Unsolicited Diqpiqs

how my body became my parents' salon

words Hamed Sinno

photography Tarek Moukaddem

video Manal Zakharia

As a child, my parents hosted dinners at our house every other weekend. Eventually, after niceties were exchanged and exhausted, after the ridiculously expansive spread of delicacies that my mother would lay out was left practically untouched, guests were ushered into the salon, the room in the house that we, the inhabitants of the house, were never supposed to soil.
I remember my father slapping me across the face as a child, after catching me drinking a soda inside the salon because it could have stained the coffee table, making it look, god-forbid, used. This was not a room for dwelling, it was always for the guests, and only the guests, a forever pristine showcase of our performed hospitality. it was there that guests were offered coffee, tea, or cafe blanc, while i was instructed to dance for them. I would stand in the middle of a seated circle of my parents' friends and family, who clapped and laughed as my body awkwardly recited the steps i'd steal from music videos, to a cassette recording of the lambada, a song that to this day eerily emanates into my ears, whenever i walk into a room full of people.

and while all of this sounds a lot like my career: awkward dance moves and straight couples laughing,

the sociality of it sounds a lot like my sex life:

"Hamed did you shake 3amo 3issam's hand? You're being impolite. Squeeze a little harder. Do it like a man."
"Go give Khalto khadija a hug, 3eib ya baba."
"Go kiss your aunt Fatima, don't be rude."

that i didn't want to dance for a room of heckling strangers,
or shake anyone's hand,
or kiss strangers (which by the way is probably how i contracted oral herpes as a child)
never seemed to matter.

consent, i was taught at a very young age, didn't matter.

By the time I turned 18, I hung out with men from NGOs. There, amongst generations of older gay men, i was informed that we necessarily had all the answers. they said that we had, after all, experienced a life of subalterness first hand, as their self authorised hands navigated my awkward teenage body like bulldozers colonising a crude landscape, taming it into a well-pruned public garden. With absolute certainty, these men told me we were incapable of racism, elitism, or sexism because we had lived seeing only society's cold shoulder, my own shoulders nervously perspiring as their hands kneaded their way through cramped nodules of resistant uncertainty.

They said my body had been annexed by the state, not by men, but by some illusory non-gendered government. There was no father-land. The political body was where men were created, but was not, according to them, a man's creation. 
To fuck, after all, under the tyranny of a repressive state, was by definition an act of resistance, and while I'm willing to play along with that idea, it still strikes me as strange that choice wasn't part of the equation, and it still strikes me as all too coincidental that men in general are expected to reaffirm their masculinity, read as heterosexuality, by sleeping with as many people as possible,
because that's just how we do.
play on player.

And so my body would do the work the state refused to do. It would learn to welcome indiscriminately. consent, i was reminded as a teenager, didn't matter. Here I stood, or rather laid, my body a sanctuary for all men except myself, much like my parent's salon.

men. saying they had the answer.
men. saying they understood.
men. deciding what was and wasn't permissible.
men. deciding what was and wasn't offensive
men. telling everyone what was and wasn't oppressive.
men. men. men. men. men.
Men - they - we - are taught to speak
whenever we please,
about whatever we please,
and we are generally more than pleased
to do so while interrupting women.

I have spent my life negotiating with cis straight men, in university classrooms, in legal meetings, in recording studios, at brainstorming sessions, in advertising firms, in gay bars.

I spend my time studying, and still feel the need to start every statement with "sorry but i feel like a roseis a rose" or "i think that a rose is a rose, but maybe I'm wrong" instead of saying "a rose is mine"
the way they do,
with the kind of authority you get in your voice when you've grown up being told your privilege is a birthright,
a natural extension of your cock.

Penis envy.

I too, like the rest of us, end up on dating apps quite often.
scrolling through a grid of headless men's militarised torsos
which looks like a locker room
in the back of the school gym
in which i was never picked to be on anyone's team
in which i was too gay to shower without getting bullied

grab her by the pussy

my sex life is about negotiating with bodies adamant on becoming that which told them they were insufficient,
and I wish i could say i was above it,
but i too spend hours at the gym every week torturing my forever unresponsive body to become what I once thought my father was. sturdy bricks and concrete. jihadi martyrs and marlboro cowboys.
the affectless stench of cigarettes and stale sweat.
"real men."

starve and over exercise. not the way our mothers starved, trying to fit into what little space our fathers hadn't already colonised, but rather the way gay men are supposed to, to be real men. To be desired.

