In Iran—as never before in the history of the country—prostitutes gained notorious visibility in twentieth-century Persian literature. Fixation on the image of the prostitute created a wealth of literature beginning in 1924 with the first Persian urban social novel, The Horrible Tehran, by Murtiza Mushfiq Kazimi. Associating prostitution with economic corruption, political and administrative decay, and religious hypocrisy, Iranian male writers directed their attention toward representing the sexually wayward woman. By scrutinizing the image of the prostitute in The Horrible Tehran as well as her inflationary and unparalleled presence in Iranian literature in the early twentieth century, this article not only sheds light on the reasons behind the birth of the prostitute character in the Persian novel but also problematizes the period’s tangled legal, social, and moral attitudes toward female sexuality.

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