Friday, January 4, 2019: 9:30 AM
Grant Park Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
This paper highlights the interaction of educated women from the modern middle/upper class with the “problem” of prostitution in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s. I argue that prostitution carried a central place in the creation of an invented notion of a healthy and ideal family in the imaginary of the modern elite women’s conception of modernity. The family became a fundamental trope in the conception of a healthy Iran. During this period, the discourse surrounding the links between family and prostitution contributed to an elite form of women’s rights activism that othered and alienated lower-class women while perpetuating paternalistic frameworks within society as women gained some legal rights. In the process, elite women became an integral element in the discourse that worked to control the image of prostitutes based on upper-middle class imagination.
The family was also central to the aspirations, imagination, and hopes of prostitutes. For female prostitutes in Iran during this period, however, the ideal and class-based visions of family propagated by the women’s movement and women’s magazines did not necessarily translate into their worlds. Utilizing the women’s press and scientific studies and discussions on prostitution from the 1960s and 1970s, this presentation charts how the concern about prostitution was part of a larger demand and quest for social reform that began and heavily rested on the family. Both the downfall and redemption of prostitutes were perceived as beginning with the family.