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Overcoming sexuality. Ideology & Masculinity in Iraqi Fiction before and after 2003

Hanan Jasim Khammas


Televised images of tortured and violated bodies during and after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 altered the conceptualization of the body in Iraqi public space and, more visibly, in contemporary fiction. Iraqi modern fiction prior to the invasion used a recurrent representation to depict the body as an ideological exposition hall for masculine agents, where they expressed political concerns in sexual anxieties. Contemporary Iraqi fiction offers new employment of masculinity. In this article1 I provide a brief analysis of two extracts from The Corpse Washer (2010) by Sinan Antoon and Al-Rajʿ Al-BaīdThe Long Way Back” (1980) by Fou’ād Al-Tikerly, where I argue that contemporary Iraqi fiction establishes revolutionary and creative links between ideology and masculinity2.

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1Iraqi literature has always been preoccupied with political turmoil. Since the formation of the Iraqi state in 1920, questions of society and political conflict were central in fiction and poetry. Gender issues, however, were not as central to literature until a few decades later and the focus was on women’s rights to voting, education, employment, health care, etc. Sexuality was never a safe topic for public debate since it is considered taboo even in the present day. It was only around the formation of the Republic in 1958, when political activism started to produce social changes allowing modern Iraqi fiction to flourish massively, and authors began to show concerns with sexuality and women’s liberation. Nevertheless being concerned with women’s rights did not necessarily mean deep reflection on gender roles. Gender hierarchy is a deeply rooted concept in Iraqi society and the constant political conflict together with almost five decades of wars and deprivation did not help to redefine gender, as fixation with gendering wars is a peculiarity in the Iraqi political scenes of the past fifty years. Contemporary Iraqi fiction since the US invasion in 2003 has been at the center of critical reception for its aesthetic innovations and strong political content. In this article I expose one of these innovations: the representation of masculinity and its link to ideology; how the employment of masculinity in Iraqi fiction has changed from modern to contemporary fiction and why.

Modern Iraqi Fiction

  • 3 Bahoora, The Figure of the Prostitute, p. 45.
  • 4 My translation: Al-Ānī, Al-Mara’e fi Al-qiṣa Al-Iraqiyya (Women in Iraqi Fiction), p. 57.
  • 5 Jabra, Arabic Literature and the West, p. 79.
  • 6 Ibid, p. 88.
  • 7 Ibid.

2Fiction after the formation of the Republic faced two major challenges: how to create proper aesthetics without breaking with tradition, and how to do so without embracing foreign legacy? Scholar Haytham Bahoora suggests: «In the writings of Iraqi men intellectuals, the struggle over women’s rights and bodies was a struggle over what it meant to be modern in an anti-colonial context»3. The advocation of women’s rights that Bahoora is referring to, was represented in a critique of the social imaginary of women which saw a woman as «nothing but a body twisted with desire, nothing but a whore [...]»4. This critique constantly represented women as sex-objects: victims of sexual terrorism, rape, perversion and prostitution. Even when depicting the struggle of working women, sexuality came in as the major obstacle. Men, on the other hand, representing the hegemonic voice, employed sexuality to express political concerns, social change and existential despair. Modern Iraqi authors, then, utilized sexuality, not advocating women’s rights, but to underpin their modernity in an anti-colonial context, which made sexuality an instrument of ideological definition and at the same time a mechanism to achieve proper aesthetics. Scholar Jabra I. Jabra suggested that during the first half of the twentieth century Arab authors – not strictly Iraqis – fought a battle to reaffirm a modern nationalist identity as opposed to the traditional and religious, which was restrictive and archaic in the sense that it did not represent the new generation’s values, and yet, had a great presence in political and economic power. Jabra named this battle «maʿarakat al-tajdīd - “the battle for the new”»5, an artistic and literary movement led by male Arab authors who embraced nationalist concerns but were generally inspired by modernist European writers such as Sartre, Camus, Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Lawrence, Durrel, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner and critics such as Eliot, Richards, Leavis6. Jabra added: «The leitmotifs of the new writers were: freedom, anxiety, protest, struggle, social progress, individual salvation, rebellion, heroism»7. Iraqi male authors stressed existential anxiety as a distinctive characteristic in Iraqi modern fiction. In my opinion, existentialism gave Iraqi male authors a comfortable framework where expressing sexuality meant freedom and modernity without having to give up the traditional Arab identity.

