When talking about their weekend adventures, some of Mahdavi’s informants focused on the recreational aspect of the parties: “[There is] alcohol, there is sex, there is dancing, there is—it’s just fun! ” Others viewed the parties as a representation of “all things Western,” a way of gaining status and claiming a cosmopolitan identity; some also expressed ideas about sex as freedom that harked back to ideas underlying the sexual revolution in the United States.
Still others claimed parties offered escape and “eased the pain” of living in Iran.
Some young adults courted run-ins with the morality police in the name of activism, boredom, or both. Something to get back at them, something to remind ourselves, Hey, we are alive! But although the social and sexual revolution in Iran has brought change, especially in how young people express themselves, Mahdavi asks, if some of the repression dissolved, “would young people still resist this way?
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.
A group of five men and women huddled together below me.But I’ve watched really elaborate orgies too.” He had observed “a big group orgy in Shomal,” after being convinced to attend by a girl he knew.Although Mahdavi did not visit Shomal, she attended other sex parties in Iran.Although physical punishment has decreased in recent years, Mahdavi notes, young people are still detained and harassed by the morality police.Yet stories of being apprehended and arrested by the morality police were sometimes told with pride; occasionally, even parents were pleased that their children stood up for their beliefs.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.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.Upon arrival at the property, she heard techno music coming from a bathhouse. When her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, she saw “forty or so young people present, all naked or in undergarments, kissing, touching, dancing, and some having oral, anal, and vaginal sex.” She watched groups of men and women “engaging in sexual acts with both genders,” until she felt faint from the heat.One evening, she accompanied her friend Babak to a party held in a huge garden with beautiful hanging trees.“Welcome to the jungle,” a young man said as he greeted her.