Hysterical Literature: Where Lit Meets Clit

April 27, 2015
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Hysterical Literature: Where Lit Meets Clit

“I like fucking with people,” photojournalist and filmmaker Clayton Cubitt told The Daily Beast. “I like subverting expectations.”

Cubitt’s latest ongoing project, Hysterical Literature, is a series of arty, black and white videos, each beginning with a woman sitting at a table with a book of her choosing. She says her name, the name of the book, and starts reading. After a few minutes you notice a twitch, a sudden smirk, a skipped beat, an open-mouthed pause or shoulders pushing forward, a moan, a deep exhale. The reader is having an orgasm, unable to continue reading, hands going palsied and grasping at the pages. But you don’t actually see what’s causing her to come.

The giver is actually an unseen Hitachi Magic of Wand (often known as the “Cadillac of Vibrators”). But who is under that table operating the vibrator remains a secret. Cubitt himself is neither seen nor heard. Is he behind the camera with an assistant under the table? Or is it the other way around? If you follow Cubitt on Instragram, you’ll discover he’s very much a part of the provocative and sometimes smutty photographs he takes, not merely an observer but an active participant. So one has to wonder.

Regardless, there are no instructions or words exchanged between reader and mystery vibe handler, which adds to the intrigue and spontaneity. In addition, there’s no editing and everything is shot in one take, most sessions lasting between five and eight minutes.

Clearly, Hysterical Literature is meant to challenge viewers and inspire some mystery and a little bit of, “Wait, what?” But one male friend I showed the videos to, after a few minutes, simply forwarded to the parts where it appears that something is actually happening. Cut to the chase, why don’t you. Ultimately, the words he used to describe it were “weird” and “creepy.” Unless he was being withholding, titilation didn’t seem to be a part of his experience (but also, he doesn’t read much). I was kind of interested, maybe primally so, in watching what these women looked like, trying to keep their composure and eventually relenting all control to the Big O. There seems to be an interesting, and sort of tongue and cheek, dichotomy between the act of reading being “righteous” while sex acts are “filth.” I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. As Cubitt writes on the Hysterical Lit website, “Do [viewers] respond to the salacious physical aspects (Sex,) or to the concept and literature (Art?) Some people get the whole nest of levels. Others only see the surface. This is all part of the experiment.”

The personally resonant and historically controversial lit chosen by the subjects include A Clockwork Orange, Leaves of Grass, and Beloved, among others. As of this writing there are 10 sessions online, which feature the likes of adult performer, Stoya; artist Marnie Lucas; and celebrity Margaret Cho.

There’s an obvious line drawn here behind high- and low-end art and modern pornography.

At the end, after the reader reaches orgasm, they’re supposed to look at the camera and restate their name and book title. A few can’t even do that. Some of the very-end-endings are well worth sticking around for, like when Marnie throws her head back and laughs so hard about what just happened. Her surprise and elation is contagious. Another reader, who came twice, pauses and looks down at her book contemplatively afterwards, hands resting on it like a sacred tome. Then she looks up and says forcefully, “Oh my God, that last one was killing me, man. That was hot. I needed that!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUARpT4JJew

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