  • 8 Al-Wardy used the Arabic word ‘jins’, which means both sex and gender.
  • 9 My translation. Shakhssiat Al-ferd Al-iraqi (The Personality of the Iraqi Individual), p.58.
  • 10 Ibid, p. 67.

3Female sexuality, within this socio-literary framework, was depicted in prostitution, sexual deviation and death, and issues related to sexual orientation were employed to expose a social critique. For instance, sexual perversion in women such as zoophilia, paedophilia, homosexuality, and even adultery were all considered sexual perversion alike. Critic Shujā’a Al-Ānī and authors of the period define female sexual deviance as any sexual practice that is not between heterosexual married couples, and representing symptoms of social decay amidst nationalist male anxiety. Social knowledge and praxis in Iraqi society obsessively highlight female bodies as a sexual target which is under constant threat of sexual assault and violations. Iraqi sociologist Ali Al-Wardy writes: «Principles had developed in us that made the woman a sex/gender8 of less value and weaker mind than the man, and gave the man superiority and made him prouder than her»9. He also explains that this hierarchical condition enhanced a categorically social segregation between men and women, which generated in the man a problematic attitude towards women; on the one hand he desires them but, on the other hand, his inherited feeling of superiority distances him from them and he cannot reconcile these two facts, which caused a psychological deviance in him, manifested through violence and hatred towards women10. Al-Wardi probably was unaware of his rationalization of rape at the time of writing his study in 1951, nevertheless, it is a testimony on the conceptualization of gender difference then. Authors of modern Iraqi fiction depicted Al-Wardi’s rationalization in a perpetual anxiety that is characteristic of male characters. This anxiety was often connected with the claim of sexual freedom and it was recurrent in Iraqi fiction of that period as in the stories of Abdel Melek Nuri Gatheān (Nausea) (1952), Bukāʾ Al-Atfāl (Baby Cry) (1950) and AL-Ghil (Venom) (1955) or in Shaker Khesbak’s Hayātun Qassiya (Hard Life) (1959) and Mehdi Iʾssa Al-Ssaquer’s story Uʾāʾ Al-Kalb (Barking) (1953) among others, all share anxious male characters whose quest for sexual pleasure parallels their quest for meaning to their lives. Fou’ād Al-Tikerly (1927-2008) was the pioneer in reflecting male sexual anxieties. His works show the miserable life of working-class men tormented by their thoughts and constantly exposed to tempting female bodies but social constraints limit their mobility and drive them to sexual violence, which made Al-Tikerly the Iraqi author who explored rape psychology par excellence. His novel Baṣqah fī Wajeh Al-Hayāt (Spit in the Face of Life) was written in 1948 but was not published until 2006 because of its sexual controversy. The novel is about a retired police officer, also husband and a father, who is tormented by his sexual urges towards his daughters. The novel is structured through the man’s dairy where he expresses his hatred toward his wife and his most detailed sexual fantasies with his daughters. He is obsessed with stalking them while showering, changing or cleaning the house in order to see their bodies move. Whenever he is confronted with the impossibility of his desires, his anxiety intensifies to the extent of verbal and physical abuse. Eventually he kills his oldest daughter because she resisted him while he was trying to rape her. Such a text shows the deeply rooted conception of masculine privilege that semanticizes the female body as a sexual object and instrument, on one hand, and as a material and symbolic property of a male patron, on the other. Male heteronormative sexuality occupies the superior position in the gender hierarchy and also possesses a social, legal and moral right to decide over other bodies. Anxiety for these authors was a resource to critique severe social constraints concerning sexuality, marriage, and rape; it helped them to reflect the individual’s struggle for happiness despite social and political pressure. However, free sexuality in this context meant heteronormative male’s rights to free sexuality from social constraints and segregation, as well as maintaining male supremacy. Therefore, although male sexual anxieties were used to criticize reactionary social phenomena, literary works that depicted male existential anxiety necessarily depicted women as objects of sexual desire. In other words, female sexuality was a scene for social critique whereas male sexuality represented a claim of subjectivity in an unjust world.

