I recently had a five day break in Dubai, the city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) known for its iconic skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa and the luxury hotel built to mimic a ship sail, the Burj Al Arab.
I was really looking forward to the trip, not just for some beach and sunshine, but I was also excited about exploring its “underground” gay scene, powered mostly as in the rest of world, by Grindr and Scuff. 🙂
On arrival early in the afternoon, I checked into the hotel on Jumeirah beach, had something to eat and had a snooze till about 7 pm that evening. I checked my e-mails and switched on Grindr and Scruff, to see what was on offer. A pop up message appeared on Scruff; warning about the illegality of same sex sexual intercourse in the UAE; the legal penalty (14 years in Prison) and that offenders were subject to Islamic laws (It wasn’t clear what that meant, but I reckon as a minimum would involve flogging and not of the S&M variety. I am thinking “12 years A Slave”)
Despite the warnings, Grindr and Scruff apps were busy. Before I could start viewing the profiles, messages started flooding into my inbox and mostly from guys within the 25-40 age bracket.
According to the “quick facts screen” on the hotel TV channel, Dubai has a 2.1m population. 80% of whom are “Expats” (not sure if the South Asian labourers on construction sites; Filipino Nannies and predominantly oriental waiting staff are classed as expats), so it wasn’t much of a surprise that most of the messages I received were mainly from Europeans, Americans, Russians, some other middle easterners, Indians, Pakistanis working in the UAE, rather than from Emiratis.
For some strange reason, most of the messages asked if I was an escort. At first I ignored the messages, but soon became weary of them and responded to one of them in the negative and asked what gave him that impression? He responded that most black guys in Dubai with a decent semi-nude picture on their profile, were escorts. I assured him that I wasn’t one. He apologised and there the conversation ended.
One message though did catch my interest. Not because it was from a handsome, hairy muscular Lebanese guy, whose backside was as generous as his desire to share unsolicited nude pics with me, but rather a line on his profile that read “Beware of black guys“.
Intrigued that someone with such a grim notice on his profile would still message a black man, I switched to investigative reporter mode and replied his messages with a few pics of my own, which clearly showed I that I am black. Unperturbed, he continued messaging and he insisted we continued our conversation via WhatsApp. I obliged and we exchanged some more messages on WhatsApp. His name was Bilal, he seemed genial enough and I agreed to meet him at his apartment the following evening.
The next day after going about my business (lying on Jumeirah beach checking out the trade and having a light lunch outside one the restaurants along the beach front and still checking out the trade), I checked Google maps for directions to Bilal’s place.
The app informed me that the journey including, using the Metro and walking would take 30minutes. I often wonder how Google maps estimates the walking part of a journey. Whose stride was used in the estimates? Female? Male? Was the female wearing flat shoes or heels? Was the male wearing trainers, shoes or even stilettoes? How old were they? These are the inconsequential things that occupied my mind as I prepared to meet another man in his apartment, who may or may not be a dagger carrying racist for sex, in a country where even pre-marital sex between two consenting heterosexual adults is a crime, not to mention gay sex. Hmm I wonder who would play me in the TV Crime watch re-enactment ….But I digress….
I got to the Metro station and on the platform I jumped on the train as the doors were about closing, without reading the signs on the platform. Doors closed behind me, I looked around the carriage for a seat as the train started moving. It was standing room only and the section of the train I had entered only had women in it. This was no biggie until I realised they were staring at me; some whispered between themselves then looked back at me. One of them stepped forward and politely told me I was in the section of the train meant for Women and children. Opps. I laughed nervously and sheepishly moved to the male section of the train. I was genuinely relieved – I thought my zipper was down or something.
Thankfully, without offending any other cultural sensibilities, I got to Bilal’s apartment in good time and he was even better looking in real life than his pictures depicted. He was 35 years old, stood at just under 6 feet, and weighed about 80kg. He was not shy of the gym as betrayed by his hairy muscular body.
Apart from the first five minutes in which he intermittently checked his phone and sent text messages (I assumed he was attending to work), he was a polite and personable host. We soon got down to business, we started kissing and fondling each other on the living room sofa, shedding our clothes on the floor, before moving proceedings into his bedroom.
In the bedroom we kissed some more, then sucked dick and rimmed each other. When it came to giving blow jobs, Bilal won hands down – I came close to coming a few times and he knew just when to stop me. But when it came to the rimming part, I think I won. But in fairness he made it easy; His glutes were well formed and it would be a crime not to do it justice by any means necessary. So I asked for condoms and lube and continued meting out justice the other way I knew how.
Justice duly delivered and both sides satisfied, I asked him about the “Beware of Black men” comment on his profile.
He told me that in the last year or so, there had been increasing incidences of guys from West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana specifically, who set up profiles on Grindr, claiming to come from the US or UK. They meet up with unsuspecting guys, have sex with them and ask for payment afterwards.
He said in his own case, the guy was from Nigeria, (though his profile claimed the US), they met up, had sex and though there was no indication on the Grindr profile that he was an escort and no discussion of money changing hands either online or pre-coitus, Homeboy demanded money after sex.
When Bilal refused to pay, Homeboy threatened violence and to call the Police. Bilal had to part with whatever amount he had in the apartment at that time, to get rid of him.
I asked him why he didn’t call Homeboy’s bluff and let him call the Police, after all they both had illicit sex?
He said though he is an out gay man, he had to be careful as a professional and an expatriate. He was in Dubai to make an honest living. The justice system was not exactly kind to people who break the law and the Police can put him in jail and throwaway the key without processing him. At the very least he would lose his work visa. He had more to lose professionally than homeboy ever would if word ever got out. This is the fear that Homeboy played on.
He said another friend of his had a similar experience but in his own case was roughened up and robbed.
This is why he and friends take extra precaution when hooking up online with black men. They ask to communicate using WhatsApp to gain some sort of level of security and if the guy refuses to swap numbers, then they know something is off.
They also text the phone numbers to another trusted friend just in case. (That would probably explain Bilal’s first five minutes on the phone earlier).
He advised me to do the same (and hide my valuables- passport, wallet, laptop, etc), if I did arrange to hook up with a black guy in my hotel room.
I met up with a few other guys while in Dubai, and they either had a similar story of their own or knew someone it had happened to.
I don’t know what the circumstances of these gay “escorts” are, but it is clear they have created a negative stereotype and made the gay community weary of Africans and indeed black men online. I have nothing against escorting; Infact I respect those that get into it as a necessary slight detour from the path to achieving better things. The way the world is going in 20 years or less, no one would bat an eyelid if “escorting” appeared in a job resumé or if a future Presidential candidate had an escorting past. But to use it as form of extortion, in my opinion is despicable. More so in a country where the expression of sexuality (of any form) is punishable by law.
Which is a shame, because from the subsequent conversations I had on Grindr and Scruff, after I got over being asked if I was an escort, a lot of men in Dubai would gladly pay for sex if it was made clear to them from the start.
Like one of the expats quipped, “This not Dubai; It is Gay-bai”
It could be a very lucrative market.
Just a thought. 🚶🏿🚶🏿