Frank Discussions of Sexuality in a Bedouin Shop in Jerusalem – written March 21, 2011

This Saturday morning after “Abdul” took me to breakfast, he brought me to a Bedouin shop that his brother co-managed.  His brother, “Mahmoud,” spoke nearly perfect English. Mahmoud told me Abdul had told him I was Mormon and a journalism student.  I told Mahmoud I was writing about nonviolent resistance and asked if I could talk with him about that.  He told me, “I am against fighting and against danger, except in bed.”

So I knew this wouldn’t be an ordinary interview.  Initially I tried to steer the conversation to my story topic, but he kept asking me questions, wanting to know about me, especially my being Mormon.  He told me he had worked at the BYU Jerusalem Center twelve years ago, and even dated a Mormon girl for 18 months.

He asked about my dating life, and at first I only told him about “New,” the Indian from New Jersey I met at my swing party job, as that seemed the most normal of my dating (though of course none of my dating is normal).  Somehow he deduced that I was not a typical Mormon girl and had mostly dated non-Mormons and had had sex outside of marriage.  “So you’re a bad Mormon,” he said.

I was a little taken aback, because even though I may not follow all the commandments, I still have a very strong testimony of the Gospel and eventually I do plan on being completely faithful.  Why would I have signed a contract otherwise stating that eventually I will be fully committed to the Lord?

However, as soon as I protested, he responded, “You break the rules, you’re a bad Mormon. It’s okay, my ex-girlfriend was a bad Mormon too, back then.”

Mahmoud calling me a “bad Mormon” released the secrets of my shadow life, and I spoke very frankly with him.  I explained that even though I believe the LDS Church is true, I don’t understand the law of chastity, so I don’t keep it, though I plan to in the future.

I also told him that all my life I thought I was a lesbian and was only attracted to women.  I told him this is why prostitution is easy for me because I could never imagine any woman wanting to have sex with a man unless she gets paid for it.  I explained that I felt this way until I met Robert Hannibal, whom I met at my prostitution-like job, where I’m paid to have sex with the men who attend the swing party.

I even admitted that a couple years ago I was going to marry a Filipino guy just to get him to the States and to make me seem a somewhat normal Mormon by being married, since I’m an unmarried woman and that makes me not a normal Mormon.  I told him how “Dan” and I had an agreement that if we got married, it would only be for a year, and I told Mahmoud that most of the time Dan and I did not have sex alone but rather in group settings.  Love of orgies and women – that’s all Dan and I had in common.

I told Mahmoud I never enjoyed sex alone with a man before and always wanted women there to make it enjoyable for me, and that was why I liked orgies.  I told him Robert Hannibal was the first man I ever enjoyed sex alone with, the first man I ever was attracted to, the first man I ever loved, the first man I ever made love to.

Mahmoud laughed and said that’s because I’d dated an Indian and a Filipino, and he said “they’re not real men.”  He asked if I’d ever been with an Arab, and I said I had been with Arabs and they meant nothing to me, same as with every other man.  I told him that through my job in college and my current job, in addition to my limited dating,  I’ve been with hundreds of guys, that I’ve been with every single race, actually, and many different nationalities: black, white, Asian, Latin American, Iranian, Arab, Kurdish, Dominican, etc.  Though I told him I wasn’t sure if I’d been with a Pacific Islander.

He asked what race Robert Hannibal is, and when I said he was from Jamaica, Mahmoud said that he’d heard black men are good in bed. I told him I’d been with many black men and none of them were any good; only Robert Hannibal is good.  And I don’t consider Robert Hannibal black.  Or any race.  Robert Hannibal is in his own category.

Mahmoud asked what I like about sex with Robert Hannibal and I said I didn’t know how to explain it but I love sex with him so much.  I love him so much I want to be as close as possible to him and the closest way is through sex.  But during sex with every other guy I don’t feel anything (unless it hurts).

He asked if I ever orgasmed with Robert Hannibal and I told him I’d never orgasmed with any guy, only with women, but with Robert Hannibal I loved being with him so much that I didn’t need to orgasm.  I feel so wonderful having sex with him.  It’s the best feeling in the world, but it’s not an orgasm, it’s something else entirely.

