cover image Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution

Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution

Pardis Mahdavi, . . Stanford Univ., $27.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-8047-5856-7

Part academic treatise, part titillation (“there were forty or so young people present, all naked or in their undergarments... some having oral, anal, [or]vaginal sex”), Mahdavi's work argues that the social and sexual practices of the urban young adults “who comprise two-thirds of Iran's population” constitute a form of political dissent and rebellion. While the punishments for premarital sex, drinking and dancing are severe, the author, a journalist and assistant professor of anthropology at Pomona College, captures a hedonistic, postadolescent and pure pop culture spirit, reflecting the interests and activities of the “highly mobile, highly educated... underemployed” and secular young Tehranis she followed over a seven-year period. Specialists in gender studies will find Mahdavi's work of interest; unfortunately, her book is suffused with a sense of outsider voyeurism (the author's parents are Iranian; she made her first trip there in 2000)—apparent in such her discomfiting statements as “Tell me, the stranger who can keep your secrets, about your sex life.” And while, inarguably, “changes in fashion,” as Mahdavi says, “have deep social and political significance,” readers will likely feel that these shifting sartorial trends indicate gradual social change rather than the revolution at which the author hints. (Oct.)