the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
Mmm, baby: The very best in food porn
April 27 2013
Alternatives to Butler
April 19 2013
Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
Back to the kitchen: A short journey through sexist pop culture
April 12 2013
Bikinis and big booties, y’all
April 8 2013
Azealia Banks Did What?
April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
Sing, O Muse, of some sappy story
April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
A few days ago, a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook titled “Hysterical Literature: Session Four: Stormy,” accompanied by the all-caps endorsement “DUDE, THIS IS THE BEST.” As I trust her taste—and as I’m well versed in the root meaning of “hysterical” (from the Greek “hystera,” meaning uterus), thus hip to the potential pun—I smiled and clicked, eager for some sort of funny feminist polemic, a cheeky lady lit rehash.
What I saw was a static, black-and-white shot, taken waist-up across a typical school desk, of a woman in cat-eye glasses and a polka dot blouse. “Hi, I’m Stormy Leather,” she stated, perfunctory, audition-like, into the camera, “and I am reading from American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis.”
And that’s just what she did, beginning with a passage in which the deranged narrator waxes poetic on Whitney Houston. After more than a minute, I’ll admit, I was a bit confused, if not disappointed—left wondering what, exactly, qualified this pseudo-adult storytime as “hysterical.” As Stormy went further, though, her tone began to change, rising and falling at odd intervals, Ellis’s prose getting gradually jauntier, even belabored—until, at last, it became eminently clear: she was cumming.
Indeed, since this past August, the makers of “Hysterical Literature” have been putting willing women in this rather interesting position: asked to choose a favorite literary work and read it aloud for the camera, their voices rising over the steady hum of a vibrator going to work under the table, reciting valiantly on until they—well—finish (if you know what I mean). Each of the four installments made so far goes about how you’d expect: Gasps and giggles flutter up between lines of Walt Whitman, words gradually cresting and thinning, until at last, prose gives way to nonsense noise.
The question remains, though: Why? Sure, there’s stranger stuff out there on the Internet—see: my favorite procrastinatory destination, “Will It Blend?” which features a man in a lab coat attempting to answer that very question very literally, putting a series of objects, from glowsticks to iPhones, into the standard household appliance and hitting “Purée.”
Still, “Hysterical Literature” is perhaps more pertinent than other random online fare, if only because it pushes a great deal of oft-capitalized conceptual buttons—e.g., Feminism, Obscenity, or, you know, Porn. It’s easy, of course, to write off these videos as fairly standard erotica: We’re all well versed in the trope of the “hot librarian”—the ultimate “good girl gone bad,” a Platonic prude made even more alluring through the fact of her transgression.
But “Hysterical Literature” doesn’t feel particularly sexy—or, at least, not in any tried and true sense. In the first place, it’s essentially an endurance test; unlike in traditional smut, viewers may actually find themselves rooting for the subject to rein in her passion (at least until the end of the paragraph). Indeed, if these videos can be termed pornographic, then at the very least, they are fascinatingly so: From the sub-desk manipulations to the videos’ guise of literariness, everything remotely sexual is intentionally obscured.
So, is “Hysterical Literature” obscene? Or is it humorous? Perhaps obscenely humorous—even, say, “hysterical”? The Supreme Court once famously ruled that we’ll know pornography when we see it—but after watching these videos, I honestly can’t be sure. What I can say is, they’re entertaining—and perhaps even educational: not only are the books themselves well worth a read, but also, sexual politics in this country being what they are, it’s likely not everyone has seen (or had) a legitimate girlgasm. Plus, for all us logophiles, watching ladies appear to lose themselves merely through the fervor of ecstatic prose is at least tongue-in-cheek amusing, if not actually a little hot.
If nothing else, we students can take it as a study tip: What dry assignment wouldn’t be spiced up by taking a page from these ladies’ books?
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