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Sexual Politics in Modern Iran Paperback – April 27, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0521727082 ISBN-10: 0521727081 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


"Janet Afary's Sexual Politics in Modern Iran ... meticulously details the historical evolution of gender and sexuality, and of the roles and customs of women and same-sexers, from pre-modern Persia (500 to 1500 AD) right through the sexual revolution that began in Iran seven decades ago ... [It] is an invaluable landmark, a signpost on the road to an end of gender discrimination and sexual liberation for all."
In These Times

"The East-West battle over gender is brilliantly described by Janet Afary in her groundbreaking survey Sexual Politics in Modern Iran."
The New York Review of Books

"Afary does a spectacular job explaining, as well as detailing, sexual attitudes and practices from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Her account gives an excellent feel for how Iranian society works and how that has changed under the impact of modern times. Plus, her detailed research makes the account much more credible than some of the highly readable stories from Iranian-Americans about personal life in modern Iran."
Foreign Policy

"Highly recommended."

"This is a welcome contribution to work on modern sexual politics in Iran ... As Afary brilliantly shows, the gender and sexual revolution in Iran is unfinished, unfolding and ultimately unstoppable."
Against the Current

"... Afary's book should be of interest to anyone who is looking for an in-depth overview of discussions about sex in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Iran, and to those who are interested in understanding the pervasive anxiety about the lack of, and desire for, a set of ideals (consent, intimacy, equality) that constitute the normative ground of much contemporary debate about the history, politics, and gender relations of modern Iran."
Setrag Manoukian, H-Net Reviews (

Book Description

Charts the history of Iran's sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today. The resilience of the Iranian people forms the basis of this sexual revolution, one that is promoting reforms in marriage and family laws, and demanding more egalitarian gender and sexual relations.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521727081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521727082
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. Rahimi on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Thoroughly researched and meticulously presented, Janet Afary's book uses the prism of gender segregation to take the reader through one and a half centuries in the lives of Iranian men and women. From the mid-19th century to the present, you walk through the streets and alleys, listening to under-aged girls being given away to pre-arranged husbands, to women who will see their husband's new legal wife coming home, to harems of the elite and wealthy bursting with wives, concubines and boys. Yet, you also see how under such horrific repression, Iranian women resisted, survived and even prospered.

The story of women who have been oppressed for centuries and their male oppressors is one of immense importance and a possible cause for Iran's problems. Half of the population's creative energies was held back and kept in lock and chain, while the other half's creativity was mostly spent on devising schemes and institutions to keep them so.

In this sex-obsessed society, you're either enjoying sex or providing it, as all else seems to work within this concept. While imperial powers were increasing their influences in Iran, with the British in the South and the Russians in the North, the Qajar kings, princes and the rest of the elite were busy with their sexual politics.

Reading this book - shocking mostly but always enlightening - could be the first step in addressing the dysfunctional norms of Iranian society. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding current issues in Iran - as well as possible solutions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Masoud Sadighpour on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not aware of any other book about history of sexuality in Iran.
This book is well written.
Dr. Afari gathered a tremendous amount of facts about different aspects of sexuality in Iran. Her view and the way she classified different layers of this issue, helped me to understand the history of sexuality in Iran.
She always tries to stay objective.
I wish that its Persian translation could reach Iranian.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By V. Voss on October 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, Afavy gives an amazing and thorough examination of the politics and changes of the concepts of gender and sexuality in late-Qajar, Pahlavi and Islamic Iran. One of the most wonderful attributes of this work is its use of media images, legal documents and news and magazine articles. By doing this, a reader gets a better look at the everyday life and implications of the political and social upheavals(as best as one can I guess). Read this book if you want to know about more about Iran!
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