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The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew & Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 93-5.



One of the countries where many of the medieval customs of boy prostitution remain is Afghanistan. Robert Michener in Caravans, has described in great detail the dancing boys that men fight and die over. He tells of lads whose faces were unusually pale and whose long hair was combed in the style of the ancient Greek pages. All were handsome, he writes, “but one was positively beautiful”, (page 108.)[1]

The last Emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan, 1911

In Inside Asia, John Gunther tells of the Emir of Bukhara[2] fleeing communist invasion.[3] He took with him his harem of dancing boys but left his wives behind! These boys, called batshas, have long been the favorite amusement of Central Asian men. The well-to-do keep a permanent staff of batshas, while poorer men have to content themselves with public dancing boys.

From early childhood, batshas are taught to entertain their masters with obscene songs and dances. When very young, they are so spoiled by an excess of affection, that by adolescence, they become dissipated and dissolute from an excessively erotic life. Prominent men have been murdered — their estates plundered — just to get a desired boy. Usually, however, the boys are sold to their eventual owners when very young. The Emir of Bukhara (before he fled) gave one father a medal to wear — a medal of honor showing that his son was a batsha of the ruler. Mongolian batsha faces in Asian travel books and biographies of Bukhara rulers do not look beautiful to Western eyes. The poor quality of the photographs is misleading for the boys were highly selected for beauty as well as other talents. To give a batsha a gift or even a cup of tea was considered a great honor and the highest courtesy a ruler could convey upon a visiting dignitary was to lend him a batsha to sleep with.

A man from this part of the world will take pride in describing to his friend the reactions of a boy, often summoning the youngster in question to give his version of the feelings they experienced during intercourse. Copulation with either a woman or a boy is not considered distasteful or confidential but an art — and an art to be practiced, praised and openly discussed. A dancing boy takes as much pride in his sexual arts as in the rest of his dancing. Indeed, he generally does not distinguish one part of his trade from another since the dance is but a titillation and arousal of the audience’s sexual responses. Intercourse is merely the part wherein the customer joins the boy in the dance.

An Afghan boy

It is said that only one who has had the experience with such boys can understand the murders, and the passion and excesses inspired by desire, as described in Caravans. At the same time, it is impossible for Westerners to have the experiences which would enable them to identify with the Eastern point of view. To think the way a boy prostitute in Kabul thinks, for example, a Westerner would have to have been one and that, however unlikely being the case, he would no longer be a Westerner. One or two isolated experiences would not suffice to give a viewpoint and full appreciation would require years of acclimatization. Afghan boys are quite willing to have sex with Westerners for profit but they report that the fun is rather mild. We have heard of one who said: “You Europeans and Americans are tame — you are like little boys compared to our men of Kabul!” When asked whether he was referring to the size of sexual organs, the boy replied: “No in passion”. Another put it succinctly: “Europeans are afraid to enjoy themselves”.


[1] There is no trace of a book Caravans by “Robert Michener”. Fairly clearly this is meant to be a reference to a novel of this name, albeit a well-researched one, by James Michener, set in 1946 and published in 1963, which did indeed describe the dancing-boys of Afghanistan.

[2] Bukhara has never been in Afghanistan. It was an ancient emirate to its immediate north which became a Russian protectorate in 1873. It became the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic in 1920 and was integrated into the newly-created Uzbekistan in 1924. Nevertheless, it shared Afghanistan’s strong pederastic culture.

[3]  This is not true.  There were two editions of John Gunther’s Inside Asia, published in 1939 and 1942, but neither edition has the slightest reference to Bukhara. Possibly, Drew and Drake confused Gunther’s book with one of two books by Sir Fitzroy Maclean which referred to the antics of the last, boy-loving emir of Bukhara. In his Eastern Approaches (London, 1949) p. 148, Maclean wrote:

It was not until 1920, three years after the downfall of his imperial suzerain [the Czar of Russia], that the last Emir [of Bukhara], after vainly invoking the help of both the Turks and the British, fled headlong across the Oxus to Afghanistan, dropping favourite dancing boy after favourite dancing boy in his flight, in the hope of thus retarding the advance of the pursuing Red Army, who, however, were not to be distracted from their purpose by such stratagems.

In his A Person from England (1958) p. 63, Maclean wrote:

Pursued by the Red Calvary, His Highness [the Emir of Bukhara] had taken refuge in the mountains of Eastern Bokhara, dropping favourite dancing boy after favourite dancing boy in his flight, in the hope, it was said, of delaying his pursuers, to whom he rightly or wrongly attributed his own deplorable tastes.




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