Mohamed Abdel Moneim is an upscale Nasr City boy like any other. A twenty-something graduate of Cairo University, he is a successful, tech savvy, English-speaking IT specialist from a good family.
Unlike many students, Mohamed did not date much in university. For him, college was a time to discover himself and figure out what he wants in a partner. The internet was an essential part of this process. Now, he has turned to the website Craigslist to help him meet the right kind of girl.
On Craigslist, Mohamed goes by the tagline “Sexy Dominant Egyptian Master. What he is looking for is “a female submissive/slave for no-strings attached fun.
Ok, so maybe Mohamed, which is not his real name, isn’t just like any other Nasr City boy. But, he says, his fetish does not make him as different as some might think.
“I m sure the number of people who think like me is so large as to surprise many, he says. “In fact, I believe most people have some kind of fetish or another, but they are unaware because they have not explored themselves enough to find out.
For Mohamed, that exploration took place over the internet during his days at Cairo University. While other students were playing the dating game on campus, he was going online to learn more about his desires and the world outside his upper middle class, Egyptian life.
“Most people in Egypt meet their partners or future spouses in college, he says.
“However I was mostly out of that scene since I did not socialize there – I mostly showed up just for exams and important stuff and then went straight home. I guess I m the kind of person you d call a geek. I have trouble blending in well with crowds of average people.
Sitting at his computer, the internet introduced Mohamed to a whole new world of endless information that he never even knew existed. Sexual fantasies were just a part of that.
“BDSM is just one example, he says, using the abbreviation for the phrase Bondage, Domination and Sadomasochism. He also learned about art, news, films, and recipes he shared with his family.
Mohamed learned about BDSM for the first time when he was 22 years old. Playing on the popular search engine Google, he discovered a wealth of pornographic websites depicting S/M sex. After that, he began to seek out other S/M sites, and was soon posting on message boards looking to connect with and meet other BDSM fetishists in Egypt and around the world.
“I found the idea very exciting and identified with the dominant role, he says. “Before then I had no such fantasies, though. They began to develop as I learned and explored more.
He feels no embarrassment or shame about what he likes, says Mohamed, but he is aware of the stigma that many Egyptians attach to sex outside of marriage. Combined with many people’s disapproval of kinky sex, he decided it was best to keep his fetish to himself.
“I didn t think it was something I should share with anyone except close friends and prospects, he says. “Not everyone is open-minded enough. I m sure many people would find it sleazy or weird, especially in a conservative society like this one.
In the United States, Craigslist is a wildly popular online “swap-meet. Looking at any of the site’s American web pages, one can find thousands of posts advertising apartments for rent, appliances for sale, jobs to fill or people to date.
If you were lucky and timed it right, with Craigslist you could go up the main street of any North American city and rent a new apartment, buy a used car, find a job and meet a cute girl, all before noon.
Despite the boom in Egyptian blogging and internet use over the last few years, Craigslist remains unpopular here. Mohamed insists that the site’s low popularity is the reason his ad has attracted only a handful of responses, and that many women share his sexual desires.
“The BDSM fetish is a very popular one, he says. “Many females enjoy being submissive in bed and taking on roles where they feel helpless and dominated. There is a whole subculture with different degrees of commitment and sometimes surprising extremes. But for most, including myself, it s just a way to have fun in a less ordinary way.
Like many internet daters, Mohamed says he is not looking to meet someone for a long-term commitment. He is looking for a few dates, maybe a cup of coffee, and hopefully some kinky, casual sex. “It appears that very few Egyptians know about Craigslist, and most of the ones who do seem to have a North American background.
Of the handful of women who have responded to his ads, Mohamed has met only one. He calls her Nour, which is not her real name. She was a 29-year-old divorcee, and worked as a human resources specialist in Heliopolis. She learned about Craigslist while spending time abroad.
In Egypt, the internet is one of many forces reshaping the morality of the educated, wired elite. For the well-off few, those who speak foreign languages, drink iced mocha lattes and cruise the internet on laptops in hip coffee shops, it is opening up new romantic and sexual possibilities that were unthinkable for their parents.
“Sex outside of marriage is a fact of life, says Mohamed. “The norms of this society are changing very rapidly. What was unheard of only 15 years ago, will not surprise many people anymore.