Iran’s Sexual Revolution

Taking the lead from Pardis Mahdavi’s latest book, Passionate Uprisings, The Nation looks at Iran’s ‘sexual revolution’ in these days of political dissent and upheaval.

Somehow, one suspects that the grassroots push to change sexual mores cannot be totally divorced from the effort, on the part of feminist activists but also some reformist parliamentarians and even liberal-minded clerics, to improve the status of Iranian women under the law. But the women in Mahdavi’s study seem to occupy a wholly perplexing historical moment, or a palimpsest of historical moments. They live in a theocracy with a premodern, religious legal code, and they are undergoing, all at once, what we in the West would recognize as a 1960s-style sexual revolution, 1970s-style second-wave feminism and the contemporary postfeminist embrace of female sexuality, with all its complexities. The messages these women receive are mixed, to say the least.