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By Roya Monajem, Tehran


While brooding over the question of "What is intellectualism and what does it mean?" I told myself: " 'Forget' what Al-Ahmad, the contemporary Persian writer who first brought up this question for you has said about this concept, and 'forget' all the rest of the stuff you have read and heard about this subject that have had their own influence on who you are at this moment and instead turn inward and see what is your own understanding of this apparently charming word, "intellectualism;" a word as charming as other purely human fantasies, imagination, creations such as freedom and unconditional love.


The event that prompted such an inquiry was this repeated observation that it seems many of the so-called intellectuals of this country confuse intellectualism with 'libertinism' in the sense of 'easy-going-ness' or using Hedayat's Persian term "velengari.' A kind of 'green light' for doing what has been forbidden by religious socio-cultural values one has been brought up with a clear conscious and guilt-free conscience. Put it in very simple clear candid words, for women intellectualism (which in the view of the majority - women and men alike - is limited to having a degree from a higher educational institute - no matter how tragically low are the academic standards in the entire educational system of the country - and having read at least the best-sellers, or the works of well-known native and translations of foreign writers) means "the ability to have free-sex with the opposite sex."


And for men, because in an overall traditionalist Islamic country, free-sex has always been recognized as a 'masculine right,' they go a step further in this path and act in a manner that is called "prostitution" in regard to women and of the 'honorable' type of them and by that I mean those few prostitutes who have the privilege to select their mates. And going beyond morality and good/bad, right/wrong judgments and evaluations, prostitution can be defined as "the ability to have 'love-less' sex."


Now if we look back at the history of mankind, we find basically two forms of feminine prostitution (in the above sense of the word); for one line of women, it has been a career, a way of earning their daily bread (the overwhelming majority of this group have been and are from the lowest classes of the societies, with a small minority whose intense sexual drive together with a materialistic outlook, drives them to adopt such a career), and for another line of women it has been a way to salvation as the followers of Tantra Yoga.


And let us remember that human females are apparently the only species on the earth who can 'control their sexual drive.' In other words, unlike all the other creatures they can abstain sex even when they are 'in heat' without the need to 'castrate' themselves at least biologically! They have the religious social cultural traditions that automatically 'castrate' them in this regard!


So from the point of view of sexual relationship, we can divide women into 3 major groups - (1) married women; (2) prostitutes; (3) spiritual celibates - and 2 minor groups - (1) horny, (2) women with an underdeveloped or totally undeveloped sexual drive.


Intellectual women however, by the virtue of their financial independency and recently earned social security, can be none of the above and all of the above, hence a new category. [1]


(We will look at the characteristics of this new category later.)


The above classification holds true for men too, except that we do not find the second group, i.e. prostitutes, in the old sense of the word, among them. However, if we take prostitution as 'the ability to have love-less sex', then they have the prostitute group as well which embraces men who sell their manhood for 'money,' 'power,' 'social position,' etc. And like their female counterpart, intellectual men can be none of the above and all of the above, thus a new category. 


Now as everybody knows, the word 'intellectual' is derived from 'intelligence.' So an intellectual is the person who acts or seriously intends to act intelligently. In other words, an intellectual is a disciple of Intelligence. And intelligence is the ability to understand and know through the faculty of 'reason.' In fact, the degree of intelligence in each one of us is directly proportional to the amount of understanding and thereby love we have. How does love come into the play? It comes into the play because the more understanding we have the more we are capable of loving. Contrary to the old belief, not only love and reason are not opposites, but they are mutually inter-related and inter-dependent.[2]


Today, any intelligent human being knows that all our value judgments are time-space dependent, and thus relative. He/she knows that it is exactly due to our prejudiced, self-righteous value judgments that we have failed to create a loving just human environment and we continue to perpetuate this same inhuman world, if we do not go 'Beyond Good and Evil."  An intelligent being knows that what distinguishes us from all other intelligent earthly creatures is our two well developed frontal lobes, the seat of 'human mind.' And he/she knows that mind is the result of the historical social cultural and individual conditionings and programming. And its re-programming in the sense of going 'beyond good and evil' and to see the world as a 'scientific modern human being' should do, that is intelligently, is quite an arduous and effortful labor. Academic education and reading books makes a very tiny portion of this laborious work and most vital in this process is the intelligent use of the mind and intelligence.


Now as mentioned before intelligence is directly dependent on one's faculty of understanding and love. So an intelligent human being will have sex only for two reasons, the first - which is the primal function of sex - is for the purpose of procreation and the second for love.