4With the Ba’ath regime, the fiction of the eighties and nineties brought a variety of styles and voices but did not escape the heteronormative masculine perception of bodies and sexes. On the contrary in addition to the heteronormative binary scale of values in which women are represented as either lustful bodies, innocent virgins, loving mothers, or a sexual victim, masculine values represented heroism at war time, nobility and honor. This period also witnessed internal political persecution and severe censorship; authors of the period focused on the damage that the first and second Gulf wars caused. Most literary production of the period dealing with these wars is now accused of being propagandistic even though there was a genuine concern about the results of these conflicts on ordinary people. However, that does not exclude favoritism towards authors who reflected party politics in their works, which, similar to the sixties, reflected a hegemonic nationalist patriarchal voice both in fiction and in journalism:

  • 11 Rohde, Opportunities for Masculinity and Love, p. 190.

Iraqi propaganda produced a never-ending flow of richly pictured articles commentating the boldness and heroism of the ever-victorious Iraqi men fighting at the front-line, including gruesome photos of slain Iranian soldiers scattered around on the killing fields. Saddam Hussein and high regime figures were depicted in war-related contexts, wearing military uniforms, meeting the troops, decorating soldiers for outstanding bravery, talking about the war. This obsession in itself indicates that a gendered hierarchy of social status was being reinforced in the press during this period, with men/soldiers at its top and women/civilians confined to auxiliary positions11.

  • 12 Ibid, p. 189.

This gendered discourse was often related to the ruling regime which, although it initially encouraged gender reforming policies, enhanced the masculinist and patriarchal values which lead to the segregation of society. The figure of the paternal leader and the chivalric hero towards the late eighties and early nineties dominated the public space while women were retrieved to the domestic sphere. Sexuality in this context represented the awaited encounter between the land with its victorious defender, a recurrent propagandistic cliché12.

Masculinity in War & Torture

5War propaganda in media paid special attention to instrumentalizing bodies of Iraqis for its ends. Discourses in favor of war – and even of mainstream feminism – used a colonial and an orientalist depiction of the victims to justify war as a rescue mission. The use of Iraqi bodies by these discourses is central to the new perception of sexuality in contemporary fiction. After publishing the Taguba Report, several studies and investigations tried to shed light on the question from multiple perspectives. An article by Seymour Hersh stated that a US government adviser suggested that there was a possibility that the style of interrogation had been intentionally decided months before the beginning of the war in March 2003.

  • 13 Hersh, «The Gray Zone», The New Yorker.

The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was “The Arab Mind,” a study of Arab culture and psychology […]. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression13.

  • 14 Arnove, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, p. 60 (Arabic translation)

6The Arab Mind (1973) is a volume of five hundred pages written by Jewish historian Raphael Patai in which he built an anthropological Western mirror of Arab culture and Arab-Muslim psychology. The book is certainly a controversial one; although it was referential to Washington conservatives, scholars found it simplistic and stereotyping. Anthony Arnove described it as the bible of neoliberals on Arabic behavior14. The book was described by Palestinian scholar Fouad Mougharibi as:

  • 15 Moughrabi, The Arab Basic Personality: A Critical Survey of the Literature, p. 112.

Inadequate in its attempts to explain the nature of Arab collective behavior. The use of terms such as the ‘Arab mind’ or the ‘Arab basic personality’, unscientific and demeaning to the subject of research, reveals a dangerous and misleading tendency toward categorical and sweeping generalizations which are not conducive to an enlightened search for better understanding of collective behavior.15

7The controversy lies in the fact that Patai presented the Arabs as naturally violent and specifically vulnerable to humiliation. This book included a chapter devoted to the notion of the body and sexuality based on the contrast and the comparison with the Western conceptualization of the body. As far as The Arab Mind is concerned, Arabs are endangered by public nudity, sexual scandal, physical deformity, filth and the exposure of the private as they believe these acts to attract a morbid attention, which explains the emphasis on female rescue in the discourse of war propaganda, and the torture and sexual humiliation in Abu-Ghraib.

  • 16 Puar, Terrorist Assemblages, p. 87.

