Dec 29, 2013

Why You Should Visit Turkey Next July

I have always hated playing sports, but if I have no choice, I'll pick wrestling: no projectiles hurling at your head, no teammates to get all huffy when you miss a point, just you and your opponent in revealing singlets straining against each other's bodies.  Some of my first homoerotic feelings came when I was on the wrestling team in junior high.  Later, at Indiana University, I learned about bokh, or Mongolian wrestling.

When I moved to West Hollywood, Ivo, the Bulgarian bodybuilder who was insanely jealous of Michael J. Fox, told me that he played an interesting variation, common in Turkey and parts of the Balkans: yağlı güreş, or oil wrestling.  

The players, called pehlivan, are naked except for leather pants (kisbet).  They grease up with olive oil, and try to throw each other.

Since they're all greasy, the only way to win is by putting your hand inside the other guy's kisbet -- you know, where his sex organs are.

It's as if the sport was deliberately designed to be homoerotic.

Knowing the Ottoman Empire, maybe it was.

Guys of all ages participate.  You don't need to be muscular, but it helps.

I saw a local tournament when I was in Turkey, but not the Kirkpinar, the national tournament held every year in June or July in Edirne, near the Bulgarian border.  If you want to go, book your hotel room far in advance; the town fills up fast.

I can see why.

(But be careful; Turkey is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the Middle East, which means extremely homophobic by European standards, and for Americans, about as homophobic as the rural South).

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