Gay hookup at airport
I was in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with bits of four days to spare and an empty hotel room with the promise of a constant supply of clean sheets and towels, so I figured I'd check out the hook-up sites and apps to see what was up.
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I travel a lot, and in addition to talking to bookstore clerks about who the big local writers are, seeing what the latest architecture looks like, and trying out cool new boozes, talking to and having sex with the locals is one of the things I like most about travel. But maybe Qatar was different. It was the first stridently religious Muslim country I'd ever tried any of the apps or sites in.
I'd heard the emirate, still far more traditional than its frantically Westernizing UAE cousins to the south, was slowly liberalizing on the road to its World Cup.
Women with off-the-shoulder dresses were no longer being hissed at in the streets, for instance. But I'd also heard there were plans afoot to somehow identify gays at the border , and gay publications , as well as soon-to-be-ex FIFA chief Sepp Blatter were already warning football fans about maybe not kissing your boyfriend after a big goal.
I'd looked into the laws about such things, as I always do before traveling to a new place. In Qatar, the maximum penalty for same-sex sexual activity or any extramarital monkey business between anywhere is death. I could see how that could put a damper on the hook-up scene. I'm no Ben Carson, but I think there may be a direct neurological link between empty hotel rooms and sex drive.
Someone should look into it. Anyway, despite the pall of death, I logged in, and within about a minute, I started hearing those familiar little moist-sounding electronic pops. You gotta love it. The human sex drive is a mighty and hilarious thing, and these apps and sites are the gateway through which this veritable force of nature is released across the planet. 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.
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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 lashes. And these guys popping up on my screen with their endearingly displayed body parts all looked pretty Muslim. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that sex trumps death. It's the same penalty for all forms of extramarital sex in Qatar and several other countries. People have fucked through plagues that killed a third of the known world and the more recent one that seemed engineered to specifically kill the world's most enthusiastic fuckers.
I once had sex with a guy who told me he climbed into his young wife's hospital bed and they fucked, joyously, memorably, and I'm guessing painfully, just days before she died, and just weeks before we fucked. Except it is surprising, because this is the non-secular Muslim world, and everything we've been thinking for about the last 14 years points to a monolith, a medieval set of values and choice of punishments, not just among the crazies in the hills of Tora Bora or the ruined ruins of Homs, Aleppo, and Palmyra , but in millennia-old civilizations and enthusiastic economic and military allies of the West.
This is one of the many powers of travel. A place never looks the same on the ground as it does from the height of Google Earth or the arm's length of even a responsible news report. This emirate is as against men with other men's penises in them as they are against calling their Prophet a naughty name. 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.
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I had meetings and lunches and suppers and drinks, but amid those, in the early mornings, late nights, and occasionally stolen hours in between when the thing I was doing happened to be in the lobby of my own hotel, I had some sex, and learned a thing or two about the religious Muslim world in the process. I was on a flight that turned out to be overbooked, so a group of us had to fly later.
There was one guy who struck up a conversation about it, and eventually invited me for beers at the airport bar. But then it turned out two seats had opened up from people not showing up. So him and his friend jumped up and elbowed through a crowd of families and senior citizens to get to the boarding gate first. Very gentlemanly. Guys sitting next to me on long-haul flights have offered me Xanax and OxyContin on two separate occasions.
They seemed fairly normal. One time, I started chatting up a flight attendant. We had a lot in common and I thought he was incredibly funny. We ended up getting embarrassingly intoxicated singing karaoke and I had to crash at his hotel overnight.
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