Bisexuality in the Arab world

Bisexuality has a universal history. People in most known societies have exhibited varying degrees of bisexuality, and most of what is called homosexuality and lesbianism in previous cultures is in fact bisexuality, (it should be noted, however, that the terms heterosexuality, bisexuality and particularly homosexuality, may not be appropriate in the historical context. In most traditional societies, behaviour was considered homosexual while people were not labeled using such terms. Similarly, heterosexuality and bisexuality are also relatively modern concepts).

In the Arab world, same-sex sexual behavior between both men and women is not unknown; estimates of prevalence vary, and depend on region. It is also a topic celebrated by some of the greatest artists of the Middle East, such as the famous poet Abu Nuwas.

This is despite what has been interpreted as a prohibitions against homosexual behavior in the Qur'an and severe penalties for LGBT persons in some nations, including in some sensational cases, the death penalty. The Qur'an however requires that the behavior be witnessed by four men or eight women in order to convict the participants.

Therefore, while in traditional Arab cultures bisexual behaviour is known to occur, and people are not given much trouble about these behaviors so long as they marry and raise families and fulfill other societal duties, it is something which remains very covert, and an open declaration of homosexual preference would be unacceptable.

It has often been hypothesized that this same-sex sexual behavior may be a consequence of the sexual conservatism in Arab culture which results in men and women being partially or completely segregated from each other, thus removing the opportunity for contact between the sexes prior to marriage.

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