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“If desire [in a society] is repressed, it is because every position of desire…is capable of calling into question the established order of society…it is revolutionary in its essence…It is therefore of vital importance for a society to repress desire, and even to find something more efficient than repression, so that repression, hierarchy, exploitation, and servitude are themselves desired…that does not at all mean that desire is something other than sexuality, but that sexuality and love do not live in the bedroom of Oedipus, they dream instead of wide-open spaces, and…do not let themselves be stocked within an established order.”

— Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Stencil graffiti depicting Elmahdy, in the form of the nude blog photo of herself. Its text also refers to the case of Samira Ibrahim. (Credit: Women in the Revolution)

In his essay Arab Porn (2017), the Egyptian author and journalist Youssef Rakha deconstructs an aspect of Egypt’s cultural history of the new millennium. He makes a case for how and why amateur Arab pornography acts as a political tool against the sexually repressive status quo. He attempts to account for the failures of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 by connecting the activists’ shortcomings and ultimately frustration to the nature of Arab porn, which is reflective of the Egyptian society’s approach to sexuality, culture, politics and change. Sharing Rakha’s views, I see the Egyptian Revolution as a failed one: It replaced a military dictator with a misogynistic Islamic fundamentalist one, turning the country into a theocracy that was later overthrown in a military coup to have Egypt return once more to military dictatorship.

While Egypt does not have an official porn industry, if one searches for Arab Porn, plenty of home-made, low-quality videos can be found. Through a voyeuristic gaze, Rakha analyses various porn videos (links to which are included in his book), and draws what I perceive as far-fetched connections between the amateur porn industry, the Arab Spring in general, and Egypt specifically.

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My body behind the Egyptian flag in my grandma’s home, Cairo, 2011. (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

Where I come from, I’m the devil’s incarnation

The fallen woman

Lilith.

You see, there’s always a dichotomy at play:

The sinner, not the saint.

The whore and the prostitute.

I am the one without a hymen

The one mothers spend lifetimes

protecting their daughters from becoming.

Even by cutting off their clitoris

By subjecting them to a lifetime of neurosis

And depriving them of sexual pleasure

Of their natural ‘birth-right’.

Their birth was a catastrophe

For they lacked a cock

Dangling between fleshy thighs

I am the adulterous. The mistress.

The one who says fucking and not making love.

The one who is unabashed.

“Have you no shame?” they ask in disgust and disbelief

“No.” I say in front of my people.

Those who condemned me

To a lifelong of oppression

And if they could, they would stone me

Scornful laughter and feet stomping

on the jagged streets of Cairo.

“What a whore… She deserves even more.

We pray to Allah that she rots in hell”

The noises pierce through my damaged body

My cracked bones and open skull

My protruding eye

Bloody lips.

I broke out of society’s contours.

Dictating, policing, destroying, desiring and fearing my body.

Am I a fallen woman because I experienced my sexuality?

Or is it because I dared derive pleasure from it?

Perhaps because they couldn’t detect a trace of shame.

Of regret. Of loss.

They believe a woman gives herself up during sex.

For me, it’s a process of mutual transaction: I give and take pleasure.

Never saw it as a form of sacrifice.

Never sensed a lack upon fucking.

And never did I ‘value’ myself less, because a membrane is gone.

I have inked my body and ripped through many skin tissues.

No one seemed to mind when the scars were red and visible on my arms.

The only wound they saw in me was me: The opening between my thighs.

My vagina. I was my vagina and they saw me as colonized by a foreign invasion that they needed to revolt against.

I am the enemy now.

I am a dangerous force to my home.

I’m calling for sexual-liberation and empowerment. But both the women and men fear me.

Or despise me.

I have been condemned to death by stoning.

Come and enjoy the spectacle tomorrow in the main square.

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