Cambridge University Press

Sexual Politics in Modern Iran

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Date: April 27, 2009

ISBN-10: 0521727081

ISBN-13: 978-0521727082

Translations:

Drawing on my experience growing up in Iran and engaging Iranian women of different ages and social strata, this project charts the history of Iran’s sexual revolution from the 19th century to the early 21st century.

Sexual Politics in Modern Iran focuses on gender and sexuality and draws on her experience of growing up in Iran and her involvement with Iranian women of different ages and social strata. These observations, and a wealth of historical documents, form the kernel of this book, which charts the history of the nation’s sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today. What comes across is the extraordinary resilience of the Iranian people, who have drawn on a rich social and cultural heritage to defy the repression and hardship of the Islamist state and its predecessors. It is this resilience, the author concludes, which forms the basis of a sexual revolution taking place in Iran today, one that is promoting reforms in marriage and family laws, and demanding more egalitarian gender and sexual relations.

Table of Contents

Part I.  Premodern Practices
  • Chapter 1.  Formal Marriage
  • Chapter 2.  Slave Concubinage, Temporary Marriage, and Harem Wives
  • Chapter 3.  Class, Status-Defined Homosexuality, and Rituals of Courtship
Part II.  Toward a Westernized Modernity
  • Chapter 4.  On the Road to an Ethos of Monogamous, Heterosexual Marriage
  • Chapter 5.   Redefining Purity, Unveiling Bodies, and Shifting Desires
  • Chapter 6.  Imperialist Politics, Romantic Love, and the Impasse over Women’s Suffrage
  • Chapter 7.  Suffrage, Marriage Reforms, and the Threat of Female Sexuality
  • Chapter 8.  The Rise of Leftist Guerrilla Organizations and Islamist Movements
Part III.  Forging an Islamist Modernity and Beyond
  • Chapter 9.   The Islamic Revolution, Its Sexual Economy, and the Left
  • Chapter 10.  Islamist Women and the Emergence of Islamic Feminism
  • Chapter 11.  Birth Control, Female Sexual Awakening, and the Gay Lifestyle
  • Conclusion:  Toward a New Muslim-Iranian Sexuality for the Twenty-First Century

Amal Ghandour, On Women and the Egyptian Uprising, Midan Masr Online, February 28, 2012.

Mehri Honarbin-Holliday, Feminist Review, 98, 2011

L’homophilie oubliée de la société iranienne, 01 décembre 2011.

Ferdinando Calda, Iran. Educazione sessuale nel Paese degli ayatollah, 14 Settembre 2011.

Majid Rafizadeh, Women’s Struggle for Gender Equality, Santa Barbara Independent, May 11, 2011.

EXPORTAÇÃO DA HOMOFOBIA OCIDENTAL, July 6, 2010

Catherine Sameh, Behind the Women in Green: Sex and Iran’s Unstoppable Resistance, Against the Current, March-April 2010, pp 29-30.

John Foran, Contemporary Sociology, January 2010 39: 15-16

Fariba Zarinebaf, Middle East Journal , vol.64, No. 2, 2010.

Lisa Thiele, Jungle World Nr. 17, 29. April 2010 (German)

Catherine Sameh, Sex & Iran’s Unstoppable Resistance, Solidarity, March-April 2010.

L. Beck, Choice, v.47, no. 07, March 2010.

Carol Hunt, Behind the Veil, Iran’s Women As Ambitious As We Are, Independent.ie, June 21 2009.

Dana Goldstein, Iran and the Veil, The Group Blog of The American Prospect, June 17, 2009.

Naindeep Singh Chann, Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire, Iran and the Caucasus, Volume 13, Number 2, 2009.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.