8Public humiliation of masculine bodies in the case of Iraq means public feminizing of accentuated masculinity which is considered by its own agents as the moral and righteous voice of the people. The image and conception of torn masculinity produces new perceptions and more images of torn masculinities by becoming a national mirror of national masculinity: «the object, the tortured Muslim body, spins out repetitively into folds of existence, cohering discourse, politics, aesthetics, and affectivity. Thus, the body informs of torture, but the torture also forms the body»16. The purpose of torture and humiliation, then, is to produce more tortured and vulnerable individuals. By becoming a public image that orchestrates fear and shock, prison, torture and humiliation become security devices that guarantee the production of docile bodies that perform disciplinary techniques automatically.

  • 17 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 202-203.

9Media use of images of war and torture depicting death, misery and sexual humiliation of Iraqi bodies and describing them as terrorists tore apart images of a masculinity that represented the ideological values of the Iraqi identity. The purpose of those images was to ridicule and destroy the masculine body which represented strength, virility, honor and respect in Iraqi society. Masculinity in Iraq was a mechanism similar to the Foucaultian panopticon: a conceptual structure that allows the visibility of the bodies and by which they inscribe their subjugation. For Foucault power functions like the panopticon architectural figure, where «he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes principle of his own subjection»17. The attack on masculinity by US policies has decentralized the hegemonic totalitarian masculine voice. Death, torture and sexual humiliation were used as security devices that destroyed the established panopticism in order to create a new form of docility based on the image of broken and humiliated masculinities. However, contemporary texts of Iraqi fiction present new masculinities that were silenced by both hegemonic patriarchal voice and the orientalist colonial representations.

Contemporary Iraqi Fiction

10I shall compare two heterosexual sex scenes from two different Iraqi novels. The first is Al-Rajʿ Al-Baīd “The Long Way Back” (1980) by Fou’ād Al-Tikerly and the second is The Corpse Washer (2010) by Sinan Antoon. The reason I chose those two novels and those two scenes in particular is because although there are no links between them, they share a similar context and setting and serve to show the difference in the employment of masculinity between modern and contemporary fiction. Both scenes take place at a man’s home. In both novels, the man is a crushed intellectual surrounded by political turmoil, death and sick family members. In both stories, a young female relative and her mother temporarily move in with the hero’s family escaping from a threat. In the first novel, the woman is escaping from her nephew who raped her. In the second novel, the woman is running away from sectarian violence. In both novels, a love affair takes place between the hero and the female guest.

Al-Rajʿ Al-Baīd “The Long Way Back”

11This novel is set around the coup d’état in Iraq in 1963 where leftist and pan-Arab nationalisms fought for political power after the formation of the Iraqi Republic in 1958. Under this political turmoil, the story of the family in this novel represents the Iraqi people coping with socio-political changes. The hero, Midḥat, supports the governing progressive leftist power, the rapist represents the emerging political power, and Munīra, the female visitor, represents ordinary people’s position under both forces. Munīra kept her rape crime secret and started a romance with Midḥat, hoping to marry him in order to save herself from social damnation and scandal. Midḥat, who did not know about the rape, did not believe in legal or religious marriage at first, he simply loved her and believed in mutual love and respect. His world, however, turns upside down when he realizes she was not a virgin; he abandons her on the night of their wedding, turning to drinking and wandering around, tormented by dilemmas. At their wedding night, they have their first and only sexual intercourse where the hero expresses his sexual desires for her:

  • 18 Al-Rajʿ Al-Baīd “The Long Way Back”, p. 318 – 326, emphasis added.

She was squeezed in his arms, loose under him, her breath trickled with unknown flavour. He pushed himself away from her, lifted his chest to her naked chest. He filled his eyes with seeing her like this; his Munīra, his wife, his lover. [...] She was squeezed, speechless under him. [...] He felt her opening her thighs to contain him […] He was taken by her opening as if falling into the abyss. He was confused while preparing himself to penetrate her. The smell of her body, her sweat and her scent, her gentle touching and her wide open legs shook him and crazed him in an unfamiliar way. A fountain for eternal heat was holding his breath, then iced water poured onto him. Once he entered her and she is under him: his beloved female is becoming a mirage. Once again: he pulls out and his lust does not give space for his mind and doubts, so, once more, he stabs again and loses balance, his soul drowns with the water of life that fulminated out of him like the blood from the heart18.

