Sexual Politics in Modern Iran

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Date: April 2009

ISBN-10: 0521727081

ISBN-13: 978-0521727082

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 These observations, and a wealth of historical documents, form the kernel of this book, which charts the history of the nation’s sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today.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

Excerpt from Chapter 3

Class and Status-Defined Homosexuality and Rituals of Courtship

One of the best-known examples of love and reciprocity in mystic circles appears in an account of the life of Rumi, the greatest Sufi poet in the Persian language, whose followers founded the Mevle known for its ritual whirling.  While living in Konya in 1244, Rumi forged an intense bond with Mawlana Shams Tabrizi, a mystic and accomplished teacher who claimed to have reached union with God. Theirs was a unique relationship since both were mature and renowned masters. Franklin Lewis writes that contemporaries defined their relationship as falling in love,  which Franklin qualifies as a “Platonic love of a disciple for his teacher.” Rumi took Shams home, “ where they lived happily for a year or two before the disciples of Rumi became to act on their jealousy” (Lewis 2001, 159). Various accounts have suggested that resentful disciples of Rumi stabbed Shams and threw his body into a nearby well. [1]  After the disappearance of Shams, Rumi’s mystical poetry continued and gave birth to some of the most beautiful poems in the Persian language. Rumi also used Shams’s name as a pen name in much of his poetry, signaling his unity with his beloved. Rumi had other mystical love relationships and eventually composed the epic poem Mathnavi, which has been called the “Persian Qur’an” (Schimmel 1975, 313–15).

Devotees of Sufi poetry have often denied its earthly and carnal dimensions. They have suggested that Sufi love poems were not literal expressions but symbolic representations of the concealed beauty of the divine. We may never know the true nature of the relationship between Shams and Rumi. We do know that many of their contemporaries considered the lack of a hierarchical relationship between the two most unusual. “They embraced each other and fell at each other’s feet, ‘so that one did not know who was lover and who was beloved.” (Schimmel1975, 313). Rumi celebrated moments when social formalities were abandoned in their lives “How sweet it is when there are no formalities between lover and beloved.  All these conventionalities are for strangers, [but for the lover and beloved], whatever is not love is forbidden to them (Cited in Lewis 2001, 181). But Shams lamented the lack of clear boundaries,  “I need it to be apparent how our life together is going to be. Is it brotherhood and friendship or shaykh-hood and discipleship? I don’t like this. Teacher to pupil? (Tabrizi 1990 cited in Lewis 2001, 163).

Many admirers of mystical poetry have pointed to the mystics’ break with orthodoxy and their exploration of a more intimate relationship with God. Others have celebrated the Sufi message of tolerance, especially their rejection of socially-imposed boundaries between different religions, and their belief that Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, and Muslims were all created by God (Nasr 1977, 123). Can the homoeroticism of Persian mystical poetry be viewed as also a definite cultural theme, not just a break with religious orthodoxy, but a departure from the requirements of status-defined homosexuality in mainstream Iranian society?.  This is an intriguing question.  In this rigidly hierarchical society, as much so as the Greco-Roman world that preceded it, one of the most important social barriers was between the “active” lover and “passive” beloved. Yet it appears that some mystic poets such as Rumi may have aspired to a new and more reciprocal ethic of love within their small communities. When Rumi and his contemporaries insisted that in the most exulted state of love the distinction between the lover and beloved disappeared—noting in the accounts of Rumi and Shams that no one knew “who was lover and who beloved”—they may have been moving beyond status-defined homosexuality, beyond a relationship that always involved an implied “active” lover and a “passive” partner. In ultimate love, then, reciprocity and consent were essential.

Excerpt from Chapter 9:

The Islamic Revolution, Its Sexual Economy, and the Left

The 1979 Islamic revolution was not a wholesale return to the past; rather, the new state reinvented and expanded certain retrogressive cultural practices and presented them as what Foucault has called a "regime of truth" through modern technologies of power.

As part of its commitment to modernity, the Islamist state continued the literacy and health campaigns of the Pahlavi era. It also created, alongside the army and the police force, a parallel series of paramilitary forces. As soon as the regime attained some degree of authority, it established a new juridical discourse on sexuality, whose underlying theme was granting more power over women's sexuality and reproductive functions to the state and to men, while also reversing modern trends in love and marriage.

The state encouraged polygamy (multiple 'aqdi wives) and temporary marriage, as well as the return of repudiation. While these measures weakened conjugal bonds of affection, they also served to compensate men who had acquiesced to the rules of the new theocratic state. In the name of morality and the preservation of women's honor, men of all social classes gained easier, cheaper access to sex, both inside and outside of marriage. The state reduced the age of marriage, and encouraged motherhood and large families, while limiting or closing other life choices for urban professional women.

