Archive for March, 2005

The Politics of Home

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Sexual hypocrisy, fractured identities and Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad


In her gripping memoir of “growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran,” Azadeh Moaveni illuminates one of the broadest political truths: Falseness in sexual life leads to falseness everywhere, the denial of truths of the individual body leads to corruption of the body politic.

This isn’t to say that strictness in sexual matters is unilaterally hypocritical, or that sexually conservative cultures corrupt. The rules of traditional societies, including those of traditional Islam, generally work for those particular societies. In the course of my three trips to Afghanistan, and four weeks spent living in an Afghan Uzbek family compound in a provincial city, I met a lot of relatively happy, satisfied people living under rules I’d personally find intolerable: no social mixing of unrelated men and women; arranged marriages, typically between first cousins; and social life pretty much limited to extended family. To be sure, there are Afghans who somatize rather than complaining or acting out their discontent; they live in a pre-Freudian culture so, okay, they’re entitled to some hysteria. But most people seem to find the rules wise, fair, and essential to the continuation of a deeply satisfying, meaningful way of life.