Penis envy.

My sex life is about perpetually negotiating with "no femmes, no fats, no strings attached.
masc for masc
top for top"

TOP FOR TOP
what the actual fuck does that even mean?

But boys will be boys - impenetrable -
and I have spent far too much time in long distance relationships using chatrooms as bedrooms to not feel fucked every time you send me a dick pic i didn't ask for.

Men proving that they're men
over and over again
Men playing with danger.
Men driving fast cars.
Men raping in groups, so other men can see.
Men throwing fists.
Men at war.
Men at work.
Men at the gym.
Men playing sports.
My father hated sports and so did I and there was noway in hell I was going to sit through a conversation about politics with him because I joined the communist party in college and it pissed him the fuck
off, and so he had nothing to talk to me about because what else was left to discuss? and so he spoke the only way men are taught to speak,
lockjaw rage and flared nostrils.
Like generations of men in my family, he learned to carry his heart and his words in his fists, spelling his love with bruises.

I suppose he wanted to make a man out of me. 
"It's only because he cares."

I am my boyfriends first boyfriend, and so, he hasn't spent enough time dating men, who behave like men, to treat me the way men treat me. Or maybe I shouldn't try to justify, and explain him. Maybe he's just a better person than most because that's just who he is. Maybe I'm being a man by offering a one-liner to explain an entire person.

He shows me kindness,
which makes me cry
which confuses him
and I have to explain that I'm only crying because I don't deserve him,
because to the best of my knowledge love means not being good enough.

Love means not being MAN enough.

And so I cry and automatically hide my face to avoid that all too familiar chorus line:

MAN UP
Breathe fire and brimstone and huff and puff and blow the house down.

The last time I was told to man up was a few days ago, after i called out a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a while, for grabbing my crotch when I leaned in for a hello kiss.

grab her by the pussy

Gay men now apparently shake dicks instead of hands because we're so sexually liberated.
FUCK OFF

a sexual revolution built on men wasting no time on getting permission sounds an awful lot like business as usual.

I once fell head over stilettos for a manly man.
he drove a fast bike, sported leather gear, and forced a thumb full of cocaine into my mouth after i told him I didn't want any.
Consent, I was reminded, didn't matter.

The one after that didn't hear me, or assumed I was playing, when I repeatedly said no.

He slammed his, love,
into me, as I squirmed and muttered no.
For years I didn't tell anyone because I knew I would be asked why I didn't push him off,
"You're a big man after all,"
Which, by the way, rude. Im on a diet.

I still cannot explain how my body hollowed, and I stopped existing altogether, as though to make space for him,
my skin turning into a heavy UNinhabited winter coat,

while he ploughed and pummelled and bulldozed his way into yet another public garden.

I made him breakfast in the morning, and breakfast meant we were both still human. men.

I suppose he wanted to take the man out of me.
"It's only because he cares."

Over the last few years, Trans women have won court cases that allow us to reconsider the tyranny of article 534.
The victories are cause for celebration, and while they undoubtedly affect everyone in the country, it seems by no means coincidental that most press around the subject framed the court rulings as victories for gay men.

Men, taking what isn't theirs, again, feels a little too much like business-as-usual.

Meanwhile, straight women caught having premarital sex can still be tried for prostitution, and rape laws still sentence a rapist to only five years of prison or hard work, and sentence a victim to a lifetime of stigma, assuming that a victim can carry the burden of proof in the first place.
"You shouldn't have been out dressed like that.
You were asking for it."
Because we're taught that men, by virtue of being men, can fuck whatever they please. Consent, I am told by the law, isn't part of the equation.

And so forgive me if i pause for a second, and wonder why i find all too unsurprising, that our gender-less political body seems more ready to amend laws to give men even more sexual freedom, while women can be imprisoned for consent. I suppose i wanted to break the man out of me. 
"It's only because he cares."

