Questioning the global gays(ze): Constructions of sexual identities in post-revolution Iran

Pardis Mahdavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper seeks to question the global discursivity about sexual politics in Iran while examining ways in which the discourse constructed about sexuality in Iran (by those outside Iran) contrasts with lived experiences and actual narratives of young Tehranis as they speak about their own sexual identities. The author begins by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2000 and 2007 with young people (ages 18-30) in urban Tehran and Mashhad, which looks at what young Tehranis refer to as 'Iran's sexual revolution', or enqelab-i-jensi, in their own words. In detailing ways in which the discourse on sexuality and sexual identity is changing, this paper talks about the politicization of the body by members of the regime, as well as the strategic deployment of sexuality and the comportment of resistance as young people's involvement in the sexual revolution in Iran paves the way for their involvement in pushing for social and political reform. The sexual revolution taking place in Iran today is trying to reformulate sexual identity, and trying to carve out a space to talk about, think about, and experiment with sexualities not sanctioned by members of the regime. In this paper, I aim to describe the strategic construction of sexual identity, chronicling the transition in the narratives of my interlocutors who insisted, up until 2005, that the hetero/homo binary - so fixed in the 'West' - did not exist nor translate in the Iranian case, as they move in the space between the fluidity of sexual identity, to the politicization of sexuality towards social reform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-237
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Iran
  • sexual politics
  • sexuality
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Questioning the global gays(ze): Constructions of sexual identities in post-revolution Iran'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this