Tattoos, satin heels and pet snakes: the men redefining masculinity in the Middle East

By Sarah Moroz

After the Arab spring, photographer Scarlett Coten set out on a four-year journey around the Middle East, searching for a new generation of liberated men

‘We all have a feminine and a masculine side,” says French photographer Scarlett Coten. “Why would sensuality or tenderness be especially feminine?” Her series of portraits of young men from Middle Eastern countries, entitled Mectoub, asks this very question – not just of her subjects, but also of their viewers.

The men vary widely. Many look as if they could be roaming around Belleville, the up-and-coming Paris neighbourhood where our interview takes place. Hazem, for example, was photographed in an abandoned palace in Cairo, wearing a red polo shirt and matching satin red heels. A dancer and choreographer, he once staged a ballet about gender and used the heels in his performance.

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