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Cult Health Sex. 2008 Apr;10(3):237-48. doi: 10.1080/13691050701740039.

Sharing beliefs: what sexuality means to Muslim Iranian women living in Australia.

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School of Public Health, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


In Iran, women's sexual self-understandings are strongly determined by religious teaching. This study explores the meanings generated through the lived experience of sexuality of women residing in Australia that may challenge certain received Islamic notions of sexuality. Interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with 51 Iranian women in Sydney alongside 10 semi-structured interviews with Shi'ite clergy in Iran. Findings suggest that the concept of sexual obedience within marriage is regarded as symbolic of an idealised Muslim femininity. Sexual obedience demonstrates women's high level of religious commitment but is also an indicator of modesty and self-respect. While some participants felt that it was a woman's duty to satisfy her husband on any sexual occasion, they did not utilize notions of subordination in their sexual lives. For other informants, however, concepts of subordination were more salient and tied to conservative religious leaders' interpretations of Quranic concepts and Iranian women's understandings of these same interpretations. Religion is an important factor influencing Iranian women's sexual self-understandings, being relevant both to sexual education and public health. Recognition of this issue will facilitate understanding of the cultural foundations of sexuality among Muslims and assist health providers in suggesting more culturally compatible forms of healthcare.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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