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What’s your come face?
If you’ve never thought about it before, the question might plague you after
visiting www.beautifulagony.com.
The new Australian-based website features dozens of short home videos in
which individuals take themselves to a happier place. In these two-minute,
one-person docudramas, the camera remains focused on subjects’ faces. There’s
no nudity (just audio), but each download is undeniably erotic. The men and
women featured exhibit a range of facial expressions as vast as an emoticon
chart. So
is this art, comedy or alternaporn? And does watching people’s orgasms for
a living make you insecure about your own? We called up Richard
Lawrence, a site co-founder,
to find out. — Tobin Levy

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You spend a good amount of time watching people climax. Are you now
hyperaware of your own come face, for lack of a better term?

There’s not a good word for it.

No, there’s really not.

To be honest, I think you lose all sense of conscious thought when you orgasm,
so it’s the last thing going through my mind.


How did you and Lauren [your partner] come up with the idea for the site?

We were talking about porn, about how lame and unexciting we found it, and we
started comparing ideas of what’s erotic and what’s not erotic to watch. We both
had the same ideas. I never understood why so many contemporary photographers
and artists completely ignore the
face in their work. I remember seeing a sequence of naked self-portraits that
a woman had submitted to an alternaporn site. She’d done some very graphic images,
which got kind of tedious. At the end of the sequence, she had taken some closeups
of her face in what appeared to be a genuine orgasm. I found that very arresting.

Tell me about the name.

Obviously the oxymoron is important. When you look at the faces, they’re in pain, but it’s an ecstatic pain. But Beautiful Agony wasn’t the first choice. I don’t remember what the first choice was, but it was already taken.

In all the videos, the subjects are looking directly into the camera. It’s a little unsettling.

I think that might be more of a technical thing. Cameras have those LCD displays,
and people use the LCD display to frame their shot. Some of them become a little
hypnotized by their own image.

To capture a genuine human orgasm with all its subtleties is not hard to do.

The faces are so disparate. Some are actually frightening.

Yes! Most of us don’t get the opportunity to see
many other people in this situation so, when you watch them, you really do feel
part of the process. You almost find yourself cheering them on, as if they were
participating in a sport or something. When you get to the end, you’re
exhausted. You
feel like you’ve been right through it with them.

Most of the subjects are your friends. Isn’t that awkward?

Not as much as you’d think.

Right. How do you approach a friend about doing this?

Some people instantly are receptive to the idea, particularly people who are
broadminded and come from artistic backgrounds. Then you get other people who
give you a quizzical look and politely say no, thank you. Obviously not everybody
can achieve an orgasm, so you have to phrase the question in such a way as to
make sure that people aren’t embarrassed into admitting they couldn’t do it
they tried.

You talked about this being a response to porn. What upsets you about

The internet has helped develop a lot of cultural threads very quickly, especially
with erotica. Let’s face it, the erotic media has
of a lot of growing up to do. I mean, even to the mid-90’s, most erotic imagery
was still borrowing heavily from that kind of wild West, Texas-whorehouse scenes
of garters and pearls. And what’s going on with stilettos? Do they think that
men aspire to shagging a rich girl with stilettos?

I’ve never really been a big user of porn. The only women I know who use porn
use it as comedy. I can’t think of any other industry that’s less in touch with
their customers. To capture a genuine human orgasm with all its subtleties is
not hard to do. It’s the most beautiful thing to watch, but its never been shown
to us in an entertainment context.

I find each [orgasm] erotic in its own sense, but they’re not all good. You
know, we reject some.

Yet some people might use your site as masturbation material. You can’t control how people consume it and why they consume it.

Right, yeah. We put it up there in a neutral context. The site is fairly simple,
and we’re not selling it as porn. It was sort
an experiment. We find it highly erotic, and we wanted to see whether the rest
of the world did as well. Maybe a quarter of our subscribers are women.
One female friend of mine said that she finds the site highly erotic and would
use it in that context. That’s the sort of response I expected from men.

Having seen hundreds of orgasms, have you become desensitized?

I find each erotic in its own sense, but they’re not all good. You know, we reject some. Some people bring back what is really amazing pieces of porn theater, and we sort of say ‘thank you very much’ and we take those and we put them at the back of the pile. They’re full of screams and moans and oh yeah baby’s — that kind of thing.

You’re not on the site?

No, not at the moment. I wouldn’t mind the world seeing, but it’s the people
I live and work with that would most embarrass me. A friend of mine has challenged
me to do it, and I’ve challenged her. I think we’re having a ‘I’ll show
you mine if you show me yours’ standoff. So it may well happen, I don’t know.

But have you taped yourself?

Personally, I don’t even use the mirror. A lot of people are exhibitionists, but they worry about how they’ll be judged if they knew that somebody close to them would see it. I know that’s how I feel. Would you do it, Tobin?

Ack! Would I? Um, I don’t think so. I’m sort of like you, regarding mirrors. I have a twin sister; most people would think I know what I look like, but I don’t. I don’t think most people really do.

That’s interesting, because we’ve got a pair of twins interested at the moment. It will be fascinating to compare their faces and see how similar they are. Are … are you identical twins?

Yes, but don’t even think about it.  

Tobin Levy has worked at Nerve, Talk
magazine, Contents and a book-scouting firm that made her an expert
on post traumatic stress disorder. Her writing has appeared in Men’s Health,
, Time
Out New
and Teen People.


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