Thursday, October 22, 2015

On Orgasm and Beautiful Agony

The site Beautiful Agony exists in a space somewhere between art and porn. It's a collection of short films featuring close ups of people's faces as they pleasure themselves, falling into, then through orgasm. It's a celebration of la petite mort* and it's...beautiful. (It's a pay site, but there are some free samples.)

Explain the Beautiful Agonistas on the project's inspiration:

Beautiful Agony began as a multimedia experiment, to test a hypothesis that eroticism in human imagery rests not in naked flesh and sexual illustration, but engagement with the face. We wondered whether film of a genuine, unscripted, natural orgasm - showing only the face - could succeed where the most visceral mainstream pornography fails, and that is, to actually turn us on.

Considering porn has had a few thousand years to evolve, alongside other streams of culture - you'd expect it to be refined and sophisticated. Yet instead of developing in sophistication and nuance, it has become a brutal and charmless rendering of human sexuality. It's like the people who make it, don't really understand it.


What's also interesting to me about these faces contorted in orgasm is the realization that orgasm does come with a bit of agony. If you didn't know the experience yourself, to see someone moaning and grimacing in orgasm's throes would look, well, you probably would not want to "have what they're having."

The experience of going toward and riding the throbs of orgasm is so outside the realm of our other experiences. I mean, what other thing gets us to this place, this place of incoherence and liquid, sweet strokes leading to the deliciously inevitable?  It's so animal and primal and raw and very vulnerable.

Which brings me to this. Beautiful Agony will pay you $200 for an accepted submission. There are qualifications--you need a decent camera, you have to answer some questions and whatnot--but I wonder how many among us would do it. I could see doing it. The arty veneer makes it seem less porny and I like the idea of contributing real sexual experience to the well of collective sexual consciousness. Plus, hey, 200 bucks.

On the other hand, maybe 200 bucks is not nearly enough for, I guess is the right word, of something so incredibly personal. I think what makes sex so intimate is not the actual nudity but the sort of metaphorical nudity of letting someone see and hear and feel and smell and taste you as you come. When women have an orgasm, portions of their brain controlling anxiety and alertness go dark.  So to let someone be present with you and for you when you're in that space--bearing witness, as the Quakers say, though certainly regarding other things entirely--is a huge gift of trust.

In a nice twist, the primitive, earthy rutting of bodies, flesh and fluids, leads us to a state of transcendence somehow both grounded in and sublimely beyond the physical. Which is pretty fucking beautiful. (Thanks, life!)  To be able to jump into this void while grasping onto the back or ass of someone else, well, it's a bit of magic, really.


*Here's Google, waxing oddly poetic--oh Google, what do you know, really, of melancholia?--on the subject:  "La petite mort, French for "the little death"...describe(s) the post-orgasmic state of unconsciousness that some people have after having some sexual experiences. More widely, it can refer to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm or to a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the "life force," the feeling which is caused by the release of oxytocin in the brain after the occurrence of orgasm."

(photo via Beautiful Agony)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Women Happy Medicine"

I was Googling "sex patents" because -- well, I don't have a good reason for it --and came upon this enchanting piece of history, a 1930s Japanese sexual aids catalogue which purports to provide the "Key to the Sex Question." Whatever this "sex question" is, the answer seems to involve mysterious ointments, finger puppet-looking condoms and a variety of pointy marital aids. But I especially like it for the ad copy, which is charmingly poetic and, often, entertainingly non-illuminating as to what the product actually does.

Consider this:

The copy for the, well, whatever the hell those things are on the right, reads: "This is a blessing to men feel and get young by using this wonderful thing. We particularly recommend it to elderly men." Whatever "this wonderful thing" is (and from the sound of it, even the copywriter is unsure), it appears to come in Big Pointy style or Little Pointy style. I can't read the little booklet in the picture, but I presume it explains why a nice elderly man would want to festoon his wiener with bristles. As for me, if elderly penis is being presented to me, the addition of bristles isn't going to improve the situation. However, I welcome your hypotheses. (And, please know that if you possess elderly penis yourself, I'm of course not talking about your particular elderly penis.)

And speaking of bristles:

More spikes! Why so many spikes? Explains the copy: "If you this (on penis) and love her then she will never separate from you." Because, judging by the photo, she will be permanently impaled (on penis). Which I guess is would be the "unexplainable feeling to women" mentioned on page 6.

And, please, take a moment to enjoy the found poetry on this page:


"Age lady who has too big organ must use this then she will become condition of virgin."

"If you use this powder putting on female organ then will take off bad smell and increasing her organistic feeling very much."

It doesn't mention how you explain putting powder on your lady's female organ (note: "I'm taking off bad smell" will not go well for you) but "organistic feeling"? That sounds good, doesn't it? Yes, I know these products are overhyped, based on bad science and probably involve banned and/or highly flammable chemicals, but I find myself being lured by the bewitchingly odd prose. If I ever find myself back in 1930s Japan, I am definitely buying the Sexual Stimulants (only 2 yen!) because I am simply unable to resist this sales pitch: "A certain cream and tablets, if used, will make the whole business a real pleasure." And if the whole business can be a real pleasure and provide organistic feeling as well, then damn it, that's 2 yen well spent.