Girls wear makeup, go with their hair uncovered, drink, have boyfriends and premarital sex: For seven years, anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi has studied the sexual revolution in Iran, the Ventura Country Star reports.
Those actions could have brought harsh punishment and even jail time in the past. But now the sheer numbers of young people overwhelm the morality police, who must often turn a blind eye on offenders, she said during a lecture.
Many parents are onboard with the changes:
Before 2002, women could not wear open-toe shoes, and then suddenly women began to openly defy the law, and you saw many, many women wearing sandals and flip-flops without any recrimination. I think they wear red lipstick just to irritate authority.
Several of Mahdavi’s research subjects reported that by the summer of 2007, their parents considered premarital dating normal and acceptable. And while a parent in the US might be mortified by having to bail out their child from jail after an arrest at a rowdy party, some of Mahdavi’s adults happily come to their children’s rescue and forego any punishment of their own.
Mahdavi also writes of several parties put on by parents for their children and friends, and the parents come out looking more unrestrained than the younger generation. This observation is probably the most startling in the entire book: the fact that the older generation has begun to consider social behaviors as a form of protest against governmental restrictions is a clear piece of evidence that behavioral fashions are spreading to new segments of the population, beyond the young, wealthy and secular.
He writes that “the most startling and groundbreaking aspect of Mahdavi’s book is her description of the activities of young Iranians behind their bedroom doors. Not only are the book’s subjects frank and honest about their own liberal attitudes to sex, they have even provided Mahdavi with direct access to a group-sex party.
Mahdavi, who is a trained medical anthropologist and Del Jones Award Winner, adds that the sexual revolution has its problematic aspects:
I started this project looking at things from a public health standpoint — what about sex education, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases? The public health aspect is alarming. There is much premarital sex, but no sex education in schools, and almost all sex is unprotected. A condom can’t be purchased without proof of marriage. The young are largely uninformed about the risks of sex.
Laura Secor has written a long review in The Nation (15.12.08)
The book was reviewed in The Australian (22.11.08)