Then one of the guys with a knowing smirk said that yes, parties sometimes do turn into orgies. I thought they might be putting me on, but a Spaniard I met later who had just come from Iran verified all of this and beyond. He said they wore short shorts and dresses, “casi nada.” I just kept saying, “really?! ” I asked, stupidly assuming parents would embody the values of the state.
The woman said she hadn’t been to any but she had heard about plenty. My family, my uncle, he has a mansion and they have massive parties, sex, everything goes.” The Spaniard told me he had been to crazy parties in Tehran and that as soon as the girls walked in, “se quitaron todo,” they took off everything. “OK, so if dating is technically illegal, what do you tell your parents?
They agreed to interviews but definitely, absolutely did not want me to use their names; they said it could end up preventing them from re-entering Iran at all. When you’re in a closed place and you’re under pressure, you want to experience something that is illegal.” The other chimed in, “Yes, I have had 15 girlfriends and I’m only 30! But here, it’s much harder to get girls.” I asked if girls in Iran have sex before marriage and one of the men speculated that 10 or 15 years ago only 10 percent of girls would, but that now the percentage is probably closer to 90. Not sad for the Persian women, but rather that in my mind and in the general American imagination, we paint them as such helpless victims.
I was genuinely shocked, and tried to play it off like I wasn’t such an ignorant American thinking that Persian women were just bundled up virginal victims. While the laws in Iran are extremely stringent for woman, to think of them merely as victims of their government robs them of their agency.
It was a Thursday night in Istanbul and I was sitting on a patio at a going away party with three Persian cousins: two men living in Istanbul for graduate school and a woman living there who works as a journalist. So it’s forbidden by law, informal dating when you’re not married. The men explained that when a woman gets married she decides on an amount of money that the man owes them if they get divorced. Also they’re graduating a lot more from university, to the extent that if a girl and boy are both applying to the same department at university, they’ve lowered the standards for the boys to try to even it out.