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      Coming on Camera: Beautiful Agony's Orgasmic Porn

      June 2, 2014

      By Rula Al-Nasrawi

      Still from Kamee's second masturbation video. All images and video courtesy of Beautiful Agony

      Hundreds of people around the world have seen Kamee* come. They’ve watched her lie down on her stomach and stare straight into the camera as she rubs her clit, her red lips forming the shape of a rapturous O. They’ve heard her quietly pant and moan as she climaxes, with her big brown eyes clenched tight. Every so often her eyes flicker up to the camera and smirk, and for a brief moment it's easy to forget who’s actually watching whom.

      “It’s not like I just want people to watch me come or anything like that,” Kamee told me. “I did it because I wanted to support a project that is a safe space for people who wouldn’t video-tape themselves doing something like this.”

      That project is Beautiful Agony—also called “Facettes de La Petite Mort.” It’s an Australia-based erotic website that posts daily videos of people masturbating until they orgasm. The twist is that the videos are only filmed from the shoulders up, so all you see is a succession of O-faces. The videos are basically webcam versions of Andy Warhol’s experimental “Blow Job” short film. Anyone from a DDD-cup porn star to your 95-year-old granddad can submit a video of themselves getting their rocks off. The videos range from one-man shows to group circle jerks, but you never see what’s going on down below. The name “Beautiful Agony” speaks to the almost painful tension you feel right before you come, followed by a zen-like state. The beauty lies in watching people of all walks of life momentarily lose control in the best way.

      Kamee, a film and theater producer and performer from Canada, discovered Beautiful Agony in 2012 through an old schoolmate and submitted right away. She taped her first video while living as a student in Switzerland, with the Alps as the backdrop and the sounds of birds chirping outside.

      “It was extremely quiet, and I just remember thinking, If anybody sees this right now...” she said, laughing.

      Founded by Richard Lawrence and Lauren Olney in 2004, Beautiful Agony hasn’t changed a lot since its inception. The site still has an old Windows 90-something look to it. The only difference between now and its debut is the long list of monthly subscriptions Lawrence and Olney have collected over the years. Pay $15 and you have access to hundreds of videos of people finishing themselves off, and confessing their innermost sexual secrets, for a month. Pay $100 and you’ve got access for the entire year.

      Lawrence told me over Skype that the site was essentially born out of the duo’s frustration with mainstream porn.

      “If we were to sort of parallel the porn industry with the car industry and imagine what a car looked like if it had the same values and the same sort of commitment to excellence that porn has, I think that you’d be looking at a piece of junk that costs $3 million that would run out of petrol after three miles.”

      So Lawrence and Olney took matters into their own hands.

      “We said, ‘Why don’t we try this and see what happens?’” Lawrence said. “I think we were a little too embarrassed to film our own [videos] and show each other, so instead we just lent a video camera around to some friends of ours that we knew were open-minded.”

      It didn’t take long for more than just friends to submit. While most submissions and subscribers still come from Down Under, the general audience is global. The site currently has more than 3,000 submissions.


      Still from Kamee's second masturbation video

      Along with erotic projects like Hysterical Literature (photographer Clayton Cubitt's video series of women reading literature at a desk, while being pleasured underneath the table) and MakeLoveNotPorn.TV (a site where regular people submit their own sex videos for online rental), Beautiful Agony is pioneering a shift in the porn industry away from the male gaze.

      “[Beautiful Agony] is something that fits right in with what has been kind of evolving over the last 10 years with the feminist porn movement internationally,” said Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Barbara. “It’s implicit critique is that the graphic display of pornography doesn’t necessarily equal pleasure for the viewer or the performer, and that you could possibly have something that’s less graphic or a more confined view."

      Beautiful Agony also sets itself apart from other porno sites by the agency its users have in the videos they submit. The person diddling on camera has 100 percent say in what the world gets to see—and what angle they see it from. The control given to the users and the amateur nature of their videos gives Beautiful Agony an intimacy that Miller-Young finds refreshing.

      “In a society of surveillance, I think, people have fantasies that are rooted in privacy and are rooted in no one knowing,” she said. “I think that it’s what is so interesting about Beautiful Agony, because masturbation is supposed to be this private act.”

      To further its mission in eroticism, a year into the genesis of Beautiful Agony, founders Lawrence and Olney decided the site needed more than just videos of people getting off. They wanted tell the stories behind the orgasmic faces on their site.

      “We realized that we wanted to know something about the people that we were watching, so we would interview them or we would ask them to interview themselves,” Lawrence said. “People will talk very frankly about their sex lives when they’re looking at a video camera, which is awesome.”

      Miller-Young finds the confessional feature of Beautiful Agony “massively important.”

      “It humanizes the actors, but they’re not seeing themselves as actors; they’re just regular people.”

      In Kamee’s confession video, she recalled one of her first experiences of getting off as a child.

      “I had this giant pink carnival bear that was kind of a rip-off of a Care Bear, but it was huge, like it was bigger than me at that age, and somebody had won it for me at a carnival or something. And I used to... I didn’t know what I was doing, I was a kid... But I used to rub up on it. That was my earliest form of masturbation,” Kamee said. “I did it every day; it was like a ritual.”

      Her mother eventually gave the bear away. And even though it happened years ago, it’s still one of the most memorable events of her life.

      “That was really traumatic for me. I mean, I lost my first sex toy,” Kamee said to me, laughing. “Children are hedonists. They’re just like, This feels good. End of story. There’s no post- or pre-anything; it’s just, I’m gonna continue doing this.”

      And while many people grow out of that hedonistic stage and learn about indecency and sexual gratification behind closed doors, others choose to fight it. Instead of just getting off for pleasure, these people get off and then share it with others in hopes that their own ecstatic release will create some sort of orgasmic domino effect that will double and triple and multiply. That’s exactly what Kamee did. She took a vulnerable moment, a moment free of inhibitions and control, and shared it with hundreds of people. All she had to do was hit record.

      *Kamee wanted only her first name revealed.

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      Topics: porn, sex, Masturbation Videos, Getting Off, Rubbing One Out, choking the chicken, Girls on Film, smut, love, Beautiful Agony, Facettes de La Petite Mort, Third Wave Feminism, feminism, feminist porn, Richard Lawrence, Lauren Olney, Hysterical Literature, MakeLoveNotPorn.TV

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