Written by a historian of Iran, this volume is a study of the contentious issues of gender and sexuality in modern Iranian politics (19th century to the present day). Afary (history and women’s studies, Purdue) bases her work on the published literature, sources available only electronically, some interviews, and a brief visit to Tehran in 2005. Many books on this subject already exist, but this new one offers a fresh perspective. Afary’s main theme is that veiling and gender separation in Iran preserved male privileges in homosocial spaces that would otherwise be lost if women entered public spaces. She discusses how the Iranian state revived premodern social conventions by reinforcing them through modern means; she outlines the continuing process of producing modern versions of gender inequality. The inclusion of profiles of some women, such as Zahra Rahnavard (wife of Mir-Hossein Musavi, the runner-up in the tumultuous 2009 presidential election), is informative. With her emphasis on various forms of male homosexuality in Iran through time, Afary has written a useful companion to Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (CH, Jan’06, 43-3098). The volume contains illustrations, including photographs and cartoons, and a lengthy bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —

L. Beck, Washington University, Saint Louis

Birds and Cages: Reading Sex and the State in Janet Afary’s Sexual Politics in Modern Iran

By Amy Littlefield, New Politics, Volume XII, Number 4, Winter 2010

Janet Afary is hopeful about the future of women’s rights in Iran. And she identifies many reasons to be so, from secret individual acts of resistance by women against husbands, fathers, and dictators to collective feminist struggle and today’s One Million Signatures Campaign for equal rights. But Sexual Politics in Modern Iran also reveals the full force of the cultural and political systems that the Iranian movement for gender equality confronts. Stories such as that of the teenage homosexual couple executed and tortured in 2006 and the sixteen-year-old girl publicly hanged for having extramarital sex in 2004 have garnered international outrage against Iran. But the stories cannot exist out of context, and Afary meticulously unravels the hundreds of years of power and patriarchy that have molded today’s Iranian sexual and political landscape

more  >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Divided Iran on the Eve

By Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009

The East–West battle over gender is brilliantly described by Janet Afary in her groundbreaking survey Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. As in other patrilineal societies the woman is the “door of entry to the group.” Improper behavior on her part can expose her community and family to all sorts of hidden dangers. Systems such as these

exercise a double standard wherein a woman’s infidelity (but not a man’s) is seen to allow tangible and damaging impurities to infiltrate the family, both physically and morally…. A woman’s sexual and reproductive functions turned her body into a contested site of potential and real ritual contamination. The concept of namus (honor) and the need to control women’s chastity may be related to this fear of sexual contamination.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ahmadinejad’s Brutal Campaign Against Gays

The New York Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 13 · August 13, 2009
By Doug Ireland, Reply by Malise Ruthven
In response to Divided Iran on the Eve (July 2, 2009)

To the Editors:

Malise Ruthven’s “Divided Iran on the Eve” [NYR, July 2] ignores how Janet Afary’s superb book, Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, contains the most complete, sensitive, and rigorously documented account of how extensively homosexuality was woven into the cultural and social history of Iran for over a thousand years.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Iran’s History Comes Out

By Doug Ireland, In These Times, March 20, 2009

A leading Iranian scholar in exile has published a new work of history and analysis that is a howitzer aimed squarely at the hypocrisies of today’s sexually repressive theocratic Iranian regime — whose violent repression of the women’s movement and lethal campaign to purge homosexuality have revolted the world.

Janet Afary’s Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, March) meticulously details the historical evolution of gender and sexuality, and of the roles and customs of women and same-sexers, from pre-modern Persia (500 to 1500 A.D.) right through the sexual revolution that began in Iran seven decades ago.

This panorama of Iranian sexual and gender mores and behavior, informed by a deep understanding of the role of class in the molding of sexual codes, will be a seminal work for years to come. And by reclaiming a richly textured, hidden history that the ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran have tried to erase, the book gives today’s vibrant Iranian women’s movement—and the nascent agitation by Iranian queers for their own liberation—a powerful weapon.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