Small openings that had emerged for a modern, gay lifestyle in elite urban circles vanished and were replaced with a partial return to practices of covert bisexuality in male and female homosocial spaces.

The long Iran-Iraq War helped the regime to consolidate its new policies on sexuality. At home, the war allowed Khomeini and his allies to speed up the implementation of their harsh Islamist program and eliminate their moderate Islamic, nationalist, and leftist allies.

By 1986, the Pasdaran had grown to 350,000 personnel grouped in battalion-size units, including a small navy and air force.  The Basij had enrolled some three million armed volunteers, including many women's units, at 11,000 centers. The Pasdarans received professional military training and operated on a fulltime basis, while the Basij consisted of those on active duty and others kept on reserve. Together, the Pasdarans and the Basij were considered the "eyes and ears" of the Islamic Republic. They served under the direct authority of the Revolutionary Council of Guardians led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and later Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and were never subject to any elected bodies such as the presidency or the parliament (Iran: A Country Study 2004, 11; "Pasdaran" 2007).

While they undertook many such activities during the war, after it ended, the Basij and the Pasdaran gave even greater attention to the surveillance and repression of the domestic population. Equipped with the latest weapons and subject to sophisticated riot-control training, they worked with the secret police SAVAMA and were instrumental in eliminating dissident groups.

They spied on the general population. One of their most visible activities involved prowling around schools and factories to enforce the hijab regulations, often arresting youth for improper clothing and conduct. This could occur for as minor an infraction as a young man caught wearing a short-sleeved shirt. They also stopped cars to check for alcohol consumption or use of make-up by women; they burst into weddings and arrested guests for improper dress, alcohol violations, or Western music; or they broke into homes to destroy banned satellite TV receptors.

These activities were coordinated with the Party of God (Hezbollah) who intimidated intellectuals by firebombing bookstores, disrupting social and political gatherings, and killing dissidents ("Niruyeh Moghavemat" 2007; "Pasdaran" 2007).

As the new revolutionary regime was placing greater limits on the rights of modern urban citizens, especially women, it simultaneously encouraged the more cloistered women of the old middle classes to become politically active in support of the Islamist cause. This is why Iranian women reacted to the policies of the Islamic Republic in such varied ways.

Modern, urban women condemned the severe restrictions of the new regime, which deprived them of numerous rights, but many from the old middle classes actually gained greater rights. They credited Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution, and the war with emancipating them from rigid and patriarchal households and allowing them to become active citizens. This was true, even when this activism began by denouncing the supporters of women's rights.

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.


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,, 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 >>>

Study Questions for Sexual Politics in Modern Iran



1. What primary sources and theoretical models does this “historian of gender” propose to use for this book?

2. What are some of the ways in which “modern” norms regarding gender and sexuality have influenced Iranian culture?


3. How has the institution of marriage in Iran evolved over time? What are the three legal forms of marriage? How have women asserted their own agency in the face of repressive sexual and gender mores?

4. How did nineteenth-century Iranian society respond to same-sex intimacy?

5. What are the “two cultures” described by Nikki Keddie in mid-twentieth century Iran? How did gender and sexual mores factor into this bifurcation?

6. How has the Islamist Revolution of 1979 affected gender and sexual mores? How have various groups of women reacted to these changes?

7. What evidence indicates that the nation might today be undergoing a “sexual awakening”?

Part 1: Premodern practices


Chapter 1: Formal marriage

1. What is the standard narrative of the institution of marriage in late nineteenth-century Iran? How might the lived experience of women suggest an alternative story? How did women express independent agency in their relationships?

2. Why is it easier to write the history of elites than of poorer groups, particularly in the field of women’s history?

3. How does Nekah marriage differentiate the rights and responsibilities of men and women?

4. How did social class and geography influence women’s marriage options?

5. How did Shi’i orthodoxy protect purity and honor of both men and women?

6. How and why might women have been supported by family members in acting outside of legal restrictions on sexuality?

7. Why is the mother-in-law such a powerful and enduring Persian literary trope?

8. How did the institution of polygamy differ among social classes? How and why did men justify the practice? What was its impact on the women involved?

9. Under what circumstances were police or legal authorities called in to intervene in situations of domestic conflict or violence?

10. How could marriage be terminated? How did men and women’s access to divorce differ? What were the rights and consequences attached to the various forms of divorce? How were property rights affected?

11. How did different groups of women engage differently with the institution of the veil? Under what circumstances could the veil become an instrument of women’s agency?

Chapter 2: Slave concubinage, temporary marriage, and harem wives

1. What was slave concubinage and who were its preferred subjects? How did the institution end?

2. How does the Qur’an regulate slavery? Who had access to slave ownership? What were the master’s responsibilities to the slave? What rights did slaves have? What routes existed to manumission? How was slavery in Iran similar to and different from slavery in the United States?

