April 5, 2009

Modern Application of Pleasure in Iran

This post is an excerpt of an intersting article.


Modern Application of Pleasure in Iran

Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, by Janet Afary, takes advantage of modern historiography methods and offers an interesting explanation of gender and sexuality transformation in political, cultural and social contexts of 19th and 20th century Iran.

Very foundation of the book is about sexual revolution in Iran which somehow began with Constitutionalism Movement, had ups and downs, and finally got accelerated in the age of Islamic Republic and compulsory dress code, i.e. Hijab.

This sexual revolution as well as transformation of the meaning and application of Gender and Sexuality is a byproduct of long standing interaction of Iranian society with Ottoman Empire, Russia and West, rise of democratic reforms as well as modern nationalism in Iran.

History of Sexuality in Iran

Sheikh Saadi, known as Morality Teacher, writes: "at the height of youthfulness, as it happens and you are very well aware, I had some sort of affairs with a gorgeous one, a boy."

Amir Onsorol-ma-Ali enjoins his son, Gilan Shah, that: "between boy-slaves and women, do not limit yourself to just one type, so as to enjoy both kinds," and "in summer approach boy-slaves and in winter go to women."

Moreover, Rumi, whose spiritual and mystique status is well recognized, explicitly uses bodily terms to describe sexual intercourse.

Today, however, we can never think of a morality teacher, father or mystique who, following example of Saadi, Amir Onsorol-ma-Ali or Rumi, confesses to homosexual affairs, describes such a relationship or explicitly uses sexual terms.

It's clear that all of the above figures, similar to today teachers, fathers and mystiques, were very well aware of Sharia and morality principles.

Another point is that the lexicon we currently use in Persian to describe erotic events is fundamentally different from the one used up to a century ago.

Gender, sexuality, sexual relationship, homosexuality and some other similar terms are all brand new expressions in Persian. Previous generations, however, had been used to thinking about and speaking about such subjects, and had had a rich lexicon to do so. Hence, is this lingual revolution just a matter of linguistics or, on the contrary, it reflects a comprehensive transformation of subjective and objective worlds of Iranians and Iranian Society?

Sexual Politics in Modern Iran is an answer to above questions as well as some other ones pertaining to transformation of sexuality and sexual pleasure in modern Iran. Here, Modern refers to something more than just contemporary or today.

Sexuality in today Iran is different from it in old Iran, for we have got modernized and modernity has fundamentally changed our understanding and experience of sexuality.

The most important characteristic of the book is its research method. Janet Afary, a well known historian who is mainly experienced in the history of past two centuries of Iran, tries to study modern sexuality and gender transformations with regards to establishment of modern medical, health, legal, religious and political entities in Iran.

In the first part of the book, she proclaims that before Constitutionalism Movement, homosexuality, polygamy, temporary marriage, sex segregation and extended families had been some usual manners that had never faced objection. However, rise of Constitutionalism Movement and agencies attributed to it gave rise to the question of Social Justice and some new regulations were gradually enacted that transformed sexual morale of Iranian society.

In addition, she explains that, for example, modern health in Iran undermined religious justifications for sex segregation, overturned religious understanding of Clean and Unclean, and gave rise to a new understanding of feminine body which granted her a new social role. Medical advancements regarding abortion and repairing hymen led to establishing some new regulations and had a lasting influence on sexual identity of and sexual interaction among citizens.

In addition, rise of police department made the body, especially feminine body, the field of cultural and political conflict. Therefore, Hijab, for the first time in Iran’s history, turned into a social problem and a concern for the government.

Modernity and New Order of Sexual Life

Probably most of the people believe that modernity is followed by more sexual freedom and life in the age of tradition had always been bound to legal and customary restrictions which had severely limited sexual pleasure. Janet Afary believes that such a perception is so naïve and illusive. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran restates that heterosexuality and monogamy, as the only legal, justified norm of sexual behavior, were not enforced by the tradition; in fact, these norms and their moral-legal dominance is a byproduct of modern age.

In fact, modernity in Iran undermined pluralistic and free tradition of sexuality and legalized a simple form of marriage and heterosexuality. For example, even though gay and lesbian behaviors were forbidden by the Sharia, before the advent of constitutional monarch and more exactly before Pahlavi Dynasty assumed power, such behaviors were accepted among various social classes and having intimate relationship and even screwing gorgeous boys was, to an extent, a common practice.

Referring to deeply rooted mystique tradition in Iran, Afary states that Love did not essentially mean an emotional relationship between man and woman and it would include homosexual intimacy as well. Hence, love and sex between persons of the same sex is considered a taboo just in modern times, which is far different from older Love Customs.

Sexual Politics in Iran narrates the transition from older Love Customs to Modern Sexual Economy of Islamic Republic.

Reader finally comes to understand that the tradition backing Islamic Republic is not a historical tradition, but a tradition founded by that political and ideological regime.

For example, even though Sharia had maintained that adulterers should be stoned to death, few examples of older regimes practicing this punishment are available. In the old times, not merely in Iran but also in whole mideast, one can rarely think of a ruler trying a mid-class woman accused of adultery and finally stoning her to death.


julia said...

Hello Mohammed, I enjoy reading your blog very much! This post intrigues me because of the reference to homosexuality in the Pahlavi dynasty and the relationship to social class. Do you think that prevails today, too, where homosexuality is silently tolerated when the individual(s) involved are of great priviledge?

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