  • 19 Ibid, p. 262.

12Clearly Midḥat sees Muneera as property, a right to which he is entitled. Part of Munīra’s charm is her weakness being squeezed under his body. When she opens her legs to «contain» him, he is expecting comfort. What is striking him is his encounter with his own body, himself having all these new feelings and sensations, the new things he can do with his body: squeeze, smell, touch, penetrate, feel the heat and the icy cold, stab and silence. He is amazed with his soul drowning in his own «water of life», which feels like noticing his living heart. The contrast between his heat and her coldness and image of him stabbing the silence exposes the nothingness of Munīra, she is nothing to him and her existence to him is conditioned by his ocular and sensorial experiences. Midḥat is so self-involved that he is unaware of Munīra’s human value. At first she had a name «his Munīra», then, she had a purpose «his wife, his lover», but once he is inside her not-virgin body, she becomes «his beloved female is becoming a mirage». Not only does he drop off Munīra’s quality as an independent individual by possessing her name and privatizing her existence to his desires of making her his wife and lover, in addition, for him, her raped body made her a mere female who is now becoming something unreal. Later in the novel, we hear Munīra’s version where she is frightened at the thought of Midḥat discovering she was not a virgin. Her fear comes from the old tradition honor killing «Am I not the girl of this country? Hanging between death and prostitution»19. Therefore, we are in the presence of a sex scene where both lovers are convinced that male sexuality is not only socially superior, but it also assigns meaning and destiny to the people involved with it.

The Corpse Washer

13In this scene, different dynamics of power are established. The protagonist and the narrator of the story, Jawad, is a corpse washer. He exclusively washes male corpses as it is forbidden in Islam to wash corpses of the opposite sex. His lover is Ghaydaʾ, a young relative who moved in with her mother and younger brother to escape the sectarian killing in her district. The novel is set in contemporary Iraq around the years 2006/2007 where the sectarian conflict was at its bloodiest peak. Ghaydaʾ sneaks into Jawad’s room and they enjoy each other’s bodies for two hours. Ghaydaʾ loves Jawad, but he does not marry her. Jawad narrates their sexual encounters:

  • 20 The Corpse Washer, p. 151 – 152.

We had our own secret world every night between two and four in the morning, fleeing from our nightmares to each other’s bodies. It was a world bordered by danger and the fear of scandal. One night she whispered coquettishly, “Do whatever you want with my body, but not from the front.” It was reasonable for her to preserve her capital in a society like ours. The first part of what she said - “Do whatever you want” - triggered a volcano in my body. We did everything but fully unite bodies. I played in the taboo zone with my finger and gave my offerings with my tongue. Her nocturnal presence reminded me that life can be generous, if only for a few hours a day. […] I would look at my hand after touching her breast and could not believe that a few hours later it would touch the body of another man. Her naked body started to flash in my mind as I washed, and often I felt guilty20.

  • 21 Taking sexual advantage of a woman, sexual abuse or rape in Iraq can lead the predator to marry his (...)
  • 22 Ibid, p.153.

