Sexting In Tehran

Mohammad Khiabani pursues the practice:

The cellphone has become the ultimate arbiter of social class in Iran, replacing the car. A majority of Iranians do not own a car, but a majority of Iranians do own a personal cellphone, which makes the all important pursuit of conspicuous consumption in the Islamic Republic much easier than before. As much as Iranians complain about their perceived backwardness, the entry of cheap East Asian cellphones into the Iran market over the last few years has put them on the vanguard of new forms of social communication -- one of which is probably not seen too much in the West. I am referring here to the phenomenon of Bluetooth "sexting." (If you are an easily offended diaspora Iranian pining in nostalgia for the homeland, please click away now.)

I had heard that Bluetooth was being used to send sexually related matter from phone to phone in the Tehran metro. This seems a highly innovative thing to do, since the metro is crowded with hundreds of people in peak hours, and males and females are mostly separated into separate train cars. Therefore sex messaging is as anonymous as one wants it to be. Given that everyone on the metro is constantly poking at their cellphones, one could never know who was the source of an erotic "sext." Solely in the name of science, one day I decided to turn on my Bluetooth and see what happened on my daily metro trip.

I don't think I had even given my phone a "male" name before I was solicited to "receive data" from a certain Maryam. I agreed, and downloaded a picture of a sparkly neon letter "M." Cute, I thought. Maybe this sexting talk was just another tall tale of ribald and Bacchanalian Tehrani youth. A few minutes later, though, some other solicitor asked permission to send a package. This time, it was a photoshopped picture of a buxom Iranian woman's face, in the passenger seat of an SUV, with her hejab still on, pouting her lips at the camera and superimposed text exclamating that I should call her for a good time. I do not think the number on the picture was the number of the phone that sent me the message; it was more likely the Iranian equivalent of the bathroom stall limerick above your ex-girlfriend's number scrawled with a pen knife.