Saudi Arabia’s Young Men Gather Late At Night to Race Cars … and Cruise?


“Drifting, which tends to attract poorer, more marginal men, has also been an unlikely nexus between homosexuality, crime and jihadism since it emerged 30 years ago. Homoerotic desire is a constant theme in Saudi songs and poems about drifting, and accomplished drifters are said to have their pick of the prettiest boys among the spectators. Drugs sometimes also play a role. But a number of drifters have also become Islamic militants, including Youssef al-Ayyeri, the founder of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who fought in Afghanistan and was killed by security forces in Saudi Arabia in 2003.” [NYT]

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  • Darth Paul

    HAWT. I’d totally get haram w/some of that.

  • Tallskin

    I have a friend, now aged in his 60s, who used to work in Saudi and he told me that as a westerner you had to be really careful with men in cars, because they would abduct you, rape you, then kill you.

    The killing part was because of the risk of being arrested and being executed for homosexuality.

    All in all Saudi sounds to be a horrid place.

  • Chitown Kev

    But I read an article in Harper’s or the Atlantic a few months ago about cruising in Saudi Arabia, it’s a little more open (provided you are a man) than many people think, especially if you are in the upper class.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    @Chitown Kev:

    It was…this may change..

    But I loathe to be the person of bad news but the Muslims states only got worse on Gays because of the US.

    The US were so powerful at the turn of this century, with the UK willing to follow through that it turned these nations upside down…

    You know what’s sad?

    Iran was SOO above in terms of homosexuality, until the Shah was taken down in the 50’s/60’s by the US for a more right wing government…

    Oh well.

  • pikwit

    @ tallskin

    that was insanely creepy though probably true.

  • traffick

    Is drifting just racing up and down the street, or is it like in the 3rd Fast & Furious movie, Tokyo Drift, where they race around corners?

    Cause if its just going back and forth, that could get a little boring.

  • Sebbe

    @2traffick – I think the “semilegal competition” referenced in the article may be the difference. In the article it makes a distinction (albeit self-described)between drifters and non-drifters, although then goes on to say it is more of a social than physical description.

    “Mr. Shulukhi explained that he and his friends, who all race Subarus, were not really drifters. The distinction is more about social status than activity; he and his friends are mostly middle class and do not see themselves as outlaws.

    “That’s a different path from what we’re doing,” he said. “That’s crazy, forbidden stuff.””

    It seems to me that the equation with “crime and jihadism” has more to do with the “underemployment” of these young men than the activity itself.

  • Mike

    John from England, you are totally wrong about the Shah.
    Also, homosexuality under Saddam’s Iraq was tolerated. It was only after the fall of Saddam that Iraq became dangerous for gays. Remember, Saddam may have been authoritarian, but he was also completely secular.

  • Chitown Kev


    I thought that was case with Iraq under Saddam though there was tolerance for gays in Iran when the Shah was in power…he gets the dates wrong and the Shah ..well, not a good man at all.

  • blake

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s):

    Uh, the Shah was taken out by Iranian Revolution in the 1970s.

    The Shah came to power by way of US and UK encouraged coup that overthrew a socialistic democratically elected leader to gain control of oil.

    Ironically, the Shah, a horrible dictator, was a pussy cat in comparison to the Islamic leaders who succeeded him. Many of the secular revolutionaries who fought for the Shah’s downfall found themselves imprisoned and/or executed by the Iranian. The socially liberal policies of the Shah, like equality for women, were brutally ended.

    Sometimes really, really, really bad things happen when you get what you want. The Shah was a dictator but because he was in the pocket of the U.S., he was also susceptible to some American and European pressure on human rights.

    Finally, as most importantly, Iran is a Persian country, not Arabic.

  • Chitown Kev


    Yeah, I didn’t feel like going into all that detail about Iran.

    I think the Shah’s son lives in California, which has a big Iranian community.

  • blake

    BTW, it’s interesting how the article talks about homo-eroticism but then fails to provide any real examples, like quotes from song lyrics or testimony of drag racing lovers. To be fair to Saudi culture, the author should have provided testimony or some proof to validate his words. Anything could be said to be this or that, but where is the proof?

    Furthermore, in an article published for the Web, couldn’t the author have links to supplementary evidence? Song lyrics. Video of gay/bi youth. Discussion on secret gay life in Saudi Arabia. Instead we are just to take the author’s word.

  • benwa

    two things that get me going and yet I live in texas and hardly see either. I knew I was living in the wrong place!

  • Scott in NYC


    Mike – he was not secular. He murdered hundreds of thousands in the name of Islam and he paid the families of suicide bombers $25,000 a piece to kill as many Israeli (read: Jewish) civilians as possible. The notion that he was secular, frankly, is at least partially a myth.

    John from England…are you aware of how Sharia law is applied to Homosexuals? Are you familiar with the two boys in Iran who where hanged in the town square a few years back? Or that Muslim radicals tried to kill the Mayor of Paris a few years ago – becuase he was gay? How about all the others we don’t hear about…all the gay sons and/or daughters who are killed, beaten or tortured in Islamic countries?

    When do you start placing blame on the people who DO these things – instead of always finding a way to source it to America? It’s a subtle form of condescension to constantly create rhetoric in which the actual party conducting these acts can not take responsiblity…are not culpable for their own decisions and their own deeds.

  • Chitown Kev

    @Scott in NYC:

    Well, Hussein styled himself as a modern day Nebuchanezzar. But I don’t think he targeted gay people simply for being gay, or at least I have never heard of Hussein doing anything like that.

    And here is the rub when we occasionally want to take gay rights internationally. If you are gay, do you support Israel or the Palestinians, esp. Hamas? The treatment of gay Palestinians is so brutal that they only place they truly have refuge is Israel (Turkey is increasingly not a viable option).

  • blake

    @Scott in NYC: \


    You’re wrong about Saddam Hussein. He was a secular dictator who didn’t care about religion other than as a tool for political purposes. Hussein led the secular Baath Party. Under Hussein, strangely enough, Iraqi society was far more liberal and tolerant of secular ideas, like women’s rights that it is today. Christian Iraqis were not persecuted.

    Hussein was an evil, murderous dictator but he was not a religious zealot. He would use religion at times to further his cause but kept a tight control over it since he belonged to the minority Sunni religious sect while the majority of Iraqis (and neighboring Iranians) belonged to the Shia sect. Much of Hussein’s lip service to Islamic extremists was used to create support for his regime in the Islamic world. In practice, Hussein and those closest to him lived very upscale, modernist lives. Many were cruel, vicious killers but devotion to Islam was not a motivator for their actions.

    Violence against Israel, like launching SCUDs was part of the theatrics of war. It demonstrated his power and enhanced his ability to gain allies.

    Once Saddam fell, the religious violence and anti-liberal fervor began to sweep Iraq. That is why women suddenly found themselves stripped of their right to work outside the home in many areas and subject to brutal treatment not seen under Saddam.

    Counter to GOP and Bush Administration lies, al Qaida was not welcome in Iraq under Hussein. They would have been a competing force for power and influence. Similarly, the Iranians were blood enemies (think about the Iran vs. Iraq War).

    There was a reason why Reagan and George H.W. Bush befriended Saddam for such a long time. Had Saddam not decided to roll his troops into Kuwait, he would have remained a U.S. ally.

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