(BLSB) - The Ideal Age for Young Male Beloveds in Ottoman Turkish Literature, and the Contemporaneous Erotic Terminology Applied to Them, as Featured in 'Ardour-Inducing' by Sünbül-zâde Vehbî

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Portrait of a young Turk (second half of the 1830s–1840s) by Grigory Grigorievich Gagarin. Unfinished. Oil on canvas, 94 × 76.5 cm (Saint Petersburg, Russia: State Russian Museum).


From "Three Genders, Two Sexualities: The Evidence of Ottoman Erotic Terminology" by İrvin Cemil Schick, in Sex and Desire in Muslim Cultures: Beyond Norms and Transgression from the Abbasids to the Present Day, edited by Aymon Kreil, Lucia Sorbera and Serena Tolino, Gender and Islam (London: I.B. Tauris, 2021). Footnotes omitted.

Note: Ardour-inducing (Şevk-engîz) is an Ottoman Turkish ribald poem by Sünbül-zâde Vehbî (d. 1224/1809), written in the form of a debate between two men on the respective merits of sexual relations with women and with boys.[1]

The ideal age for boy-beloveds was described fairly precisely by Vehbî in his Şevk-engîz:

A new moon [shaped] like his eyebrows when a child,
He becomes a full moon when he reaches his fourteenth year.
[...]
[First] a child, he becomes a beardless youth to play with;
Once his beard sprouts, playing with him goes bad.

The word emred (from the Arabic amrad), which appears in the second couplet, signifies beardless youth and is a recurring theme in Ottoman – as well as Arabic and Persian – literature.

[...]

Other terms for a boy as sex-object included civân or cüvân (from the Persian jawān = young man), gulâm (from the Arabic ghulām = young man whose moustache is jut sprouting), hîz (from the Arabic ḥîz = catamite), hûbân (from the Persian khūb = beautiful, here pl.), oğlan (from the Old Turkic oğul = boy, son), uşak (from the Early Turkish uşak = little), tâze (from the Persian tāza = fresh, new, young), puşt (from the Persian pusht = back) and vâsıla (from the Arabic wāşala = one who ‘held communion, or commerce, of love’). A selection of couplets from Vehbî’s Şevk-engîz illustrates some of these terms:

Know that the soul of the world is the young boy.
He turns the old lover into a young man.
[...]
When you get hold of such a young man,
Make sure you do not miss the opportunity of union [sex] with him.
[...]
Each was a leader in the kingdom of words;
From beginning to end, they sang the praises of boys.


Fragmentary tile depicting a young man. North-western Iran (?), Safavid period, first quarter of the 17th century. Stonepaste, overslip and underglaze painted decoration. Paris, Musée du Louvre, OA 5544.

References

  1. İrvin Cemil Shick, "Three Genders, Two Sexualities: The Evidence of Ottoman Erotic Terminology"; Aymon Kreil, Lucia Sorbera and Serena Tolino, eds., Sex and Desire in Muslim Cultures: Beyond Norms and Transgression from the Abbasids to the Present Day, part of the Gender and Islam series (London: I.B. Tauris, 2021), pp. 89 and 90.


See also

External links