He asked if Robert Hannibal had gone down on me, and I said yes, a few times, but I prefer to have him inside me because we’re closer that way.  He asked how I feel when guys go down on me and I said, “again, nothing.”  He asked what about when I go down on guys and I said I have done that, but I don’t like it.

I said, “In my job now, I don’t do anything – I don’t give hand-jobs or blow-jobs – I just have sex. I just receive, but I’ll receive any kind of sex – vaginal, oral, anal – it doesn’t matter.”

“I figured you out – you don’t want to do any work,” Mahmoud said.  “You’re lazy.”

“You’re right,” I said.  “And why should I work when I don’t need to?  I don’t need to do anything at all, and they have a good time and they cum.  So why should I do any work? I don’t need to and I don’t want to.”

He said he would take me to the King David Hotel.  “I’ll treat you like a princess.  I’ll do everything.  You just lay there.  You don’t need to do anything.”

“No. Journalists can’t do anything sexual with their sources – that’s unethical.”

“Don’t quote me in your article and I’m not a source.”

“Regardless, I’m not gonna do anything with you, or with anyone, while I’m here,” I said.  “I’m here for a school trip.  That’s all.”

I didn’t want to tell him that I only have sex for money because I was worried he may offer payment.  I didn’t want that temptation.  Besides, even though it was clear from our first moment of conversation that he was not going to be one of my sources for my story, I still considered him a source in the general sense of helping me get acquainted with Arab life in Jerusalem.

He asked if I wanted to marry Robert Hannibal, and I told him Robert Hannibal was already married.  But I told Mahmoud I wanted to keep seeing Robert Hannibal even though I knew there was no future with him because this was my first time to like a guy, to love a guy, and I wanted to experience that.  I’d only known what it was like to be a lesbian and I wanted to experience actually loving a man.

I said I was still mostly a lesbian because so far Robert Hannibal was the only guy I liked, but I liked him more than any of the women I’d dated, even the ones I was currently dating (as far as women, I’m really only seeing “Cinnamon” and “Desire” from my job).  I said I hoped I could love another guy sometime in the future, and I didn’t want to live a lesbian life anymore like I used to when I was younger.

He told me of his friend who was a lesbian, and she didn’t want children (he seemed to think that all lesbians wanted to be childless).  “It’s a good thing you’re not a lesbian anymore because children make everything worthwhile.  If you don’t have children, what are you?  What have you done in this life?  You’ve done nothing.  Children are everything and you could be the richest and most powerful leader in the world but if you have no children, you are nothing.”

“I completely agree,” and I tried to explain that even when I was living primarily a lesbian life and not seeing any men, I still wanted children in my future, but he kept going on.  He was saying how he felt sorry for his lesbian friend and he was glad I was realizing how important it was to have kids before it was too late.  “Children are your only legacy,” he said. “You are nothing without them.  Life has no meaning without them.”

I loved seeing how passionate Mahmoud became discussing children. I didn’t ask if he had any.  Come to think of it, I didn’t even ask if he was married.  I didn’t even ask Abdul if he was married, though I don’t think so, since he took a photo of me and him together on his phone, and if he was married, his wife would likely see the photo (the photo was simply me and Abdul standing next to each other, but still, if he was married, I’m sure his wife wouldn’t like it, so I’m certain he’s not married).

We also discussed religion and politics in his beautiful shop. Religion, politics, and sexuality are my three favorite topics to discuss, but they can also be the most divisive.  So I love meeting people who can discuss these subjects with me, and I really enjoyed talking with Mahmoud.

He introduced me to one of his business partners or co-workers, who asked if I was “a believer.”  I said yes, and he smiled.  I love the connection that believers have.  We may have different ideas of God and the purpose of this life, etc. but the fact that we believe in God provides an immediate bond.

(I remembered how the night before, when I met Abdul, I met another Muslim shopkeeper also on Salaheddin Street who spoke very good English.  We talked about God and when I told him I was Mormon, he told me about the BYU Jerusalem Center and he said he was impressed with how nice the students there were.  We had a great little conversation – I love talking about religion and spirituality with people.  And then I met Abdul, but I wish I would have gotten the other shopkeeper’s contact information.  He told me he sells pictures near the Garden Tomb, but I didn’t have a chance to see him again before our class left Israel.)