3. How did the rights and restrictions of a slave and a wife differ? Why were slaves and prostitutes exempt from the restrictions placed upon upper-class women? How might slaves have had some degree of agency? What kinds of abuses might a slave have routinely suffered?

4. What is temporary marriage and how has the institution changed over time? What social purposes are served by temporary marriage? How does it differ among social classes?

5. How does temporary marriage differ from Nekah marriage? How does it differ from polygamy (as discussed in Chapter 1)? In what ways is it similar to and different from prostitution?

6. What advantages and disadvantages might each institution have for women? For men? What motivations might propel women and men to engage in temporary marriage?

7. How did the harem change over time? How secluded was the harem? Why did the harem end?

8. What were the categories in the harem “hierarchy of authority”? How were women from different social backgrounds treated differently in the harem? How were harem women selected for sex?

9. What roles did harem women play in formal politics?

Chapter 3: Class, status-defined homosexuality, and rituals of courtship

1. How have popular conceptions of same-sex intimacy in the Mediterranean-Muslim world differed from today’s dominant Western understanding of homosexuality? What has the role of homosocial institutions been in the evolution of these concepts?

2. Have all interpretations of the Qur’an agreed on the punishment and permissibility of same-sex relations? To what extent have these interpretations differed?

3. What social roles emerged in the medieval and early modern Muslim world for men and boys “inclined toward men”?

4. How have twentieth-century religious scholars and translators obfuscated references to same-sex practices in the past?

5. How did social status distinctions, such as age and social class, shape patterns of same-sex intimacy?

6. What kinds of historical evidence have been found regarding same-sex relations between women?

Part 2: Toward a Westernized modernity


Chapter 4: On the road to an ethos of monogamous, heterosexual marriage

1. How did increased interactions with the West in the nineteenth century affect Iran’s gender and sexual norms?

2. What social groups began to question Persian marriage laws around the turn of the twentieth century and what arguments did they make?

3. How did Iranian male and female elites react to Victorian fashion and hygienic ideas?

4. How did the Constitutional Revolution change Iranian gender relations and increase opportunities for girls and women? How did it affect the harem system and domestic slavery?

5. How did the three discourses of social democracy, religious conservatism, and scientific domesticity differ in regards to gender roles and sexuality?

6. What arguments began to be made for companionate marriage?

7. How did the Molla Nasreddin criticize Persian gender and sexual mores? What alternatives did the publication propose? How did it address same-sex relations? What social groups supported and opposed these views?

Chapter 5: Redefining purity, unveiling bodies, shifting desires

1. What gender-related reforms did the Pahlavis introduce? What were the political goals of these government reforms?

2. Who supported and who opposed new hygienic standards and why? How did religious conceptions of purity complicate the establishment of modern hygienic practices?

3. How did educational reforms affect access to and the content of education for girls and women?

4. How did Reza Shah’s new Civil and Penal Codes benefit women? What traditions were allowed to continue and why?

5. How did Reza Shah change dress codes for men and women? Who supported and opposed these reforms and why? How were these reforms enforced?

6. Why did Reza Baraheni’s father put his grandmother in a sack?

7. How did bazaar merchants respond to women’s unveiling?

8. How did the growth of cinema in Iran encourage new gender norms and modes of sexual expression?

9. How were homosexual practices marginalized in the Pahlevi era? What role did unveiling and new hygienic practices play in this shift?

10. On what bases did feminists argue both for and against Reza Shah’s reforms?

11. How did poetry and literature change in the Pahlevi era?

Chapter 6: Imperialist politics, romantic love, and the impasse over women’s suffrage

1. How did women’s organizations in the 1940s relate to leftist and nationalist political parties?

2. On what grounds did Kasravi object to classical Persian poetry? Who opposed his efforts and why?

3. What social changes were explored in the work of authors such as Ali Dashti and Borzog ‘Alavi?

4. What arguments about veiling followed the abdication of Reza Shah? What did the veil symbolize for Ruhollah Khomeini?

5. Under Mosaddeq, what positions emerged for and against women’s suffrage? Which social groups took each side? What textual authorities were marshaled as evidence?

Chapter 7: Suffrage, marriage reforms, and the threat of female sexuality

1. What social groups made up the “Red-Black” coalition that helped to overthrow the Pahlavi regime? What views did they hold in common? What made their coalition surprising?

2. How can the theoretical insights of Foucault and the Frankfurt School illuminate the Iranian Islamist movement?

3. What interpretations have been made of the impact of the White Revolution on women’s lives? How did these changes affect the relationship between the Shah and the clerical establishment?

