Technology and Sexual Liberation in Iran

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“With his arm around me I would melt into him and carefully link my fingers through his, neither of us speaking or looking at each other, leaving things superficially ambiguous. It would be years before we finally kissed but those late-night journeys in the savaris left us breathless and elated.”

That quote may read like a dog-eared, grocery store romance novel, but is actually emerging Iranian author Kamin Mohammadi recounting her story of risky, long-distance passion under multiple repressive Sharia-Law touting regimes in the latest issue of Virginia Quarterly Review. Throughout the essay, Mohammadi paints a vivid picture of “the interplay of repression, sexual experimentation, and the presence of technology,” especially in the lives of the Iranian youth. Her narrative is masterfully interwoven with modern techno-social history of Iran, including this shocking passage:

“[My lover] also started to accompany me to the local internet café where I joined all those lined up at the banks of computers to connect with the outside world. That was the beginning of another revolution that has changed so much in Iran; the ever-watched youth of Iran–a colossus in number–suddenly found in the internet two things they did not have in their everyday lives: an instant connection with the outside world, and anonymity. In a society in which most are forced to dissemble to some degree, to wear some sort of a mask in order to survive, a way to express oneself unhindered and without possible repercussion was intoxicating, and soon became addictive. In separate groups boys and girls were squeezed into the booths, giggling while tapping away. And pornography, of course, was the most popular search, any kind the limited bandwidth and censors would allow. This was before cell phones and before people had internet at home, before pornographic material started being passed around over Bluetooth and on CDs, and perhaps something about looking at this illicit material in a public space, its heady thrill, made what came after easier, made the chat rooms and the virtual dates inevitable. And the influence of pornography on the sexual imagination of the nation started right there in those internet café booths.”

(Thanks, Hit & Run!)

Source:Virginia Quarterly Review

Image by kamshots, licensed under Creative Commons.

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