He was a "donkey boy", a "savage" from the village of Carchemish - a frontier town somewhere between Syria and Turkey. That's partly why T.E. Lawrence loved Selim "Dahoum" Ahmed (above). The legendary Lawrence of Arabia preferred his Arabs "untouched" uneducated and unspoiled by Western influence. Still, he bought "the dark one" schoolbooks and taught him how to read and write. Lawrence was known for his infatuation with Arabic culture, and like so many who came before and after him, he was compelled to bring a young colored boy back home to dazzle him with European culture. Or was that really it? "He may have believed that it was Dahoum's mind that interested him, but in fact he was physically attracted to the boy" writes Michael Asher, author of Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia. That's what made the 25 year-old Lawrence act inappropriately and move the 14 year-old youth into his home, strip him of his clothing, carve a nude sculpture of him (in the Greco-Roman style, of course) and then proudly place it on the roof of the house. "I take no pleasure in women. I have never thought twice or even once of the shape of a woman: but men's bodies, in repose or in movement - especially the former - appeal to me directly and very generally." And that's straight from the horse's mouth!
T.E. Lawrence (right) is one of the most famous imperialist figures, the object of fascination known the world over as Lawrence of Arabia; leader of the WW1 Arab revolt against the Turks, a British officer renowned for his expertise in Middle Eastern culture, author of several books that hyped his own legend, subject of a popular film full of historical inaccuracies, and just an all-around honorary Bedouin. He was also a big freak! It's no secret that he "was a masochist with a homosexual nature, who had from a very early age fantasized about being dominated by other men, especially in the ranks of the army" according to Asher. Some say Mr. Lawrence's famous story of being gang-raped by Turkish soldiers is true, and some say it isn't. Incredulously, Lawrence said he was mistaken for being one of them and imprisoned for desertion. Held against his will, he was stripped naked, tortured, beaten, and kicked with hobnailed boots. He said his genitals were grabbed and squeezed, his testicles were slashed and he was raped repeatedly. All the while "a delicious warmth, probably sexual, was swelling through me" - again straight from the horse's mouth, but was it true? Or was it the product of his hyperactive sexual imagination?
His Syrian mother nicknamed him Dahoum - which means the little dark one! Somewhere around 1911, Lawrence worked as an archaeologist on a site in Carchemish. Dahoum was working the site as a water boy. The two met and they became inseperable. Dahoum was now the FAVORITE BOY and Lawrence moved him in, they wore each other's clothes, went on personal sailing trips, and then there was the matter of that nude sculpture on top of the roof. The locals were scandalized by their "unusual friendship" but accepted it. What else could they do? Not much is always known about the boys in the shadows of such powerful men as Lawrence, and God only knows what Dahoum really had to endure given his "mentor's" proclivities. But in the summer of 1913, Lawrence took Dahoum home to Oxford and introduced him to his family and friends. Having spent much of his life carrying water, the youngster was duly impressed with such amenities as hot and cold running water. He also expressed great interest in going to school and receiving an education. Lawrence was not pleased! But his buddies were pleased enough with Dahoum's beauty to have his portrait commissioned (top) by a local artist, Francis Dodd. Dahoum is on record for having said that "he never knew he was so good-looking." Obviously, everyone agreed!
In 1916, Lawrence was appointed as the Military Liason Officer to the Arabs by the British government. Again, the words out of his own mouth strongly indicate that he gladly took the job to pursue independence primarily as a gift to Dahoum. In 1918, working his way back to Dahoum in victory, he was devastated to learn that the younger man had succombed to a typhus epidemic two years earlier. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the now infamous chonicle of his noble campaign to Dahoum, opens with a love poem to the dead youth. It is full of the imagery of war, and of young Arab boys having sex with each other in the sand. The gang rape I mentioned earlier is also described in graphic detail.
Robert Aldrich, in the book Colonialism and Homosexuality, writes that toward the end of T.E. Lawrence's life, he hired younger men to regularly beat him across his naked ass until he ejaculated, pretending that he had committed various improprieties against an uncle who paid to have him beaten. Friends, including a doctor, were recruited to inspect Lawrence's body after the floggings to make sure the beatings were sufficient enough to report back to the imagined uncle by letter. But it was Lawrence himself who wrote the letters from the uncle to acknowledge the beatings and arrange for the men to be paid. Lawrence's friends tried to posthumously clean up his image, but most biographers fairly acknowledge his whole sexual history as a type of immature, neurotic sexuality.
One common trait among so many of the European men of his ilk is that they were never able to establish long lasting, sexually fulfilling relationships with anyone - of either sex. Yet, we are constantly bombarded with the tired old explanation of how they were only able to completely open up with youthful native boys of color the way they couldn't do with someone their own age, race and status. Same old story! Same old song! Maybe I wanted to do this six-part series because I'm crazy, as a friend suggested, or because I just wanted to talk about the twisted, psycho-sexual exploitation of young boys of color by powerful grown men with arrested sexual developments. Maybe I'm unnerved by the essays, and blog posts of white gay men in particular - who have attempted to gloss over, re-write, and revision the stories of men like Wilhelm von Gloeden, Andre Gide and Henry Morton Stanley when they were nothing more than pedophiles. It has pained me to write this series and mention the words homosexual and pedophile in the same breath.
Personally, it means nothing to me to claim Gide, von Gloeden or any of the others as some type of historical forefather, but I have a vested interest in telling the story when it involves the lives, souls and bodies of the black and brown little boys who are forever relegated to the background, the sidelines, the margins ....and yes, the bedrooms of history.