4. How did the veil serve as a “complex moral device”?

5. What social programs and changes in family law did the Women’s Organization of Iran introduce? How did women from different social groups engage with the organization? How did the organization change over time? How did it engage with formal politics?

6. How did marriage and sexual mores change over the 1960s and ‘70s? How did these changes differ for urban and rural women?

7. How did Iranian cultural production in the 1950s and ‘60s encourage normative heterosexuality?

8. What new perspectives did women writers like Forough Farrokhzad introduce to the Iranian public?

9. What social problems did Edward Galloway and Iranian social scientists attribute to modern urbanization?

Chapter 8: The rise of leftist guerilla organizations and Islamist movements

1. Which social groups tended to oppose the modernization of gender norms? How did Khomeini appeal to these often strange bedfellows?

2. How did Shi’i interpretations of ritual purity change over time?

3. In the early 1960s, how did Ayatollahs Motahhari and Khomeini respond to the modernization of gender norms? What about lay Islamic thinkers like Jalal Al-e Ahmad and Ali Shariati?

4. How did Iranians respond to the Western concept of gay rights which emerged in the West in the 1970s?

5. In what ways did women participate in organized opposition to the shah?

6. How did the Iranian Left deal with issues of gender and sexuality? How it respond to feminism?

7. What did women such as Zahra Rahnavard and Marziyeh Dabbagh find appealing in the Islamist movement of the 1960s and ‘70s? What compromises might they have made?

Part 3: Forging an Islamist modernity and beyond

Chapter 9: The Islamic Revolution, its sexual economy, and the Left

1. What sexual mores were perpetuated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and how were they enforced?

2. How did the use and symbolic meaning of the veil change with the Revolution?

3. Which groups of women supported and opposed the Revolution? How were women’s lives restricted under the new regime? How did various groups of women respond to these restrictions?

4. How did the Revolution change the institution of marriage? Why did the state support temporary marriage? What were the repercussions of this support?

5. What was the impact of the Revolution on same-sex intimacy?

Chapter 10: Islamist women and the emergence of Islamic feminism

1. What drew women to participate in the Revolution and to support Khomeini’s government? How were women encouraged to participate?

2. How did gender contribute to the development of “martyropathology”?

3. How did the lives of urban and rural women differ under the new Islamist state?

4. How did the Revolution change the Iranian educational system, particularly higher education?

5. How did women participate in the formal labor market?

6. What roles did Rahnavard and Dabbagh play in the post-Revolutionary government? How did each of them help to construct a “new Islamist politics of gender”? How do these two women’s positions differ? How Rahnavard react to the conditions of women in India?

7. How have the women’s journals which have emerged since the early 1900s positioned themselves with respect to the Islamist state? To Western feminism?

8. How have new religious thinkers, such as Abdolkarim Soroush and Ayatollah Mojtahed Shabestari, addressed gender and sexuality?

Chapter 11: Birth control, female sexual awakening, and the gay lifestyle

1. What aspects of the Islamist Revolution’s new “sexual economy” are often viewed as internally contradictory from a Western perspective? To what extent have sexual practices conformed with the law, particularly in this third generation since the Revolution?

2. What principal factors have contributed to the development of a reform movement from the mid-1990s onward?

3. How did women participate in electoral politics under President Khatami? How did conservative clerics respond to the Khatami government’s support of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? How did the Seventh Islamic Parliament (2004-8) respond to the gender reforms of the Khatami era?

4. How did issues of political reform, gender, and sexuality play into the 2005 election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

5. What new tactics has the “third generation” of Iranian youth brought to feminist activism?

6. How has recent Iranian cinema addressed issues of gender, marriage, and sexuality?

7. How do urban middle- and upper-class youth observe sexual mores in public and in private? How are traditional standards of virginity addressed?

8. How has the Islamist state addressed sexual education and family planning? Is sexual desire considered more powerful in men or in women?

9. How has the recent “sexual revolution” affected rural Iranians? How have marriage patterns changed in rural areas?

10. How has MAHA: The First Iranian GLBT e-Magazine framed a new discussion of Iranian same-sex relations? What customs has it criticized? What new behavior models has it proposed?

11. How have Iranian clerics responded to transsexuality?

12. How has the government’s reaction to open homosexual practices changed since the election of President Ahmadinejad?

Conclusion: Toward a new Muslim-Iranian sexuality for the twenty-first century

1. What are the limitations for women of Iran’s recent “sexual awakening”?

2. How have prostitution, drug use, and the spread of HIV/AIDS changed in recent years? What factors have spurred these changes?

3. In general, how have marriage and family patterns in the West differed from those in Iran from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries?

4. What is the scope and significance of the One Million Signatures Campaign?

Backcover image for Sexual Politics in Modern Iran