In the latest example of the Egyptian state’s attempts to ‘control public morality’, which mostly target women, a female pastry chef was arrested at her home after it was revealed that she had supplied cupcakes with penis decorations for a private birthday party at a sporting club in a wealthy Cairo neighbourhood.
During the party, attendees shared photos of the cupcakes with members of the Gezira club as well as on social media, and state media reported that security forces managed to identify the baker after taking statements from eyewitnesses.
Soheir El Attar—a 74-year-old professor at Cairo University who attended the party—told El-Watan News that guests were surprised by the phallic treats. He added that he wondered if the cupcakes were meant for a hen do and had been served at the birthday party by mistake.
A member of the Gezira club familiar with the incident told The Independent: “Nobody complained at the time. Then they [the authorities] got a hold of the picture, and it blew up in their faces.”
Egypt’s minister for youth and sports, Dr Ashraf Sobhy, who oversees clubs such as Gezira, got involved in the case, and announced that his department would form a committee to investigate the incident and punish alleged perpetrators. Yes, all this for a few penis-adorned cupcakes…
Just last week, two female TikTok influencers who served jail terms last year for “violating family values” and harming public morals were acquitted. The women had initially been sentenced to two years in prison. Why? One of them, Haneen Hossam, had posted a video on TikTok telling her 1.3 million subscribers that girls could work with her for money. She was accused of “inciting debauchery”, “attacking public morals” and “human trafficking.”
Meanwhile, Mawada al-Adham who had about 2 million Instagram followers was also arrested in May 2020 after publishing satirical videos. The two women are among a dozen influencers arrested in 2020 for “breaching public morals” in Egypt.
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In June 2020, an Egyptian court sentenced the belly dancer Sama al-Masry to three years over “inciting debauchery” on social media after posting a TikTok dance video. In 2018, a female singer was detained on the same charge after an online video clip of her dancing went viral. The previous year, a female pop singer was sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges, also over a video deemed provocative. Her sentence was reduced to a year on appeal.
The baker was interrogated by the same misdemeanour court that recently tried the Egyptian actor Rania Youssef on charges of “contempt of Islam and infringing Egyptian family values” after she wore a ‘revealing’ dress while attending the closing ceremony of a film festival in Cairo.
Many Egyptian tabloids published pictures of the cupcakes with the ‘offending decorations’ blurred out. According to The Guardian, Egypt’s largest state-owned newspaper, Al Ahram, described the confections as “indecent and immoral shapes.”
The newspaper Al Masry Al Youm reported that the pastry chef was in tears when she arrived at a prosecution office in Cairo. According to the paper, she told interrogators that patrons of the club “came to my shop and handed me pictures of genitals, and asked me for cakes in these forms.” After questioning by prosecutors, the woman was released on a bail of 5,000 EGP (£233).
Many who had been following the story on social media went on to criticise Egypt’s slow response to arrest sexual harassers, rapists and abusers compared to measures being taken against women. Since taking power in 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has passed a number of laws tightening government control of the internet.
One piece of legislation strengthened the government’s ability to target social media as part of continued efforts to crack down on dissent, including categorising social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as public websites and therefore ‘worthy of surveillance’.
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How often did the eggplant emoji make you absolutely cringe when swiping through Tinder? A recent study conducted by researchers at the Kinsey Institute found that a frequent use of emojis is directly linked to having sex more frequently. Yes, you read that correctly—your sex life now depends on emojis.
And it is not just your sex life; in fact, emojis have been proven to be effective signals for relationship-oriented digital communication, leading to a more successful dating life. The researchers have conducted two separate surveys. In the first, they found that 28 percent of Americans use emojis regularly, 3 percent use one in every text, 2.5 percent use more than one in every text, and all participants found that using emojis provided them with a better outlet for self expression than text-based messages.
The second survey found that 97 percent of its partakers use emojis when speaking to potential love interests and showed that emoji use is related to maintaining connections with a first date, meaning that people would be more likely to engage in intimate behaviours as time progresses. Both surveys were then connected to information such as how often do these people have sex, go on a second date, and kiss their partner, and it appeared that those who participated in these activities the most also happened to send the most emojis.
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise—emojis, in a way, are a 21st century art form in itself. There is even an animated film dedicated to them titled, perhaps unsurprisingly, The Emoji Movie, and a few years ago a university in Ireland shared potential plans of creating an emoji as a foreign language course. Somehow, emoticons have gained immense pop-cultural value, and it was only a matter of time until they caught up with the way we communicate among each other.
There are limitations to the study, however, as there is no evidence of what type of emojis are used most frequently and which emojis link to what outcome. It is also important to note that the survey focused on the sending out of emojis rather than receiving, therefore there is no proof of how the latter reacts. While we question the likelihood of each emoji’s ability to turn us on, it is important to take the entire research with a grain of salt. But what does this say about our use and understanding of emojis?
It is no secret that when conversing via text certain elements of human communication get lost. Verbal communication and its meaning are greatly affected by the person’s voice, tone, and intonation, which simply can not be present in a text. Emojis can add that tone of voice into the conversation, allowing for a much more expressive and friendly flow, and essentially ease out the conversation.
Dating in today’s world is, without a doubt, stressful. Dating apps and websites have made dating a lot more accessible, as we now have the ability to plan our next hook-up with the tips of our fingers. However, the link between romance and technology has also created a handful of its own issues, such as the inability to find meaningful love or presenting us with too much choice, which results in confusion as well as anxieties over not appearing too desperate. Emojis are able to add a certain tone of casualty and laid-backness to the conversation.
The previous idea could then be traced back to the survey and success of emojis in conversing among potential romantic partners. Emojis can sometimes make the conversation more relaxed and less serious, which could lead to a follow-up date. Of course, the fact that we need emojis to communicate better is slightly concerning, but, then again, we are shifting towards a digital future, and it is only natural that each and every element of our lives will become impacted by this, for better or for worse.
Considering the countless debates around how technology and mass digitalisation have changed dating as we know it, making it even more difficult to connect romantically and intimately, the argument that emojis are now improving our sex lives certainly comes as a paradox. But hey, it seems to work. So go on and up your emoji game.