Iran's History Comes Out

By Ireland, Doug | In These Times, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Iran's History Comes Out


Ireland, Doug, In These Times


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.

Women were rigorously segregated in pre-modern Persia, even at home, as families divided houses into an outer section that was the exclusive province of the men, and an inner section to which women were confined. But veiling was a practice that was widespread only at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid, serving as a marker of class distinction. (The veil impeded the work of women in the rural and largely impoverished agricultural economy, and was seldom worn by them.)

All formal marriages were arranged, often with girls just entering puberty, often leading to loveless relations. This fostered the institution of temporary marriage, or sigeh, which could last from a few hours to 99 years. Lowerlevel clerics supplemented their incomes by serving as brokers (or procurers) of sigeh marriages for both men and women. Religious pilgrimage cities, such as Mashad, served as sexual spas, where not only men but women in aqdi (or formal) marriages-rejected in the bedroom by thenspouses in favor of a preferred sigeh partner - could come to contract their own sigeh couplings, or to find a younger cleric who served in essence as their gigolo.

And while homosexual acts were in theory condemned as sins by Islamic teaching, in practice they were rarely punished and were widely tolerated in pre-modern Iran, much as many Catholics tolerate preand extramarital hetero sex today.

Indeed, what Afary terms a "romantic bisexuality" was celebrated and even highly codified. For more than a millennium, Afary writes, "male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training, mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partner's career."

She continues:

Sometimes men exchanged vows, known as brotherhood sigehs with homosocial or homosexual overtones. These relationships were not only about sex, but also about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future of [their usually younger lover]. Sisterhood sigehs involving lesbian practices were also common in Iran. A long courtship was important in these relations. The couple traded gifts, traveled together to shrines, and occasionally spent the night together.

Examples of the codes governing samesex relations can be found in the "Mirror for Princes genre of literature (andarz nameh), [which] refers to both homosexual and heterosexual relations. Often written by fathers for sons, or viziers for sultans, these books contained separate chapter headings on the treatment of male companions and of wives." One such was the Qabus Nameh (1082-1083), in which a father advises a son:

As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without either of the two becoming inimical to you __ During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter towards women. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Iran's History Comes Out
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.