تاریخِ پنهانِ همجنسگرایی در ایران

بررسی کتاب «سیاست‌های جنسی در ایرانِ مدرن» ژانت آفاری

بررسی کتاب: داگ ایرلند

ترجمه ی چراغ

آبان ۱۲, ۱۳۸۸ در ۱:۱۱ ق.ظ · در دسته چراغ ۵۸

چراغ: وقتی داشتیم جمله‌های آخر این نوشته را ترجمه می‌کردیم متوجه شدیم که وبلاگ «پسر» ترجمه‌ی همین نوشته‌ را بخش‌بخش دارد منتشر می‌کند، و احتمالا تا زمان انتشار نشریه همه‌ی بخش‌های‌اش منتشر شده است. جا دارد از اقدام وبلاگ «پسر» برای عرضه و/یا ترجمه‌ی چنین نوشته‌های روشن‌گری سپاس‌گذاری کنیم و تلاشِ وی و هم‌کاران‌اش را قدر بدانیم. و امیدواریم حاصل تلاش‌های مترجمین و نویسندگان دگرباش را بتوانیم در کتاب‌خانه‌ی دگرباشان داشته باشیم

<<

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book Review

Shereen El Feki, International Affairs 85: 4, 2009

When Ayatollah Khomeini swept to power 30 years ago, some of the most memorable images of Iran’s Islamic Revolution were the country’s women, enveloped in chador and hijab. They had, quite literally, faded to black, as did Iran’s reputation on women’s rights. Within months, the country went from being a leading advocate of gender reforms in the developing world to being home to some of the most repressive legislation in the modern world. How this rapid transition came to pass, and how it has panned out, is the subject of Janet Afary’s comprehensive look at sexuality in Iran. From the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the end of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Iran had moved towards women’s rights: greater education, health and employment opportunities; female suffrage; and some legal protections including more equitable rights to divorce, restrictions on polygamy and a rise in the legal age of marriage. This was all part of the regime’s broader plan for modernization and capitalist development.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Iranian scholar digs up hidden history of homosexuality in Iran

By Doug Ireland, The Historians in the News, February 20, 2009

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance that “”In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.

Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years.

“Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By Nazila Fathi, The New York Times, February 13, 2009

TEHRAN — In a year of marriage, Razieh Qassemi, 19, says she was beaten repeatedly by her husband and his father. Her husband, she says, is addicted to methamphetamine and has threatened to marry another woman to “torture” her.

Rather than endure the abuse, Ms. Qassemi took a step that might never have occurred to an earlier generation of Iranian women: she filed for divorce.

more >>>

Overview

Drawing on my experience growing up in Iran and engaging Iranian women of different ages and social strata, this project charts the history of Iran’s sexual revolution from the 19th century to the early 21st century.

Sexual Politics in Modern Iran focuses on gender and sexuality and draws on her experience of growing up in Iran and her involvement with Iranian women of different ages and social strata. These observations, and a wealth of historical documents, form the kernel of this book, which charts the history of the nation’s sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today. What comes across is the extraordinary resilience of the Iranian people, who have drawn on a rich social and cultural heritage to defy the repression and hardship of the Islamist state and its predecessors. It is this resilience, the author concludes, which forms the basis of a sexual revolution taking place in Iran today, one that is promoting reforms in marriage and family laws, and demanding more egalitarian gender and sexual relations.

Table of Contents

Part I.  Premodern Practices
  • Chapter 1.  Formal Marriage
  • Chapter 2.  Slave Concubinage, Temporary Marriage, and Harem Wives
  • Chapter 3.  Class, Status-Defined Homosexuality, and Rituals of Courtship
Part II.  Toward a Westernized Modernity
  • Chapter 4.  On the Road to an Ethos of Monogamous, Heterosexual Marriage
  • Chapter 5.   Redefining Purity, Unveiling Bodies, and Shifting Desires
  • Chapter 6.  Imperialist Politics, Romantic Love, and the Impasse over Women’s Suffrage
  • Chapter 7.  Suffrage, Marriage Reforms, and the Threat of Female Sexuality
  • Chapter 8.  The Rise of Leftist Guerrilla Organizations and Islamist Movements
Part III.  Forging an Islamist Modernity and Beyond
  • Chapter 9.   The Islamic Revolution, Its Sexual Economy, and the Left
  • Chapter 10.  Islamist Women and the Emergence of Islamic Feminism
  • Chapter 11.  Birth Control, Female Sexual Awakening, and the Gay Lifestyle
  • Conclusion:  Toward a New Muslim-Iranian Sexuality for the Twenty-First Century

Book Reviews

Amal Ghandour, On Women and the Egyptian Uprising, Midan Masr Online, February 28, 2012.

