|The gay dating scene in Qatar isn't quite as dangerous and repressive as you might think.|
A must-read article by Bert Archer was posted to Vice on Sunday, in which the journalist documents his experiences using hookup apps in the capital of Qatar, where gay sex is punishable by death.
With “bits of four days to spare” and “an empty hotel room with the promise of a constant supply of clean sheets and towels,” he decided to scan his apps — none of which he names — and see who was actively looking, if anyone.
“Having sex with the locals,” he explains, “is one of the things I like most about travel.”
In Qatar, the maximum penalty for gay sex (or extramarital sex) is death. That didn’t stop the apps from bleeping and pinging every few minutes after he logged in.
I should point out that I was not subject to the death penalty. As far as Qatar is concerned, I’m lost anyway, soul-wise. I’d just get put in prison, maybe tortured, I’m guessing raped, and then deported. But if you’re Muslim, the law says death, or at least imprisonment and 100 lashes. And these guys popping up on my screen with their endearingly displayed body parts all looked pretty Muslim….***But, look at this glowing screen. Look at those hopeful, horny, possibly brave, mostly young men, erupting out of this tiny desert nation with Goldblumian inevitability. Life will find a way, at least if by life, you mean semen.
In-between his various meetings and lunches, the author managed to seal the deal and have sex several times, learning a great deal about “the religious Muslim world” in the process.
His discoveries suggest Qatar’s gay scene isn’t quite as repressed as you’d think. It’s clear while reading of his exploits that he didn’t have a particularly difficult time finding men who were willing to have a good time.
He writes, “I thought vaguely that these sites and apps would be a good way to track just these sorts of people, my sorts of people, were the government to want to do that sort of thing,” he writes.
After all, Saudi Arabia is suspected of using those techniques.
Archer asked one man — described as a bodybuilder who works for a large corporation — whether it’s hard to be gay in Doha, and the guy simply laughed:
“He laughed a laugh I’ve grown accustomed to on the road, the oh-you-stupid-callow-foreigner laugh. No, he said, it wasn’t tough,” Archer writes.
Instead, these men “went about with their lifestyle by knowing their enemy.”
Throughout his sexual adventures, the only time Archer felt he was in danger was when a stranger propositioned him on the street while he walked back to his hotel.
Once he was back inside, he did a bit of Google research.
“The first three results told me that police occasionally pick up foreign workers caught in compromising same-sex situations and, in exchange for not arresting and deporting them, turn them into bait,” he writes.
In short, he describes Quatar’s gay dating scene as “secret but not secretive” and “undramatic,” not altogether different from what it was like in Washington DC several decades ago when men would meet in the woods.
There would be the occasional search light, but no arrests.
According to Archer, the police just want their presence to be known and adhered to: “They’d let you do all those things you were doing as long as you didn’t step out of line and force them to do anything about it.”
“It’s not a happy and healthy gay-for-all, but it’s not being thrown off tall buildings either, and it’s not the way I’d gotten used to thinking about life in the religious Islamic world