Wednesday, January 7

Book Review: Sexual Life in Ottoman Society


An interesting book. Looks like it's translated from the Turkish but not that well. Has some thematic chapters arranged loosely around sultans, the structure of the harem,prostitution, slavery, homosexual behaviour, affairs of the heart, sexual humour and sexual poetry.

It's got copious amounts of illustrations, paintings and drawings by local and international artists and painters.

The author has obviously relied on primary research for her(?) book but the translation is poorly done. The boom jumps around very badly and therefore the editing is also done very badly.

For those who are of an academic bent, will find some of the references useful. For those who are expecting a detailed exposition, will be left wanting as there is very little contextual information given.

A particularly fascinating insight on the sexual descriptions of various nationalities of both sexes by Enderunlu Fazil Bey  in his book Hubanname is particular amusing and interesting. Here’s what he says about British Roses (the men).

“They are the silent but very much desired beauties who confuse your mind. They live on a quiet island. These guys who are beardless by birth are of medium height, and are as white as the whitest lily on a stream. Most of these fishlike men are sailors and they have a good sexual apparatus; nevertheless, I can not say that they give much satisfaction.

he was gay, so he didn't know much about women, but that didn't stop him from opining on the various nationalities.

Eastern Indians: Their face, eyes, and skin are dark. They look like framed pictures on a wall. You wouldn't feel like having sex with them because they are frigid”

Jews: All of them sleep with us. Jewish women and homosexual boys are abundant. The women have plain faces with a dull skin which is as tasteless as snow.

British Women: When their lips move, you hear the nightingale. They are good natured and have lovely faces. They are very keen on finery and they wear sumptuous clothes



Still looking at the mildly Islamist trajectory that Turkey is taking, it's a bit of a surprise to see publications like this coming out in this decade.

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