Mehri Honarbin-Holliday, Feminist Review, 98, 2011

L’homophilie oubliée de la société iranienne, 01 décembre 2011.

Ferdinando Calda, Iran. Educazione sessuale nel Paese degli ayatollah, 14 Settembre 2011.

Majid Rafizadeh, Women’s Struggle for Gender Equality, Santa Barbara Independent, May 11, 2011.

EXPORTAÇÃO DA HOMOFOBIA OCIDENTAL, July 6, 2010

Catherine Sameh, Behind the Women in Green: Sex and Iran’s Unstoppable Resistance, Against the Current, March-April 2010, pp 29-30.

John Foran, Contemporary Sociology, January 2010 39: 15-16

Fariba Zarinebaf, Middle East Journal , vol.64, No. 2, 2010.

Lisa Thiele, Jungle World Nr. 17, 29. April 2010 (German)

Catherine Sameh, Sex & Iran’s Unstoppable Resistance, Solidarity, March-April 2010.

L. Beck, Choice, v.47, no. 07, March 2010.

Carol Hunt, Behind the Veil, Iran’s Women As Ambitious As We Are, Independent.ie, June 21 2009.

Dana Goldstein, Iran and the Veil, The Group Blog of The American Prospect, June 17, 2009.

Naindeep Singh Chann, Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire, Iran and the Caucasus, Volume 13, Number 2, 2009.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.

Written by a historian of Iran, this volume is a study of the contentious issues of gender and sexuality in modern Iranian politics (19th century to the present day). Afary (history and women’s studies, Purdue) bases her work on the published literature, sources available only electronically, some interviews, and a brief visit to Tehran in 2005. Many books on this subject already exist, but this new one offers a fresh perspective. Afary’s main theme is that veiling and gender separation in Iran preserved male privileges in homosocial spaces that would otherwise be lost if women entered public spaces. She discusses how the Iranian state revived premodern social conventions by reinforcing them through modern means; she outlines the continuing process of producing modern versions of gender inequality. The inclusion of profiles of some women, such as Zahra Rahnavard (wife of Mir-Hossein Musavi, the runner-up in the tumultuous 2009 presidential election), is informative. With her emphasis on various forms of male homosexuality in Iran through time, Afary has written a useful companion to Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards (CH, Jan’06, 43-3098). The volume contains illustrations, including photographs and cartoons, and a lengthy bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —

L. Beck, Washington University, Saint Louis

Birds and Cages: Reading Sex and the State in Janet Afary’s Sexual Politics in Modern Iran

By Amy Littlefield, New Politics, Volume XII, Number 4, Winter 2010

Janet Afary is hopeful about the future of women’s rights in Iran. And she identifies many reasons to be so, from secret individual acts of resistance by women against husbands, fathers, and dictators to collective feminist struggle and today’s One Million Signatures Campaign for equal rights. But Sexual Politics in Modern Iran also reveals the full force of the cultural and political systems that the Iranian movement for gender equality confronts. Stories such as that of the teenage homosexual couple executed and tortured in 2006 and the sixteen-year-old girl publicly hanged for having extramarital sex in 2004 have garnered international outrage against Iran. But the stories cannot exist out of context, and Afary meticulously unravels the hundreds of years of power and patriarchy that have molded today’s Iranian sexual and political landscape

more  >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Divided Iran on the Eve

By Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009

The East–West battle over gender is brilliantly described by Janet Afary in her groundbreaking survey Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. As in other patrilineal societies the woman is the “door of entry to the group.” Improper behavior on her part can expose her community and family to all sorts of hidden dangers. Systems such as these

exercise a double standard wherein a woman’s infidelity (but not a man’s) is seen to allow tangible and damaging impurities to infiltrate the family, both physically and morally…. A woman’s sexual and reproductive functions turned her body into a contested site of potential and real ritual contamination. The concept of namus (honor) and the need to control women’s chastity may be related to this fear of sexual contamination.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ahmadinejad’s Brutal Campaign Against Gays

