Hysterical Literature

You’ll want to be on headphones for this one.

Hysterical Literature: Session One: Stoya.

Stoya visits the studio and reads from Necrophilia Variations by Supervert.

Photographer Clayton Cubitt has begun a video series called "Hysterical Literature" in which he films women reading from a book while something happens out of sight beneath the table at which they're seated. For the first installment, the divine Stoya chose to read an excerpt from Necrophilia Variations while she was being masturbated by a conspicuously effective Hitachi vibrator.

Death and consciousness — these are at the heart of Necrophilia Variations. Cubitt's aesthetic and Stoya's performance are what make "Hysterical Literature" stand on its own as video art, but what thrills the silent partner in the ménage is to see how their experiment extends the spirit of the book. They take an impulse from the text, translate it into another medium, and beam it into the world anew. Bravo.

In filming this experiment, Cubitt makes an important aesthetic choice. He shows neither the vibrator nor the accomplice operating it, though a slight buzzing sound is audible underneath Stoya's voice. This positions the video in opposition to pornography, where the sex act always occupies center stage, and aligns it with an artistic tradition which recognizes that withholding can be a powerful way of conveying information. You see this in Andy Warhol's film Blow Job, in which the camera registers the transient emotions on a young man's face as he is fellated by an off-screen partner. Similarly, by withholding the Hitachi and the female using it to destroy Stoya's composure, Cubitt channels that there-but-not-there sexuality into the things which he does permit you to perceive: the crescendo of sensation building on Stoya's face; the movement of her hands, which are imbued with an eroticism they would be denied if the frame included the diverting sight of genitalia; the transformation of her voice, which begins in narration and ends in gasping.

Some words from Stoya :

I’ve never understood vibrators. I’ve gone on record numerous times saying various versions of “I dislike them all except for Lelo’s Nea which I really only appreciate aesthetically.” I think it’s the buzzing that bothers me. I’ve posed for plenty of photospreads with toys, but I’ve always seen them as a poor substitute for a person and I’ve never had an orgasm from one. Less than a month ago I was on a panel at Exxxotica with some of the adult industry’s most successful female performers. Someone in the audience asked what our favorite vibrator was, and every single one of the other women shouted “Hitachi” in unison. That night I received an email from Clayton asking if I’d be interested in his new project.

He’s filming women sitting at a table reading literature. The twist is the things going on below the table. I like these sorts of things… This Empty Love was the first video work I enjoyed doing, making hardcore work with Digital Playground an interesting option later. I think the interesting parts of sex are in the hints of what can’t be seen. Penetrative sex, after all, is an exploration of something dark, moist, and cavelike.

I’ve chosen a section of Supervert’s “Necrophilia Variations.” I’m fascinated by Supervert and their (his?) body of work. I went with the Necrophilia themed volume because I’m currently in an oddly non-morbid obsession with something triangulated by the way an orgasm affects brain chemistry, the reasons behind the french nickname of la petite mort, and why my mind goes completely blank when I’m at the height of a sexual experience. There’s something in there, death and sex, maybe change or growth, and I’ve been focused on it since shortly before I posted “Touch.” Sometimes I can brush this concept with my fingertips, but I can’t grab hold and inspect it yet. The only way to understand is to wallow in anything that might hold a clue until it all clicks together (or am distracted by something shiny… but it would have to be *really* shiny.) Tl;dr: That’s the book that felt right.

I’ve been told to dress as I would for a date with a man, not a boy. I’m wearing a dress from Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania collection last year. The cut limits the range of motion of my arms, but ideally I wouldn’t need to open my own doors or feel the desire to talk on my phone while on a date with a man. My makeup is simple, my heels very high but relatively practical, and my panties are both sophisticated and expensive. Also, damp in the gusset. Sexually speaking I really enjoy things that I can’t predict and things that are new to me. This attempting-to-read-aloud-and-maintain-composure while being sexually stimulated game is new. The video camera adds a dash of exhibitionism which I always appreciate. Most interesting, though, is the Hitachi that my vagina is about to be making very good friends with for the first time.

When I tell Clayton’s lovely assistant for the evening that I’ve never experienced the Hitachi, her eyes light up. I’ve obviously gotten myself into the most fun kind of trouble. Lights get set and everyone assumes their positions. My underwear lays on the floor out of frame. As I start reading, my disbelief is suspended. I forget what is about to happen. The first touch on my thigh sends all available blood to my vulva. I continue to enunciate properly, focusing on the text. I’ve broken a sweat. If this goes on for much longer my hair will be plastered to my head with perspiration as though I’ve been working out or engaging in acrobatic man/woman penetrative fucking. I stumble over a word, my concentration breaks as I go back to pronounce it correctly. Neither the Hitachi or the woman wielding it will be denied, but in the interests of art (and because this feels so beautifully filthy I don’t want it to stop yet) I hold out as long as I can. This section of the world that I’m inhabiting slows down, zooms in. Like a stretched rubber band it suddenly contracts, and I am lovingly punched with an orgasm.


.........I giggle-pant, hands on the table. Once enough pieces of my mind have come back I deliver the closing line.

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