A harem structure is ambiguous. The most distinguishable trait is the group of polyamorous females or males who accompany the protagonist and, in some instances, live with the protagonist. Intimacy is customary but never necessary.
A reverse harem is the gender opposite of a "straight"-harem, wherein a harem is directed towards male protagonists with women and/or gay men courting the protagonist. In a reverse harem, it focuses on female protagonists who are being courted by males and/or lesbians, usually seven or more.
Harem endings typically follow two different routes, the main character ends up with one or more of the women. Occasionally, a "harem ending" occurs where the main protagonist ends with all of the women, but this is more common in works intended for older audiences.
Harem is considered to be one of the most traditional genres of anime and manga in respect to depicted sexual relationships, as most are heterosexual. However, this condition is not mandatory, and work in the genre can contain characters of various gender identities or sexualities. "Reverse harems" garner popularity, as they sometimes have the harem's genders mixed up without regard for the protagonist's sex or gender.
Harem (Persian: حرمسرا haramsarā, Arabic: حَرِيمٌ ḥarīm, "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family") refers to domestic spaces that are reserved for the women of the house in a Muslim family. A harem may house a man's wife or wives, their pre-pubescent male children, unmarried daughters, female domestic servants, and other unmarried female relatives. In harems of the past, slave concubines were also housed in the harem. In former times some harems were guarded by eunuchs who were allowed inside. The structure of the harem and the extent of monogamy or polygamy has varied depending on the family's personalities, socio-economic status, and local customs. Similar institutions have been common in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations, especially among royal and upper-class families, and the term is sometimes used in other contexts. In traditional Persian residential architecture the women's quarters were known as andaruni (Persian: اندرونی; meaning inside), and in the Indian subcontinent as zenana (Persian: زنانه).
In the West, Orientalist conceptions of the harem as a hidden world of sexual subjugation where numerous women lounged in suggestive poses have influenced many paintings, stage productions, films and literary works. Some earlier European Renaissance paintings dating to the 16th century portray the women of the Ottoman harem as individuals of status and political significance. In many periods of Islamic history, women in the harem exercised various degrees of political power, such as the Sultanate of Women in the Ottoman Empire.
The word has been recorded in the English language since the early 17th century. It comes from the Arabic ḥarīm, which can mean "a sacred inviolable place", "harem" or "female members of the family". In English the term harem can mean also "the wives (or concubines) of a polygamous man." The triliteral Ḥ-R-M appears in other terms related to the notion of interdiction such as haram (forbidden), mahram (unmarriageable relative), ihram (a pilgrim's state of ritual consecration during the Hajj) and al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf ("the noble sanctuary", which can refer to the Temple Mount or the sanctuary of Mecca).
The practice of female seclusion is not exclusive to Islam, but the English word harem usually denotes the domestic space reserved for women in Muslim households. Some scholars have used the term to refer to polygynous royal households throughout history.
Where historical evidence is available, it indicates that the harem was much more likely to be monogamous. For example, in late Ottoman Istanbul, only 2.29 percent of married men were polygynous, with the average number of wives being 2.08. In some regions, like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, prevalence of women in agricultural work leads to wider practice of polygyny but makes seclusion impractical. In contrast, in Eurasian and North African rural communities that rely on male-dominated plough farming, seclusion is economically possible but polygyny is undesirable. This indicates that the fundamental characteristic of the harem is seclusion of women rather than polygyny.
The idea of the harem or seclusion of women did not originate with Muhammad or Islam. The practice of secluding women was common to many Ancient Near East communities, especially where polygamy was permitted. In pre-Islamic Assyria and Persia, most royal courts had a harem, where the ruler's wives and concubines lived with female attendants, and eunuchs. Encyclopædia Iranica uses the term harem to describe the practices of the ancient Near East.
The popular assumption that Pharaonic Egypt had a harem is however an anachronism; while the women and children of the pharaoh, including his mother, wives, and children, had their own living quarters with its own administration in the Palace of the Pharaoh, the royal women did not live isolated from contact with men or in seclusion from the rest of the court in the way associated with the term "harem". The custom of referring to the women's quarters of the pharaoh's palace as a "harem" is therefore apocryphal, and has been used because of incorrect assumptions that Ancient Egypt was similar to later Islamic harem culture.
A number of regulations were designed to prevent disputes among the women from developing into political intrigues. The women were guarded by the eunuchs who also prevented their disputes from developing into political plots, banned from giving gifts to their servants (as such gifts could be used as bribes) and not allowed any visitors who had not been examined and approved by officials. When the king traveled, his harem traveled with him, strictly supervised so as not breaking regulations even under transport.
These traditional Greek ideals were revived as an ideal for women in the Byzantine Empire (in which Greek culture eventually became dominant), though the rigid ideal norms of seclusion expressed in Byzantine literature did not necessarily reflect actual practice. The Byzantine Emperors were Greek Orthodox and did not have several wives - or official concubines - secluded in a harem. When Greek culture started to replace the Roman in the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century, it came to be seen as modest for especially upper-class women to keep to a special women's quarters (gynaikonitis), and until the 12th century, men and women are known to have participated in gender-segregated banquets at the Imperial Court; however Imperial women still appeared in public and did not live in seclusion, and the idealized gender segregation was never fully enforced.
There is no evidence of among early Iranians for harem practices, that is, to take large numbers of wives or concubines and keeping them in seclusion. However, Iranian dynasties are said to have adopted harem practices after their conquests in the Middle East, where such practices were used in some cultures such as Assyria (the Median Empire conquered Assyria in the 7th-century BC, and Media transformed into the Achaemenid Empire). According to Greek sources, the nobility of the Medes kept no less than five wives, who were watched over by eunuchs.
Greek historians have reported about the harems of the Achaemenid Empire. Herodotus reported that each Persian royal or aristocratic man had several wives and concubines, who came to the husband on a well-regulated turn-basis. and had sole control over their children until these were five years old.
However, it is a matter of debate if the Achaemenid court had a full harem culture, as women do not appear to have been fully secluded in the harem. The fact that women lived in separate quarters at the Royal Palace does not necessarily mean that they were secluded from contact with men, and despite the (possibly biased) Greek reports, there is no archeological evidence supporting the existence of a harem, or the seclusion of women from contact with men, at the Achaemenid court.
Little is known about the alleged harems of the Parthians. Parthian royal men reportedly had several wives and kept them fairly secluded from all men but relatives and eunuchs. According to Roman sources, Parthian kings had harems full of female slaves and hetairas secluded from contact with men, and royal women were not allowed to participate in the royal banquets. Also aristocratic Parthian men appear to have had harems, as Roman sources report of rich men travelling with hundreds of guarded concubines. However, the Roman reports about Parthian harems seem to mirror the traditional Greek reports about the Achaemenid harems, and they similarly are biased, and cannot be verified by archeological evidence.
However, while the Sasanian kings had harems, women in the Sassanid Empire in general did not live in seclusion and elaborate harems were detested and appear to have been exceptions to the rule, which is illustrated by the fact that big harems when they occurred, were abhorred by the public.
According to Sasanian legend, of all the Persian kings, Khosrow II was the most extravagant in his hedonism. He searched his realm to find the most beautiful girls, and it was rumored that about 3,000 of them were kept in his harem. This practice was widely condemned by the public, who abhorred of him keeping those girls in seclusion and denying them the benefit of marriage and progeny, and it was counted as the fourth of the eight crimes for which he was later tried and executed. Khosrow himself claimed that he sent his favorite wife Shirin every year to offer them a possibility of leaving his harem with a dowry for marriage, but that their luxurious lifestyle always prompted them to refuse his offer. 041b061a72