erases our individuality.

Ultimately, the path to taking down fetishization needs an ongoing conversation, education, and a collective effort to foster genuine connections that go beyond stereotypes. By sharing our stories and advocating for a more nuanced understanding, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and respectful community for everyone.


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