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Boylove is well documented in Muslim and Hebrew culture during what is customarily, though inaccurately, called Spain's "Middle Ages". While the Koran theoretically prohibits male-male sexual intimacy, there was, during that tolerant period, not even the pretense of enforcing this prohibition. Rulers openly kept boy harems. In a priceless but well-documented anecdote, one ruler (al-Hakem II) was unable to produce an heir; so as to accomplish this goal, a girl was dressed as a boy. This brought success.

If there was any criticism of man-boy sexual relations (they would have called it "love"; love and sex were more linked than today), it was viewed as, at most, a pecadillo (as Flaubert reports was the case in nineteenth-century Egypt, on which he wrote extensively).

The little-known (because sources were deliberately destroyed) Spanish Sufism saw the beautiful boy as an image of God.

In Hebrew poetry of the period - the first time after Biblical times that Hebrew was used for poetry - the love of a man for a boy is compared with the love of God for the people of Israel. The people of Israel are the boy, God the man. (This is seen much later in the poetry of Saint John of the Cross, San Juan de la Cruz). The greatest figures of the period, people well-known today, like Judah ha-Levi, wrote boylove poetry.

The documentation for this is mostly, though not exclusively, poetry. Boylove poetry from what is today Spain, both in Hebrew and in Arabic, is abundant.

See the article "Judaism, Sephardic" in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (

In the early seventeenth century there was a furious debate centered on the poet Góngora and especially his Solitudes (arguably the most famous poem in the language). The protagonist is said in the third line to be "more beautiful than Ganymede" (paraphrased).

At present the age of consent in Spain is 13 (changed to 16 in 2015). Gays have slightly better legal rights and face slightly more prejudice than in other Western countries.


  • Helen Leneman, "Reclaiming Jewish History: Homoerotic Poetry of the Middle Ages," Changing Men, 18 (Summer/Fall 1987), 22-28.
  • Norman Roth, "Fawn of My Delights". Boy-Love in Hebrew and Arabic Verse," in Sex in the Middle Ages, Garland, 1991 pp. 157-172.
  • In Praise of Boys: Moorish Poems from al-Andalus. Trans. Erskine Lane. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1975. (A retranslation from Spanish of a Spanish translation, by Emilio García Gómez, of poems in Arabic. The title of the Spanish version is "Poemas arabigoandaluces".)
  • Jefir Schirmann, "The Ephebe in Medieval Hebrew Poetry," Sefarad, 15, 1955, 55-68.
  • Norman Roth, "'My Love is Like a Gazelle': Imagery of the Beloved Boy in Medieval Hebrew Poetry," Hebrew Annual Review, 8, 1984, 143-165.
  • Daniel Eisenberg, "'La escondida senda': homosexuality in Spanish history and culture," introduction to Spanish Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes. A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, ed. David William Foster (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999). 1-21.