A Gay time in Teheran

How many gay people are there? Well, the famous Kinsey report put it at a neat 10%, but more modern studies have place it between 5% and 15%, I suppose showing that Kinsey was in the right ballpark. A recent UK study put the figure around 5%, but noted that “[b]ecause homosexuality is stigmatised it is more likely to be under than over reported.”

I’ve never really been that bothered by the exact number because in terms of human and civil rights, I don’t think it has any bearing. No one asks how many wheelchair users there are before deciding reserved parking, ramps and accessible lavatories are a good idea. Nevertheless, the ‘percentage of gays’ has been a bit of a battleground. Some evangelical Christian groups set  it as low as probably 1% (or maximum 2%).

But the king of the under-estimate is of course Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He says there are none. Not one. At least, not in Iran! “We don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. We don’t have this phenomenon; I don’t know who’s told you we have it,” he said in a speech at Columbia University in 2007.

An aide later said he’d been misinterpreted and what he actually meant was “”compared to American society, we don’t have many homosexuals” – according to Reuters. (Perhaps they only aim to have none, since they seem to hang gay people as fast as they find them.)

But a new Iranian study shows that Ahmadinejad was wrong. Very wrong!

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a report published in the Iranian media reveals that:

A new study by an Iranian University shows that 24% of Iranian women and 16% of Iranian men have had at least one homosexual experience.

This is the first time that the Iranian media have reported the occurrence of such a high percentage of sexual acts outside marriage. The media are usually not allowed to elaborate on sexuality, and the government imposes heavy punishments for any sexual relationship outside heterosexual marriage.

Parvaneh Abdul Maleki, a sociologist, presented these findings in the “Third Conference on Well-being in the Family”. The Iranian media called the new trend “disturbing”. It says both homosexuality and masturbation are:

“sexual abnormalities that require multi-dimensional treatment of the issue,  including cultural, medical, and education campaigns”

Yes, onanism was included in the study. The research found that 26% of women and 73% of men have admitted “sexual self-satisfaction”, an act that is considered a sin in Islam. And by Catholics, I believe, but a pleasant way to spend a quarter hour in the absence of other amusements by everyone else.

Interestingly, this is higher than that bastion of free highs and free love, The Netherlands. Last year, a detailed Dutch report on sexual behaviour revealed this:

18% van de vrouwen voelt zich (ook) tot vrouwen aangetrokken
13% van de mannen voelt zich (ook) totmannen aangetrokken
12% van de vrouwen heeft ooit seks gehad met een vrouw
13% van de mannen heeft ooit seks gehad met een man
6% van de vrouwen noemt zichzelf homo of bi
7% van de mannen noemt zichzelf homo of bi

I’ll translate: 18% of women and 13 % of men have felt attracted to someone of the same sex. 12% of women and 13% of men have had gay sex, while 6% of women and 7% of men would describe themselves as gay or bisexual.

So, Ahmadinejad, if he wants to get his numbers down, could do worse than a dose of good ol’ Western Decadence. Nothing tastes as good as forbidden fruits.