My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

A Boy (or more) to be Sacrificed

I watched the men talking on the beach with some degree of suspicion. I simply did not understand what was going on, what they were doing, or why. I’d never seen those mannerisms before, the way of speaking. The disgusting (and constant) spitting.  Yes, spitting. But strangest of all was the adjustment of genitalia. It was almost like a nervous tic – and contagious. One man would adjust himself, and suddenly other men would shift their weight from one leg to the other and then a little plick/plack. It was just impossible to understand what they were doing. Checking if their penis had run away in the past five minutes? Comforting it after a traumatic experience? Was it to do with the heat in the tropics?

I’d never seen anything even remotely similar in the American Midwest. I know there were male rituals going on. Locker room talk. Wolf whistling on streets and construction sites. Jock/cheerleader dynamics. Belt buckles and cowboy hats. But all of that paled in comparison. Here we had something much more primitive. Much more basic. Barely one step away from swinging from the trees.

The language was highly sexual, sexualised. Built around virility, but in an all consuming way. Anything and everything fit into a binary classification system. Cheering for the correct football team = virility. Wearing the correct clothes = virility. Being born in the right city even = virility. And then there were forms of virility deemed unacceptable in the developed world, from having mistresses to groping – which in this part of the world were lauded and applauded. Simply because they equalled virility.

At first (and second) glance this was going to be problematic for me. Whereas there seemed to be a place for someone like me in North American and European societies – the boy who reads too much, who likes classical music, who’s interested in art – I had landed in a place where all of those things ≠ virility.

Years later I read Abdellah Taïa’s Mon Maroc, and the article he wrote for the NYT (about an event in the book) called a A Boy to Be Sacrificed, and discovered I was not alone. Our locations may vary, the actual events may vary, but the process, the discovery – is that we’re out. As soon as we’re identified as “unuseful” to the system, we understand we’re on our own.

From his article:


A Boy to Be Sacrificed

“In the Morocco of the 1980s, where homosexuality did not, of course, exist, I was an effeminate little boy, a boy to be sacrificed, a humiliated body who bore upon himself every hypocrisy, everything left unsaid. By the time I was 10, though no one spoke of it, I knew what happened to boys like me in our impoverished society; they were designated victims….

And I knew that no one would save me — not even my parents, who surely loved me. For them too, I was shame, filth. A ‘zamel’….

It all came to a head one summer night in 1985. It was too hot. Everyone was trying in vain to fall asleep. I, too, lay awake, on the floor beside my sisters, my mother close by. Suddenly, the familiar voices of drunken men reached us. We all heard them…. These men, whom we all knew quite well, cried out: ‘Abdellah, little girl, come down. Come down. Wake up and come down. We all want you. Come down, Abdellah. Don’t be afraid. We won’t hurt you. We just want to have sex with you.’….

I hoped my big brother, my hero, would rise and answer them…. But my brother, the absolute monarch of our family, did nothing. Everyone turned their back on me….

I was never the same Abdellah Taïa after that night…. I began by keeping my head low all the time. I cut all ties with the children in the neighbourhood. I altered my behaviour. I kept myself in check: no more feminine gestures, no more honeyed voice, no more hanging around women. No more anything. I had to invent a whole new Abdellah…. Sooner or later, I would leave it behind. I would grow up and find freedom somewhere else. But in the meantime I would become hard. Very hard.”

Full text at the NYT: A Boy to Be Sacrificed  (but he also describes the incident in his first book Mon Maroc which I highly recommend)



16 comments on “A Boy (or more) to be Sacrificed

  1. Steve Ruis
    August 9, 2017

    Re “I watched the men talking on the beach with some degree of suspicion.” As read this I was wondering if you were watching an American baseball game instead. There is much spitting and adjusting of one’s “cup protector” (a comfortable one has never been designed). So, could they possibly have been American baseball players on vacation? :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. inspiredbythedivine1
    August 9, 2017

    Well, my 11″ penis causes me to readjust myself several times an hour. However, I do it out of necessity and discomfort (due to, as I’ve mentioned before, my 11″ penis). I don’t do it to be macho or anything, and I find spitting, except when one is at the dentist, to be appalling behavior. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch some Shakespeare and readjust myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. persedeplume
    August 9, 2017


