Eleven years after the Islamic revolution forced women under veils and banned social contact between the sexes, President Hashemi Rafsanjani is championing a freer attitude toward sex and social interaction.
"We imagine that it is good if we suppress ourselves, endure frustrations and be patient in our sexual desires. This is incorrect. It is wrong," Rafsanjani said last week at Friday Prayers, an important forum for political statements."God has created certain needs in the human being, and he does not want them left unanswered," he said, addressing thousands of worshippers at Tehran University and millions of his countrymen on radio.
The efforts are part of a broad political and social liberalization Ransanjani has pressed, despite sharp opposition, since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died in June 1989.
Rafsanjani's moves have ranged from such major policy steps as encouraging private businesses and expanding ties with Western countries to permitting more contemporary music and even making television more lively.
"Why is it improper for a lady to marry twice in her lifetime? Or to have a temporary relationship - a temporary marriage - with someone else?," Rafsanjani said in his sermon.
"Sigheh" or temporary marriage, according to Shiite Islam - the branch of Islam in Iran - can be verbally contracted between two consenting adults. They take a temporary "vow" before engaging in sex.
Attempting to make the idea of "sigheh" as loose as possible, Rafsanjani said in his sermon that "some people imagine that for a temporary marriage we have to find a turbaned man (cleric)," Rafsanjani said.
"None of this is necessary," he said. "They can make a contract for themselves, if they want to be together for a month or two."
It wasn't clear whether Rafsanjani's comments Friday would quickly lead to a liberalization of popular attitudes toward sex. Social and moral codes are often interpreted differently from city to city, and some religious and government leaders still hew to Khomeini's ascetic line.