Agents of Change: Women’s Sexual Uprisings in Modern Iran


  • Donya Zarrinnegar University of Pennsylvania


Iranian women’s gender and sexuality experiences are often overlooked due to the Eurocentric lens of sociological gender research and internal silence about women’s sexuality in Iranian culture. For many Iranian women, sexual activity is a source of trauma and can even be considered a human rights abuse; yet, women feel obligated to continue sexual relations with their husbands due to social, religious and cultural responsibilities. In this paper, I will delineate the historical context of Iranian feminism movements spanning the Iranian Revolution to the modern day before discussing the effects of sociocultural norms of virginity on women’s sexual experiences. A biographical approach of Iranian women at different life stages sheds light on women’s unique ways of engaging with political activism and the role of menopause in sexual agency. Finally, I will explore the repercussions of Iran’s sexual revolution due to limited sex education and maladapted birth control policies. In order to successfully achieve women’s sexual freedom and political reform, notions of Iranian women as asexual beings must be actively challenged and reproductive healthcare must be prioritized.