Despite her ruined reputation, however, the young woman mused that her experience was “almost worth it”: “The sex was great, and the excitement and adventure of doing what we know we aren’t supposed to be doing, then being caught! After the Queen Boat scandal in Egypt in 2001, thirty-five members of the U. Congress wrote to Hosni Mubarak to protest the treatment of the men, who were tortured and subjected to examinations to determine whether they had had anal sex.
Well, and it makes a great story.” Mahdavi’s informants claimed that they were the social and sexual changes they desired, reminding her that their “revolution was not about momentary acts” but was “a way of life.” This way of life included social gatherings and behavior that “could be viewed as hedonistic” but were also “a necessary part of constructing a world over which they had control, a world they could live in rather than in the world of the Islamists, who would have them stay home and obey.” As another young woman said before attending a sex party: It’s all about laj bazi (playful rebellion). No matter what they tell you, they are scared, from the moment they leave their homes; and every time the doorbell rings, delet mirize (your heart sinks). In response, the Egyptian newpaper Al-Ahram al-Arabi ran a headline that translated as, “Be a pervert and Uncle Sam will approve.” Some sex partying is certainly related to processes of globalization, as citizens from wealthy nations have the privilege of traveling to other locales to escape restrictive laws or take advantage of cheap labor.
Iran is among the more strictly governed countries in the world and with 99.4% of the population being Muslim their views on sex and pornography are quite conservative.
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.
After all, the consequences of partying in Tehran were different from in Los Angeles, despite similarities in flashy dress, electronic music, and group sex.
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.
She began searching for the friends she had arrived with, who had disappeared into the steam.
The punishments meted out by the morality police could be harsher.
If caught drinking, for example, youth could be detained and sentenced to up to seventy lashes.
Iranian youth had “restricted access to social freedoms, education, and resources (such as contraceptives or other harm-reduction materials)” that might minimize the risk of some of their behaviors.
If caught, the punishments many young people would receive from their parents would likely be harsh.
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.