If we don’t look fabulous, smile, laugh, and dance, well then we might as well just go and die.” But the new sexual culture in Iran, Mahdavi believes, is not simply an embrace of Western consumerism and morality nor merely an escapist hedonism, a “last resort.” Urban young adults, the focus of Mahdavi’s inquiry, made up about two-thirds of Iran’s population; they were mobile, highly educated, underemployed, and dissatisfied with the political regime at the time. Many used the Internet to make connections, blog about their frustrations, and peer into youth cultures elsewhere around the world.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.
Now we, this generation, are opening them one by one. Well, yes, with a few women at a time, but who hasn’t done that?
She began searching for the friends she had arrived with, who had disappeared into the steam.
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.
During repeated visits, Mahdavi found that despite the strict moral policies of the Islamic Republic, young Iranians were listening to music, dancing, drinking alcohol, and socializing in new ways. She attended parties where famous DJs played techno music, Absolut vodka and Tanqueray gin were served, and female guests mingled with “western guys.” Although house parties were common among the middle and upper-middle classes, lower-class youth threw parties in abandoned warehouses or at secluded outdoor locations, serving homemade liquor and playing music on “boom boxes” or car stereos. Like youth in other countries who lack private spaces to retreat to, some Iranian youth reported having sex at parties and in cars (which sometimes allowed them to escape the morality police) out of necessity. Shomal, in northern Iran, had a reputation as a popular destination for these sexual explorations.
Young Iranians also indulged in premarital and extramarital sexual escapades. One informant told Mahdavi that young men and women “go there, deep in the jungle, and have lots of sex, with lots of people; it’s really something to see.