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"There are no real virgins in Tehran"

Great essay in DoubleX about Iranian sexuality by author Janet Afary, a professor of religion and women's studies and the author of the book Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Here she talks about the shifting attitudes towards sexuality among young people:

Today dating is even more common despite continued parental objections and state prohibitions. In an Iranian feminist publication, I saw an interview with an assistant principal in one of the lower middle class schools of south Tehran. The principal said that while young girls of her own generation skipped school to go to parks and cinemas with boys, her students go to their boyfriends’ houses or their own houses. And yes, they sometimes have sex.

In some cases, fathers assist sons, and mothers quietly help daughters. When a veiled mother was brought into the principal’s office and told about her daughter’s secret dating, she confessed that to protect her daughter from her father’s wrath and the morality police on the streets, “on occasion I tell her to bring her friend home with her and I go into the kitchen giving them some privacy.”

Much like the stories I've heard from Turkish women, the importance of virginity is waning, although not the importance of maintaining the illusion of virginity:

Among the more cosmopolitan middle classes, virginity is no longer crucial. Greater access to cars has meant greater privacy, allowing more women to become sexually active before marriage. Many women from the more pious middle classes have premarital sex and then a hymen repair operation before getting married. The popularity of the operation has resulted in numerous jokes that in Tehran, there are “no real virgins.”...

...In Tehran and the big cities, young people might obtain a simple certificate of temporary marriage to avoid the morality police when they go to the Caspian Sea resort for summer vacation. They then annul the vow when they get home.

There are problems, however, not unlike in the US. Here and there, the double standard reigns supreme:

Although premarital sex is becoming more common among urban youth, the young men feel little responsibility or obligation toward the young women they sleep with. Few use contraceptives, and the burden of avoiding pregnancy falls mostly on the women. Young women also have no legal protection from sexual molestation and rape, unless they admit to the authorities that they engaged in premarital sex, in which case the woman’s punishment is harsher than that of the male perpetrator.

Unlike the situation here in the US, the Iranian government actually sponsors sex education classes:

Couples attended required state-sponsored sex education classes before marriage; many young urban and rural women first learned about female orgasm in these classes. These two major changes—greater literacy and sex education—altered the institution of marriage and attitudes about sexuality.


Afary includes a link to a strange little video from a condom factory in Iran. Scoot forward to the 4-minute mark to see fascinating footage of one of these mixed-sex classes. If you can't see it above, click this link.