Faces of Ecstasy: Orgasm as Art

As a sex educator and therapist, as well as a performing artist, I am always interested in artistic depictions of sex and sexuality. In my explorations, I’ve found two art projects that explore a similar theme: the depiction of orgasm as a meditation on art and culture. I know this sounds like all artsy pornography that’s ever been produced. However, these two artists have come up with a way of exploring the art of orgasm in a new way: without nudity or visible penetration.

First, there’s Beautiful Agony (NSFW). As they tell it:

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.

Yes, Agony is here to turn you on.

And for many, it does that and more. This community is one that values authenticity over artificiality, self-expression over showmanship, and penetrating stares over penetration.

There’s a similar project presented by NYC artist/auteur Clayton Cubitt. In these fascinating videos, he films actresses reading a selection from their favorite works of literature. However, there’s a special surprise in store for them (with their informed consent), and they end up getting so distracted that they can’t continue.

I find I am just as interested in the literature selection as I am in the actress that reads it. I recommend you check out Danielle reading “A Still Life With Woodpecker” (one of my favorite books) and Stoya reading “Necrophila Variations.”

All this you can find in Hysterical Literature (NSFW).

My one big question remains: Is it art or just <ahem> self-gratification? You can decide.

About Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen, LLMSW/MPH, is a sex educator and therapist practicing in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. His professional interests include HIV, polyamory, compulsive sexual behavior, religion and sexuality, and GLBT issues.