Could you calmly read a book while having an orgasm?
These women all tried, and each of them failed.
Welcome to the world of Hysterical Literature – an art project in which women sit at a table and begin reading from their favourite book, while they are pleasured with a vibrator until they climax. You know, the usual.
Artist Clayton Cubitt came up with the idea in 2012, and the subsequent ‘sessions’ on Youtube have racked up over 20 million hits. So, um, what does this have to do with art? Well, the official website says:
“It explores feminism, mind/body dualism, distraction portraiture, and the contrast between culture and sexuality. (It’s also just really fun to watch.)”
So, basically, because art, okay?
Each session focuses on one woman, and usually takes between five to ten minutes (that unseen assistant under the table must be very good at their job). The women gradually become more and more flustered, until eventually they become too distracted to continue reading. Then they… finish.
And that’s it.
Take a look (and skip to closer to the end if you want to see the NSFW juicy bits):
There’s even one with actress and comedian Margaret Cho:
Apparently it’s allowed on Youtube because all the NSFW bits happen under the table. But artist Cubitt says he doesn’t understand why anyone would be offended anyway: “It’s not literally showing any sex,” he says. “The sex is hidden. The viewer would have to object to the very concept of sex to object to Hysterical Literature. And in so doing, what does that say about them?”
That being said, he still understands that the concept is controversial – that’s why he’s never allowed comments on any of the Youtube videos: “No one has ever regretted disabling comments on any art that relates to sex. Sex has a tendency to make smart people dumb.”
Art aside, there’s one question that everybody who watches these videos wants answered… Are the women faking it?
Cubitt says there’s no definite answer: “The readers are given no instruction to perform one way or another, aside from being asked to read,” Cubitt says. “What they choose to read and how they choose to react rests entirely with them.”
Well there you go.
If you want to look at more video sessions, head to the Hysterical Literature Youtube channel right here.
To read more about the project (or to volunteer, if you’re so inclined) head to hystericalliterature.com