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A group of five men and women huddled together below me.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.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.When Mahdavi talked with the twenty-two-year old woman involved, the woman explained that she and her new husband were trying to annul the marriage. At times, even the idea that group sex is a Western phenomenon becomes important to participants, adding layers of meaning to the encounters as modern, fashionable, or evil.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.“Welcome to the jungle,” a young man said as he greeted her.
The porn industry, similarly driven by the desire for cheap labor and the erotics of otherness, has extended into Asia and Eastern Europe (Warsaw, Poland, was the site of the Third Annual World Gangbang Championship and Eroticon in 2004).When Iranian American anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi first visited Tehran in the summer of 2000, she expected to encounter the Iran she grew up imagining.Her family remembered violence and extremism, and these were the images that stuck: “women clad in black chadors, wailing and whipping themselves,” “black bearded men with heavy hearts and souls,” arranged marriages, and the fierceness of the “morality police.” But while she encountered this repressed side of Iran, she also heard stories of and witnessed signs of what some friends and informants called a sexual or sociocultural revolution. Now the youth are trying to figure out what to do with all these opening doors.” Understandably, young people experience confusion in the face of competing ideals and desires—traditional expectations versus contemporary temptations—and the stakes of personal decisions remain high.Although Mahdavi did not visit Shomal, she attended other sex parties in Iran.One evening, she accompanied her friend Babak to a party held in a huge garden with beautiful hanging trees.
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.