14The reader must have rapidly noticed the difference between the two men concerning their attitude towards their own bodies and towards their partners’ bodies. Jawad clearly sees Ghaydaʾ as an equal partner and under – relatively – similar circumstances, they both have control of their own bodies and the way they relate to other bodies. Ghaydaʾ’s initiative to start this physical romance on her own terms indicates an awareness of how to enact her desires and use her body for her empowerment. Jawad’s gratefulness and happiness over enjoying the encounters with Ghaydaʾ on these terms shows that he feels as threatened as she is in the eyes of society, which means they understand their sexuality as of equal value and as equally empowering for each of them. It also shows how both characters separate sex from emotions; Ghaydaʾ’s love to Jawad does not imply sacrificing her «capital» i.e., virginity; Jawad’s enjoyment of Ghaydaʾ’s body neither entitles him to possess her, nor to feel the moral obligation of marrying her21. The imagery of fleeing from nightmares to their bodies summarizes the poetics of sexuality in contemporary Iraqi fiction where corporeal awareness represents a reality that is silenced by the bizarre and surreal violence of wars, occupation and sectarian conflicts. There is also an interesting parallelism that Jawad establishes between his sexuality and death at the end of the selected extract: Touching Ghaydaʾ’s breast is contrasted with touching a male corpse; washing corpses in a way obliterates Jawad’s vital desires as it fills him with dread every time he touches a lifeless man’s body, as if death inhabits his body: «My entire body was full of Ghaydaʾ, but my heart was full of death»22. At the same time, feeling guilty when Ghaydaʾ’s naked body flashes in his mind while washing male corpses, means death trigger images of life in his mind in order to keep him vital while he is in the presence of death. In a way, life feeds off death and death feeds off life, which is a recurrent leitmotif throughout the novel. Nevertheless, as far as sexuality is concerned, Jawad’s physical affair with Ghaydaʾ gives both a sense of life amongst the death that threatened them and their families: enjoying each other’s bodies represents a biological defense mechanism so that they can cope with the horrors of sectarian violence that filled the streets of Baghdad with the blood of its own people.

  • 23 The novel was published in Arabic in 2004, the English translation was published in 2007.

15The Corpse Washer is not the unique case in contemporary Iraqi fiction, there is a tendency among the generations of authors who became popular after the US invasion to subvert the assertive but at the same time anxious masculinity that was representative of the Iraqi identity in the hegemonic socio-political discourse. In his other novel, I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (2004)23 the standard image of the Iraqi hero – i.e. narcissistic, masculine and overwhelmed with sexual desires – is shifted to give visibility to silenced and marginalized masculinities. In some instances of the novel there is a parallelism between functional diversity as an instrument of empowerment and hegemonic masculinity as an instrument of torture. There are other examples of redefining masculinity in contemporary Iraqi fiction such as Alia Mamdouh’s latest novel, Al-Tashahy “The Yearning” (2007) where she questions the very structures of masculinity by bringing together questions of identity loss, obesity and erectile dysfunction as a dysfunction in the constituents of the human condition. Alia Mamdouh explores the post-occupation Iraq by distorting the masculine gaze that built its image in media and political propaganda. Author Mayada Khalil in her second novel Al-Hayāt min Thuqb Al-Bāb “The Life through a Keyhole” (2018) mixes realism with superpowers in an apparently ordinary tale of an Iraqi woman’s life. In this novel Khalil subverts the narratives of sexuality which modern Iraqi authors employed. Unlike them, Khalil employs male sexuality to expose social and political decadence and female sexuality, as the realm of self-reaffirmation, which presents itself as the last line of resistance against corruption, political decadence and patriarchy. The stories of Hassan Blasim present an extensive range of questionable masculinities which he employs to register the horrors of the Iraqi experience in wars and occupation.

  • 24 Mīm is the Arabic equivalent of LGBTQ.

16These works among many others present critical reflections on the mechanisms of gender hierarchies and the role of masculinist thinking in the destruction of the Iraqi state in 2003 and the endless battle against political corruption since then. These reflections are accompanied by social activism such as Iraqi women movements and Iraqi intellectual activism who managed to ban the passing the modification of the Iraqi civil code proposed by the parliament in 2017, which caused and international controversy for its content that allow parents and custodians to consent marriage of underage females to adult males. Besides, the emergence of Mīm community24 and the first gender rights organization, IraQueer, in 2015, mark the beginning of the first LGBTQ movement in Iraq.


17The contrast between male voices in the novels Al-Rajʿ Al-BaīdThe Long Way Back” (1980) by Fouʾād Al-Tikerly and The Corpse Washer (2010) by Sinan Antoon implies different conceptualizations of sexuality. Unlike modern Iraqi authors who used sexuality to express modernity and political concerns in anti-colonial contexts by potentiating patriarchal values, Iraqi contemporary fiction presents new formulations of masculinities which are more egalitarian and inclusive. As the comparison of the two heterosexual sex scenes in the selected novels has shown, these new formulations employ sexuality to empower subaltern voices in an anti-colonial globalized context, and to establish forms of resistance against the stigmatization of the Iraqi self who suffered under hegemonic patriarchy promoted by nationalist dictatorship and orientalist colonialism.

