Premarital sex could be punished by imprisonment and lashings; unmarried men and women caught in a car together could receive up to eighty-four lashings each.Although physical punishment has decreased in recent years, Mahdavi notes, young people are still detained and harassed by the morality police.Gay circuit parties have spread around the globe; as these events can last for several days, many host cities find them economically advantageous.The porn industry, similarly driven by the desire for cheap labor and the erotics of otherness, has extended into Asia and Eastern Europe (Warsaw, Poland, was the site of the Third Annual World Gangbang Championship and Eroticon in 2004).Willingly taking risks with their social and sexual behavior, as these Iranian young people were doing, was viewed as a step toward social and political reform—not just a means of escape and excitement.
I couldn’t tell who was kissing whom, and I couldn’t see how much oral or penetrative sex was taking place, but it seemed that most of the people were completely naked, and from the movements I could see, it looked as though half were having some kind of sex.” Another sex party Mahdavi attended was held at a garden estate outside of Tehran, hosted by a young woman whose parents had gone on religious pilgrimage to Mecca.
One couple caught having sex at a party were arrested and forced to marry. ” * Contemporary sex partying is often thought to be linked to the spread of Western values and practices even while taking on local forms and meanings.
When Mahdavi talked with the twenty-two-year old woman involved, the woman explained that she and her new husband were trying to annul the marriage. At times, even the idea that group sex is a Western phenomenon becomes important to participants, adding layers of meaning to the encounters as modern, fashionable, or evil.
When Iranian American anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi first visited Tehran in the summer of 2000, she expected to encounter the Iran she grew up imagining.
Her family remembered violence and extremism, and these were the images that stuck: “women clad in black chadors, wailing and whipping themselves,” “black bearded men with heavy hearts and souls,” arranged marriages, and the fierceness of the “morality police.” But while she encountered this repressed side of Iran, she also heard stories of and witnessed signs of what some friends and informants called a sexual or sociocultural revolution. Now the youth are trying to figure out what to do with all these opening doors.” Understandably, young people experience confusion in the face of competing ideals and desires—traditional expectations versus contemporary temptations—and the stakes of personal decisions remain high.
The young woman was “kissing and being kissed by three men.” Mahdavi was unable to find the man who’d driven them; later, she learned that he had been in a back room procuring Ecstasy.