Love, The Prohibited but Thrilling Emotion among Iranian Youth

The ideological directions of the Islamic Republic have decisively affected young Iranians' identities and self-representations. The institutional adoption of Sharia (the Islamic law) was diffused to the private sphere, and thus the dichotomy of public and private life in Iran was further exacerbated. Based on an ethnographic research study on youth in an affluent neighborhood in Tehran, I focused on the privileged youths who are well-educated and mostly enjoy consuming globalized cosmopolitan culture. This generation attempts to make their own public space by collectively enjoying illegal popular culture and communicating with the outside world through new media and technology in private spaces. Moreover, they commit cultural crimes like holding house parties and hanging out with their boyfriends or girlfriends.
However, I argue that the private self of young Iranians also reflects the ideal public self and social values. The young generation has difficulties in expressing their emotions both publically and privately. Even though the sphere of the family is rather secular, it relies on traditional values and ethos to raise and discipline their children. Therefore, the emotion of love in Iran is thrilling but dangerous. Expressing love is prohibited in the public sphere, but dating is a secret even within the family.
The state has tried to control Iranian youths’ inner selves and emotions: Consequently, the dominant ideology has been unwittingly internalized by them, and their own spaces have become representative of the public order imposed by the state. The communication of emotions, the style of self-presentation and the relationship with family are affected by the social structure and simultaneously enforce the dominant discourses in private. This younger generation partially follows the hypocritical and ambivalent disposition of the society which they criticize strongly. As the Islamic Republic emphasizes the Islamic discourse and high moral values, individuals wear a mask which is appropriate to the ideological order even in ‘their own world’