Beautiful Agony (safe, but vaguely inappropriate for work) shows people having orgasms. There’s no nudity–just short
videos of people’s faces as they experience the little death. It’s a part-porn, part-art and deeply voyeuristic. Beautiful Agony
founder Richard Lawrence answers questions about the origin of the idea and what makes a winning video.
1. What was the origin of Beautiful Agony?
How much porn do you look at before it becomes boring? Like anything, the appeal
wears off more quickly if it’s shallow and lacks nuance. And almost all porn
and most so-called erotica is just that. There’s a loss of control which happens
at orgasm which makes us vulnerable and beautiful in that way, like good writing
which often comes from somewhere very deep and honest.
2. There’s an air of mystery to the site–no names, minimal information,
a no-nonsense log-in system. Is this intentional, and do you think this mystique
has helped with the site’s popularity?
It probably works against the site if you want to mark it on mass appeal. We
get emails saying they want to know more about the contributors, they want to
discuss them in a forum, and of course they want to see them naked. But these
people are prepared to share something very personal and we wanted to leave
the rest of their story up to the watcher’s imagination. Besides, I don’t think
there’s anything we could tell you about any contributor which would make their
Agony sexier than it already is.
3. I read in your Nerve interview that your first agonists were your friends.
How difficult was it to convince them to volunteer?
Easy, if you ask the right sort of friends. Most were in just for the originality
of the idea.
4. What is the ratio of submitted to accepted videos? What do you see in
the videos you actually post that isn’t in all the others?
We probably reject about half, but not always outright. Some are just languishing
in the queue and will stay there forever or until we run out, which doesn’t
look like happening anytime soon. We choose them on one criterion only: reality.
We sometimes send people back and ask them to be more honest.
5. Conversely, what are the most common reasons for rejecting a video?
The other reasons are technical things like framing. We have a strict "no
nude’" rule, and sometimes they don’t have enough light. So we don’t reject
them outright but we ask them to do it over, and usually they’re quite happy
to do that.
6. What’s the profile of the average submitter? What, generally speaking,
motivates them to submit? The cash? Exhibitionism? Something else entirely?
I don’t think it’s the cash, I think, in all honesty, it’s the chance to be
a part of something really innovative, and quite a few are exhibtionists, yes.
I think they’re turned on by what they see on the site so they want to do their
bit too. Surprisingly, we find it easier to get women to participate than men.
Men are so full of sexual bravado but most don’t have the guts to lay themselves
bare on Agony.
7. Is Beautiful Agony pornographic? Is it erotica?
It’s both. In the extreme. It’s hard-core pornography which is also very erotic
because it is so real and honest.
8. It occurred to me that you could put these videos together and make a
sex education film called "Identifying Arousal and Orgasm". If nothing
else, it would highlight the diversity in people’s arousal patterns. Have you
received any feedback from subscribers about the instructional value of the
Not yet, no, and I think if it was to have any value in that regard we’d need
to show the ‘fakes’ as well, but then we become the arbiters of what’s real
and what’s not, and I don’t think anyone’s qualified to make that judgment.
So the best we can do as curators of the gallery is be prepared to throw out
a few dishes with the dishwater and keep it as real as we can.