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Moshko the Jew and His Gay Friends: Same-Sex Sexual Relations in Ottoman Jewish Society

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This article investigates homosexual relations and the discourse about them among Ottoman Jews. Jewish sources reveal a substantial gap between ethical and moral demands and the life of the general public. They also attest to the visibility and prevalence of sexual relations between males, despite the explicit biblical prohibition and later interdictions. In Ottoman urban society, gender and sexual preference were not naturally given but were determined by status and a complex of social behaviors. The Jewish and general public had no interest in the individual's sexual practices and showed a certain degree of tolerance to the point of de-facto legitimization, as long as social order and norms were kept.


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