Beautiful Agony, the o-face video website, turns 5! launched in 2004 as a response to what the founders saw as a vacuum of real erotica on the Internet. It features videos of contributors’ o-faces, i.e. orgasms from the neck up. Hundreds and hundreds of videos later — they update each weekday — the site is still going strong. It’s heavy-breathing sexy without being obscene in the slightest — quite an accomplishment. You have to pay to join ($14.95 a month) but there are plenty of free samples in case your sex life is on a recession-induced budget. We chatted with c0-founder Lauren Olney about the site:

Do you post every video you receive?
Unfortunately not all the videos we receive make the cut. Mostly it’s technical problems that prevent us from using a contribution: poor lighting, framing, or flashing a little too much flesh. Anything that’s obviously faked or exaggerated will also get politely declined we’re looking for authenticity, genuine emotion — and believe me, after five years, we know how to spot a fake! We also require a Confessions interview with each Beautiful Agony submission, so if a contributor is not willing to speak openly and honestly about themselves and/or their experiences on camera, then we can’t really use their “o-face” video, no matter how sensational it might be.

So how do you determine if someone’s faking it?
Recently I worked out I’ve witnessed something in the region of 2,500 orgasms since the project began and I can honestly say, after that many, it really does just becomes second nature! Genuine emotion is in the tiniest, tell-tale details: the sex-flush, dilating pupils, beads of sweat, the sounds, the breathing rhythms, the body language. Of course you get wild screamers, but you’re going on an intense journey with that person and so you really see how their experience evolves. The Confessions interviews are very helpful at providing an insight into individual personalities too. But really, what’s the point in contributing if you’re going to fake it? Most people are honest in their approach to Beautiful Agony, and those few that aren’t really just misunderstand the concept of the project. All the exaggerated porn faces, the “oohs” and “aaahs” and “”fuck me, fuck me harder baby, oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah…” —  that isn’t an orgasm, that’s bad acting!

How do you think the orgasms on your site differ from orgasms in mainstream porn?
I think it all hinges on the focus on reality. These are real people sharing a very real and intimate moment. They’re not performers, actors, or models, they are just ordinary people. Okay, they might be a little more adventurous than some of us, but the fact that the vast majority of our contributors do not come from the adult or sex industry is very interesting, and I think that is a major part of the appeal to both the contributors and subscribers. These videos are real, they’re honest, they come from all over the world, all types of backgrounds and all types of personalities.

Are your videos all masturbation, or are partners involved?
The larger part of our submissions are solo sex explorations, but people choose to submit mutual masturbation films, oral sex, and partner sex. We also have many videos featuring two people  – sometimes a couple, sometimes just friends masturbating simultaneously, with their heads in the same frame. And we even have a Pentagony on the site, featuring five ladies in a circle! Certainly for many of our contributors, the Beautiful Agony experience is something they choose to share with a partner, whether that’s being involved directly or just watching the video together afterwards.

Do you receive more videos from men or women? And what about your audience, is it mostly men or women?
Roughly three-quarters of our submissions are from women, I think the guys are a little shyer to be honest, though there is certainly no one “type” of person who submits their Agony to the project. Our contributors come from a wealth of different backgrounds: social, ethnic and geographically-speaking; they are male, female, transgender, queer, married, single, polyamorous; and of course, there is a diverse range of ages, from 18 and over. In fact, I’m happy to say I have just received a contribution from a lady in her 70s!

We could imagine this being the kind of thing that women who are put off by porn might enjoy. Have you found that to be the case?
I’ve found women enjoy pornography just as much as men, be it hardcore, softcore, erotic or otherwise. But yes, I think there is a more diverse appeal to Beautiful Agony, it’s very non-threatening compared to the majority of mainstream pornography. We so often read that women need to have their minds aroused just as much as their bodies and I think Beautiful Agony certainly encourages that.

Posting a video like this of yourself seems a lot more risque than posting a nude video from the neck down. How do you get so many submissions?
It’s such a unique and refreshing project that even from the very outset people were keen to be involved, to be part of a community of like-minded individuals, expressing their sexuality. All our contributors are paid a fee for their submissions, although many would happily put their “o-face” out to the world for free. Also, a percentage of the subscriptions each month is divided among the contributors on a per-click basis. As all of our material is archived it seemed fair to continue to reward the most popular submissions on an on-going basis. It is an additional reward on top of the initial fee and we believe it to be the first of its kind in the adult industry.

But I would hope that out contributors gain much more than just financial rewards for their experiences. They are sharing something incredibly intimate and so I think the motivations behind that cannot always solely be driven by money. Feedback tells us that each experience for each individual is totally different,  just like the orgasms themselves — and done for entirely different reasons. Some wish to be a part of something incredibly sexy, some for their 15 minutes of fame, and some just love the artistic concept of the site and want to be a part of it. For others it’s about self-exploration or an inner journey, about building self-confidence or perhaps something to share with their partner, while for some individuals it’s the thrill of sharing something secretively and anonymously, a piece of themselves hidden away on the internet. Or it may be something they wish to tick off their list of sexual to-do’s, the list really is endless!

Happy 5th Birthday, Beautiful Agony!