THE LAND OF THE ATLAS IN BOYS FOR SALE
The following account of boy prostitution in Algeria and Morocco are from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew and Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 60-67.
The “North Africa” section of the book begins on page 61, but the preceding two paragraphs introduce it, so have been included here. Despite its title, this webpage has been headed “The Land of the Atlas” since the authors deal with Egypt in a separate section.
North African countries have a long tradition of boy prostitution. Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco bring to mind the Barbary pirates who held Europeans for ransom and sold their women and children into slavery, even after the American Revolution. Many novels have been written about the beautiful women they captured, few about their taste for young European boys. Villages in southern Italy, Sicily, France and Spain moved away from the sea to avoid the ravaging pirate parties which went as far as Ireland — the latter place being an especially popular place for young, beautiful boys.
We can examine North Africa in more detail..........
Galbraith Welch in North African Prelude, says, on page 395, that there were 25,000 Christian slaves in Algeria in 1634. He further tells how the embassy and consular officials in North Africa, in those days, visited the slave markets to get information about their compatriots being sold but that there was nothing they could do to prevent the young and beautiful of either sex from going to a life of shame for sodomy was so usual as to be though perfectly lawful. Later, he describes a sale — “trembling little boys, likely to find vicious masters.”
Since only the children of the rich (or young apprentice sailors) were likely to be on ships in the Mediterranean, the children captured by pirates were often those of the nobility. It is reported that one young prince of a prominent French-Spanish family spent several years in a boys’ brothel in Algiers.
One such Algerian brothel was simply a large house where each boy had his own room — furnished with a bed, a chair and a washstand. In this particular house, the boys ranged in age from 7 to 15. They were almost completely nude 24 hours a day. The boys welcomed lovemaking as the only chance they had to get warm on chilly nights. There was a great deal of affection between the boys — so much so that, when necessary punishment was inflicted by locking a boy in his own room alone. Each room had a whip on the wall but there is little evidence that the whips were often used — North African Arabs were rarely sadists who whipped just for pleasure.
The price of the youngest boys was about 10 cents an hour and the rate declined with age. Some of the oldest boys, those over 15, were actually employed as cooks or cleaners for 1 or 2 cents an hour.
The city of Fez, in Morocco, once had a daily average of 3000 young boy prostitutes roaming the city squares. Many handsome young boys were selected for brothels. Sexual relations with professional boys was so common that such intercourse often took place publicly (or nearly so). A boy might be had right on the sidewalk but more frequently an amorous couple would slip into a cafe or coffee house. There a man might summon a boy to kneel between his legs or to sit on his lap for anal intercourse, while talking to his friends. One traveller reported such a scene as recently as 1955. He witnessed public affairs in the coffee house of a provincial city. (The coffee house staff doubled in somewhat horizontal business with aroused clients.)
Gavin Maxwell in the terminal notes to Lords of the Atlas, (Dutton, 1966), says: “Homosexuality between man and boy was never in any way considered abnormal or shameful in Morocco until the infiltration of European opinion along with the French.” “It is, perhaps, interesting to note that scientific opinion in the U.S. and in Europe,” page 286, “is now endorsing the old Moroccan notion that bisexuality is the normal human condition.” Moroccan soldiers regularly took young boys with them to satisfy their sexual needs and no shame was attached to the practice on either side. Nearly every traveler and writer on Morocco in the last century reported on the near universal practice of Greek love and boy prostitution. Maxwell says, page 289, “to be a prostitute was in no way dishonorable nor a profession to be ashamed of. A man entering the room of a prostitute would say,‘I am the guest of God.’ ”
At one point, there were 27,000 legal and taxed prostitutes in Marrakech — the majority female, but plenty of boys were on the rolls and their prostitution was considered a normal and harmless convenience.
Since independence, these customs have radically changed. Activity which had continued unaltered since Roman times has now gone underground. For the visitor or tourist, most of the availability has been removed in deference to Europeans noted for considering paederasty shameful. Rom Landau says in Moroccan Journal, (London, 1957, p.181), paederasty was often considered “an honorable and highly desirable way for a boy to earn money”. Even more recently, however, as reported by Bernard Kops in The World is a Wedding, most North African brothels could produce a boy on demand.
In summer, during the tourist season when school is out, many high school boys (and grade-schoolers too) sell themselves to both men and women tourists. This is particularly the case in tourist centers like Casablanca and Marrakech. Certain bars are really “amateur” brothels. While all of the amateur prostitutes are in desperate need of money, many of them are just as hungry for love and affection. Many hope to be “adopted”. They are anxious for sex which is often difficult to arrange with peers since nice girls are so carefully chaperoned.