Al-Ānī, Shujāʿ Muslim, Al-Meraʾe fi Al-qissa Al-Iʿraqiyya Women in Iraqi Fiction, Baghdad, 1972 Ministry of Media, Department of Culture.

Al-Tikerly, Fouʾād, Baṣqah fī Wajeh Al-Hayāt “Spit in the Face of Life”, Germany, 2000, Al-Kamel Verlag.

________, Al-Rajʿ Al-BaīdThe Long Way Back”, Baghdad, 32015, Al-Mada.

Al-Wardi, Ali: Shakhssiat Al-ferd Al-iraqi (The Personality of the Iraqi Individual) Dar Leyla, London, 2001.

Antoon, Sinan, The Corpse Washer, New Haven and London, 2013, Yale University Press.

Arnove, Anthony: Barūm, Mahmū & Mohammad, Raghdah, Trans: Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, Beirut 2007, Arab Institute for research & Publishing.

Bahoora, Haytham, “The Figure of the Prostitute, Tajdid and masculinity in anti-colonial Iraq” in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies Vol. 11 No. 1 2015.

Foucault, Michel & Sheridan, Alan (Trans.), Discipline and Punish, New York, 1995, Vintage Books.

Hersh, Seymour: «The Gray Zone» in The New Yorker, retrieved 09.07.2018,​magazine/​2004/​05/​24/​the-gray-zone

Jabra, Jabra I., «Modern Arabic Literature and the West», Journal of Arabic Literature 2: 76-91.

Moughrabi, Fouad M.: «The Arab Basic Personality: A Critical Survey of the Literature», International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan., 1978), p. 99-112.

Puar, Jasbir K., Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, Durham and London, 2007, Duke University Press.

Rohde, Achim, «Opportunities for Masculinity and Love: Cultural Production in Ba’athist Iraq during the 1980s» in Islamic Masculinities, Lahoucine Ouzgame (Ed.), London New York, 2006, Zed books, p. 184-201.

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1 This article is part of the research project "Construction of Identities, Gender and Artistic Creation in the Margins of Arabness" (FFI2014-58487-P) funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain).

2 References and citations from Fou’ād Al-Tikerly’s works are translated from Arabic by myself.

3 Bahoora, The Figure of the Prostitute, p. 45.

4 My translation: Al-Ānī, Al-Mara’e fi Al-qiṣa Al-Iraqiyya (Women in Iraqi Fiction), p. 57.

5 Jabra, Arabic Literature and the West, p. 79.

6 Ibid, p. 88.

7 Ibid.

8 Al-Wardy used the Arabic word ‘jins’, which means both sex and gender.

9 My translation. Shakhssiat Al-ferd Al-iraqi (The Personality of the Iraqi Individual), p.58.

10 Ibid, p. 67.

11 Rohde, Opportunities for Masculinity and Love, p. 190.

12 Ibid, p. 189.

13 Hersh, «The Gray Zone», The New Yorker.

14 Arnove, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, p. 60 (Arabic translation)

15 Moughrabi, The Arab Basic Personality: A Critical Survey of the Literature, p. 112.

16 Puar, Terrorist Assemblages, p. 87.

17 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 202-203.

18 Al-Rajʿ Al-Baīd “The Long Way Back”, p. 318 – 326, emphasis added.

19 Ibid, p. 262.

20 The Corpse Washer, p. 151 – 152.

21 Taking sexual advantage of a woman, sexual abuse or rape in Iraq can lead the predator to marry his victim in order to preserve the girl’s honor.

22 Ibid, p.153.

23 The novel was published in Arabic in 2004, the English translation was published in 2007.

24 Mīm is the Arabic equivalent of LGBTQ.

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Hanan Jasim Khammas, « Overcoming sexuality. Ideology & Masculinity in Iraqi Fiction before and after 2003 »TRANS- [En ligne], 23 | 2018, mis en ligne le 18 octobre 2018, consulté le 23 mars 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Hanan Jasim Khammas

PhD candidate in literary theory and comparative literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Research field: body studies and contemporary Arabic fiction. Member of the research project: Construction of Identities, Gender and Artistic Creation in the Margins of Arabness, University of Barcelona.

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