I took pictures of Mahmoud’s beautiful shop inside and outside – my horrible photography skills were helped by the beautiful antiques and fabrics in the shop and the effect nightfall had on the shop outside.  I met more of Mahmoud’s co-workers and spoke a little with them, and despite the language barriers, everyone was just so kind to me.

Mahmoud took me driving a little bit to see the city and we passed by the King David Hotel a few times – each time Mahmoud said, “Do you want to be a princess? You don’t have to do anything at all.”  Each time I said no.

What men don’t understand is I get no pleasure out of having things done to me if I am not attracted to the person doing them to me – man or woman (though women do have a better touch).  If I’m not attracted, there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to me to give me pleasure.  Therefore, it is a waste of my time – even if I am just laying there – unless I am being paid.

But I didn’t want to keep reminding him that I’m a lesbian except for Robert Hannibal.  So each time he made the suggestion, I just said “No.”  He’s very nice and fun to talk with, but also persistent. But I’m glad I met him.

4 thoughts on “Frank Discussions of Sexuality in a Bedouin Shop in Jerusalem – written March 21, 2011

  1. You said that you were a lesbian? Judging from your description you have no feelings of sexual lust even to the guy you love(d), and I assume you have such feelings for women.

    Helen Fisher’s studies proved already that romantic feelings are run by separated brain circuit than sexual feelings, and all that research showing biological basis of homosexual orientation, including experiments on animals, is focused on sexual aspect. It is reasonable to think that romantic preferences, unlike sexual ones, are not inborn but largely shaped by life experiences etc.

    I’m not sure if you care about it, but, especially in non western (but western too) countries there is large problem of “corrective rapes” on lesbians. Telling people that you were lesbian and you “changed”, especially while honestly, judging from your own description it doesn’t look so, could reinforce the belief that by having sex with lesbian a man can “turn her straight”.

  2. I’ve had sex with hundreds of men, over a thousand (most in sex worker settings) – but only made love to one man, have only enjoyed sex with that one man, have only loved that one man. I have had sex with around 200 women (most in sex party/orgy settings), have enjoyed most of it, have loved many women, am still attracted to women. No one could or should get the idea that anything like “corrective rape” applies in my case, or any case.

    But identity is personal, and if I don’t feel I identify as a lesbian anymore, if I have found in myself that sexuality is fluid, I need to be true to myself, even if I am not quite sure how I identify myself anymore. That is something that I am trying to figure out, but I don’t think anyone has a right to tell me how to identify myself or how not to.

    I know – I need to read Helen Fischer’s studies!

    1. Sorry if I appeared rude, it wasn’t my intention – I just wanted to share my knowledge and my opinion.

      Fluidity of sexuality you mention, from scientific POV, only means fluidity of romantic feelings, and of identity. The person who coined this term and studied this subject, Lisa Diamond, specifically separates “sexuality” from “sexual orientation”. The latter is sexual feelings alone, like I mentioned before. And judging from experiments on animals, it seems that only one thing could change sexual orientation – brain injuries. But that could also reshape practically every part of one’s personality.

      I know it sounds annoying when someone tells you what you are or not, I just want to point out that your case sounds actually very typical and follows the pattern. If falling in love is gender blind as there are many proofs for it, but sexual feelings are oriented certain way, then technically it would be pointless to base orientation label, like “lesbian”, on signs of romantic feelings, because everyone is potentially bi-romantic. Sexual feelings should be the only thing that defines it.

      And since you refer to sexual fluidity argument, then by it you accept that your sexual orientation haven’t changed, because you’re quite specific in your posts that feelings you have(d) for that man have nothing to do with sexual attraction or lust. It’s love. Unless I read it wrong, but everything you write suggests it was all about romantic/emotional connection, even when you had sex with him.

      And that’s fine, who said that sexual orientation, as merely sexual feelings alone, should matter more than love. But I think it’s substantial information – a fact that orientation, even if the meaning of it is limited, cannot change, and your example actually only further proves it. It could save a lot of people much pain.

  3. good points. But I wonder isn’t romantic love more important than sexual feelings? If what you are saying is true, that orientation is exclusively sexual, shouldn’t it be romantic? Romantic feelings carry more weight, are longer-lasting, etc.

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