Belly Button Sex And Escaped ISIS Sex Slaves: Stacey Dooley On What Sex Is Like In Turkey
The Debrief: For her latest BBCThree documentary, the presenter heads to Turkey to find out what sex is like for Turkish women
Situated half in Europe and half in the Middle East, the mishmash of cultures in Turkey make for a complicated situation. And, with the recent re-election of the conservative Justice and Development Party (President Erdoğan took office in 2014), the spiraling Syrian refugee crisis and the threat of ‘religious’ extremists ISIS just over the border, things are getting more and more complicated by the day.
Unsurprisingly a lot of country’s problems are impacting on women. Now, the country is the topic of a new BBC Three documentary, helmed by Stacey Dooley as part of her new series looking at sex lives around the world.
Brothels in Turkey are well used despite traditional marriage being the norm. A charming man Stacey meets outside a brothel in the documentary says, Turkish men’s wives are too ‘fat, ugly and old’ to have sex with and won’t do the sorts of things the men would like them to do. ‘Some women in Turkey, when they become wives, there’s this assumption that they don’t have a sexual appetite.’ Explains Stacey. ‘They’re told that sex is all about servicing the man which is mental! Plenty of people love having sex with their husbands; you want to please him and be pleased.’ According to the film though, the opposite is true for many Turkish marriages. ‘You look after the kids and you clean the house and you satisfy your man when he wants it.’ Stacey says. ‘Then for all the dirty, erotic, outlandish sex they just go to a prostitute.’
A huge part of the problem seems to be the numerous misconceptions surrounding sex in Turkey. Sexual education is non-existent. In fact, one sex worker Stacey speaks to, named Hulya, tells of clients who don’t understand the concept of oral sex and, even more shockingly, men who have tried to insert their penis in her bellybutton – because that’s how they’d assumed it was done. At home, if their also-uneducated wife is on the brunt end of an attempted belly button penetration, is it any wonder that women as wives don’t enjoy sex in the same way that their husbands do?
While belly button sex might sound amusing, there is a much darker side to not having a national narrative on sex. Hulya’s voice grows sad as she speaks about a man who asked if he could call her by his daughters’ name and she recognized that by the man acting out his incestual fantasies on her, she might have saved his daughter from the a darker fate. Hulya says one third of her clients have similar fantasies. ‘Yeah, that’s a deeper darker issue.’ Says Stacey. ‘It can’t help if you’re encouraged to be silent so when you do have these awful thoughts you can’t go and speak openly about them.’
To be a prostitute in Turkey is hardly a coveted job. However, it is currently legal. The industry itself is regulated and many brothels are licensed by the state. But, things are changing. The conservative government have prevented new sex workers from obtaining licenses and have demolished several brothels. What this means is that now there are, according to the documentary, around 100,000 unregistered brothels compared to the 1,500 state run institutions. As a result, there’s a safety issue. ‘We will never eradicate the sex industry,’ Says Stacey, who’s all for the concept of state-run brothels. ‘Clean working conditions, condoms, panic buttons, taxis… It’s never going to be a safe industry but it’s about eliminating as much danger as possible.’
A group of sex workers in Turkey that have never had the relative protection of government regulation, are sex workers from the gay and trans community who are continually at risk from beatings, arrest and even murder. And incidences of men visiting male and pre-op trans sex workers are common in this notoriously homophobic country.
Outside a known trans brothel, a group of teenagers who are sexually harassing Stacey admit to going to transsexual prostitutes because they can be more ‘hardcore’. ‘It’s anal sex.’ Explains Stacey. ‘They have such an obsession with anal.’ Indeed, these boys even show pictures of anal sex to Stacey on their phone to demonstrate the kind of sex they’d like to have with her. Some of the trans prostitutes feel like they've got to offer something above and beyond. 'There's such a lack of respect for them.' She says. ‘The customers almost think I can do what the fuck I like because she’s a trans prostitute, what are they going to do?’
Then there are closeted gay men who visit trans sex workers with pensises in an attempt to come to terms with (or ignore) their sexuality. A trans sex worker called Deria (who has kept her penis) reckons that 70% of her customers are gay; a fact she illustrates by explaining that a lot of them only orgasm by performing oral sex on her. ‘Shock horror you're not treated brilliantly as an openly gay man,’ Says Stacey. ‘So I think there's a lot of men who are struggling with their sexuality who are telling themselves “I’m not gay, I can't be gay, gay is bad, gay is wrong.” So they've convinced themselves that “I'm not gay because I'm having sex with someone that looks like a woman, they just still have their penis.'"
These issues with sex and sex work are undoubtedly awful but are almost swamped when you consider what’s happening just across the border in Syria under the ISIS regime. Women are bought and sold, used as sex slaves and, many escaping women report being raped numerous times a day. One refugee Stacey speaks to, now living in Gaziantep, on the Turkey/ Syrian border, speaks of how she was used by her extremist ‘husband’ for sex. How he bought her sexy red and pink underwear for the bedroom but how she was expected to be fully covered anywhere else.
‘That’s the hypocrisy that’s so infuriating as a woman,’ Stacey rages. ‘Especially ISIS, all the shit they chat. All about how they want conservative women, to be covered up when actually the women were saying they’ve never seen sexual appetite like it. The men were forcing women to have sex multiple times a day. Some of the girls were in pain, they had sex injuries, they were forced to behave like prostitutes. It was a real eye opener meeting them first hand.’
As more and more refugees pour into Turkey, fleeing for their lives from ISIS, the problem of sex work is only set to grow larger. Stacey finishes her time in Turkey in a Syrian ghetto that’s sprung up in Istanbul with a woman who, previously only having slept with her husband, had to turn to sex work to support her family. Her clients despise her because of her race while she has to hide her profession from her husband for fear of being thought less of.
‘Lots of people think “Oh these Syrians they just want to get into Europe” but actually, that could not be further from the truth.’ Says Stacey. ‘It’s circumstantial that they’re now in Turkey. They have no rights, they’re not treated with respect, these girls who never had sex with anyone other than their husbands are now having to resort to sex work with these men that are really awful to them. It’s so shit.’
Sadly, there’s not much hope on the horizon. ‘No’ Stacey says firmly when I ask her if she saw came away from her trip to Turkey with any positive reports. ‘It’s weird because I feel like they seemed to make progress with the state run brothels. I wish we would entertain that idea.’ Sadly though, with Erdogan in power, there’s little hope of change. ‘He’s a conservative man, so I guess we’re back to square one.’ She sighs.
Stacey Dooley - Sex In Strange Places Part 1 is on iPlayer now.
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