The New Sex Report from Iran Says Some Surprising Things

In a bizarre bit of news, it turns out that the people of Iran may not be nearly as sexually conservative as religious leaders might want them to be.

That is to say, there are an awful lot of gay and sexually active Iranians.

An Iranian couple kiss before the start of the Group F football match between Iran and Nigeria at the Baixada Arena in Curitiba during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 16, 2014. Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Per the Economist:

An 82-page document recently issued by Iran’s parliamentary research department is stark in its findings. Not only are young adults sexually active, with 80% of unmarried females having boyfriends, but secondary-school pupils are, too. Illicit unions are not just between girls and boys; 17% of the 142,000 students who were surveyed said that they were homosexual.

If the report is remotely accurate, it would mean that Iran’s population could contain a much higher percentage of gay individuals than the American population.

In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last month, a mere 1.6 percent of Americans adults identified as gay, while other estimates have pegged the American gay population between 3 and 10 percent.

The report also contradicts the 2007 comment from then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously told an audience at Columbia University that, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

The Iranian report, the Economist noted, floats a bizarre recommendation for combatting illicit sex: temporary marriages.

[Researchers’ recommendation] for stopping unsanctioned sex is remarkably liberal. Instead of seeking to cool the loins of the youngsters altogether, they should be allowed publicly to register their union by using sigheh, an ancient practice in Shia Islam that lets people marry temporarily. A legal but loose and much-deprecated arrangement, which can last from a few hours to decades, sigheh is often viewed as a cover for promiscuity or prostitution. Clerics themselves have long been suspected of being among its biggest beneficiaries, sometimes when they are on extended holy retreats in ancient religious cities such as Qom.

For less conservative Iranians, some of whom even jokingly describe themselves as “not real Muslims”, the report is merely an admission of reality—and an amusing distraction from the austere topics usually occupying their leaders’ minds. “This is what every human body needs,” says Zahra, a 32-year-old chemist who lives with her boyfriend in northern Tehran and declares that she has no intention of seeking authorisation to have sex. “I have one life and though I love my country, I cannot wait for its leaders to grow up,” she adds.

According to the Economist, Iranian media are largely ignoring the report.

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