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Cyber intimacy, especially video-based, is where we channel our emotions, imaginaries, kinks and touch via apps, servers and headsets. In a recent encounter, I had the chance to experience those channellings with a lover/friend, and through this new experience, questions and concerns arose. Questions that were technical, stemming from my work as a queer digital rights defender; others related to this encounter and its unfamiliarity to me. I am writing to unpack how the knowledge of surveillance in my Egyptian context of technology, culture and economy shape this experience of cyber intimacy and, in particular, cybersex.
Around the 1990s, Egyptian middle-class families – which I belonged to – started having dial-up connection as part of the household. Usually shared, the desktops laid in one of the bedrooms or in the living rooms, where members exchanged times of surfing the internet from emails to music, to hacking into things, to the most common hidden act: watching porn.
At this time, surveillance was not a known practice to me. Yet, as a teenager, I was able to find other family members’ traffic on that shared device. I loved digging up and finding the "treats" of busty women, and different tastes of porn that my brother left traces of. I would check the watermark, to know what sites I can visit, but the golden rule was: leave no trace.
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