Unsolicited Diqpiqs

how my body became my parents' salon

words Hamed Sinno

photography Tarek Moukaddem

video Manal Zakharia

As a child, my parents hosted dinners at our house every other weekend. Eventually, after niceties were exchanged and exhausted, after the ridiculously expansive spread of delicacies that my mother would lay out was left practically untouched, guests were ushered into the salon, the room in the house that we, the inhabitants of the house, were never supposed to soil.
I remember my father slapping me across the face as a child, after catching me drinking a soda inside the salon because it could have stained the coffee table, making it look, god-forbid, used. This was not a room for dwelling, it was always for the guests, and only the guests, a forever pristine showcase of our performed hospitality. it was there that guests were offered coffee, tea, or cafe blanc, while i was instructed to dance for them. I would stand in the middle of a seated circle of my parents' friends and family, who clapped and laughed as my body awkwardly recited the steps i'd steal from music videos, to a cassette recording of the lambada, a song that to this day eerily emanates into my ears, whenever i walk into a room full of people.

and while all of this sounds a lot like my career: awkward dance moves and straight couples laughing,

the sociality of it sounds a lot like my sex life:

"Hamed did you shake 3amo 3issam's hand? You're being impolite. Squeeze a little harder. Do it like a man."
"Go give Khalto khadija a hug, 3eib ya baba."
"Go kiss your aunt Fatima, don't be rude."

that i didn't want to dance for a room of heckling strangers,
or shake anyone's hand,
or kiss strangers (which by the way is probably how i contracted oral herpes as a child)
never seemed to matter.

consent, i was taught at a very young age, didn't matter.

By the time I turned 18, I hung out with men from NGOs. There, amongst generations of older gay men, i was informed that we necessarily had all the answers. they said that we had, after all, experienced a life of subalterness first hand, as their self authorised hands navigated my awkward teenage body like bulldozers colonising a crude landscape, taming it into a well-pruned public garden. With absolute certainty, these men told me we were incapable of racism, elitism, or sexism because we had lived seeing only society's cold shoulder, my own shoulders nervously perspiring as their hands kneaded their way through cramped nodules of resistant uncertainty.

They said my body had been annexed by the state, not by men, but by some illusory non-gendered government. There was no father-land. The political body was where men were created, but was not, according to them, a man's creation. 
To fuck, after all, under the tyranny of a repressive state, was by definition an act of resistance, and while I'm willing to play along with that idea, it still strikes me as strange that choice wasn't part of the equation, and it still strikes me as all too coincidental that men in general are expected to reaffirm their masculinity, read as heterosexuality, by sleeping with as many people as possible,
because that's just how we do.
play on player.

And so my body would do the work the state refused to do. It would learn to welcome indiscriminately. consent, i was reminded as a teenager, didn't matter. Here I stood, or rather laid, my body a sanctuary for all men except myself, much like my parent's salon.

men. saying they had the answer.
men. saying they understood.
men. deciding what was and wasn't permissible.
men. deciding what was and wasn't offensive
men. telling everyone what was and wasn't oppressive.
men. men. men. men. men.
Men - they - we - are taught to speak
whenever we please,
about whatever we please,
and we are generally more than pleased
to do so while interrupting women.

I have spent my life negotiating with cis straight men, in university classrooms, in legal meetings, in recording studios, at brainstorming sessions, in advertising firms, in gay bars.

I spend my time studying, and still feel the need to start every statement with "sorry but i feel like a roseis a rose" or "i think that a rose is a rose, but maybe I'm wrong" instead of saying "a rose is mine"
the way they do,
with the kind of authority you get in your voice when you've grown up being told your privilege is a birthright,
a natural extension of your cock.

Penis envy.

I too, like the rest of us, end up on dating apps quite often.
scrolling through a grid of headless men's militarised torsos
which looks like a locker room
in the back of the school gym
in which i was never picked to be on anyone's team
in which i was too gay to shower without getting bullied

grab her by the pussy

my sex life is about negotiating with bodies adamant on becoming that which told them they were insufficient,
and I wish i could say i was above it,
but i too spend hours at the gym every week torturing my forever unresponsive body to become what I once thought my father was. sturdy bricks and concrete. jihadi martyrs and marlboro cowboys.
the affectless stench of cigarettes and stale sweat.
"real men."

starve and over exercise. not the way our mothers starved, trying to fit into what little space our fathers hadn't already colonised, but rather the way gay men are supposed to, to be real men. To be desired.