    This has brought up a lot of memories from the day. I don’t think I could write about it without being more graphic than readers would be comfortable with. I will say there’s a definite problem with how men generally deal with effeminate men, some who are clearly not gay but suffer nonetheless from toxic machismo around them. And I really have an issue with the hypocrisy in thinking that assaulting someone sexually as a “punishment” is in any way acceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 9, 2017

      This is *not* a safe space 🙂 So go ahead and say whatever you want! I think our (gay men) reluctance to be frank has not been in our best interest. So people like Abdellah and Edouard Louis are my personal heroes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • persedeplume
        August 10, 2017

        Ok. Let me see if I can thread this needle. I have encountered this behavior myself during the late 60’s through mid to late 70’s. [In the US] It was commonplace enough that it was largely ignored in insulated environments. We called it “checking”. It was occasionally done to outline their junk through their trousers for prospective partners or as a way to intimidate rivals. There’s also the “wide stance” with the crotch pushed forward. It was a habitual act, and some seemed to not notice they were doing it after a while. As far as I can tell, it was a het ritual. No gay men I knew were doing it. Where I grew up, that wouldn’t be something done in public or polite company.
        If I had to put a name to it anthropologically, I’d call it a dominance display from deep emotional insecurity. They’re the ones with the mean streak. I’ve read studies that claim rape isn’t about sex, just power. I don’t know enough to unpack it all and get it right, but I know what I’ve observed. There’s some folks like their trade rough. If it isn’t rough, it doesn’t “interest” them. It seems to me the cruelty is an integral component of their sex act. Consent doesn’t really interest them. It also crosses gender lines. These “het” men will claim that brutalizing weaker men sexually doesn’t make them “gay”. [That makes no sense to me, because to use a baseball analogy, whether you’re pitching or catching, you’re playing ball.] But they’ll deliberately target those they “think” are gay. Anyway, it’s not normal to think about sex in that way.
        I’ve been fortunate to have never been a victim of assault, but I know men who have. Some were gay, and some weren’t. It didn’t seem to matter to the rapists. They were all not physically imposing and somewhat effeminate. Perceived as being weak. They all eventually either committed suicide or suffered from debilitating depression.
        None of them reported their abuse to the authorities. Nor could they confide in their families for support. Making it public back then was a humiliation worse than the assault itself.

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        August 10, 2017

        Classical patriarchy works along the lines of the dominant/submissive binary. I think the reason that was watered down in the English-speaking world was related to the puritanism movement within Protestantism. Meanwhile the binary was reinforced in countries dominated by Catholicism, where a woman couldn’t divorce her cheating husband, and her status was entirely dependant on her choice of husband.

        Do you remember a show about a firehouse from years ago called Rescue Me? At one point there was a story-line about a father’s concern over which sexual role his son took. I find it interesting in the sense that people seem to have such a hard time understanding that roles can be flexible; that goes against the system of classification where role and identity are one and the same. To decide what people are worth or where they stand in the hierarchy, they need to resort to dominant/submissive framing. Which one of you is the boy and which one is the girl?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. kjennings952
    August 9, 2017

    Thank you for the excerpt. Looks to be an excellent read. It was just a few days ago that I noted to hub that the “non dominant” person/persona in a culture is forced to become an astute observer if they want to assimilate. Reconciling that with one’s true self is incredibly stressful. While the behaviors are more subtle, it’s not unlike how I feel walking into a boardroom. But that also gives me a wisdom no one else in the room possesses 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  5. john zande
    August 9, 2017

    It’s unbelievable, the dick grabbing/shifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bela Johnson
    August 9, 2017

    Ugh to the ball twitching – maybe they’d all given one another the crabs, who knows. The other story just turns my stomach. Anytime sex and violence are paired up is worrisome to me. Predators are demonic, nothing less. As for the age old issue of bullying anyone because of the way they simply Are, from race to gender to sexuality – none of this has EVER made any sense. But then again, I have a heart and a brain. So there’s that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. appletonavenue
    August 11, 2017

    How awful we humans are to other humans designated as “different”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved your writing, just loved it. I went back and read it a second time even. I went to Amazon to buy
    Mon Maroc but it is only in paperback and the new one cots $45 and the used one $25. Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on August 9, 2017 by in activism, life, thinking aloud and tagged , , , , , , , .
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