In her book "Why we love?" Helen Fisher, the American neurologist claims that 'passionate love' is seen only in human beings and based on her recent brain researches she explains that 'biologically' a human couple should stay together for at least four years in order to ensure the survival of the next generation. In fact she believes that this is the reason for the evolution of 'passionate love' or romance in human species.[3]


Before the advent of 'masculine civilization' all this happened naturally and instinctively as it still happens in Nature in regard to other creatures.


On the other hand, what is called Tradition in human communities with many of them later turning into social cultural legal norms and values is normally based on some biological needs. For example, consider the Iranian Islamic chador, now regarded as a purely religious symbol. In reality, chador is a large piece of cloth that helped women to protect themselves from the hot sun, wind, cold and other harsh climatic factors. Zoroastrian women had a similar outfit. Indian sari which again is a large piece of fabric had the same function. That is why men of the same geographic regions wore turban, again a large piece of cloth, although smaller than chador. What else could help them to survive a sandstorm in a hot climate! These outfits are indeed like light 'portable tents' and women had a larger 'tent' because they had to protect their small children as well.


Similarly, the traditional institution called marriage is the social cultural legal form of the above biological need arising from the high dependency of human offspring on their parents as well as safeguarding the right of 'fatherhood." [4] It is in the process of disappearing at least in 'advanced' countries because of the economic social independency that women now enjoy and also the simultaneous emergence of other institutions that can play the role of parents (such as nurseries, boarding schools, etc).


Going back to the subject of intellectualism, what the 'intellectual' men who understand 'intellectualism' as 'libertinism' ignore is that the same religious social cultural traditional laws that institutionalized polygamy as a 'right' for men in Islam, oblige and urge them to provide material security for the woman they have sex with. When they disregard this primarily biological demand, responsibility, obligation, task, they are the most savage of all the males!


Why? Because what does distinguish a male animal from a male human being? Both get blinded with sex when they are 'in heat.' But this is how the things are in nature. If human males act as such, there is nothing 'wrong' in that; as much as it is not 'wrong' when a woman chooses prostitution as a career or divorce a man when he is incapable of fulfilling her sexual needs.


What is 'wrong' is to use 'intellectualism' as an excuse for ignoring the consequences of our behavior. And this is true for both sexes. It is O.K. if an uneducated, un-read individual acts merely as his/her biology tells him/her and ignores the consequences of his/her actions. In fact because such a person acts quite 'instinctively' the grave consequences of his/her action have normally a smaller scope than that of the educated, learned individuals. On the other hand, because he is 'uneducated and unread' he is normally more faithful to his social cultural traditions.


In a traditional culture like that of Islamic Iran a woman is brought up with specific mental programming. Sex is a domain she should never even 'think' about, and virginity is considered the most important feminine (or girlish) virtue that she should absolutely safeguard. As a child, she is even forbidden to get involved in the kind of sport activities (climbing a tree, riding boy's bicycles, etc) that might threaten her virginity. Such education and training forms the bed, the background of her mind. It is so deeply rooted in her 'unconscious' that her future education (even if it happens in a Western country) can not wipe it easily. It is stained there like a drop of wine on a white gorgeous silk wedding robe. It needs a lot of conscious brainwashing to wash away that stain (i.e. childhood programming added to the collective unconscious of her gender). Obtaining a degree from a university, reading books, watching Western movies and assuming herself as an 'intellectual' are not that much effective in this respect. The same is true about her opposite sex. He too knows how important 'virginity' is for the future of a woman. (It is amazing when I see so many 'educated' Iranian men, living in a Western country coming back 'home' to marry. They are not looking for an Iranian woman, i.e. a woman with the same cultural background; there are many of them in the country they now live in, but come back to marry a 'virgin!')


Except an unstrained sexual drive, the other thing that helps women brought up in traditional cultures to allow themselves to have pre-marital and extra-marital sex, is the pretext of 'intellectualism' in the most superficial sense of the word explained above, which is perhaps the most 'un-intellectual' behavior as well. Why? Because an intelligent person first thinks, then acts. The woman here first acts (establishes a sexual relationship), then when she finds the man 'gone' she starts to think. Perhaps she can not do otherwise. As it is said all over the world: 'Love makes one blind.' And the only time that a woman brought up in this kind of culture allows herself to establish pre- and extra- martial sexual relationship is when she considers herself in love. On the other hand, men know how to seduce women into bed. Even if they don't claim that they love the woman in question, they show themselves extremely interested with the intention of marriage. I do not say that they all 'lie.' But how could a man brought up in the same culture that values virginity of women as their prime virtue, marry a woman who goes to bed with him before the marriage?