Penis envy.

My sex life is about perpetually negotiating with "no femmes, no fats, no strings attached.
masc for masc
top for top"

TOP FOR TOP
what the actual fuck does that even mean?

But boys will be boys - impenetrable -
and I have spent far too much time in long distance relationships using chatrooms as bedrooms to not feel fucked every time you send me a dick pic i didn't ask for.

Men proving that they're men
over and over again
Men playing with danger.
Men driving fast cars.
Men raping in groups, so other men can see.
Men throwing fists.
Men at war.
Men at work.
Men at the gym.
Men playing sports.
My father hated sports and so did I and there was noway in hell I was going to sit through a conversation about politics with him because I joined the communist party in college and it pissed him the fuck
off, and so he had nothing to talk to me about because what else was left to discuss? and so he spoke the only way men are taught to speak,
lockjaw rage and flared nostrils.
Like generations of men in my family, he learned to carry his heart and his words in his fists, spelling his love with bruises.

I suppose he wanted to make a man out of me. 
"It's only because he cares."

I am my boyfriends first boyfriend, and so, he hasn't spent enough time dating men, who behave like men, to treat me the way men treat me. Or maybe I shouldn't try to justify, and explain him. Maybe he's just a better person than most because that's just who he is. Maybe I'm being a man by offering a one-liner to explain an entire person.

He shows me kindness,
which makes me cry
which confuses him
and I have to explain that I'm only crying because I don't deserve him,
because to the best of my knowledge love means not being good enough.

Love means not being MAN enough.

And so I cry and automatically hide my face to avoid that all too familiar chorus line:

MAN UP
Breathe fire and brimstone and huff and puff and blow the house down.

The last time I was told to man up was a few days ago, after i called out a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in a while, for grabbing my crotch when I leaned in for a hello kiss.

grab her by the pussy

Gay men now apparently shake dicks instead of hands because we're so sexually liberated.
FUCK OFF

a sexual revolution built on men wasting no time on getting permission sounds an awful lot like business as usual.

I once fell head over stilettos for a manly man.
he drove a fast bike, sported leather gear, and forced a thumb full of cocaine into my mouth after i told him I didn't want any.
Consent, I was reminded, didn't matter.

The one after that didn't hear me, or assumed I was playing, when I repeatedly said no.

He slammed his, love,
into me, as I squirmed and muttered no.
For years I didn't tell anyone because I knew I would be asked why I didn't push him off,
"You're a big man after all,"
Which, by the way, rude. Im on a diet.

I still cannot explain how my body hollowed, and I stopped existing altogether, as though to make space for him,
my skin turning into a heavy UNinhabited winter coat,

while he ploughed and pummelled and bulldozed his way into yet another public garden.

I made him breakfast in the morning, and breakfast meant we were both still human. men.

I suppose he wanted to take the man out of me.
"It's only because he cares."

Over the last few years, Trans women have won court cases that allow us to reconsider the tyranny of article 534.
The victories are cause for celebration, and while they undoubtedly affect everyone in the country, it seems by no means coincidental that most press around the subject framed the court rulings as victories for gay men.

Men, taking what isn't theirs, again, feels a little too much like business-as-usual.

Meanwhile, straight women caught having premarital sex can still be tried for prostitution, and rape laws still sentence a rapist to only five years of prison or hard work, and sentence a victim to a lifetime of stigma, assuming that a victim can carry the burden of proof in the first place.
"You shouldn't have been out dressed like that.
You were asking for it."
Because we're taught that men, by virtue of being men, can fuck whatever they please. Consent, I am told by the law, isn't part of the equation.

And so forgive me if i pause for a second, and wonder why i find all too unsurprising, that our gender-less political body seems more ready to amend laws to give men even more sexual freedom, while women can be imprisoned for consent. I suppose i wanted to break the man out of me. 
"It's only because he cares."