It is no longer safe to take a Moroccan boy to a hotel or to ask hotel employees to provide a boy prostitute, even though many of the hotels’ personnel are still involved in the trade. There is great risk of blackmail, especially by the children themselves, now that Moroccan police are rigidly enforcing new restrictions.
There is probably some organized “gangster” blackmail in Morocco. (Oddly enough, there seems to be less risk of blackmail in Algeria where impoverished streetboys are under control of gangsters who “protect” them out of all their money in managing them. Though all North African streetboys know about prostitution, the ones in Morocco are more “clued in” than their brothers in Algeria and Tunisia.)
In Morocco, boys of the most respectable families know which of their schoolmates are engaged in prostitution and will pass on the information. In 1966, for example, a British tourist propositioned a young boy at the Marrakech swimming pool. The youngster very politely replied (in excellent English, unusual in Morocco) that his father was the chief of police so he couldn’t let himself get involved but that he could introduce the tourist to several friends, around thirteen, who would “see to it that you have what you want and a very good time here.” He found that several of them, for modest fees, had taken trips around the country with tourists.
Though Tangiers in now part of Morocco, it was for years a free city and a good deal of its more illustrious history of boy prostitution dates from the time when it was “wide-open.” The Moroccan government has had the greatest difficulty in its efforts to stamp out boy prostitution in Tangiers. When it was an international city, boys of any race, age and nationality were available in abundance and at very low cost. Lately organized brothels have left the scene but European and Moroccan pimps keep apartments where boys and customers can be taken. There are still a few professionally managed European boys in Tangiers — at least one Italian and several young Spanish boys in 1965. The boys were often on display at night in the Casbah, near the old mosque which has been a place of assignation for centuries. One fifteen-year-old said that he had been a prostitute since he was eight and that his younger 9-year-old brother was in the same “business” at a coffee house nearby. There are still coffee house dancers, but no evidence confirms that they still double as prostitutes with the carefree abandon of yesteryear. (We suppose that they are kept busy sleeping with the owners of the establishments.)
Roger Peyrefitte, in his novel The Oracle, tells of a wealthy Albanian who came to Tangiers every year to obtain a 13-year-old boy as his year’s yachting companion. Many Europeans supported young boys in Tangiers and some still do. We know of a prominent vegetarian in the United States who maintains a small string of lads in the Casbah. Lower class families in Tangiers, will invite a foreigner to share their son’s bed regularly in exchange for the boy’s food, clothing and education.
In Tangiers, almost any boy is liable to stop and talk when a stranger smiles at him and asks the question: “Do you love men?” He will be given a polite reply — “Yes” or “No, but I have a friend who does...” However, the “yes” does not automatically mean that either he or his friend is a prostitute, or certainly not a passive one. Most Moroccan boys are hoping to meet a homosexual foreigner who will play the feminine role. Many of the younger ones will be available for money both as a result of the poverty of the area and because of the ancient customs of the country.
NORTH AFRICA — summary
Ironically, even though the governments have been making matters increasingly difficult for them, the numbers of foreigners visiting North Africa in search of boy prostitutes continue to increase. Many boys are learning about the possibilities, not from ancient customs but from visitors to their regions. For that matter, tourists spread the word among themselves and a casual visitor who never even thought about boy-love might easily wind up giving it a go after some glowing report from a fellow traveller. “You ought to try it while you are here”, he might hear, or, the tourist may run into a Moroccan who declaims with emotion: “Before you judge us, you should try it for yourself.” More than one of the Moroccan officials who enforce the laws against Greek love keep young boys for their own personal pleasure or have summer affairs with boys met at the beach.
In the summer of 1965, one pimp — seeking the sort of boy desired by a tourist from North America — went up and down the Mediterranean beaches, propositioning every young boy he met — discussing conditions and prices until he found the perfect match for man and boy. Only once did he meet any resistance or problem as he openly questioned boys from 11 to 15. One 12-year-old burst into frightened tears because he dreaded his first anal penetration. His father had recently told him that he was now at an age when he would be made available if someone with the right price came along. His friends laughed at his fears, urging him to “get it over with.”
 This is inaccurate. A “free city” implies self-government, which Tangiers never had. Between 1924 and 1956, it was an international zone administered by European powers, but the Sultan of Morocco (the rest of whose country was anyway under French and Spanish rule) retained nominal sovereignty over the zone and jurisdiction over the native population.