Since my goal in Tehran was to get a new and fresh perspective on the city and its people, it was imperative for me to infiltrate some social circle that went beyond my family and relatives. I don’t have any friends in Iran. I never kept in touch with anyone after I came to Canada. There was no Facebook or email to exchange back then and even if there was, who really keeps in touch with their friends from grade six. So to make friends and socialize, I had to improvise. Staying in a rather large residential complex made things somewhat easier. After hanging out in the common areas and becoming familiar with a few people around the neighborhood, I threw a party. Shortly after that I started to regularly hangout with a crowd and thus my Iranian social circle was created.
Every time I’m about to make a generalization about certain people or a culture, I tend to question my own understanding. It’s perhaps something I’ve picked up during my time at school. Anyone with some degree of formal education knows that It’s never acceptable to make broad generalization without research or data. My short time in Iran and my limited interaction with a small group of people by no means give me any authority to judge the population as whole. However there are certain patterns, behaviours and common traits that showed up during my time. So the following are simply what I saw put in to words and are not broad generalization of everyone.
Young people in Iran have to be the most jaded group of people I’ve come across. It appears they’ve been disappointed by their parents, society and most importantly by themselves countless time. They unanimously roll their eyes at the slightest sign of hope. Although they seemed about life, future and themselves, they were perhaps most jaded about love.
When we get in to relationships, and by relationships I mean meaningful relationships, we follow certain procedures. These relationships do not include your one night stands or the stuff you do when you’re drunk in Vegas. These are meaningful relationships with people you potentially love. And although the procedure differ from person to person, and from couples to couples I believe the underlying process is pretty universal. If I may, geek it up a bit, I think the following flow chart perhaps highlights the process of a couple meeting and the manifestation of their relationship in the simplest and most direct way.
Now this is generally how your normal, run of the mill relationship between two rather normal people tend to start. People meet, they hangout for awhile, when they feel comfortable they start going out and eventually they take their relationship to the next level and get their groove on. Now, in Iran the government doesn’t like this. Just like any theocracy, they don’t like the idea of their youth spending too much time with each other. After all sex outside of marriage is a sin and it’s the duty of a government that’s based on religion to prevent its citizen from breaking laws set forth by God. For that reason the government in Iran has made social outings and hanging out somewhat difficult for its young people. It’s a hassle to go out for a coffee or a movie in Iran. Dating carries a risk of being harassed if not by Iran’s moral police at least by disapproving and judgemental looks of the public . Although the idea of dating has become more acceptable over the years, still the stigma of two unrelated individuals of opposite sex enjoying each others company is felt throughout. For that reason, I got a sense that Iran’s youth is not really in to dating. They much rather spend time in each others houses. After all, in your house, you can dress the way you like, you can eat and drink what you like and most importantly you can be comfortable without worrying about anything. What’s also true, is that, once you’re comfortable and have had a few drinks the bedroom is literally a step away. So for that, the process outlined in red in the above diagram is non-existent in Iran. Due to lack of options for young people to socialize, dating is practically eliminated. Hence the Streisand effect:
The term ‘Streisand effect’ was coined back in 2003 by Mike Masnick of Techdirt. It references the singer’s attempts to suppress photographs of her Malibu house from becoming public. Not only was she unsuccessful in doing so, her attempts to intimate and suppress inadvertently lead to more publicity. The official definition of the term is the phenomenon in which attempts to hide or suppress a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely. Although the ‘Streisand effect’ is mostly associated with the online world and attempts to hide information, I believe the more generic idea of backlash from forcing a group of people to do one thing and have it lead to the exact opposite of the intended action, is still applicable.
So the Islamic Republics attempt to suppress its youth from mingling and god forbids take part in premarital sex, has managed to do the exact opposite. By making it difficult for its youth to date and socialize in a healthy manner, by turning perhaps the most natural and normal form of human interaction in to an evil and debaucherous act, it has lead its youth to do what the republic dreads the most. I’m sure there are couples in Tehran right now, getting it on, when they wouldn’t have they had a chance to go on dates and spend sometime knowing what a horrible match they make. But since that option is not really available and there isn’t much else to do, they might as well do the one thing that can bring them some from of minute pleasure. Sex has lost its meaning among Iran’s youth. It is no longer an act meant to symbolize love between two individuals. It has become a passing form of entertainment for a population that doesn’t have much else to do. Being promiscuous is the norm and kids move from one bedroom to another trying to find an ounce of happiness or meaning in an environment that doesn’t offer either. All the while holding the Islamic Republic responsible for perhaps for the largest Streisand effect.