Disclaimer: This post is written from the point of view of a male cis heterosexual. Everything written here should be considered a pleasant walk through the park in comparison with the horrifying experiences of female and/or LGBTQ people. I decided to stick to my personal experience here, but bear in mind that I’m actually privileged here.
We were saying goodbye, when she suddenly hugged me tightly. I stood there still, and uselessly, and she demanded me to hug her back, and I did. We had been friends for more than five years then. We were very close, and we knew everything about each other’s secrets. We both used extremely vulgar language, and sometimes even made explicit sex jokes. But this was the very first time we had hugged, it was the very first time our physical contact had gone beyond hand shaking.
We were both atheists. We were both “sexually liberated”. We were both beyond the taboos that govern other people. Or so we thought. We were both “verbally” beyond those taboos. We joked, endearingly addressed each other with sexual slurs, and this “libertine” attitude towards sexuality was simply an overcompensation. We were, at the end, physically bound by the same taboos as everyone else.
We’re “freethinkers” in the literal sense of the word. Our thoughts are free. Not much else.
Point is, the effects of living in a theocracy are much stronger and more lasting than you wish them to be. Simply because you stop ascribing to the hegemonic religion of your culture, it doesn’t mean you are able to break free from all the taboos and prohibitions and barriers of your society. It is a myth that breaking away from religion is an instant moment of liberation from all the prejudices. Even if you know that they are wrong. In addition to that, living in a theocracy forces you to assume everyone follows these rules, so they still preoccupy a large part of your life. That is why I don’t think I’m sexually liberated.
I used to be among the atheists who mistakenly called religion a mental illness, until I learned why I was wrong. The reason I did so was not because of any malice towards the religious people or mentally ill people, but because religious rules kept coming back at me and I felt I was “recovering” from something I knew was false and yet it was hard for me to move beyond it.
For example, once right after masturbation I immediately picked up the Qur’an to check something. I suddenly felt guilty. How could I disrespect the Qur’an so much that I would touch it with unclean hands? Of course right at that moment I realized how irrational this feeling of guilt is, and I shrugged it away.
The sexual taboos of religion are the hardest thing to move beyond. Maybe it is because they involve other people by definition. Maybe because sex is an inherently social activity.
In Iran, only kindergartens and universities are not segregated. “(Recently some universities have moved towards becoming gender segregated, and although Rouhani has stalled this process so far he might prove powerless to completely stop it in the future). The buses are segregated. All chances of socially interacting with the opposite gender are erased. You only interact with male/female family members.
And every contact is some kind of a taboo. You shouldn’t mention anything remotely sexual in the presence of the opposite. The most subversive families allow shaking hands, but you should never shake the hand of a stranger. Touching and hugging are absolutely forbidden. Some religious men take it so far that they don’t even look the women in the eyes. Point is, you won’t have much chance of interacting with someone from the other genders.
Also you receive no sexual education. Our sex ed class is in fucking university. And it can be a completely inefficient. More importantly, families simply don’t talk about sex to their children. Most children also learn that mentioning sex in any form or shape in their parents’ presence is a strict taboo.
So you have a populace of people who are uneducated, horny, repressed, desperate, and also mostly misogynistic, and they interact with women who are uneducated, horny, repressed, desperate, and think all men are potential rapists. Men regularly resort to harassment out of a mixture of ignorance and incompetence, and women resort to being even more afraid of men, and then the relationships are mostly dysfunctional, people don’t know how to please each other in bed, they fight all the time, and things are very harsh and sad.
I have had seven girlfriends and one casual sex partner so far. I still have little idea what I’m doing. I know everything “theoretically” but I still suck in bed (also in the good way but not meant here).
I have learned a lot since then. I have learned that I’m what is called demisexual. I know my boundaries and I enact them with an iron fist. I know I hate jealousy. I know, also, that I’m still pretty dysfunctional.
I still don’t know how to properly interact with an Iranian girl and not be trapped by the ugly “is she trying to fuck me” or “is she afraid I’m trying to fuck her” mentality. I still can’t properly touch people. I still can’t consider sex a trivial matter that can be discussed civilly and rationally among friends.
I’m just programmed in a way that makes me a sexually frustrated person, and I’m slowly unprogramming that. Also I’m in contact with people who are mostly in worse shape than me, so I guess this project won’t be complete until I get out of Iran.
Just another evidence of what living in a repressive country does to people