Homosexuality and the Tradional Iranian Culture


Reading this article about the ways the sexual concepts were transformed in Iran during the last 200 years made me thinking about my own memories of the older generations talking about sexuality. It seems generation after generation people became more conservative and less comfortable talking about sexual practices and homosexuality.
During the 19th century Iran imported the Victorian moral value system as an integral part of the Modernization process, and consequently homosexuality was not tolerated anymore. Historically, homosexuality was never considered a symptom of the decadence of society, the way it is considered now. It was very much accepted as a part of the real life, and even "Ulama" (the clergy) had their own rules of "halaal" and "haraam" for the act of homosexual sex between men for helping the beleivers to do it according to God's rulles! There is a big contradiction between what Quran says and the clergy "rules", but I think back then the clergy were smart enough to tolerate these types of issues. Homosexuality, like drinking, was a 'sin' that could be neglected. One can see that clearly in the Persian Classic literature.
Redefining gender in Islamic societies according to Modern values imported from Europe, and the relationship between Islamic foundamentalism and these ethical values is something worthy to research. There are not that many books and articles on this subject.


  1. Interesting. What I've found fascinating is that the references to male homosexuality in premodern literature is so much more abundant than that of female homosexuality. Because there is no easy passive/active dichotomy present, and often without an 'active/male' partner, there is not any 'real' sexual activity, the references are less damning. Even the Bible only has one passing reference.

    In "The History of Homosexuality", which I confess I've only glanced at (it's a beautiful text, though--with artwork and a survey spanning cultures), they do spend some time on Islam as well as Chinese culture, and how they had (again, between men) an accepted practice for gay love.


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