Thom Yorke wants you to be “fitter, happier, and more productive” — not just in life, but especially in the bedroom. At least, that’s what some hapless graphic designer in Iran seems to think.
On Monday, May 11, Iranians jumped on the news that Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke has been featured on the cover of a relationship advice book in Iran.
Despite the fact that the book, “Marital and Sexual Problems in Men,” was published three years ago — @Mehr_DaD on Twitter said he saw the book in his uncle’s Mashhad bookshop three years ago — it’s been the butt of many jokes among Iranians in recent days. “Well, we’ve definitely got our fair share of sex problems in Iran, that’s true,” someone joked on Facebook, “so who knows, maybe he’ll be able to help men in Iran with their marriages.”
Iran is well known for double standards when it comes to sexual conduct. Officially, sex outside marriage is taboo. Morality police target Iranian women in particular, harassing them for wearing “improper hejab” or even for being out in urban areas after a certain hour.
But so-called “temporary marriages” are also common, often facilitated by "halal” or certified massage parlors. Although controversial, Shia Islam allows a man and woman to marry for a specific period of time, making it possible for sexual encounters to take place outside traditional marriage.
Younger generations of urban Iranians are also in the midst of an only partially-documented sexual revolution – challenging even more the notion of Iran being a land of no sex.
It’s not just Thom Yorke who features on the cover of the re-discovered self-help guide – a smiling photo of acclaimed American author John Updike (who’s actually dead) and a UK comedian referred to as Robert Webb (who looks nothing like the Robert Webb from cult program Peep Show) also appear on the cover. Can they give expert advice? “If they’ve been through problems, maybe they can help,” said someone on Facebook, with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek. Or are they, along with Yorke, being presented as the shining symbol of relationship distress? Others saw an invitation to be crude, offering to send Thom Yorke sex toys and commenting on his genitalia.
The front cover of the book promises help for men with “sexual and relationship problems”, “diagnoses”, and “self-treatment”. A source on Reddit says it’s actually a translation of a book by Professor Richard Millstone, which has been rendered into Persian by Doctor Mohammad Khoshro.
It seems unlikely that the book cover has been taken seriously by everyone in Iran – including, it has been suggested, the graphic designer who worked on the cover.
Like anybody else, Iranians love to read about sex tips – even though they reserve the right not to follow them. Earlier this year, an ayatollah offered up his advice for a healthy sex life: speaking to an audience in one of Iran’s holiest cities, Qom, controversial cleric Hossein Dehnavi advised women on how to please their husbands.
“Why not wear a skirt with slits up the side, so that, when you walk, he will see the back of your knees?” he suggested, while at the same time warning against the dangers of having too much sex. “The Prophet Muhammad has said that women must respond to men even if they are riding a camel,” he said in another recorded lecture available for purchase. “Of course, some of you might want to point out that there are no camels in the city. My answer is: forget about the camel — you have cars!”
IranWire reckons some things just aren’t meant to be understood. And we can only guess at Thom’s reaction when he heard that he’d become the poster boy for a creepy Iranian sex manual:
What the hell am I doing here?