Human beings are the only species whose sexual activity is not seasonal. They are capable of having sex any time of the year. In the past as soon as they were sexually mature, they naturally married. In strongly patriarchal cultures men have never difficulty in finding a mate. It is the women who have problems in this respect and there are several aggravating factors in action in present Iran too. First of all due to the eight years war with Iraq, the adult female population is now more than the male population. Secondly, the number of men who have left the country to study and work in foreign lands is also much higher than that of women. Thirdly, in the past seldom would a young woman remain single. The parents, relatives and neighbors would help to find a husband for her. Today, because she is 'educated' and 'westernized' she can not be forced to marry any man. Fourthly, by the virtue of Islamic Republic regime, she is not even allowed to socialize with the opposite sex easily. In other words, there is no outlet for her to release at least a certain amount of that 'heat' inside. For teenagers, sitting on the same bench at school, playing games, going to movies, holding hands, sitting comfortably (without the fear of getting caught by the revolutionary guard) in a café and similar activities is efficient enough to prevent them from jumping into bed, particularly in a sexually suppressing culture. (A few years ago when the girls of a high school in the south of Tehran (where mostly the traditionalists live) were examined, more than 80% of them were not virgin! I wonder what is the statistics for the rest of the city where mostly 'modern, educated people live!  A warning to the Iranian men living abroad interested in marrying virgins!)


Under such circumstances it is only natural for a young couple 'in heat' - no matter whether they are intellectual or not - to sleep together when alone. It is quite biological. However, once the act is done, then the mind comes into play. The girl now is 'robbed' of her 'most vital' treasure and becomes scared. The boy who is taught to regard virginity as the prime sign of chastity of a woman becomes suspicious and scared. So even if they were in love before the establishment of the sexual relationship, now this mutual, yet different forms of suspicion and fear will most probably 'ruin' that love. Fear and love are opposites.[5] Love can grow only on a bed of mutual trust. Even if such couples do get married, they will either live a 'love-less' life until the end of their life, or get divorced soon.


What happens between young women and men in this country today, that is having sex without being married is nothing surprising due to the above reasons. What is odd is when they commit such a 'religious crime' and violate other social cultural norms under the cover of intellectualism. There is nothing intelligent in the way these people act, as they do not know that they are the first victim of such purely 'instinctive, biological' behaviors.


One of the most painful memories of my clinical work is the scene of young women who lost their virginity in this way. Fortunately or unfortunately human beings now have a mind which is their greatest power and also enemy. And as mentioned before this mind is conditioned by our historical social cultural norms and values. A contemporary western woman does not suffer as much in similar cases because her present social cultural norms and conditionings are in harmony with her biological needs in this sense. While in the case of Eastern contemporary women (particularly in Islamic countries) the situation is just the opposite. As soon as she recovers from her love-based intoxication, she finds herself in the hands of the devil of her mind that keeps reminding her of the 'sin' she committed. Similarly, I have seen how men who have 'committed the sin' of sleeping with a woman without feeling responsible for the consequences of their action are haunted by the corresponding memory throughout their life. So many times I have heard from them that they are 'paying' for what they did to the woman who loved them so much that offered him her 'sole treasure,' that is their virginity.


What happens to these women afterwards is that they start to 'hate' themselves. And as we all know today, we can not live happily and experience love, when we hate ourselves. This is true about men too, but their life would not be as 'hellish' as that of a woman because of the patriarchal nature of our societies.


Academic degrees and a little or even a lot of reading and learning has almost nothing to do with intellectualism and intelligent behavior.  Negation and criticism of sectarian, righteous traditions, social cultural norms and valuation is the easiest part of the path to true intellectualism. The hardest part of this path is to present solution for what we criticize and negate. An intellectual is one who is capable of a higher degree of understanding. Understanding brings about love and compassion. In fact the way we can distinguish a true intellectual from a fake one is how much love and compassion is emanated from his/her being. That is why I claim that a true intellectual can not make love, without being filled with love and whoever that establishes a love-less sexual relationship is a prostitute, whether a man or a woman. An intellectual man or woman can not have pre- or extra- marital sex without paying attention to her/his historically, socially, culturally conditioned mind as he/she knows that he/she will be a victim of this mind. I am not preaching sexual 'chastity,' but inviting people to first re-program and re-condition their minds intelligently and 'brainwash' themselves from all the past backward inhuman conditionings and then act in anyways that they find the best. It does not help to cry over the spilled milk.



  1. If interested in the subject, see "Feminine Insecurity," at Roya's Corner.
  2.  For more details, see Wisdom/Unconditional Love: Civilized Ways of Control at
  3.  See, Helen Fisher, Why we love, The nature and chemistry of romantic love, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2004.
  4.  For a more detailed discussion, see the above book as well as Womanhood-Motherhood, which looks at the question of 'fatherhood' from a perspective different from the purely biological perspective of Ms. Fisher.
  5. If interested in the reasons, see my article "Unconditional Love" at


... Payvand News - 8/25/04 ... --

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