We rarely see the real faces of female pleasure.
Photographer Lauren Crow isn't against porn.
But as she told me in an email, "In terms of female pleasure, we are rarely shown what an orgasm really looks like. We are afraid to talk about it and when it is shown, it is from the male gaze in media such as pornographic films, which in general are made by men for men. These films, unless you truly understand their production and falsity, give people the wrong idea of what it really is to see a woman in a state of pleasure."
Crow wasn't seeing enough authentic imagery of women in a state of pleasure, so she conceived the photo series The Little Death that captures a diverse set of women masturbating and having an orgasm. She found her subjects by posting on various platforms — Facebook, tumblr, Instagram, and Craigslist.
Crow used to do burlesque and knew some of the women through that; others just thought it sounded cool. She likes to post on Craigslist because as she says, "I find that people who respond to those ads are, for lack of a better word, regular people."
The subjects were between their 20s and 40s, and are from all different backgrounds — social workers, actresses, cooks, dance teachers, biologists, and more. It's a great cross-section of women.
The shooting process was naturally very intimate.
"It was funny; I thought my remote was going to work, but of course, equipment likes to not work when you need it to. So, I ended up having to be on a chair above them looking through the lens."
Making sure that her subjects were comfortable was one of her main concerns.
"They would be nice and covered, because one of the main things is that I'm always trying to make people feel safe, reminding people, 'This is about you,' and, 'You're in control. Anytime you don't feel safe, just let me know and you can stop.'" Crow told Refinery29.
The images have an old fashioned quality to them as they are in the form of Tin types. "I shot the images digitally, then created my own negatives and spent a lot of time perfecting the art of creating tin types," she said.
The end result is stunning, and what Crow learned from doing this series is extraordinary.
"This project not only helped me, but helped other people, gain some ability to really let go and enjoy themselves. Anything you do is fine — there's no wrong way to enjoy yourself and no right way to look while doing it."
Check out the images from The Little Death series:
1. Photographer and artist herself goes first...
Lauren Crow was her own first subject, saying, "When recruiting people for projects it's helpful to have a visual aid."
2. The face of ecstacy
The hope for this series is to inspire all female-identified people to shed some self-consciousness surrounding losing themselves in pleasure.
3. There's no ONE way to look
"I felt part of something bigger," Lauren Crow said about her photo series.
4. An intimate solo act with an audience
Go and enjoy yourself! There's no judgment.
5. Lose yourself in your waves of pleasure
We rarely, if ever, see such an intimate part of a woman's life.
6. Sexual beings don't JUST look like porn stars.
Porn isn't necessarily real, and isn't the only way to express someone's sexuality.
7. Intensity magnified
It's not about pleasing others; it's about pleasing yourself.
8. Female sexuality through a lens
No matter what your body type, all women have their own sexuality and express it any way they choose.
9. Who knew the "O" face could be so powerful?
Being photographed while masturbating isn't something everyone is comfortable with. So, it was important to photographer Lauren Crow that each of the women felt safe.
10. She's reaching her peak
The women involved felt liberated after seeing the end product.
11. A source of true pleasure
An antiquated process combined with modern ideas of women's sexuality was the thought behind these photos.
12. Don't be afraid to toss your head back in pleasure
There's no normal or right way to look.
13. Real woman, real orgasm
Everyone is beautiful, no matter what they look like when they orgasm.
14. Subverting the stereotypical male gaze
We're rarely shown what female pleasure actually looks like.