Sex and the City ... of Kabul

Chair of the Middle-Eastern Sexual Health Committee at WAS, Sara Nasserzadeh hosted an award-winning radio program on BBC for a Farsi-speaking audience. She remembers the questions that came from Iran and its neighboring countries.
  • Transcript


Question: What was it like to host a sex radio program in the Middle East?

Sara Nasserzadeh: I had a radio and online program for BBC World Service. It went on for one year before I moved to New York, and it won an award for innovation of the year 2007, which was really the icing of the cake. And the main questions that I used to get, because it was for the Farsi-speaking audience globally, were very interesting. You could get some questions from military camp in Afghanistan -- I actually had a gentleman call me to buy bread or something. And they called us: “Oh, hi, I'm in the city for two hours; I have this question; could you please ask Dr. Sara?” And it was so touching that they could just have this source to reach out and ask their question. But the neighboring country, Iran, the questions that you would get from them would be quite different. For example, from Afghanistan, even from Kabul, you would get questions that made you realize how closed the culture is, how conservative the culture is, even after Taliban. But then the neighboring country, Iran, you got all these questions about different fetishes, different fantasies, and it could be a really interesting contrast. Or from Tajikistan. Or from the same people, Afghani or Iranian population outside the country. So, for example, “I'm calling from The Netherlands,” and the question could be quite different because of the whole social, cultural aspect of it. But unfortunately the BBC Web site got censored in Iran because of the political reasons, so we couldn't reach to the population that we had, the audience that we had, through written material. So what I came up with was to put them all into the email format, ask people their email, and then e-mail them out as PDF files. And they were actually very kind at BBC to let me do that, because of the copyright issues and all that. But you know, the main purpose of that is to educate people who couldn't be educated otherwise this openly, you know, talking about masturbation, homosexuality -- nothing was off-limits.

Question: What kinds of questions did you field?

Sara Nasserzadeh: Initially, all the people from Afghanistan, Iran and all these countries were men. Ninety-nine percent were men. Over time -- I don't know whether because I was a woman -- what gave them the encouragement, but more and more we saw women calling, writing to us, e-mailing us and all that, which was an interesting achievement. But the questions -- for example, mostly from Afghanistan, from what I can remember -- were mostly about relationships, getting married, the first-timers. So I'm getting married; what should I do? I'm so scared. Or inhibited ejaculation for men, as I can remember. And many, many questions about size -- size of the penis. Am I normal? Am I not normal? Which is really interesting, because if you compare the scientific literature, this is top of the range of the questions that men post to the Web site and all this, you know, about the size and also rapid ejaculation.

Recorded on October 20, 2009