Eric Spiegelman handles Internet video production and digital distribution for GreeneStreet Films.

Beautiful Agony is not porn.  It can’t be – there’s no naked.  There’s no sex.  There’s no nasty talk – indeed, no dialogue at all.  I can watch it safely on the plane without the crotchety guy next to me complaining to the stewardess.  Yet these are the most erotic productions I’ve ever seen.

In each video of the Beautiful Agony series, someone masturbates herself or himself to orgasm.  All of the dirty work happens off-camera; the frame reveals nothing below the shoulders.  What you get is a study of someone going through the phases of sexual release – tense breathing and expectation, the occasional contortion of neck muscles and eyebrows, an outburst followed by glowing relaxation.  Each video is unique.   Like snowflakes and fingerprints, it appears that no two people climax the same way.

Each is intensely intimate.  In the video I keep going back to for reference, a blonde girl stares directly into the camera, eyes widening at key moments.  My eyes respond, as though she’s looking into them.  Watching it feels like cheating.  I don’t forward it on to my friends.

The site that hosts the videos shares the name of the series (it also goes by Facettes de la Petite Mort – a play on the French phrase), and it’s Dutch.  You have to buy a subscription, but intrepid googlers can find samples scattered about here and there.

The Internet makes the wonderful, strange, and distant accessible and immediate, and video content that originates from a Euro psychosexual sensibility is no exception.  I doubt that an American pornographer would think of this.  Their priorities rest, it seems, on the freedom of choice created by multiple camera angles, as if the things we never get to see in real life, but always wanted to, are closeups of sexual appendages from above, below, and behind.

For that reason, along with the specificity of the subject matter, I think Beautiful Agony only exists because of this new medium.  It fits in a genre that has never flourished on television or film but thrives online – collections of the quotidian experiences of daily life.  We’re all cultural anthropologists now, reliving the awkward pre-pubescent diaries of our youths, reading the bitchy notes of our roommates and coworkers, listening to the absurd things that people overhear on the street every day.  These are the atoms of community, organized and categorized, and presented in a fashion such that you take only as much as you want.  

I can handle dozens of Overheard In New York posts at a time but, for now, I’m hooked on just one episode of Beautiful Agony.  I don’t want the blonde girl to get jealous.

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