The New York Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 13 · August 13, 2009
By Doug Ireland, Reply by Malise Ruthven
In response to Divided Iran on the Eve (July 2, 2009)

To the Editors:

Malise Ruthven’s “Divided Iran on the Eve” [NYR, July 2] ignores how Janet Afary’s superb book, Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, contains the most complete, sensitive, and rigorously documented account of how extensively homosexuality was woven into the cultural and social history of Iran for over a thousand years.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Iran’s History Comes Out

By Doug Ireland, In These Times, March 20, 2009

A leading Iranian scholar in exile has published a new work of history and analysis that is a howitzer aimed squarely at the hypocrisies of today’s sexually repressive theocratic Iranian regime — whose violent repression of the women’s movement and lethal campaign to purge homosexuality have revolted the world.

Janet Afary’s Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, March) meticulously details the historical evolution of gender and sexuality, and of the roles and customs of women and same-sexers, from pre-modern Persia (500 to 1500 A.D.) right through the sexual revolution that began in Iran seven decades ago.

This panorama of Iranian sexual and gender mores and behavior, informed by a deep understanding of the role of class in the molding of sexual codes, will be a seminal work for years to come. And by reclaiming a richly textured, hidden history that the ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran have tried to erase, the book gives today’s vibrant Iranian women’s movement—and the nascent agitation by Iranian queers for their own liberation—a powerful weapon.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

تاریخِ پنهانِ همجنسگرایی در ایران

بررسی کتاب «سیاست‌های جنسی در ایرانِ مدرن» ژانت آفاری

بررسی کتاب: داگ ایرلند

ترجمه ی چراغ

آبان ۱۲, ۱۳۸۸ در ۱:۱۱ ق.ظ · در دسته چراغ ۵۸

چراغ: وقتی داشتیم جمله‌های آخر این نوشته را ترجمه می‌کردیم متوجه شدیم که وبلاگ «پسر» ترجمه‌ی همین نوشته‌ را بخش‌بخش دارد منتشر می‌کند، و احتمالا تا زمان انتشار نشریه همه‌ی بخش‌های‌اش منتشر شده است. جا دارد از اقدام وبلاگ «پسر» برای عرضه و/یا ترجمه‌ی چنین نوشته‌های روشن‌گری سپاس‌گذاری کنیم و تلاشِ وی و هم‌کاران‌اش را قدر بدانیم. و امیدواریم حاصل تلاش‌های مترجمین و نویسندگان دگرباش را بتوانیم در کتاب‌خانه‌ی دگرباشان داشته باشیم

<<

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book Review

Shereen El Feki, International Affairs 85: 4, 2009

When Ayatollah Khomeini swept to power 30 years ago, some of the most memorable images of Iran’s Islamic Revolution were the country’s women, enveloped in chador and hijab. They had, quite literally, faded to black, as did Iran’s reputation on women’s rights. Within months, the country went from being a leading advocate of gender reforms in the developing world to being home to some of the most repressive legislation in the modern world. How this rapid transition came to pass, and how it has panned out, is the subject of Janet Afary’s comprehensive look at sexuality in Iran. From the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the end of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Iran had moved towards women’s rights: greater education, health and employment opportunities; female suffrage; and some legal protections including more equitable rights to divorce, restrictions on polygamy and a rise in the legal age of marriage. This was all part of the regime’s broader plan for modernization and capitalist development.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Iranian scholar digs up hidden history of homosexuality in Iran

By Doug Ireland, The Historians in the News, February 20, 2009

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance that “”In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.

Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years.

“Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.

more >>>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By Nazila Fathi, The New York Times, February 13, 2009

TEHRAN — In a year of marriage, Razieh Qassemi, 19, says she was beaten repeatedly by her husband and his father. Her husband, she says, is addicted to methamphetamine and has threatened to marry another woman to “torture” her.

Rather than endure the abuse, Ms. Qassemi took a step that might never have occurred to an earlier generation of Iranian women: she filed for divorce.

more >>>

Back Cover