Write for The Iranian
Editorial policy

Yes & no
On publishing sexually explicit stories

By Sheila Shirazi and Jahanshah Javid
June 15, 2001
The Iranian

Unedited email chat between two strangers which took place today.

S - ['s quote of the day on Thursday, June 14, 2001:] "I don't want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally." -- Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda was one of my idols when I was 16. Zelda and F. Scott and their glittering, tragic, reckless life together. I loved this quote back then, and I don't think I've seen it since, until today. My reaction this time was... amusement -- the kind that masks the shock of discovering how far into the open sea you've drifted, and how small and unreachable the land where once your feet were firmly planted. I don't even know whether I miss feeling that way, and I won't judge what feels good now against what felt good then, but I do mourn the loss of a belief that was once the foundation of my being. I am sad today.

J - Well... you have me in tears... Good morning.

S - You made me cry first. Now we're even.

J - To make you smile, maybe:

S - Okay, I smiled. Thanks.

J - Shameful of me to ask, but I love good writing and love people who write personal stuff: Can I put your note in the letter's section? Without your name, maybe?

Don't hate me. I live for this stuff...

S - Go ahead, I expected you would, actually. Ever since the letter about your article ["Growing up"]-- which I didn't expect to see published -- I figure nothing is safe!!! So I operate with the full expectation that I will be exploited for your nefarious purposes... Ha, ha, ha. Relax, I'm kidding. And leave my name, I don't need to be anonymous....yet. Save that for the cut-rate, coma-inducing, Nora Roberts-wannabe, self-healing-for-the-Oprah-loving-masses soft-core porn I'm gonna write to compete with Nooneh.

J - Do you like the Nooneh stuff?

S - Are you being facetious? Or did you not get the rabid sarcasm of my last note?

J - Just asking... Christ.

S - Sorry... I just went to such great lengths to express my antipathy that your response was totally unexpected.

J - My fault. I should READ before I talk. Thinking would help too, but...

S - Just take it one step at a time : )

J - Well... you're smiling... my mission is done.

When your Iranian culture has no examples -- none -- of explicit sex in literature, then you'd see Nooneh's importance. I'd like to see the earliest examples of erotica/porn in the English language and see how cheap and trivial they were. But it was a start, at least. Nora Roberts? There are hundreds of writers in the West who have written about this stuff. You have so many choices, from sick trash to the sublime. We have none. Zero. Forough Farrokhzad said a few suggestive poems. Rumi, Sa'di and a few other big-name poets have their little collections of naughty writings. If you put Nooneh in context, she's done a very brave thing. Better writers will follow.

S - I know, I know -- believe me I know all sides of the argument. But you didn't grow up in a culture [America] in which you are so beseiged by empty, crude, soulless sex, that almost everyone who touches you makes you physically sick and leaves you feeling like some faceless, nameless primordial means of relief from the darkness of life as you simultaneously (inadvertently, irresponsibly) create someone else to experience it. As one of your readers wrote, sex is the oldest most tired subject in the world.

I understand for some Iranians this stuff is liberating and exhilarating, but I am so super-saturated by sexuality that I can't join in on the enthusiasm. Maybe Iranians are catching up -- but to what? It's not the kind of bravery I'm interested in, at any rate.

J - I know...

S - NOT TO MENTION that she writes, in English, like a Westerner, that she has mastered the self-centered bullshit psycho-babble of the West, that she has adopted the post-feminist, aggressive, masculine, I-can-fuck-whatever-I-want-whenever tone of Western women. If she didn't mention Iran at all, I would never know she was anything but an American, frankly. So she doesn't count.

J - I'll be rude, but I'll say it: Please put these few lines a letter. Because these are important points. And if you don't say them for others to hear, we won't grow... seriously.

Anyway... She does count to those who have never been exposed to this stuff. It means something (a lot) when an Iranian says it to an Iranian.

S - Which lines? Which points? Oh, you do it. Be my editor.

Anyway... maybe my cultural lines are so damn blurred that I care more about what's being said than who is saying. I'd like to think my need for truth is so pure and vicious that I don't care who delivers it.

J - Thank you. You made my day. With or without your name?

My point is that what you say are all true for you. But you're not alone. There are many Iranian-Americans like you who could care less, for a lot of good reasons you've mentioned. But also see the other side too. There's a whole nation out there that hasn't even been given the choice to read trash or...

S - Arrg- with my name is fine. I still don't see why you need to publish it. And again, I KNOW what you're saying. It's just not compelling enough for me. The information is out there -- people have access to it now in almost unlimited ways -- who cares who the messenger is?? That's my point AND I'M STICKING TO IT, BUDDY!

J - Umm, Iranians are not "people" -- not like people here. American people have not only access, they also have a whole history of erotic/porn to base their decisions. They may like or dislike this stuff but they are not shocked out of their minds if they see it. Most of my readers are shocked because they've never been exposed to it. They too have access to porn/erotica online and elsewhere in the West. But they consider it part of Western culture, not their own. And therefore it's foreign to them. But when Nooneh -- one of "us people" -- comes out and talks about these things, it becomes interesting, or at least worth listening too.

So there!

S - I'm leaving the office now. Continue this on my account if you want. Or I'll "chat" with you Monday.

PS: Can you delete the above address once from your daily notification list, please? Every day I get two notices. THANKS!

J - I will... Have a great weekend.

S - You too.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Sheila Shirazi
Comment to the writer Jahanshah Javid


Nooneh's stories

What does "Nothing" really mean?
By Ray Irani

Good old-fashioned sexuality
Among the "old-fashioned" one finds more openmindedness
By Naghmeh Sohrabi

Harming whom?
Do stories about sex harm anyone?
By Naghmeh Sohrabi

Proverbial egg
Revealing natural, god-given feelings
By Shahriar Zangeneh


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