By Firoozeh Ramezanzadeh

Sexual problems are among the main causes of divorce in Iran, according to a recent report by the National Organization for Civil Registration. The data has shown that sexual problems accounted for nearly half of the 863,312 divorces registered in Iran between 2004 and 2011.

Kayhan London interviewed Mostafa Eqlima, head of the Social Workers Scientific Association, a non-governmental organization, about the role of pornography in modern Iranian culture. Mr. Eqlima is a former faculty member at the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences.  

Q: Reports have shown that in recent years an increasing number of people have been watching pornographic films in Iran. How do you account for this phenomenon?

 A: I must point out that Iranian families don’t actively seek out these types of films and videos. It

Mostafa Eqlima

is mostly single or married men who visit pornographic sites and have these kinds of material on their computers, tablets and mobile phones. These men are aroused by the exaggerated sexual performance of female porn actresses. They try to re-enact scenes from the porn videos in their real lives, with dire consequences.

For instances, contrary to the image portrayed in these films, most women find anal sex painful and repugnant in real life. Despite this fact, many men force their wives or girlfriends to engage in anal sex. Also, many men view oral sex as normal. My studies have shown that oral sex has become part of many couples’ sexual practices, irrespective of their economic and social background. Many young girls reluctantly engage in these types of behavior only because they want to please their boyfriends. 

Q: Has pornography played a role in altering sexual behavior and expectations of people living in provincial communities and small towns?

 A: Yes. We’ve witnessed similar trends in smaller towns. I’ve been contacted by many women in these communities complaining about their husbands’ abnormal preference for oral, anal and violent sex. Some of these wives fear that their husbands will cheat on them with other women if they don’t go along with their sexual requests.

Many women cite unusual sexual requests on the part of their husbands as the basis for filing for divorce. In many cases, however, the judge sides with the husband, reminding the wife of her marital duty to accommodate her husband’s sexual demands. I’ve also been contacted by women whose local clergy had advised them to comply with their husbands’ wishes.

Q: Why do you think an increasing number of Iranians have become interested in pornography? 

A: There are not that many leisure activities available to people. Stress and depression could also be among the contributing factors. Men seek out various ways to relieve their stress. They give many reasons for visiting porn sites, including boredom, fatigue, impatience, losing interest in their wives and failing marriages. They try to realize their sexual fantasies by re-enacting scenes form porn videos in their real lives. Women, on the other hand, are more interested in the emotional component of a relationship. They would stay with their partner even in a sexless relationship.

Q: Do you have any data on the widespread distribution of pornographic material in Iran?

A: No. We don’t have any data in this regard. The study has shown that 60 to 70 percent of young, single and married Iranian men are interested in unusual sexual activities. The majority of women who I have interviewed were facing the same kind of problems in their relationships. I receive on average 500 phone calls a month from women from across the country, the majority of whom complain about their husbands’ addiction to porn. The husbands masturbate while watching porn and ignore their wives. These women have no idea what to do. We’ve discovered that 70 percent of married couples struggle with these issues.

There has been a marked increase in the number of people using porn in recent years. We need to get to the root of the problem. There are a number of contributing factors including poverty, unemployment, inflation and economic inequalities, which prompt many people to take refuge in the fantasy world of pornography. This is a way of relieving pressure.

I must point out that these men are not necessarily ill. A few might suffer from some form of psychological disorder, but the majority of them use porn as a way to relieve pressure and lower stress. We can address this problem by improving economic and social conditions in Iran. Men wouldn’t resort to porn if they had economic security and social welfare. They wouldn’t then force their wives and girlfriends to engage in unusual sexual activities.